Saturday, July 14, 2007

Lazy Hyderabad Monsoon Days

My inconsistent blogging currently represents my general state of mind as well as the state of my apartment’s internet connection. I’ve now been in India long enough that I generally don’t notice the overfilled rickshaws or livestock in the streets. I’ve slipped into a life of routine, and am spending my fifth weekend in a row in Hyderabad, both out of fatigue from my recent bout of flu/food poisoning (the second in a month), and out of sheer laziness.

Monsoons are here in full swing, which has actually made the weather really pleasant. Its typically in the upper 80’s and cloudy most of the time with occasional downpours. Everything is green and when the sun comes out everything has a fresh shiny look to it. I went back to Golconda Fort with some newly arrived expats, Tova from the UK office, Eimer from Dublin, and my new flatmate, Peter, who’s Dutch but from the Dublin office. Golconda didn’t look like the same place as it was when I came with Yev at the beginning of June. Then it looked like the Middle East, now it looks like Europe. Unfortunately, monsoons also mean that the tap water, which I go to neurotic lengths to avoid, has become even worse than normal as the runoff affects the water supply.

I spent a week being pretty sick, possibly caused by some infiltration of tap water into my diet, which is frustrating because it makes it even more difficult for me to find food that I trust. Basically it could be anything, silverware rinsed in tap water and then used in cooking without being dried, water bottles rinsed in tap water and not dried before being refilled, ect. I’ve spent the last week eating farfalle pasta imported from Italy from Q Mart that I cook myself in the kitchen next door, so that I can make sure that even my dishes are cleaned in bottled water. It’s quite possible that by the time I go home, I’ll never want to look at plain pasta with olive oil again, which will be a shame, since I generally like it so much.

Being sick sucked, but I think that it was good in that it put into perspective the things that I really care about doing before I leave. I thought about what I would feel like I have missed if I had to go home now, and somewhat surprisingly, most of the things aren’t traveling to exotic places, but rather activities with my friends here. I realized that I need to get my shit together and learn some Indian cooking to take home with me to dazzle my friends and family ;). I need to play a cricket. I need to go to Charminar like a local and shop for bangles and speak Hindi. I need to see a Bollywood movie in the theatre. I need to wear my saris and my newly impulse-purchased lahenga. Luckily for my current lazy malaise, none of these activities involve a ton of planning.

Being sick also reminded me of my favorite thing about India, which is the people. Rupa came to visit me to make sure I was alright and many of my office mates called to ask how I was doing and offer me homemade food. The people I have met here feel a responsibility to take care of their friends in a way that I think is unusual at home. And when thinking about what I’ll miss most when I go home (which I am aware is still 2 months away), the top of the list will be the people- all the awesome people who have made me part of their families while I’m here and have given me an amazing inside perspective into this foreign land and culture, that is a rare privilege for firangis (‘imperialist foreigners,’ not aliens with giant ears ;).

I’m taking the week of my birthday off (coming up in 2 weeks) to go to Perth on the West Coast of Australia to visit the Hanslips, who are family friends that I’ve known since I was young enough to swim in their pool in my underwear with orange floaters on my arms. I’ll be able to enjoy Singapore during my 8 hour layover on my way back to Hyderabad, and it will be really nice to relax in a place where I don’t immediately stand out and where I generally know what’s going on around me. I’m already dreaming about authentic pavlova, Australian steak, salad, and walking the few miles from the Hanslip’s house to the Indian Ocean. It will, ironically, be the only time that I will see the Indian Ocean while I’m in India, since the Indian Ocean only touches India at the very bottom tip of the sub-continent (I’ve seen the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea on the East and West coasts of India).

Until then, I’m just enjoying living in Hyderabad and having lazy weekends. I’ve been out with expats a few times this week since Allison is heading back to Sydney this weekend, and I spent today getting an Indian cooking lesson from Padma and Parul (in an effort to start completing the list of what to do before I go home). I’ve copied the recipes from today’s lesson into this blog so that all of you faithful readers can go out and try them ;) You won’t get more authentic Indian food than this, although ‘Indian’ food is kind of like saying ‘European’ food, since the cuisine in Punjab and the cuisine in Kerala are about as similar as British food and Italian food (Punjab may actually be farther from Kerala than London is from Rome).

I had an amusing incident at a club in Hyderabad last night where I went with Shannon and some girls from the office. A few random Indian guys at the club asked the girls from the office if I was their cousin, which, seeing as the girls are Indian and I’m not, was pretty amusing. I’m not sure if they had never seen a white person, if they were really drunk, or just really desperate to start a conversation. Clubs in India are generally amusing, since the social culture is not centered around drinking copious amounts of alcohol like it is in the US and Europe. We were laughing at one guy who was clearly proud of how cool he was, drinking a Bacardi Breezer. He may actually have been cool to people who don’t see Bacardi Breezers as the ultimate girly drink, one step above a shirley temple. People can dance and have fun and go crazy without any alcohol here, and drinking a beer really puts you at the top of the rebel social hierarchy. Straight guys dance with each other, and instead of grinding up to girls, come up and ask ‘what is your good name? Madame, may we dance?’ Many guys were too shy to ask us to dance, and instead spent hours dancing on their own around our group. Our Bacardi friend, who may have mistaken our pointing and laughing for interest, tried to ‘dance’ with us by dancing by himself around our impenetrable circle of girls for several hours until Sney, one of the girls from the office, told him to get lost.

My favorite thing about living in a foreign place is that doing normal things turns into an adventure. Dropping people off may take you to a part of the city you’ve never seen. Ordinary things remind you that you’re in a different part of the world. You can be lazy and still have unique experiences every day.

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