29 October, 2011

What's Your Sign?

Truthfully, this post is not related in the slightest to America's cheesiest pick-up line, "What's your sign?" but it is about signs and other random photos I've taken in the city.

There are traffic rules? Who knew. 

"Clean and Green" 

Common movie advertisement posters. 

Pretty store front 

Awesome architecture. I've also seen a lot of multilingual signage, such as is written here, showing both Telugu and English writing (perhaps even Hindi or others, a little hard for me to differentiate...). 

Yummy ice cream parlor. I've been to Naturals, Cream Stone, and Chocolate Room so far, all very tasty. Naturals is my favorite of the three, their ice cream has the best flavors, so good!

 Not the most exciting national park I've ever seen, but I they did have some nice quote signs. Still nice to see a little bit of nature, I do like seeing nature.

I love that Robert Frost's poem was here. 

"I'm a peripheral visionary - I can see far into the future just way off to the side." ~Steven Wright

"'So I said to the hitchhiker, 'What do you do?' He said 'I'm a student'. I said 'a student of what?' He said he was studying journalism and photography, so I said 'that's funny, I'm actually writing a short story about a photographer who went completely insane trying to take a close up photo of the horizon.'"
~Steven Wright

27 October, 2011

My First Diwali - Festival of Lights

Diwali in India is like Christmas in America. It is the largest Hindu festival celebration of the year, and largest celebration in India. Called Diwali, or Deepawali, it is the Festival of Lights, and the name translates to "row of lamps." It celebrates the return of Lord Rama, and celebrates the victory of good over evil.

"Rangoli" artwork in colored powder is typically at the end of a home's driveway, I saw many displays in front of the gate. It is created as a sacred welcome for deities into a home. Hanging yellow and orange flowers on houses, cars, doorways, and gates is also very common as an offering to the gods, as is the powder. Hindus have millions of gods, I was quoted 38 million, but people only worship a few of their own choice. I have also been told that Hindu gods are like one god in various forms. 

Even Harley-Davidson dressed up for Diwali.

Many houses and buildings will put up strings of lights for Diwali as Americans do for Christmas (in America we would call these lights "Christmas Lights"). 

Crackers (or Fireworks in America) are a big part of Diwali at night. From about 7-11 pm these were going off constantly all over, made quite a racket, too. People light off crackers outside their homes, and there is a continuous display going on from everyone participating, pretty cool to watch from the roof of the hostel. In the US, we have fireworks, but I would usually just see a 15-20 minute public display when there is a community showing. Here, it is an all night affair, the sky was ablaze with light, and much more common for people to light off their own, so they were being lit off from every direction. Some guys from the hostel picked up some crackers and were lighting them off, but, I decided a couple sparklers were enough for me on the participation end...

This is a Lakshmi-Pooja offering, a form of worship. This particular offering is praying for Lakshmi, Goddess of Money, pictured in the center of the tri-figure image. All of these things are offered so that a person will become prosperous in the future. Diwali is considered a good day to bless certain items so that they may prosper, it is also considered somewhat of a New Year. Many families will set-up offerings like this in their homes, and they will pray to it as a form of worship, and it is also customary for families to go to Temple on Diwali, as Christians would go to Church on Christmas Day or Eve. 

Small clay lamps like this are filled with oil and lit to celebrate the triumph of good over evil. 

Traditional Indian men's wear, worn by a hostel mate. I believe it is called a sherwani, but a simpler version is kurta pajamas if it is a plainer garment. Many offices also had employees wear traditional clothing before Diwali, and people will often wear new clothes and jewelry, and buy quite lavish clothing. The sharing of sweets also is a big part of Diwali.

The office seemed a bit quieter today with some people taking a holiday day or two around this time before and after Diwali.

Well, maybe that was kind of boring for my Indian friends, as they already know about Diwali, but hopefully it was interesting from a newbie Diwali celebrator's point of view. On a side note, I first heard about Diwali on the American TV show "The Office," an absolutely hilarious show for those that haven't seen it, I know most people I've met in India haven't heard of it because it isn't aired here.

Happy Diwali!

"There is a force in the universe, which, if we permit it, will flow through us and produce miraculous results." ~Mahatma Gandhi

P.S. Please inform me if you notice a detail of my blog might not be right on this post or future posts, I try to fact check everything, but, wouldn't want to get anything important wrong! Thanks to those that already have! I love getting feedback from my viewers.

