Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Escaping the rain, more tales from the weekend

Since rain is still the theme outside, I thought I'd post some pictures from this weekend. (I calculated the forecasted millimeters of rain for the week and the total converted to 10 inches of rain this week)!! Along with the yummy cupcakes from Butterfly, I also ordered a cake for Greg on Friday night. We had a progressive dinner with two other families in the building. Unfortunately, Craig was sick and his son, Barrett, was put in charge to watch him. Craig and Ty's other son, Kerry, went to a friend's house. Who can expect a 14 year old to hang out with a bunch of lame adults. So, we decided this turned into a practice progressive dinner and next time we will plan enough in advance to include all the families in the building. We started at Jen and Brian Piccalo's flat with drinks and appetizers. Delicious assemble your own brochettas! Tomatoes in India are so good. Since Craig was sick, we did not progress to Ty's apartment. We just progressed from the couch to the dining room table. Ty made some excellent pesto pasta. Pesto made from scratch. Ty was a good mom and took some of the delicious food up to her flat for Craig and Barrett. After filling up, we went downstairs to our flat for birthday cake. India being the cool place that it is, the corner store had two choices of candles: numbers and "magic" relighting candles. I bought both. One of the threes broke while I was putting it into the cake, so I HAD to use the relighting candles. We all got a good laugh out of Greg trying and trying to blow the candles out.

Saturday, Greg and I arose, after about 5 and a half hours of sleep and being a bit dehydrated from the progressive dinner, to go for a run with Jen Piccalo and Andrea, who lives north of us in another building. It was very muggy and we sweated more standing to wait for Andrea than running since there was at least some breeze created by our incredible speed. The run put Greg over the edge and he slept a lot the rest of the day. But, some other friends, Brian and Shannon, came over and we decided to escape the house for lunch at Elco. (Have I mentioned that this was a sunny, dry day. The only one between a few days of strong rain and now a week of 10 inches of rain). Elco is a great local fare restaurant that's just around the corner. We love it. Brian and Shannon had not been there yet and were game to try some new Indian delicacies. We had pani puri, a yummy snack that Mumbai is known for, and XXL dosa, a paper dosa that takes up the length of the table and comes with two chutneys and a tomato stew for dipping. The picture is of us starting in on the XXL dosa. We were stuffed by the end. Anyone who visits can be assured you will be going to Elco for at least one meal!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Rain, rain, and more rain!

Out of the last six days, it has rained solid four of those days. Today there was also a lot of wind and I hoped my umbrella wouldn't give out. I was at ASB, volunteering at the school library for a few hours. I kept looking out the window, not excited to go find a taxi in the weather. At 3:30, I begrudgingly turned in my visitor's pass (they are starting to recognize me!!) and splashed/ waded my way down the road to where some taxis are usually waiting. The wind was blowing so heard that I had the umbrella tilted forward, trying to keep some part of myself dry, and checking where I was headed every so often so I wouldn't run into something. There were only a couple taxis. The first one shook his head "no" when I told him where I wanted to go. Urrrrgh. The second one thought and then said 400 rs!! (It's usually a 70 rs rid). I told him no way and started to walk away. He asked how much. I told him how much it usually was and I'd give him 100 rs. He said no, as I walked away he tried to get me to come back. My thought, "Jerk, are you crazy! You want to bargain while you're staying dry and I'm getting more and more drenched!" Screw the taxis! I was already wet, so I flagged down a rickshaw, who gladly drove me home. The water parted like a boat in front of the rickshaw's single wheel, while other waves came crashing in as cars passed us. I started laughing, which made the driver chuckle. I consoled myself with the fact that it was warm and I'd be home soon to change clothes. At least my shoes were clean from dirt, though who knows what lovely microbes are crawling all over my skin now. One more month of this!
Greg's birthday adventure to Elephanta Island was cancelled for another time because of the rain yesterday. Instead we met out with others for a nice breakfast and I rented two movies for the day. At least I 'm getting a massage tomorrow night!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Twyla is "wanted," finally

