Being a Vegan Coffee Drinker

Being a Vegan Coffee Drinker

No, no. I am not a vegan. I am not even a vegetarian or a pescetarian or any kind of (non) food eating tarian. I just eat the food that I like and attempt to remain healthy in doing so, with the exception of BIG COOKIE. Big Cookie is my weakness. 

I am lactose intolerant. 

This is a touchy subject in India. They really love their milk, almost as much as Chuckanucka. (CHUCKANUCKA WANT MIIIILK! Sorry, if you are not in my family, you don’t understand and would also probably forsake me if you did.)

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decide for yourself

So I was saying, Indians like milk and they add it to many things. 

Here the preferred drink is chai tea.  It’s pretty charming, actually. Everyone drinks it all the time like it’s their day job. Then again I do remember that “take your child to work day” with Doug Fleming included having coffee breaks like it was his day job, so I am not one to judge. And for some people it really is their day (or night) job. 

You can always find boys riding bikes around with jugs of tea hitched to the back, every block there is a stand in the street, and on the train sleeping is pointless because every two seconds the chai guy flings open the door yelling, “CHAIIII, CHAIII, CHAIIIIIIII!” There’s not shortage. It’s fabulous.

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Besides, it makes sense that they love tea. The Brits had a tea-drinking culture and  they colonized India. Unlike America, India did not have a tea party (BORING!) and so they are still drinking it. I’m not mad about it. I like tea.

 BUT their tea has an Indian flare (Duh). There are usually Indian masalas (spices) added and it is brewed directly into milk. Yeah, I said it, MILK. You can’t avoid it. Unfortunately, I cannot indulge in the chai habits of Bombay, though I am invited to often. 

So I spend most of my days offending people by refusing the chai offered to me and asking for drinks without milk.

Also I do enjoy coffee. How could I not? I think on a holiday when the whole family is home we have a pot brewing from about 7am-12pm and then again from 7pm-10pm. I was finely groomed to like coffee. So sometimes a girl just needs her coffee and that’s where Café Coffee Day comes in handy.

 I have been mentioning Cafe Coffee Day a lot. It’s because I go there a lot. I write letters, listen to podcasts, read, bask in the air conditioning, sew owls…

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Since coffee is not so popular as tea, it is advertised as being something more. Their tagline is “A lot can happen over coffee” and  gee wiz, I’m sure it can. The thing is that they hardly serve just black coffee because people don’t buy that here.  So every time I walk up to the counters and say, “Can I have a plain, black coffee?” (Sometimes I add in Americano because that’s what a lot of places call it) I wind up in a weird argument with the boy behind the counter. I guess the moral is that an argument is included in the “a lot” that can happen over coffee. 

 

They hear black coffee and confusion erupts. You can just see their brains exploding between their eyes. And the thing is, I wouldn’t care so much, if I weren’t lactose intolerant.

The conversation is always like this:

Me: Could I please have a black coffee?

Them: No milk?

Me: No, no milk…just plain, black coffee, nothing in it.

Them: But in India we have black coffee with milk.

Me: But then the coffee isn’t black anymore, is it?

Them: It’s too bitter like that only. You won’t be able to drink it, it’s too bitter.

Me: It’s okay, that’s how I drink it at home. And besides I can’t have milk, it makes me sick, I am lactose intolerant.

Them: GASPprocessing…thinking…You should have the vegan (they pronounce it vay-gun) shake, you will like it better. 

Me: le sigh… It’s okay, I will just have black coffee, I promise I can handle it, just watch!

Them: Okay.

 

The result? They bring me out a Vegan Shake… (almost) EVERY TIME. And I don’t hate it. 

So what is a Vegan Shake?

It is about 20% iced coffe, 50% “non-dairy cream supplement” and 30% sugar.

Yeah, it’s really sweet. 

And if they do by chance bring out a black coffee, they will bring it to me with 4 or 5 packs of sugar, which makes me laugh every time, especially because packs of sugar at CCD come with about twice the amount of a standard sugar packet at a restaurant in the US.

So in Bombay I have become that girl. The token vegan coffee drinker who sits in the coffee shop in front of the neo fly murderer zapper, sipping her vegan shake for hours and writing in her diary. And I am very happy to so. 

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I think the radiation from the fly murderer on my back has a calming, trance like effect. 

I have this feeling when I drink coffee for the first time again at home, I am going to have the shakes in a big way, and not the vegan shakes, the shakey shakes, because I have been made weak by cream supplement and sugar. 

But alas, I will miss Cafe Coffee Day here soon, just one of many treasures I hate to leave behind!

 

 

Word Vomit

Word Vomit

I know, I know, it’s been a while. And actually I really regret that. 