25 October, 2011

Musings on Acclimation

"How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live." ~Henry David Thoreau

The Inorbit Mall decorated with festive hanging lanterns.

I'm not used to sharing this much of my life for so many to read, but it's actually been very therapeutic to share my strange, difficult, surprising, interesting, and amazing experiences that have happened since I've been here. And, I try to keep my blog as honest a depiction of what is going on as possible, I won't attempt to gloss over all the challenges, because I've had both wonderful and difficult experiences. I used to think that showing your own difficulties and challenges lessened others' opinion of you, but now I think that it makes you seem more human, because we all have our own struggles we face, and I won't pretend I don't have mine as well, it is more important how we deal with them and to remain optimistic. Actually, I believe India has allowed me to be more honest with myself, although it can still be hard for me to open up to others. And it is exactly these challenges that I believe continually make me a stronger person. India is a very confrontational culture, challenges hit you head on, and you have to deal with them whether you want to or not. Yet, the good has far outweighed the challenges, once I have started to understand this new world that currently surrounds me, I have grown fond of it. Every day I have the opportunity to learn something new. I am continually learning and growing, and asking questions all the time, I love asking questions about anything and everything, gradually becoming acquainted with this country on a deeper and more personal level. I also love wearing kurties and leggings to work, and I love learning Hindi. Traveling here has given me confidence that I am capable of doing things on my own, and it is a very empowering feeling of self-confidence, although I've also had the help and support of many wonderful people I've met here. I've heard that once you can travel to India, you can travel anywhere, and I'd believe it.

I have often found that people have a tendency to devalue that which they are not willing, capable, or don't take the time to understand. Just because things are different, doesn't make them better or worse. We are predisposed to like our own ways the best, to like things how we were raised, but does that mean everyone must live exactly as us? Isn't that a part of what makes the world wonderful? Different cultures, traditions, and lifestyles are what make the world interesting, wouldn't it be boring if we were all the same? One of my favorite parts about India is learning about how it is culturally different. 

When I decided to go to India, I often got these responses: "Wow that's great!" or, "India, huh, are you sure about that?" Sure it took preparation, lots of preparation, it's not a rash decision to be made, and it has taken time to adjust once I came, but I would tell anyone if they are debating whether or not to travel or study abroad, do it! You won't regret it, but you might regret not ever taking the opportunity. I can now admit that on my first day of work when I was being introduced to the marketing and design teams in my office, that I couldn't even understand their names, let alone remember them. But this, too, has become easier over time. And I still do stupid things, like today I accidentally misinterpreted an auto cost of 50 rupees that heard 15 instead of 50, because I thought it was a sharing auto and it wasn't apparently, and the auto driver spoke next to no English, and my Hindi numbers are limited, although this will motivate me to learn more...But, if you're not making mistakes, you're not learning anything new, right?

Learning some basic things has made me feel like a child at times, such as feeling like I am learning how to eat. Since foods, their names, and how they are eaten is different, this has taken practice. Chapati, which is like tortillas in America, are not filled like a burrito and wrapped up. Rather, chapati is eaten torn off in small sections and scooped in curry or chutney, and I've by now got the hang of it. This is kind of how Americans would eat chips and salsa, except you don't tear the chips. Rice is mixed with dhal, a kind of liquid with spices and chopped veggies and oil I believe. Usually the rice is mixed and eaten with your fingers, although some do use a spoon. I still use a spoon for this because that's how I'm accustomed. I have also learned how to order my lunch in Hindi by now. At first I couldn't handle very spicy foods, but as I try more little by little, I am growing very fond of Indian food. American food may even taste kind of bland by the time I go home. The parathas are my favorite thus far, so delicious, but they are by far the best when you eat them fresh and hot! But food is also very heavy since most things are cooked in oil. Someone told me that people didn't eat that much cheese because it was high in fat, but I'm wondering, if everything is cooked in oil what's the difference? I was asking people at work why there isn't very much information listed on nutrition labels, and they said because Indians weren't concerned with that, and if you find out how many calories are in Indian dishes you won't enjoy them! Seems like a good mindset to me. Additionally, people at work are the best food sharers I've ever met.

"The caged bird sings with a fearful trill
Of things unknown but longed for still
And his tune is heard on the distant hill for
The caged bird sings of freedom."
~Maya Angelou

"Laugh at yourself, but don't ever aim your doubt at yourself. Be bold. When you embark for strange places, don't leave any of yourself safely on shore. Have the nerve to go into unexplored territory." ~Alan Alda

P.S. I bought pens here and they said on them, "Made in Germany," and I thought it was ironic, go figure, huh?