This morning I took the ASB-provided bus with Greg this morning. I was to be the guest reader for an early childhood class (3 years) in the Elementary School library. I was early, so I read some books that Heeru, the Elementary School librarian, had left for me to choose from. I also helped re shelve some books. Jenny, the other library staff, showed me around a bit and then helped introduce me to the kids when they arrived. We ended up reading "No more monkeys jumping on the bed," which they helped me with by talking along and doing motions, wonderful! They are focusing on friendship and getting along, so we also read a book called "Meanies." They were a fun group. The teacher apologized for them being all over, but I thought they did a great job! Afterwards, I spoke with Heera and she wondered if I wanted to come and help out at the library. I told her I would love to. "We need your help and so does the Middle School/ High School library." What words to my ears - to be needed! I have been feeling like a tag-along for a month, it was wonderful to feel needed. So, I will start volunteering at the library and volunteering at other agencies next week. Hurray!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Greg's Birthday - where has the week gone?!

It's almost Friday! This week has gone by fast. I'll recapture some of the highlights.

First, my brother is now married. It's official and Elvis was there as witness. Two weeks ago, Ryan sent me an email saying they were starting to feel stressed (and when you live in Hawaii, stress just isn't tolerated) with planning a wedding, so they were heading to Vegas in two weeks to get married. At first I thought he was kidding, but no, it was happening. Luckily, the chapel where they were going to get hitched had a live, streaming video that I could access via the World Wide Web. Sunday morning, I got up at 6:00am only to realize I had calculated wrong and could still get another hours of sleep, so I went back to bed. At 7:00am, I got up, got the website up and felt a little confused. I didn't recognize anyone in the room. I switched to the lobby and it was empty. Greg encouraged me to wait for the wedding to start, so I used my patience and waited. This crazy rock music came on, the doors opened, and a voluptuous, black woman came through the doors. Mmmmmm, no, that's definitely not Jen. I was bummed. "Turn to the lobby again," Greg said. I argued I just looked there, but finally clicked the tab. Low and behold, there were my parents chatting. I called and got to watch them talking to me on the web cam. The wedding itself was all "Vegas, baby," complete with Elvis preforming several songs and getting Jen and my brother to dance to Viva Las Vegas. The ceremony was traditional and kept to a very respectable length. Jen looked great and fought back tears the entire time, while both mothers were crying the entire way through. I was later told that Jen had some awesome neon pink heels on too. Congrats to the newlyweds!

The next highlight of the week was finding Butterfly, an AMAZING cupcake shop, to get some birthday treats for Greg. This evening he has an open house, so won't be home until late. I decided I would head to the school with the tasty treats as a surprise. I set out, determined to walk there, having researched its location. As I started out, it started to rain. I also realized I was hungry and would need some nourishment for the trek. I stopped at a place called Candies, which is like a quick food place, that has both Indian and American fare. While waiting for my mushroom/cheese omelet, they had a big flat screen TV playing some traveling circus, the same one that was on last time I was there. I've heard this place is a popular after school spot with the teenagers of Bandra. The rain kept coming down. So I braved it and returned on my journey, passing a sewer bubbling over like a small volcano. And I'm walking in this... I get to the area the store is located and start wandering, asking a few people where the cupcake shop is, and no one knows. Someone tries to tell me about another cake store. I show someone the address and they recognize some part of it and point me back the way I came, up a hill. Another person tells me to keep on going. Finally, at the bottom of the hill, there is the brilliant blue and brown sign of Butterfly. Yes! I jump on some bricks through a mud puddle and go to open the door. It's a small shop and it's humming with activity. I later find out that Raksha is today, when sisters tie decorative strings to male members of their family, who vow to always take care of them. So, naturally, sweets are also devoured since it's a celebration. And...it's...closed. "We open at 1:00pm." Ahhhhhhhh!!!!! I really almost break down crying. You're kidding!! I have to come back. I slump away, jump in a rickshaw, and hole up in the flat. Two hours later, I take a deep breath, get back in a rickshaw, and head back to Butterfly. Repeating in my head, "you can do this, you can do this." They are open and very wonderful. One of the owners, Sarah, who I think is a former Miss India, introduces herself and has someone help me. After placing the order, I buy one of the yummy cupcakes as a treat. Then I step back out into Mumbai, renewed and feeling good from my sugar high. The cupcakes came on time today and I delivered them, after getting through the "fortress's" security. It took 15 minutes to find Greg, but he was grateful and everyone loved the tasty morsels. In my excitement, I completely forgot to take a picture, so I've included the facebook page for the shop: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=216098996967. Quote, "These are the best cupcakes I've ever had." - Rory, HS Biology teacher extraordinaire.