The truth is, I have felt really fatigued and overwhelmed. The weather is hot and relentlessly sunny (Not that it even rivals last July in Missouri where it was consistently above 100 degrees and 10000% humidity, but the lack of A/C anywhere makes it seem worse that what my spoiled self is used to), I get crawled on all day by children, and I have been battling some allergy issues due to the thick smog in the air, and well, I feel like I have a lot to squeeze into my last but of time here. 

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The sun can be pretty after 6:30 or so.

Also I will be open in saying that often times I am afraid to say things because I fear they will be offensive, even though they’re my honest thoughts, so I don’t say them at all. So I do sincerely apologize if I have ever typed anything that makes you cringe. 

So there you have it, I have been feeling kind of troubled about writing. It is for that reason that I am going to have a free write right here, right now. 

 

Buckle your seat belts! Oh wait, they don’t have those in India…

 

I have learned some things from working at the shelter. I call it shelter because Ashray means shelter and I think it sounds less demeaning than orphanage and a little more hopeful. 

1. No amount of green snot dripping from the nose can stop you from enjoying your morning snack. Try to wipe it and you die. Bananas taste better with a little green goo. 

I just made myself gag. I bet Kimmy did, too. 

2. No matter how useless something is to you, you want it and you need it, if someone else has it. What’s that? One half of a broken yoyo? A lifeless Angry Birds fan? A shoe for a four year old girl and I’m a ten year old boy? NEED IT. 

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3. You can never check enough times for lice. I get groomed daily for lice, sometimes by multiple children, always girls. I think it’s kind of endearing that they see my long hair and feel like they need to check to make sure it’s not infested. It’s also a little sad for me when I start thinking that they are checking me for lice because their mothers probably checked them daily for lice before their hair got hacked off, and now they have neither a present mother, nor hair. But at the end of the day, they seem happy, and I am happy, because who doesn’t want a free lice check!?

I have also learned that strange things happen a lot, and that’s okay, they make life interesting. 

1. Two days ago I visited a park called the Hanging Garden and I got followed around by a boy named Rafi who was selling peacock feathers and must have felt like I was an easy target. What he didn’t realize is that he was just wasting his time, but I quite enjoyed the conversation. 

He said he is 23 and has a 20 year old sister. His grandma makes the peacock fans and he kept fanning me with it saying things like, “You need this for when you go to fancy events at the Royal Palace in England.” This really confused me, but i let it happen. 

He followed me for 15 minutes talking my ear off, though I didn’t feel threatened by him, I think he was also maybe bored. He kept trying to convince me that of course I could fit a fan in my suitcase, between my clothes, but I kept telling him I had no interest in buying it because I really didn’t have room or need for it. He also kept calling me Juniper and saying that he thought it was a great name. I agree, Juniper is a fantastic name, though as a five year old it sure ticked me off when Grandpa Bill called me that. 

Finally I said, Rafi, I really have to go now, and I have no intentions of buying a fan, but I wish you the best of luck. I also told him I wasn’t planning to punch him, but that it had happened in the past when another boy wouldn’t leave me alone” And he said, “But Juniper, you are my friend now, please don’t go. I’ll give you one for 200 rupees!” I again declined, and on the way out met another boy selling fans who said, “Madame, fan? 100 rupees!” I said, “Hey, I already talked to Rafi, and no, I don’t want one, but he was trying to sell to me for twice the cost!” 

This sparked an argument between the two, and I scooted out. I was then offered to buy Kama Sutra by three, different, creepy, old men. No, no, and no. 

Dammit Rafi, you had me fooled. 

2. A few days back, while walking up the stairs at Bandra Station in the stampede of people, a boy stepped on my shoe and sent it flying backwards down the stairs. I wasn’t mad at all, those things happen, more flustered really that I had to backtrack and afraid that I would be walking to work barefoot. 

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Bandra Station from the outside so that you can imagine me here, losing shoes and grabbing butts.

No worries. I got the shoe. I walked up the stairs with it and then put it on once the platform cleared a little. I wasn’t honestly thinking much of it when I saw two boys come running at me, speaking loudly. 

Again, i didn’t think anything of it because it was in Hindi and I didn’t understand. I was kind of day dreaming in my own world.

Next thing I knew the boy is waving in my face like, hello! Anybody home!? Then he said, “Ah, no Hindi! Tkay.” and walked away, still looking back at me, smiling. 

I realized after tuning back in to reality that he was the boy who has pulled my shoe off and he was apologizing. It was really sweet. 

3. Yesterday I was walking to the post office to mail a birthday note to Grandpa Frank when I got hit in the head by something kind of sharp. I looked down, feeling concerned, and then jumped backwards in a flash when I realized that there was a chicken foot laying there on the ground in front of me. 

YES, YOU READ IT RIGHT. A SINGLE, DETACHED, CHICKEN FOOT. THAT WAS REAL LIFE. 