20 October, 2011

USPS Mail & 5280 Feet

Yay!!! A couple of truly wonderful friends from the US of A sent me my first piece of mail in India which I received tonight via the US Postal Service. I can't even believe it. It was so great to have a few pieces of home sent to me, a few items and letters. Just grand, it really was a wonderful end of my day, and came at just the right time in my week.

My sketch from last weekend

I was told by many Indian friends to listen to Bryan Adams because he's "SO good!" and he seems pretty famous in India because he toured here. So, I looked him up, and I actually have heard his music before just didn't remember his name. The closest I can compare him to is either Celine Dion or Michael Bolton, in the genre of cheesy romantic 90s music. But, to each his own.

Also, this is totally random unrelated to India, but in researching the Bryan Adams bit, I came across this image of Michael Bolton, in his 90s hair glory. Then I thought, that reminds me of that self portrait of Albrecht Durer, a North Renaissance artist in the early 16th c. Just me or is there a resemblance?

Moving on. Now that I've gotten used to using the auto rickshaw system (called autos or ricks), I know what I need to say to be able to fetch my own auto. Basically, I need to communicate 3 things: sharing/metered auto, location, and price. I've also found that by speaking at least a minimal amount of Hindi the auto drivers are more reasonable, and realize I'm not completely ignorant about how autos work and pricing. Since I obviously look like a foreigner, they're very likely to try to jack up the price of a ride if I don't know how much it should cost. For example, a ride home from the office should be about 40-50 rupees if it's a personal ride, but often I'll be quoted 80-100 rupees, which I can try to negotiate for half or 2/3 the cost but is still more than what I should be paying. Now that I know how to take the sharing auto home, that is about 10 rupees on the part of the route I take. I get autos stopping by me when I am walking on the street all the time because I stand out, and they probably think that I'll pay more for a ride.

My line of questions to get an auto:
1) "Sharing?" (With sharing autos you pay per seat and ride with others, they have certain routes they follow so you need to know which one you're getting on. With metered autos they can take you anywhere but are more expensive)
2) Give location I want to reach. They will respond with a form of verbal or nonverbal yes or no to this if they're going there or willing to go there.
3) "Kitnaa?" ("How much" in Hindi. I have also learned to count up to 10 in Hindi in case they don't speak English, as well as various other small phrases to help me out). Once they answer this I decide if the price is right. If it is I get on if not I walk away and try another auto.

So, on to another topic: the Metric System. Pretty logical system right? And so easy to convert units, I mean, it really couldn't get any easier. 10 millimeters in a centimeter, 100 centimeters in a meter, 1000 meters in a kilometer, etc... In India, this is the measurement system that is used. Commonly distances are given in kilometers, speeds in kilometers/hour, weights in kilograms, and it is what everyone refers to. Although, I kept hearing the term "lakh" which I had never heard before, and apparently it is a unit of 100,000 that is used commonly in India.

So, why doesn't America use the Metric System? Excellent question. I was trying to explain the Imperial System's units to someone here (now basically the "American" System), and I'll do my best to give my readers the basics for those unfamiliar with it. As for common lengths and distances, there are 12 inches in a foot, 3 feet in a yard, 5280 feet in a mile. Usually for driving, distances are in miles, speeds in miles/hour, car fuel efficiency miles/gallon. A person's height is in feet and inches, weight is in pounds. As for common liquid measures and weights, there are 8 ounces in a cup, 2 cups in a pint, 2 pints in a quart, 4 quarts in a gallon. Seriously, I even have a hard time remembering it at times, because it is the least intuitive system that could possibly be devised. The only time I've ever used the metric system on a regular basis is in Science classes, and Track and Cross Country running.

Also, as readers may have seen me post both F and C temperatures, because the US is one of the few countries to still use F, as most have switched to C. Kind of interesting.

Fun little map I found online of countries that don't use the metric system, shown in red (the only 3 are USA, Liberia, and Myanmar), go USA!

Theek hai, Chalo Bye.

"On the other hand, you have different fingers." ~Steven Wright

17 October, 2011

Innopark's Anniversary Party Celebration

My team and I at the party.