Finally, on Wednesday, I got myself out to the Bandra train station, onto the ladies only, second-class car (for Rs 6 - about 11 cents) and got off down at Grant Road. My destination was a gallery showing a photographer's work. Proceeds went to Save the Children India, who I will start volunteering for in two weeks. Wonderful work and an interesting technique with black and white film. I was told it's a very old technique not really used any more. I had taken a taxi to the gallery and my goal was to find my way back to the train station. As I wandered around, I realized my stomach was growling. While looking for a place to eat, my eyes came across a window with Ganesh statues. I was drawn inside, to walls of Ganesh, Shiva and other Hindu gods. Sweet! I didn't bring much cash with me, so I settled on a small Ganesh and two long, colorful strands of wooden elephants and cloth balls. Perfect to hang in our doorway. A colorful welcome for guests. It looks great!! I left the store and came upon a busy Indian restaurant. I peaked my head inside. It was dim with fluorescent lights, several rows of tables with bench-like seats, and filled with men. I asked the cashier if I could eat here, feeling like a complete outsider being a woman. He nodded yes and someone came to take me to a seat across from someone just finishing up. I sat down, feeling eyes bore into me. I ordered Paneer Masala, chapatis, and a sprite for about the equivalent of $1.50. It was delicious, filling, and I didn't get sick! Yea! This was the type pf place I remember eating at before, not like the many upscale restaurants that are around Bandra. I made it back to the train, which was much more crowded. When I tried getting off, I fought a sea of woman shoving to get on, almost being pushed back into the car. But I elbowed my way out. Whew! That was crazy.

So, Greg's birthday was started off with cupcakes, cards, many facebook birthday wishes, and talking with his mom. In the Twyla tradition of celebrating birthdays for a month, I reminded him this was just the beginning. We have a weekend packed full with fun and next weekend we'll start off with a trip to some bike stores to buy Greg his birthday gift - an Indian bicycle!!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Lonavala - hill station getaway

Saturday, we spent the day in Lonavala, a 3 hour trip by bus, but much faster by car. One of the ASB employees and her husband have a beautiful home there and graciously hosted the outing and picnic. We started out at ASB, piling onto two buses. There were not only the teachers, mainly white folk, but also administration and support staff, who are Indian. Much nicer to be a part of a more diverse group for the day.
The bus trip first took us through northern Mumbai suburbs and slowly the buildings lessened and green fields and hills began to appear. When we hit the "hills," we started the long, slow ascent up a swooping three lane highway. The views were spectacular. Steep, lush hill-sides with waterfalls pouring down their slopes everywhere. Deep valleys. Think Hawaii, only bigger. Looking ahead, one could see the switchbacks and bridges we would soon be crossing. When we turned off the highway, we were in a more rural India. This was more of my memory of India. When we reached Lonavala, we found out that on weekends they closed the road to the house to buses. So we waited and waited and waited. I think we waited about an hour until we found out the back way to get to the house. The road was dirt, rutted, and narrow. The house was nestled into the hillside, overlooking the misty valley. It was a spectacular place.
While there, we ate, lounged, hiked, ate, and lounged. They fed us kebabs of tandori chicken, chutney chicken, tandori paneer and potatoes, and roti. Yum! After our hike, they had cooked up birianyi, a spicy rice and vegtable dish, also having two with meat in them. Greg was also psyched to be privy to the host's fine liquor selection.
The hike was short, but bursting with color. Our directions were, head up the path until you reach the palm tree, then hike right along the hill until you see the water fall and hike up to it. Indians are all about landmarks! (I don't know if I've mentioned yet that getting around town, you can't use street names because a lot of people don't know them and there aren't signs. So, everyone uses landmarks to describe where they want to go. Quite a hard adjustment when you are new and don't know where anything is). The trail was slippery and we found walking on the grass was less slippery than the moss covered rocks (opposite to my way of thinking). It was also fairly steep and we switch-backed our way up. The view of the valley was spectacular! The vivid green against the gray of the sky was brilliant. There was a temple nearby that Greg and I tried to hike to, but turned around because the slippery rock was too treacherous. Our hike down took us near some cattle, that had various "limpy" horns. One of the kids with us suggested that the cows had not had enough milk to make their horns strong. Ha!
The ride home was a bit shorter and we were exhausted after the day, which started with getting up at 5am to go for a run before catching a ride to the school. But, we are both excited to explore more weekend getaways in the hill stations hear the city. It's a welcomed break from the hustle and bustle of the city. Fresh air and no horns honking - I've never appreciated those two things so much.