Feeling disturbed I looked up slowly to find a crow looking at me making this noise, as if it were laughing. Can you believe it that a crow dropped a chicken foot on my head?

So many questions. Why did a crow have a chicken foot? Where is the rest of the chicken? Was that drop on my head calculated? Why was the chicken foot gone again on my way back?

I am kicking myself for not taking a photo for proof…

ImageUgly Bird! Shout out to Salma!

And finally i will wrap this up by relaying some things about India that once confused me. Finally three months later I am starting to figure them out. 

1. ONLY. Indians add the word only to the end of a lot of sentences, but they don’t really mean only. “You should go to the market only.” Are you telling me that I should only go to the market it and nowhere else? No, you aren’t. I don’t know why you are saying only. I have spent countless hours in my head trying to figure out if it means something and the simple conclusion: Nope, not at all, only. 

So next time you are in India, add “only” to the end of any sentence and they may assume you are a local. 

2. Yes ma’am!? Every time I walk down the street every single hawker and their father who sees me and my whiteness says to me, “Yes, ma’am?” The thing is i never make eye contact or act interested in their product, it’s just what they say to foreigners. For the longest time I have been asking myself, self, why are they asking me ‘yes ma’am?’ Yes ma’am, what? I didn’t ask them a question. why are they saying yes? What does this mean? I don’t get it. It really gave me a bother for quite some time because I JUST DID NOT GET IT. 

Then one day it occurred to me, why are you letting them have all the fun?

Now I walk down the streets saying, “No, Sir, No Sir, No Sir.” It feels great. They feel confused and I feel at peace. 

3. removing photos, coming home, and moving out: I have been asked on multiple occasions by multiple people, “Did you remove some photos?” “When are you going to come home? You should come home soon!” and “Are you going to move out?”

To the first question I found myself thinking, What’s it to you if I deleted photos off my camera or not?

Then I realized that removing photos is the same as taking photos and now I don’t have such affliction over the question. 

To the second I found myself answering, “The end of March” and sometimes thinking, Do you really want me gone so badly? 

Then I realized that people say coming home to mean coming over and that it’s an invitation for me to stop by their place and that I should stop having hostile feelings and giving a look of terror to the person asking. Whoops! 

To the third question I found myself thinking, Well I never really moved in per se…

And then I realized that move out doesn’t mean pack your bags and move to a new place to live. It means, get out of the house and do something. It’s slightly less drastic. 

4. For a long time I pondered whether or not Indians had spicy sweat. I really was convinced that I smelled an overall spiciness to their sweat that I don’t notice in America and then found myself guilty for having such feelings. 

I mean, come on, they even put spice in their tea. It’s not that out there. Image

But then it hit me; If dad can complain that he smells the garlic in my sweat and it’s making him break out in a rash, then why can’t I complain that your chili powder is oozing from your pores and the train smells like masala sweat? Exactly. And besides, it’s perfectly biological. There’s no reason why your bodily excretions should not reflect your diet. And then I felt better. Gosh, I love garlic and dad hates it. It’s so unfortunate. 

 

This is it on my thoughts for the time being, I think that that’s enough for you to mull over for the time being. 

Until next time…

 

Oh, and next time you eat something with a strong flavor, do me a f(l)avor and smell yourself and report back. I think there’s really something to this. 

My Uncensored Thoughts About Women

My Uncensored Thoughts About Women

If there was a movie made about my stay here it would be called, The Girl Who Flipped of Mumbai. Did I already say this? Doesn’t matter, I’ll say it again.

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I learned this from my Aunt Virginia…

I’ve been advised that I should ignore men who make passes at me and offend me. Well, that’s too passive for a modern woman like myself and mostly, ignore is not in my nature. I heard this word many times from my mother in relation to my brother and I was never very good at it. Besides, why should ignore? Shouldn’t he stop provoking? Back to Bombay though, I think we both (offensive men and myself) get a lot more satisfaction out of the middle finger in the long run.

Don’t get me wrong; I really love India. I will say a million times over that it is a beautiful, culturally rich country and I am glad to be welcomed here. But one thing that I miss about being home is feeling like I have rights as a woman. Yeah, I know it. I will admit that the U.S. is far from perfect in terms of gender equality. Men still get paid more and get offered jobs over women and men still far outnumber women in politics…the list of complaints could continue for miles. We have our issues. But I also feel like I have a voice in the U.S. too, and that counts for something.

Here I just have my middle finger, and thank God I was born with middle fingers.

Boys, have I scared you away yet? Do you think I am an angry woman about to go on an angry woman rant?

Well, your senses are right. But don’t be intimidated by that, please! Read along!