So, on Friday Innopark celebrated their 7 year anniversary. Quite amazing actually, the company has grown from a few people to 200 since the inception. Everyone was invited to celebrate at News Cafe, a restaurant/pub/club in the Inorbit Mall. It was a good time. Starting off with a presentation from one of the founders; food, drinks, cake, socializing, music, pictures, and dancing followed. There was a theme for wearing Innopark's colors, so most were dressed in black, red, or white. I enjoyed the night out with my colleagues, they're pretty entertaining. I've gotten complements from co-workers on my India dressing, apparently I wear India clothes well! That seriously makes my day when I hear that. And I learned at the party that house lizards can lose their tails as a defensive mechanism, and then re-grow them (speaking of which had a couple of these guys on my wall last weekend). Really hoping I don't find tails in my room...

Many of my colleagues have told me that Hyderabad has really undergone quite a rapid change over the last 5-10 years. Many of the shopping malls have been built very recently, and the culture is becoming more Westernized. It seems that this has also had a dramatic impact on India's culture in the major cities. It's very normal for people to wear either traditional Indian dress or Western clothing. The rural areas I am told are still very different than urban. It is hard seeing the kind of poverty that some people live in, which I've never experienced before in America, and the trash on the streets. It's very common to see dogs, chickens, and cows feeding on a garbage dump area that I walk past on my way to work, and the smell is not so pleasant.

I'm attempting to try not to worry as much about things when they aren't going according to my plans, which can be difficult when things get more complicated than I think they should be, and yeah, it's not fun, it can really suck, but that's life. And when something doesn't go right in a foreign country, it's just that much more difficult to deal with because I'm not as knowledgeable about how to go about resolving an issue. But, I think it's making me a stronger person, and I'm learning I have some really awesome people here who will support me in whatever I'm going through.

I thought I would list a few common phrases that I hear all the time that I've gotten used to. So, here's my cliff notes version of Indian English mixed with Hindi:

1) "Cool." Used a lot like sounds good. Everything is cool.
2) "Good, good." Also, "acha," which means means good in Hindi.
3) "Sorry?" Said a lot when you need something repeated or you don't understand something.
4) "Theek Hai." Hindi for OK. Hear this all the time.
5) "Haan" and "Naheen." Yes and no in Hindi.
6) "Kyaa?" What?
7) Answering anything with a side to side bob of the head.

I also seriously think Indians speak more English slang than Americans do. And, though I keep mentioning Hindi, I should point out that there are many other languages people speak here besides. Telugu is very common, as the state language, but I know people in Hyderabad that speak other languages such as Urdu, Bangalore, Oriya, Marathi, and more that I can't remember. It's just that usually Hindi is the commonly used alternative language to English that I've heard in the office. On a random note, someone mentioned they were a Bong the other day, and then clarified that it meant they were a Bengali (a part of India), yeah, I didn't know what to say at first to that. If you're American you'll probably understand my confusion.

The following are the top questions I always get:
"Where are you from?" (People always wonder if it's the US or UK)
"How many people are in your family?" (4, in case anyone is wondering)
"How tall are you?" (a little over 5 feet 7 inches)

Last week we were sharing some jokes in the office, and I taught a couple famous American jokes. I'll mention one: Q: "What's black and white and read all over?" A: "A newspaper" (when telling the joke the confusion is that everyone will think "read" is the color "red." I also had to teach what a knock-knock joke was, because people thought all that was to it was "Knock-knock, who's there?", and that that's all the joke is! So, I felt it was my duty to set the record straight. Here's an example of a knock-knock joke:

Person A: "Knock-knock"
B: "Who's there?"
A: "Boo"
B: "Boo Who?"
A: "Don't cry, it's just a joke!"

Okay, kind of stupid, but anyway, you get the point. I still like them.

On another note, people here get upset with me when they ask me if I know certain American singers/movies/celebrities, etc, and I say I've never heard of them. They're like, "What? We need to educate you on your own culture!"

Thought another temperature comparison would be interesting, so I included both F and C temps for Hyderabad and St. Paul, Minnesota. It's already getting chilly in MN, and this is nothing yet! Hyderabad is still quite warm, hot summers but nice winters.

Well, that's about it for now.

"Rule number one is, don't sweat the small stuff. Rule number two is, it's all small stuff." ~Robert Elliot

12 October, 2011

Day 30?? Already?!