Greg gets "leied."

Friday evening, the board of the school hosted a cocktail party. Both Greg and I showed up feeling under dressed. We are from Colorado after all. There were staff, board members, and parents socializing, drinking and eating. It was a fun event. Towards the end, Greg and all the new staff were called up and given garlands of flowers. I exclaimed, "You're getting leied!" "Garlanded" just doesn't sound the same. I'm sticking with the Hawaiian term. That's also a picture of me with Barry, one of the tech staff, but really he does much more. Greg met him in Memphis and enjoys hanging out with him. The stage and background are quite amazing too. I must get in touch with the decorator!:)

Lands End Fort

This past Friday, there was finally a lull in the rain after two days straight of precipitation. (I keep telling myself to enjoy it since there will be no rain for eight months). So, I was able to take a long walk to the southern part of Bandra called Lands End. The walk was mainly along a promenade known as the bandstand. There were many young couples about, sneaking some kissing under umbrellas. This really cracks me up because it's very taboo in India for any male/female PDA. But Mumbai, being more progressive, has allowed these young people to push those boundaries slightly. Many adults complain about this and there are several parks that prohibit this "nonsense because this is a family place." The one feature that I LOVE about this promenade is there is a short wall separating it from the road. That wall is decorated with a mosaic of broken pottery. It's beautiful and glistens in the sunlight. This wall is several kilometers long, so I spent most of the walk staring at the wall.
TheTaj hotel (There are several Taj hotels in the city, the most famous one being downtown) is the first thing that you come upon at Lands End. At first I wasn't sure where to find the first that I had been told about. Then, walking through the parking lot ends one at the gate leading to the fort and a beautiful garden area. The fort itself is pretty unimpressive and it seems recently built, rather than a piece of history. I haven't been able to find its story yet.
Next, I wandered into the garden. It was lush, with an amphitheater, meandering paths, and wonderful views of the ocean and city. Very peaceful. I love finding these hidden gems amidst chaos. Afterward, I treated myself to a cup of tea and samosa at Cafe Coffee Day and just missed a short burst of rain while looking at the ocean, enjoying my snack.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hello everybody,
This is my first official blog, and I can now see why I have not done it in the past. I have no idea where to start. Most of my time and energy is going into teaching right now. The kids are great, the administration is great, and my co-workers are great. Because everybody is so great I feel obligated, and even inspired to try and be great myself.