First things first:

You know that Garden that Salma and I used to take walks in where she would make me photograph ugly birds and herself under those palm trees? Yeah, you all know it. Well, get a load of this newspaper article:

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IN ORDER TO PREVENT RAPES THEY ARE ONLY ALLOWING MEN AND WOMEN ESCORTED BY FAMILY TO ENTER THE GARDEN!? WHAT KIND OF IDIOT THOUGHT THAT THIS WAS A LOGICAL SOLUTION TO PREVENTING RAPES!? Oh, hey guys, let’s “prevent rape” by taking freedom away from women and giving more power and control to men. That’ll stop ‘em.

God help us all, here in Mazgaon.

When I showed this article to people here the general response was, “yeah, that kind of stuff just happens here sometimes.”

To which I responded, “Yeah,  and if that happened at home you would see a mob of angry women and some men, too, trampling over that security guard at the gate.”

It’s ridiculous. Someone else, please tell me I am not crazy and this is ridiculous. Imagine being turned away from your morning power walk at Oak Grove Park (Hey, Gladstone!) and then cry a little bit about this atrocity.

Shall we continue…?

…You will be relieved that I am less angry about this one and more amused in a sick kind of way.

I discovered this past week that people actually put matrimonial ads in the newspaper here according to age, caste, religion, skin color, looks, horoscopes, and the lot. And you know what else?

I knew that Doug Fleming would love this.

There’s no better way to spend a Saturday morning in the Fleming household than to sip coffee, pet cats, and listen to Doug make fun of the marriage announcements in the KC Star, or so I thought.

Then I found these and thought this might top that.

Have a look:

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So what did we take away from this? Everybody has a six foot tall, fair skinned (much like our obsession with tanning, they have an obsession with chemical skin lightening), well-educated, athletic and handsome son who absolutely requires a fairer-skinned, beautiful, good-natured, cultured, slim girl.

Oh, and horoscopes must match, duh.

Which make me wonder, how do all of the chubby, short, dark-skinned people seem to have spouses here, too?

And why is a life-long commitment being negotiated over the newspaper based on clearly shallow criteria?

We will never know…

And finally, moving onto my last and final rant, THE HARE KRISHNA GIRLS PROGRAM.

You’ll be pleased to know that the ISKON temple has a Saturday night program for unmarried girls only. Shweta and I go because if you listen through the bull shit talks you get to sing, dance, and have a free meal. You will be pleased to know also that I have memorized the Hare Krishna song and dance. Yeah, that’s right–I sing, I dance, I Hare Krishna with the best of them. Watch out, world!

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But THIS is part of the problem with the progress of women’s rights in India. In some ways religion (though it shouldn’t be and doesn’t have to be) is brainwashing people, girls even, into thinking that women are inferior to men.

You want to know what this loony lady (with some sort of authority) said to a room full of 100+ young girls?

She said the wife has four roles:

1. Friend to husband (sure, whatever)

2. Mother (because if you choose not to have babies, or are biologically incapable, you fail as a wife)

3. Care giver to husband (wait, was the mother part about the children, or about the husband?)

4. TAKING CARE OF THE SENSUAL NEEDS OF THE HUSBAND BY BEING DRESSED IN APPEALING WAYS WHEN HE COMES HOME BECAUSE IF YOU DON’T HE WILL LOSE INTEREST AND HAS THE RIGHT TO CHEAT ON YOU. I am not exaggerating. I know, I can do that sometimes. But really, she said this. 

THEN… YES, THEN,

She says that there are a lot of rape cases, and do you know why? BECAUSE WOMEN ARE DRESSED SKANTILY AND TEMPTING MEN AND IT’S OUR FAULT. Again, this is real life, she said this. 

Then she said, do you all agree?

And as the whole crowd is  nodding/head bobbling yes,  and I say noooooo, with an avid head shake and Shweta shouts, NO! I DON’T AGREE! and then continued with a quieter, this is pathetic and sad, just sad. 

This attracted a lot of gasps and head turns and the woman speaking just says, “well, in any case…” and continued to say that Indian men are not that bad because they have a lot less rapes statistically than England.

I am just clenching my fists and jaws and my head is exploding and I am thinking,

Yeah, you ding dong, because NOBODY (okay, very few people) reports rapes here. This could be a whole new blog post, but rest assured, people, rape and molestation DO happen in India, just as they DO happen in every country. I would venture to say that women here dress a whole hell of a lot more modestly than they do in the west and even if they were nude, this NEVER justifies rape.

I mean, you guys, I am wearing JEANS IN 104 DEGREE WEATHER because it’s not socially acceptable for women to show their damn legs! Jeans in 104 degrees should be a sin, it’s so cruel!

In fact, rape is so not the fault of women. These ladies in the village, who are fully covered and even wear scarves around their heads (they are super traditional) are getting raped when they go out in the fields to urinate because men know that they can get away with it. Why? Because according to traditional values, a raped woman is not a marriageable woman, therefore she will not report the rape because she will be reduced to nothing by society.