Somehow, and without warning, it is suddenly day 30 of my time spent in India. Reflecting on the past month, things already seem so different here from when I first arrived. It is strange this feeling of becoming adapted to a new culture; what had a month ago shocked me, now seems almost normal and commonplace. While I've been here, it's impossible to describe all I have felt, the highs and lows of acclimating to a place that is completely foreign in so many ways. But there is a great satisfaction and fulfillment in learning how to live in a new spot, to understand a different way of life. Gradually as I've become more comfortable, familiar, and knowledgeable with my surroundings, I have begun to see the city in a new light. Sure things are different here, much, much different, and there are often still obstacles to overcome, it would be naive to assume it would be otherwise, but I have met some truly great people more than willing to help me out when I need it. No matter where you are in the world, people are still people. Maybe that seems weird to say, but it's true.

As I get more comfortable I have gained confidence and am able to be more of myself. I have noticed it has become much easier to understand the Indian English accent, and easier to recognize when people revert so quickly between Hindi and English. And as I pick up more tidbits of Hindi, I can grasp words here and there that I understand. My coworkers have been helpful and encouraging in my desire to learn to speak at a beginner's level Hindi, and in return I have been teaching a bit of Spanish. I have found that it is easier now to pick up phrases in Hindi, as I begin to learn the pronunciations of the language, and learn common words. As I've grown more confident in my pronunciation, I have tried to use small phrases here and there, usually to the surprise of my colleagues, and now they've begun to try to get me to practice speaking Hindi to unsuspecting coworkers! So, this is my apology in advance if I slaughter a perfectly good Hindi phrase in my attempts! I am finding great pleasure in this lingual learning experience. 

I am also really enjoying both my design work and work environment at Innopark, working on branding, web, and gaming assignments. Working for a gaming entertainment company does have its advantages. Playing online games for research on design projects? Umm, sure, sounds good to me!

I saw this when I was out on Saturday and thought it was humorous. No honking, huh? Unless the sign is referring to an actual trumpet (doubtful), that'll be difficult. Apparently there was also a marathon held in Hyderabad last weekend, though I did not see it.

Lately, I have had a craving to read Jane Eyre again, so I picked it up at a nearby bookstore. For those who have not read it (and you should, it's a classic), it is a story of a quite remarkable and courageous young heroine. I came across a really great quote from it on Sunday, "It is vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it."

Many who know me also are aware that I am an avid Jane Austen fan. Walking through the streets in India reminds me in a way of Elizabeth Bennet walking to Netherfield Hall in Pride and Prejudice, "jumping over stiles and springing over puddles with impatient activity, and finding herself at last within view of the house, with weary ankles, dirty stockings, and a face glowing with the warmth of exercise," except that India's streets also have continuous streams of traffic. I think that this would also be an appropriate time to confess that my knowledge of the game of Cricket, India's largest sport, comes almost entirely from the film Becoming Jane...

I know this isn't the type of post that I usually have, but I think it is equally important to observe and record the intangible as it is the tangible, feelings as well as facts. From a favorite movie of mine, You've Got Mail, "Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal."

And, with that, khayal rakho (take care), and, as always, thanks for reading, leaving thoughts and encouragement, and sharing in my adventure.

P.S. On a very different side note, India has their own Chuck Norris.
Rajinikanth vs Chuck Norris

08 October, 2011

Sketches and Festivities

Sketches I've done over the past week from the view at my hostel. There are some spectacularly expensive houses in this area which have been enjoyable to sketch. I guess I just have to always be doing something, what's new. And since I couldn't bring my instruments either to play in my downtime, sketching is a great hobby, nice and relaxing. Makes me kind of feel like I'm in drawing class again.

Thursday was a holiday, called Dasara (or Vijaya Dashami, Dussera, or others, holidays can have different names depending on the region in India they are being celebrated), which is a triumph of good over evil. I was surprised that there was a single day off of work in the middle of the week and then work the next day. In the US, we only have single holidays on Mondays or Fridays, at the beginning and end of weeks. There are many buildings and cars with garlands of yellow-orange flowers on them in honor of the festival, as an offering to the gods or goddesses, along with food and vermillion (red/orange powder) which are also a form of worship. I am told the upcoming festival in October, Diwali, is quite something. 

Well, that's about it for now.

05 October, 2011

Golkonda Fort!...and a Lizard, nbd

So, Sunday was a pretty exciting day seeing the famous Golkonda Fort, the original foundation of Hyderabad, which someone from my hostel was awesome to take me to (and snap a few photos of me as well at the site). A ruined stone fortress and city, which began construction several hundred years ago, the remains are surviving for tourists to see. The fort was apparently designed with a superb acoustic system which allowed the sound of a hand-clap to be heard at the top citadel of the fort, situated on a hill. The inside of the fort's buildings was actually quite cool as well, with a good ventilation system and beautiful interior architecture. The most impressive aspect of the fort for me was the view from top, which I think is the best view of Hyderabad, to my knowledge being the highest point in the city.