I guess I will describe a "typical" day here. I get up at 5:00 in the morning. I meet up with some friends and go for a run in the morning. It is hard to get up so early, but the run is worth it because it is a time that I can have Mumbai to myself. The rickshaws drivers are sleeping in their rickshaws, the stray dogs are asleep, and nobody feels the need to honk. The pollution is also not as bad in the mornings. By the time I get back to the apartment I am soaked to the bone and really hot. I turn on the AC and all of the fans and try to cool down before I take my shower (that does not get cold). I then head out and say good morning to the guards and walk out of the gate and down the driveway where I catch my bus to school. The ride in the morning is a pretty amazing experience in itself. Driving in Mumbai is crazy, and nobody uses lanes, and they don't even really pay attention to stoplights or any other traffic rules. The bus is bigger than most vehicles so we basically get to pick our line and it is everybody else s job to get out of the way. For as crazy as it is, it works amazingly well. Nobody gets mad, and nobody is out to be malicious, even though at times it has that appearance. On the way to school I pass several slums, where I can watch the naked children walk around on trash heaps and make their morning movements. We actually get to watch all kinds of people using the restroom outside as there are not public toilets around and all of the shops and stores have guards to keep the poor out. When I get to school I am met by the school security and they guide us through rotating gates one by one (only accessed with our badges) onto the school campus. The real India has now melted away and I am in an entirely different world. I buy my double late and go to my office (cubical) and start my day. I am still a traveling teacher, so I have to move classrooms from time to time, but it is not a big deal since everything is done on computers and overheads. The day is busy and I am working all day to try and get ready for my classes. I get a lot of planning time, but I need every bit of it. The students are great, they care about school and they all have the goal of going to a good college. There is very little in the way of behavior problems, and they seem to be enjoying school, largely because they are successful at it. My class size range from 6 to 14 and I am given lots of plan time and technology to help make my lessons interesting. I think that can help the overall experience too. My fellow math teachers are amazing teachers and I am learning a lot from them everyday. They are very open and love to share their ideas. At the end of the day (usually at about 4:40) I catch a bus home. Traffic in the afternoon is really crazy and takes a lot longer to get home. I am usually exhausted when I get home. Sometimes we do yoga with our neighbors, sometimes I take a nap, and sometimes we go out and walk around (which is an adventure for another time.)

Well, I guess that is kind of boring, and I am leaving a lot out, like the fact our students come from over 50 different nations, and did things with their summer like hang out in Spain and Paris. I promise I will try to make my blogs more interesting in the future. I love hearing from everybody, including my past students. Keep the comments coming and let me know how your lives are going too. We miss a lot of people, but we are loving it here. Today was the Parsee new year. I found out they have a tower in town where they put their dead to have the vultures eat them. I mean how cool is it to live in a city that has that.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cooking in India

Most of you know that I enjoy cooking and I was excited to expand my repertoire to include tasty Indian fare. Arriving, I became a bit daunted by the sheer number of spices in the shops, getting good prices, and just learning what to do with all the different grains. The first day Jacinta started, I had her buy a pressure cooker, a necessary item in any Indian kitchen. (Well at least if you can afford one). It cuts down on the amount of time it takes and does a wonderful job with keeping in flavors. I was excited to see that it came with some recipes. Over the weekend I read through all the directions and recipes and decided to try two of them this week. One with chickpeas and one with black dal and kidney beans. On Monday, I proudly informed Jacinta of my goal and produced my list of ingredients. She agreed to have me tag along to the market so I could see where she goes for fruits, veggies, grains, and spices. Before she left that day, she made sure I knew how to use the pressure cooker - I had given it a trial run earlier with water - and wished me luck.

The first recipe I tackled was Chana Pindi. It involved using not only the pressure cooker, but also our knew grinder for the pomegranate seeds. How exciting! After the first cooking of the chickpeas, I took a little taste and it was already spectacular! The end product was a flavorful, spicy dish that we put over rice. It was delicious!!

The second recipe was called Ma ki Dal and involved less spices. The recipes from the book are for 5 liter pressure cookers, and mine is a 3.5 liter. So, I've been adjusting amounts, more guestimating. This one also turned out well, but I think next time I'll add more green chillies and a tad more salt. Otherwise it was also tasty.

Lauren requested that I put recipes on the blog, so here are my first two. There will probably be items you can't find and you can substitute butter for ghee (vitamin cottage has ghee). Again, these are recipes for 5 liter pressure cookers, so I recommend finding one. They are wonderful!

Chana Pindi
2 1/2 TBS pomegranate seeds 2 TBS cumin seeds (I used powder and didn't need to grind)
4 c water 4 c chickpeas (soaked overnight or in hot water for 2 hours and drained
2 1/2 TBS salt 4 brown cardamons (you can use green, just double amount)
5 sticks (2.5 cms ea) cinnamon 10 cloves
4 TBS coriander powder 2.5 tsps pepper powder
2 tsps garam masala 3 TBS mango powder
6 green chillies slit 15 gms ginger cut into thin strips
1/2c vegetable oil 1/2 c ghee
1 med onion sliced 2 lemons cut into wedges

