Monday, September 29, 2008

Sari Shopping

Sari- a strip of fabric, ranging from 10-30 feet in length that is draped over the body in various styles. The sari is a very common garment worn here in India. The sari isn't complete until you take the material to a tailor, who makes a blouse out of some of the fabric for you. Here are some pictures from our many shopping adventures in pursuit of the perfect saris.

rickshaw ride with Rohini and Kristen

Kristen and Rohini examining one of the many saris we looked at that day

lots and lots of options

Name your color and price, and this guy will find it for you. Interestingly enough, it is only men who sell you the saris. They'll have one man showing you the fabric and other guys running around the store trying to find you the exact one you want. After they find some to your liking, they wrap you in the fabric so you can see what it looks like on you.

the worst part about showing you all the options... they have to fold them all after you're done

and of course, how could I not leave you with a picture of an awkward white girl in a sari!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Company Picnic

This past Saturday was the KJWW-India company picnic. Picnic is too light of a word, perhaps. What do you call a picnic that includes 3 meals, hours of activities, and 95-degree heat?

About 60 or 70 of us loaded up the buses at 8am to head to the site, which is about an hour outside the city. The bus ride was a trip. Kirstie and I slept a bit, but this wasn't entirely easy with a rambunctious game similar to charades going on in the aisle. Players took turns being assigned a Bollywood movie character and acting out one of his or her famous scenes. I'll tell you what: adult Indians sure do know how to laugh and have a good time on a bus for company functions at 8 am.

A pond outside the Shantu Waterpark, by our picnic site

We arrived at our destination, a waterpark, but we stayed on the grounds outside the water-ride area for our activities. We ate breakfast in a large shelter and socialized. Afterwards was a scheduled 3-hour block of game time. The company hired a "Professional Games Jockey" to lead the activities. We divided into teams and competed in several different competitions. First was Tug of War. My team lost, but Kirstie impressively anchored the end of the rope as her team easily outmuscled the other side in the all-girls round! Other games were the Egg Drop, a 3-legged race (except with 11-14 people instead of 2), a Treasure Hunt-style game, and a trivia game. My team finished in an overall tie for first place, and I won a chip & dip set as a reward. Boo yah!


21-Legged Race

Next was a huge and delicious lunch of traditional Gujarati food, followed by some time to explore the grounds. There was a pond and lots of green space, as well as an air-conditioned lobby of a hotel. This was the most popular location, since the temperature had escalated to the mid-90s by the middle of the day. So a little R&R and water were helpful in gearing us up for the rest of the day. Next was another game time (a prize game similar to Bingo), and then tea break. The last event was a Garba competition. Garba is a style of Indian dancing with bright & flamboyant outfits (at the end of this month, a 9-day long dancing festival begins), and the dancers form a circle on the dance floor that revolves as they step, turn, and clap in unison. Unlike Americans who generally need the right song, the right environment, and the right number of alcoholic beverages to get into the groove, most Indians seem ready to bust into song and dance at any moment for any occasion. We ended the day at the park with some spontaneous karaoke, distribution of prizes, and some speeches. On the way home, we stopped for another huge meal at an outdoor restaurant, and of course some singing on the bus.

Dancing the Garba. (Fortunately, Kirstie and I both joined in at the same time and weren't able to take embarrassing pictures of each other.)

Performing a song from the Bollywood movie "Rock On." I love the use of the cricket bat as the guitar.

So 15 hours later after arriving at the office, we arrived home, dead tired and sunburned with stretched bellies. Though the day had excessive heat and exhausting levels of activity, it was a great blessing to experience culture, social interaction, and a marathon or joyful celebration that was unlike any picnic I expect to ever attend in America.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Just stay in the car.

I didn’t understand the full meaning of this advice until today.

This afternoon I was out walking around our neighborhood. I had to pick up a few things and I also stopped to read a little at my favorite cafĂ©, Coffee Day. I was about a block away from our apartment, when right before my eyes I saw a car hit a man on his bicycle. Mind you the driving is nuts around here, but we have yet to see an actual car accident…mostly we see very near misses. As soon as the man got up (he looked as though he hurt his back badly), a crowd began to gather. I quickly walked past the car and crossed the street. I know that mob activity can quickly happen here in India and I wanted to get out of the way as fast as I could.
First, there was a lot of yelling and pointing. The car made a couple attempts to drive away (even one time hitting an elderly lady), but people blocked their escape by positioning themselves all around the car. Bystanders then proceeded to start banging on the car. This provoked the three passengers of the car to get out and fight back. It was so intense to see everyone attacking each other and nothing could be done. Lots of pushing, more yelling and even punches were thrown. I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing.

Traffic all around had slowed down and a lot of drivers had pulled over to either join in the action or just watch from a far. One man found it very amusing to watch my reaction to all that was going on… you can see him smiling at me in the pictures. Finally, after about 20 minutes, the police arrived. They made a lot of bikes and drivers move along and ushered the car (that was in the accident) to move over to the side of the road. Wow. I have to say that I am thankful for the rules of the road in the States. I know now, on a deeper level, to heed the driver’s advice and to just stay in the car.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


We spotted this parade from our balcony. We believe that it was for a wedding. I think the bride and groom were the ones on the elephant.

Monday, September 15, 2008


Bangles are all the rage these days in India. One must have a set to go with each sari she owns and plenty for each arm. Some are more precious gold, while others are plain glass. Bangles usually come in a set of 12 and range in sizes depending upon your age.