I thought it was interesting that for cost to get in, it was 5 rupees for Indians, and 100 rupees for foreigners, although 100 rupees is still only 2 USD. I was also advised not to let anyone take pictures or allow any person to be a tour guide because they will expect money for it.

Overall it was extremely beautiful and quite a spectacular monument, perfect for a good photo excursion. It's kind of funny seeing something like Golkonda juxtaposed with the modern city of Hyderabad. It seems that Hyderabad has seen a fairly rapid change in the last 10 years. Many of the larger road systems are new, the very large Inorbit shopping mall I guess was built fairly recently.

English and Telugu signs explain history of the site.

One of the fortress gates. The fort was designed to be impenetrable and protected from attacks, among other well designed features, such as an excellent water system and clapping portal. 

I enjoyed the use of the panorama feature on my camera at this site.

Lovely interior architecture.

I kid you not, I witnessed women wearing saris and heals climbing up the stone steps to the top. I understand there are cultural differences in clothing, but...I have to wonder, is it really necessary to wear heals to a place like this?

Golkonda Fort shown with the modern city of Hyderabad. It still amazes me how absolutely huge the city is, it just goes on and on like an ocean of city. 

The top Citadel, the king's palace. Golkonda was engineered so that a clap in the lower entrance hall could be heard from the this structure on the top of the hill. Sort of worked like a telephone call.
Pretty cool, huh?

View from the top was quite spectacular. I believe this may be the best view of Hyderabad.

Okay, so the part of my day Sunday that freaked me out a bit, was a crawling lizard, about 5 inches long, I witnessed climbing up my bedroom wall. I'm told they're harmless and fairly common, but seriously freaked me out. I have never seen wild lizards crawl on walls inside of homes before, and sorry, but I'm not naming them as my pets. As long as they stay away while I'm sleeping, we can coexist under the same roof...

Tried a famous dessert of Hyderabad called Gulab Jaamoon. It was very sweet, almost like a doughnut in syrup.

A few other language differences. Actors here call the main lead actors in films "heros." Bathrooms are called Washrooms or the Loo. One of the saddest parts about walking outside here is the amount of garbage on the side of the road, litter is really common in the streets, much more so than most places in the US. Also common is to see stray dogs and even chickens poking around in the trash.

I was also asking someone who has been to the US what the most surprising things were coming there. He said that it was surprising that the tap water is safe to drink in America, and the fact that water out of the faucet has the option for hot or cold. But he also mentioned that he wasn't used to doing his own laundry, because many people I believe in India pay to have their laundry done because it is so cheap. In the US, unless you're living at home and your mom is doing your laundry, you have to do it yourself, but then again when I do laundry in the states I'm using the convenience of a washing machine, I'm not doing it by hand which is more common here I think.

Also, in recent news, the Telangana Strike continues, and so power outages remain a typical part of the day. Many of my coworkers wanted me to specifically state that these regular power outages are not normal, and are occurring solely due to a shortage of power because of the strike going on at the moment. I found this pretty funny, that they're worried the rest of the world will think they work by candlelight all the time or something (candles were actually lit on Monday for a short while since the power was out for most of the afternoon). But, let me assure my readers, that this is apparently very atypical, to have two hour power outages daily.

Something I miss here is running outside. No one runs outside here, and besides that, running on the roads here would be pretty dangerous. Surprisingly, I have now seen approximately three women wearing shorts here in a mall, something I thought I would never see. Still, basically everyone wears pants or long skirts/dresses/saris.

This afternoon I went with some of my coworkers to my first India festival, called Durga Puja, a popular Bengali Hindu festival worshipping the goddess Durga, and lasts something like 10 days. I'm learning many Indian holidays last for several days. People take handfuls of fresh-cut flowers and offer them to the goddess Durga multiple times. All Hindi celebrations are very colorful affairs. Weddings and festivals always seem to have brightly colored decorations everywhere.

Well, that's it for now. Thanks for perusing my musings! Over and out.

P.S. Mom and Dad, "nbd" means "no big deal," I know you were wondering about that while you read this entire blog post. :)