1. In a pan, roast together pomegranate and cumin seeds and grind to a powder
2. Pour water into cooker. Add chickpeas, 4 tsp salt, cardamons, cinnamon and cloves, stir once
3. Close cooker. Bring to full pressure on high heat. Reduce heat and cook 18 minutes.
4. Remove cooker from heat. Allow to cool naturally.
5. Open cooker. Drain off cooking liquid and reserve. Add remaining salt (3.5 tsps), pomegranate seeds, cumin, coriander, peeper, garam masala, and mango powder. Mix well till chickpeas are evenly coated with spices. Sprinkle chillies and ginger on top.
6. In a pan, heat oil and ghee together till smoky (approx 5 in) and pour evenly over chickpeas. (I did it until the oil started popping). Add cooking liquid.
7. Place cooker with chickpeas on med. heat and cook till liquid dries up and oil shows separately, stirring occasionally. (lid off).
8. Remove cooker from heat. Transfer chickpeas onto a serving dish. Serve hot, garnished with onion and lemon. (With rice too).

Ma ki dal
6.5 c water 1.25c whole black gram (dal)
.25c kidney beans soaked in water 1 hour 2 med tomatoes blanched and chopped
5gms ginger cut into thin strips 6 flakes garlic chopped (2-3 cloves)
4 green chillies 2 whole dry red chillies
4.5 tsps salt .5 tsps red chilli powder
1 TBS ghee
2 TBS ghee 1 small onion chopped
5gms ginger chopped .5 tsp red chilli powder

1. Pour water into cooker. Bring to boil on high heat. Add black gram and all other ingredients except those for tempering. Stir once.
2. Close cooker. Bring to full pressure on high heat. Reduce heat and cook for 50 minutes.
3. Remove cooker from heat. Allow to cook naturally.
4. Open cooker. Partially mash dal with back of ladle.
5. Place cooker with dal on low heat. Simmer to obtain a creamy consistency (approx 7 min), stirring occasionally.
6. Fot tempering, heat ghee in a pan for about a minute. Add onion and fry until transparent. Add ginger and continue frying until golden brown. Remove pan from heat. Add chilli powder and pour evenly over dal. Serve hot. (with rice)

Bon appetite!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Rickshaw in the rain and spinning class

I would be sitting here laughing hysterically at my morning, but I think Jacinta would think I've gone mad. I was calmly sipping my morning tea, checking my email when Greg calls. He had probably just gotten to work. He had forgotten his passport and registration booklet to give to our rep from the shipping company this morning. I had just signed up to try out a spin class at Gold's Gym (same company with an Indian twist) at 9am, so I had just enough time to dash over to the school and then go straight on to the gym. I gathered everything I would need and headed out. Now, it's been raining for almost 24 hours straight and walking to find a rickshaw, there was a lull in the pitter patter. The first driver I flagged down didn't want to go that far, but the second one was eager and knew what I was talking about. Hooray! As luck would have it, just as we turned onto the main road it started to rain. The rickshaw is open on both sides, but there were some faux leather rain flaps to put over the openings on either side of me. As we picked up speed, the flaps pushed inside, allowing both sides of the seat to have rain leaking in. I tried hold them out, but it only helped a little. I just reminded myself that I was drier than if I was walking and tried to make myself smaller to fit in the dry area. Luckily my bag is waterproof. We pulled out onto the expressway, and the rickshaw slows down and is jerking. The driver is clicking things trying to keep the thing going as we go up a hill. I chuckle, "Awesome. it's pouring, the rickshaw is going to break down on the expressway and I'm going to miss the spin class. Greg's going to owe me big time." I started my mantra, "If it's meant to be it will happen, if it's meant to be it will happen." As we reach the crest of the hill, the rickshaw picks up speed again. The driver knows exactly where to go and we sputter to the school gate. I asked him if the rickshaw can make it back to Bandra. He tells me yes. (Yeah, right). So, I asked him to wait while I drop off Greg's documentation.

Now, ASB has an amazing security system and I haven't had to try to enter the building by myself. The guards are trying to figure out who Greg is and who I am, they make a couple of phone calls and I'm allowed to the next station where I fill out a form, have my picture taken and I'm escorted to the reception office. I hand them Greg's documents, turn around and walk out. Marlys, I can assure you your son is VERY safe while at school. It took five minutes to get into the building to spend 30 seconds inside.