I could have slapped that women who was speaking.

So let me just wrap this up by saying, women, we have a long way to go. Let’s chime our voices and speak our minds, one Hare Krishna temple at a time.

I think I have a PhD dissertation in the making. Maybe I should go back to grad school after all…

I am cutting myself off…FOR NOW. You’re so welcome.

Holy Moly

Holy Moly

On Sunday morning Shweta was not going cycling on Marine Drive, so I decided to make my morning productive regardless. I had been wanting to take pictures of the Gateway of India without the crowd, since it’s always swarming with people, and Sunday mornings are the quietest you’ll ever find Bombay, so I set out on a quest.

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The typical Sunday Morning. Are you jealous of the Happy Cycle Shop on Third Pasta Lane, or what?!

I am just standing there at the entry way where there is a good view of the structure, fumbling through my bag. Fairly oblivious to the happenings around me, suddenly my wrist was grabbed, my hand was flipped over, palm side up, and there appears in my hand this mysterious, white rock candy and a marigold flower. After staring at and contemplating this weird business in my hand, I look up slowly to find standing in front of me a drug addict* holy man.

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I had been ambushed.

And there was no stopping it.

*Please note that there are real holy men in India and like this man, they wear this white cloth tied around their legs like a saggy, adult diaper, and they wrap their heads in warm colored fabrics and paint their faces with an array of stripes and dots on the yellow-orange spectrum. They are usually found at temples and holy sites, sometimes I see them on the trains. This guy was a holy man impersonator, again, with a suspiciously long pinky finger nail (just like the mail man), but it gave me a thrill, so I didn’t mind. 

So I look at him, and I say, “No, no, no, I don’t want it. I don’t want to pay for it. Don’t do it.”

What does he do?

In about eight whirlwind seconds he wraps a thread around my wrist while chant-mumbling a prayer, paints a red dot on my forehead and says, “TKay*, now you live long life, very long life now. You have money?”

*Tkay is the Hindi way of saying Okay.

I just laughed at him, shook my head, and said, “I don’t have to pay you because I told you no and I didn’t ask for this, butI kind of want to keep this bracelet, so I will give you ten Rupees.”

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Not only was I able to document the Gateway of India, but I was also able to capture a very hippie picture of myself being poser Indian in front of the structure. I wish I had met a fraud holy man before I saw the Taj Mahal. 

He seemed pleased enough.

He was happy, I was happy, and now live long life.

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I sat here after my big Indian life-lengthening experience and felt stupid as everyone who passed me by, eating my French toast was like, ohhh, one of those tourists, trying to be all spiritual and stuff.  I later licked my finger and erased the dot using the reflection of a car tented window. Knowing my luck, there was probably someone in there. 

Moral of the story? Though I no longer consider myself a tourist in Mumbai because I have been here for two months, Istill look like one. I am constantly harassed by people who are trying to get any bit of money they can from me because I am foreign.

Just today at the train station Ihad an adorable, old man with  a Santa Claus beard ask to draw my portrait. I told him I didn’t want to pay for it and I had a train to catch. He said, “But you’re from America, you have money.” And I said yes, but I don’t want to buy a picture of myself.” And then he said, “But I’m a real artist!” And I said, “I’m sure you are, but that’s my train!” And I got on the train. If I had time I may have actually sat with the guy just for the heck of it because he was kind of endearing. But alas, I have no portrait to share as of now.

Posts coming in the near future: Matrimony in the newspaper, my slum tour, puri delight, and hopefully many more. I have a lot of things to squeeze in here in the next few weeks!

my indian movie experience and the fight to save my granola bar’s life

my indian movie experience and the fight to save my granola bar’s life

I have been wanting to have the Indian movie experience since I first arrived.  Preferably I wanted to go with an Indian, as I had visions of myself causing a scene, if left to my own, American devices. After all, I am good at making an exhibition of myself in foreign lands as I am unfortunately awkward spectacularly graceful, though sadly I did not inherit my father’s social savvy. (If this topic interests you, please enquire with Doug for a copy of the bestselling book, “Stuff Doug Fleming Likes.”)

Day after day I have been checking the papers, trying to see what’s playing in English at a decent time and also looks findable according to Google Maps. Using this criteria my options were narrowed down to Silver Linings Playbook at Metro BIG Cinema at 2pm.

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I know, that name is intimidating, right?

And because I didn’t fully trust myself to find the place, I took an absurd number of screenshots of the map on my phone from varying distances and angles just to be on the safe side.

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So after work, I bought something called Jim Jam from the food vendor at the train station, not because that’s what I wanted, but because we were having language problems so I settled. This is off subject but they are basically strawberry Poptarts, but rather than being disguised as a breakfast food, they own up to being cookies.

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I really liked this name because Kimmy calls James, Jim and I call him Jam, so i felt like it was a metaphorical Fleming sister sandwich-cookie and I was eating it. 