We were over at Mandip and Meeta’s flat the other day with Kristen to pick up some bangles Meeta had bought for Kristen (Meeta’s hometown is known for its’ glass bangles). Meeta also showed us the carrying case for her bangles and made us a delicious meal.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Cooking Lessons

Ganja and Gamer cooking away

Today marked the end of my two weeks of Gujarati cooking lessons. Ganja (our driver’s wife) was my teacher and for the last two weeks she has been arriving early in the morning to prepare our lunches for the day. There are three dishes that she has been teaching me to make...

1. Dahl...a spicy bean soup.
2. Masala… prepared with an array of vegetables, this dish is made with a variety of different spices and can often be a touch sweet.
3. Roti… a flat, round wheat bread that looks a lot like a tortilla. They use this bread as a utensil to eat the other dishes. The test of a good cook is how well you can get your roti to be perfectly round. (I can't seem to get my video of the roti loaded, but I promise to post it later.)

Along with these three dishes, she prepared some white rice and cut up some fresh vegetables for us. It was sooo much food to eat in one lunch!

It has been such a treat to learn some Indian cooking and I know Alex has enjoyed bringing his tiffin to work and eating with everyone. Ganja is such a sweet lady and though we haven’t been able to talk much (she doesn’t speak much English), I feel that I will miss her visits in the morning. Hopefully, I won’t let her down and will use what she’s taught me. When we get back to the states we’ll have to see if I can find all the ingredients I need and hopefully let you all experience a taste of Gujarat!

Ganja... I caught her with her eyes closed, but what a great smile.

Alex at lunch with his tiffin

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Bartimai Centre for the Blind

This week Alex and I took a trek to visit the Bartimai Center for the Blind. Leading up to our trip to Ahmedabad, I had started to look for something to invest some of my time in while Alex worked here in India. We happened upon the website for the Centre during our search and I soon became in contact with the director of the Centre, Shantijai Khristmukti. He invited us to come visit once we arrived and got settled. We contacted Shantijai when we arrived and found out that we live about 45 minutes from the Center. It was a bit of disappointment as I knew it would be very difficult for me to make that trip often. We still very much wanted to visit and meet the man who I had been very much in contact with.

Ahmedabd is divided into two parts, the New City and the Old City. We live in the New City and the Center is located in the Old City. We gave the directions to Shailesh (our driver) and we were off. About 3 minutes into the drive, he pulled over and motioned that we were there! After a bit of miscommunication and getting some help from our other driver Gamer, we were off again. We arrived in the Old City to find a whole different side of Ahmedabad.

The Sabamarti River divides the New City and the Old City

We weren't too sure what those birds were after... and part of me didn't want to know.

Once we crossed the bridge into the Old City, we found that there aren’t many roads that are paved. Mounds of sand and dirt is about all that there is! I didn’t think our little four-door was going to make it. We had to drive about 5 miles an hour the rest of the way!

We finally arrived at the Centre after a few missed turns and some more miscommunication. Overall it took us about an hour and a half to get there!
Shantijai greeted us warmly and invited us inside. He introduced us to all the kids (about 23 live there now…ages 2-9) and brought us upstairs. They had all the kids sit down and one by one they introduced themselves. They also had the kids sing some songs and recite some verses for us while we were there.

The children are all partially blind or completely blind. Most of the children still have contact with their families and visit them on holidays. We felt very welcomed by them all and what a blessing it was to see the ministry they have here in Ahmedabad. I know I will never forget the smiles on their faces, and the joy in their voices. For ten years now, they have been ministering to these children and it is very evident to see their impact on not only the childrens’ lives, but also their families and the community. We hope to visit some more before we leave and to remain in contact with Shantijai.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Lothal and Rajwadu

Last weekend we visited Lothal in Saragwala. It is located about 85km away from Ahmedabad. It is one of the most prominent cities of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization. The ruins date back to 2500 B.C. , but was not excavated until 1962. The literal meaning of the word Lothal is “Place of the Dead”, which they believe got the name because of their unique burial rituals.

We were really impressed how well intact this sign remained after 4500 years!

Lothal’s dock (the world’s earliest) connected the city to the Sabarmati River and was vital in bringing business to this thriving city.

Water, dirt, and bricks.

The entire settlement was divided into lower town and upper town. Upper town contained houses that had baths, underground drains, and wells for water.

TOP: Brick foundations of old stuff. BOTTOM: A stove, or a giant toilet.

The lower part of town contained both a residential area and a commercial centre. The city was well known for beads, gems, and copper and bronze objects.

An intimate look at some of history's rocks.

Next to the site was an Archaeological Museum (which cost just 2 rupees, or $0.05, to get in!) which contained some of the items found from the dig. It is a weird feeling when you are stared at more than the objects in the museum!

From the Department of Redundancy Department

On Saturday night we were treated to dinner at Rajwadu. It is a traditional Gujarati restaurant located here in Ahmedabad. The whole restaurant is located outdoors and offers a wide variety of entertainment!

A puppet show. The guy behind the curtain was rocking the puppets and the kazoo AT THE SAME TIME.

You walk through many passage ways to make your way around their large property. You never knew what would be around the next turn…

The crazy part of the night came when one of the girls dancing came out with a whole bunch of pots on her head. They then proceeded to bring her various things to stand on. First it was two cups, then two knives, then a bed of nails, and finally a pile of broken glass. It was quite impressive.

Hopefully, she keeps up on her tetanus boosters.

The food was very delicious. Some dishes were a little spicy for my taste, but they would just refill what items you liked. We had a handful of waiters come over and over again to keep us busy.

TOP: A Gujarati platter.
BOTTOM: A couple white people looking awkwardly cute with traditional Indian paint on their foreheads at Rajwadu.