After getting off the train and consulting my 14 screen shots, I found the BIG Cinema and took a few photos along the way.

ImageThis is Ganesha! He is everywhere in India.

 

 IMG_3587 I took this for Lynn, I knew she would appreciate it. Unfortunately there were people who had set up camp in front of it so I had to take the picture from on awkward angle.

 

 IMG_3586This was another wall painting that I thought was really nice. The mother may look like a seahorse, but it’s a nice message and interpretation, nonetheless. 

Let’s just say the movie experience didn’t disappoint. As always, my cultural incompetence led way to good times and I think everybody, myself and the employees, had a great time.

This is what happened:

You know how in the US they say you can’t bring outside food into the theatre, but people inevitably do and nobody ever checks or really cares? Well, they mean business here in India because THEY HAVE A FOOD DETECTOR. I kid not. After buying your ticket you have to walk through this door frame that scans you and I really just figured that it was the type of detector that scans for weapons and explosives or something. That’s what you would think, too, right!? That’s what an American would think. I am showing my bias, I guess. Anyhow, I am just as oblivious as any person possibly could be as I waltz through the entry way like Mary Poppins…

…Only to realize that I am being yelled at, pursued even, by a woman with a wand in her hand. She drags me back and puts me behind a black curtain where I am kind of freaking out on the inside because everything feels really serious and this woman is frisking me with a lot of determination…

“Ma’am, I need for you to empty your pockets for me.”

“There’s nothing in them?” (I pull out a crayon wrapper from work yesterday because Daksha likes to peel them off and it keeps her really occupied.)

“What’s in your bag?”

(I open my bag, look at her with distress on my face as I pull out my water bottle, chapstick, phone, wallet…GASP…granola bar…)

She gave me the most disgusted look in the world as she snatched that cinnamon Nature Valley bar up and threw that thing in the trash. Truth be told, I didn’t even know it was in there. It’s been in there for two months probably, you know, just in case of an emergency or something? Who knows, I just had it there, but I was not planning on eating it in the theatre.

“You can’t have chocolate!” I didn’t correct her, it didn’t feel worth it.

So that’s when I panic, because granola bars are like gold here (six or seven dollars for a box of Nature Valley) and I did not want that to go to waste.

“You can’t throw that away. Can I come back for it? You won’t throw that away, you won’t!” (okay, I wasn’t that dramatic out loud, but on the inside I was even more dramatic.)

And then I got a weird stare and head tilt, just the way dogs do when they know you are talking about them but don’t understand why, and then she handed me a coat check number for my granola bar. You’d better bet I guarded that sucker with my life.

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Coat Check! Granola #47

That was hurdle number one.

Hurdle number two? Well, I guess you can’t get to the movie too early and sit like you can in the states because I got there twenty minutes ahead of time and they wouldn’t let me in the theatre. In order to dilly dally I  took a forever pee break. This was fascinating because there was a woman in there distributing toilet paper and paper towels to everybody who entered. I guess they don’t trust us to self serve. I get it, sometimes we help ourselves too much. It’s fine.

When I exited my forever pee break I just sat there, sort of staring at the wall while the boy guarding the door stared at me. Then ten minutes til show time he escorted me in. Like he personally came over, got me, and escorted me through the doors.

Ah, and did you know, you can’t sit anywhere you want? Because I tried to do that and got told by the door guard/escort that seating is assigned, as he asked for my ticket and directed me to my exact seat. Whoops! I should have forecasted that and avoided the weirdness, but alas I did not.

I will take this moment to say that during a sold out show, the idea of assigned seats makes  a lot of sense. But really? I was in a theatre with a couple of school girls, and a gaggle of elderly ladies and we were all crammed in the back, left corner of the theatre side-by-side like canned sardines, the rest of the theatre vacant. The thought of this made me laugh.

And then the movie started and I was thinking, yes, I just get to sit here and not think about anything for two hours and it will be awesome and peaceful and fabulous…

…and then the Indian flag appeared on the screen and everyone was standing, which I gathered meant the national anthem was happening. So much like the pretend-catholic Jen I was pretend-Indian Jen and I mimicked everybody else even though I was not sure if I was supposed to…

…Then a thundering voice came over the speaker that said, “Smoking can be highly injurious to health. It can cause cancer and kill you.” This sentence was repeated twice, and enveloped the theatre in a way that felt like God was speaking to us…or maybe even Voldemort in the final Harry Potter movie…

…The movie starts, and we are about half way in, and I am completely engrossed, completely lost in the plot, and the screen just cuts out, mid scene. So I am thinking, oh darn, technical issues…

…Wrong…

…The screen says “interval” and the next thing I know the door guard boy/escort is shoving a menu in my face asking if I want to order something. It all happened so quickly, like a tornado, and I couldn’t process what was happening…

…but in my head I am too preoccupied for food thinking, but the movie! How? Why? What? NO!?  so I got my phone out to take some notes and record my anxious feelings about the ill placed mid-scene stop until the final half continues after a SECOND ROUND of previews…

…Then the movie ends. And I try to exit back the way I came in. WRONG AGAIN, JEN. I got directed down to the bottom of the theatre where there is an exit that spits you out back, on the other side of the building. And all I was thinking was, but my granola bar!

…So I trekked around to the front of the building, handed over my coat check number to the new frisking girl on duty, who consequently had a difficult time finding my granola bar and seemed slightly confused about why I had checked it, but determined all the same to do her job. So after fumbling through shelves and drawers she found it, handed it over, and I said thank you! Before I took the granola and bolted.

All in all my Indian movie experience was a success. At least I didn’t grope anybody’s butt on my way out of the theatre, then again I did have mine groped over a granola bar. In my book blog, this is a win.

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A nice souvenir with which to remember my fabulous Indian Cinema experience. 

Oh, and Silver Linings Playbook is a good movie, by the way. You should see it!

Finding Flamingo

Finding Flamingo

Yesterday I woke up with an ambition for adventure and exploration. I have been able to take a lot of really cool adventures in Bombay, but usually in doing so I was accompanied by Salma or Shweta.

Case in point:

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Salma posing, barefoot, by the sea at Hadji Ali. ImageSalma and I posing, in our scarves, as per her request, by the sea at Hadji Ali. Image

Salma looking fantastically pensive as lover boy lurks behind her. Again, at Haji Ali. 

But yesterday I had nobody but myself and a lot of energy. So I googled and found out that there is that place that you can trek to where there are a lot of flamingos. I have long been fascinated by flamingos, as they are my namesake and also because grandma Ann taught me an appreciation for a good, old fashioned, yard flamingo. She used to have this really cool one that lit up and I always thought it was so spiffy.

I don’t think it actually draws a lot of visitors and probably most Mumbaikers have never even gone there, but I set out on the journey nonetheless, me, my sunscreen, my chapstick, my train pass, my camera, a water bottle, and really vague directions.

“Get off the train at Sewri Station and go to the other side of the platform. Cross over the main road and go straight until you find a fork. Go left. Then follow that road until you hit a T. It is a 10 minute walk.”

Problem 1: There were multiple forks.

Problem 2: What do I do after the T?

Problem 3: The road I was on was more like an alley with shanties in it, not an official road.

Problem 4: Ten minutes in I had not yet hit that fork so I was uncertain about the accuracy of the directions as well as my interpretation of them.

For whatever reason though, I was feeling confident and determined. Stupidly, I marched forth.

As I was sauntering down this road (right before I hit the ever so ambiguous “T”) I heard a man shout, “FLAMINGO!?”

I jumped because his voice was startling, sort of like a hollow bark.

The only reason that it caught my attention was because it scared the heebie jeebies out of me as I thought he yelled “FLEMING” and I was creeped out at the thought that this toothless man on this dirt road in an unfamiliar place knew my name. Suddenly I was in the courtyard at Oak Park High School listening for my name in the cross country roster, “Faiva! Fleming! Foote! Foresman!” My mind was drifting, searching, trying to make connections. And then I realized, duh, flamingo! It’s a common mix up, just ask my mom. She’s called Mrs. Flamingo by about half of the kids.  

So I looked at him, smiled and nodded my head vigorously, with a “YES!!!” (This could have also been confusing has I was too flustered to use the culturally more relevant head bobble.) He pointed to the right of the T, with his crooked pointer finger, and then hobbled away past me after I had thanked him enthusiastically like any good tourist would.

Also I got the feeling that Flamingo was the only word that he knew in English.

Feeling re-energized in my mission and ready to face the world, I continued to my right…down a REALLY long, red, dirt (it sounds like a country song but it’s really not like that at all) lined on both sides with road semi-trucks. Ten minutes of walking through the never-ending truck lot I was feeling like that man had lied to me. But just as I almost considered turning back I saw the water ahead, so I kept walking. And what did I find over the horizon but hundreds, maybe thousands? (I’ve never been good at guessing numbers, so we can even call it trillions, if you prefer) of pink flamingos standing in the water surrounding the land.

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I did linger to take some photos of the trucks, because I really love their festive quality. 

There was nobody else there other than two police officers, some scrappy kids, a couple of guys on some boats, and a canoodling couple from the UK.

I tried to photograph the scene, but no photo did it justice. You simply have to see and experience it to believe it.

Note: The pictures showed up smaller than I had wanted and some were repeats (maybe?) but I am too frustrated with the snail’s pace with which the internet is running to do anything about it.

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It’s Electric! the story of my affair with the microwave oven

It’s Electric! the story of my affair with the microwave oven

Well, to all you Missourians, whom I assume  comprise the bulk of my readers, HAPPY SNOW DAY! I am jealous of Kansas City’s predicted foot of snow, seeing as I just walked home and am sweating bullets from the oddly summer-like warmth and humidity.

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These are photos from the snow that happened just before I left. I can’t help but daydream of the beauty! I love and am missing the snowiness more than I can explain. Plus, snow days are the perfect day to turn on the real oven to bake something really delicious and an excuse to create extra heat. Oh, the glory…

 

That said, since you’re all stuck at home today I will give you something with which to entertain yourselves.

 

Let me start by saying that I have always been afraid of the microwave. Maybe it was the term, “Just nuc it” that rubbed me the wrong way. Or perhaps it was mom’s warnings of “Don’t stand to close to the microwave!” that made me leery. Really what I think it comes down to however, is that during my middle school years (a very formative time in microwave use for the life of an American pre-teen) our microwave was broken, so I was just naturally more comfortable operating the stove and oven.

 

Why am I rambling about this? Well, there’s a reason, and it’s this:

They don’t have ovens in India; They have microwaves that also function as ovens.

 

Yikes stripes! A microwave that is also an oven? Could it be true?

 

I guess it makes sense. They are tight in space here and ovens are big. Also it never really gets cold so cooking with an oven all the time doesn’t make sense. It would heat up the whole place really quickly. It’s simply an environmental difference that separates our cultural norms for cooking in this case.

 

After learning of this reality I had to give it a whirl. You know that feeling of thrill in doing something that you think is potentially dangerous, yet adventurous and you just can’t help but do it because you know you’ll regret it if you don’t? Kind of like diving off the high dive for the first time at Gladstone pool and then peeing once you hit the water. Lame as it is, that’s how cooking in the microwave felt for me. And so I decided that I would attempt to microwave banana bread.

 

First things first I marched right up to the banana cart man and bought five bananas for 10 rupees. He was eyeing me in a weird way so eyed him back and acted like I had bought bananas from a banana cart a million times and he relented and gave me the good ones, not the bad ones, because I wasn’t going to pass as a dummy. I know a good banana when I see one. Take that as you will.

 

Then, I marched right on through the archway of Family Bazaar. More on this place later because as it turns out I have been having a lot of experiences in this place. The girls who work there know my name  and the man behind the counter is always irritated that I don’t have change. I spent about thirty minutes trying to locate baking soda, brown sugar, flour and butter. It’s harder than you would imagine to find things in a store the size of my bedroom because the shelves are packed floor to ceiling and it’s like being in an I-Spy book. Also baking soda comes in a bag that looks like it could be cocaine, so things are not as straight forward as one would imagine.

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Suspicious baking soada–Almost as suspicious of the mail man’s suspiciously long pinky finger nail. We are on a first name basis, by the way, as I visit him often. 

After taking all of my supplies home it then took me another hour to mix the ingredients because cooking in not-your-own-kitchen is really confusing and basically what ended up happening is that I mixed my batter in a large Tupperware container because I couldn’t locate a large bowl and I put the bread in a cake pan because I don’t think they have a bread pan.

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In case you were curious, the tupperware works fine as a mixing bowl. I took this photo in a moment of great uncertainty as to whether or not the microwave oven would produce bana bread or an alien. 

The moment of truth came. I opened the microwave, flipped on the oven function, roughly converted degrees Fahrenheit to Celsius, put the dish in and crossed my fingers.

 

Then I watched…for about ten minutes as the thing rotated in a circle, with my face against the glass like grandpa at Crown Center during Christmas time, half expecting the microwave to explode. But it didn’t. So I eased up, sat back, and relaxed.

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It’s crazy, right!? Looks like I am microwaving this sucker for 40 minutes. But I’m not. I still don’t really get it, but that’s okay, so long as the end result is satisfactory. It’s like an Easy Bake Oven for grownups. That’s the only adequate description.  

To my pleasant surprise, it turned out like any normal dish would after being baked in the oven. And how glorious it was: a taste of home! In fact, I was so pleased by it that I ate the kind of undercooked part straight out of the center immediately after it had cooled, because mom was egging me on and, I just simply couldn’t help myself. Self control with baked goods is not my forte.

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#tada #voila #eatyourheartout #radioactivebananabread

I sent this picture to James and he said that it looked like a J and that I had marked my territory. Those weren’t my intentions, however I think that this is a very fair and truthful assessment.

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Don’t act like you wouldn’t have done the same, exact thing…

Ooooohh, the joys of microwave cooking. Now that I am on a kick, I cannot even fathom what will be next. That is, so long as I can manage to get my grubby little fingers on the appropriate ingredients and don’t get swallowed whole by the abyss that is the shelves of Family Bazaar.