I hop back into the rickshaw and luckily it's stopped raining. In fact, there's a nice breeze and I start to dry off. Ahhhhh... Then the rickshaw sputters and the driver pulls over. "One moment," he says and goes round the back with a tool. He is able to start it again and off we go. Again, we almost don't make it up the expressway hill, but it was meant to be and the rickshaw continues forward. When we get to the gym, I don't have any small bills, the driver doesn't have any change, the snack bar at the gym doesn't have change, but finally a guard shows up with some change and I can pay the driver. I had a feeling that was going to happen.

Alright - spin class! I'm psyched because my last spin class was in Grand Junction the end of May (I miss my class with Kimberly!!!) and I'm ready to get my butt kicked. I wait outside the room while the last class is finishing. I hear yelling and there are strobe lights...hmmmmm. When the class gets out, we head in, find our bikes, get everything adjusted, and I'm ready. The instructor starts to tell us we are doing some kind of hill work out, that's all I understand, and the techno starts along with crazy colored lights. The next hour I'm trying to figure out what resistance she wants us to have and where my hands should be. I think staying with the RPMs, meant staying with the beat of the song. Then all we did for each song was keep the RMPs up and spend a lot of time out of the saddle. It wasn't too much about proper cycling form and she went straight through the whole class with very little easing up. (I got my butt kicked). I sweated like a maniac and had a hard time walking down the stairs afterwards. Oh, I forgot, the last song had strobe lights along with her yelling "four counts down, four counts up, four counts down, four counts up" - not psyched about that at all. I felt like I was spinning at a disco. So, there's one other place that offers spin classes that I will check out, plus I may try another teacher. I really couldn't under stand much of what she was saying, I just looked around a tried to follow other riders, who all seemed to be doing something different too. Kimberly I miss you!!

After class, I needed some comforting, so I found a place that made a great cheese and mushroom omelet and an amazing cup of hot chocolate. It's only noon and I still have the rest of the day for some more Bombay adventures, though I'm already tired. Lessons learned - rickshaws are not to favored mode of transportation during the monsoons and I must expand my horizons of what "spin class" means. Rock on!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Making Chapatis

Our housekeeper and cook, Jacinta, gave me my first cooking lesson yesterday - chapatis. They are pretty simple, just take time to knead the dough, let it sit and knead some more. The dough just consists of whole wheat flour, water, and a dash of salt. Jacinta is very good at making perfect circles, I am working on it. Chapatis are used like naan, to scoop up yummy, saucy dishes like dal, palak paneer, and curries. (Jacinta was shy about the camera, so she's only half in it).

More Pictures of India

The pictures include view of Malabar Hill, (a very posh neighborhood) from Marine Drive, the Taj Mahal Hotel, architecture at Bombay University, an apple cart, and a sacred cow (Mumbai does not allow cows to roam around as in other cities, so we haven't seen to many).

Being a tourist for a day

Greg and I, along with another couple, Rachel and Reid, and our "guide," Tom, hopped on the train and headed downtown on Sunday. Despite this being Tom's third year in Mumbai, he had not yet ridden the train, so I was the veteran of the group, having embarked on the experience two days earlier. It was great walking around with Tom because he can speak street Hindi. I want to be like him! He told us his wife is even better, but I was impressed. We got off at the Chani station, which was a short walk to the ocean, along Marine Drive. Marine Dr is a long stretch of road that runs along the western shore of South Mumbai. Sunday was amazingly clear and there was blue sky. Loved it! The picture I included of Rachel and Reid on the promenade along Marine Dr shows them being asked for their picture by some Indian tourists. This is the second time this has happened to them. I started calling them "the celebrities."

Sunday also happened to be India's independence day - 63 years. It seemed to be a time for people to be with their families, since there were not many people out and most businesses were closed. We walked over to a market area, but we were told not many people were there. We ended up at Crawford Market, the large, colonial style building with trucks in front of it in the pictures. An Indian man decided to be our tour guide, at least lead us through the market maze to his shop or his friend's shop. Not sure which. He wanted us to buy saffron "because it is very much cheaper than in US!" This is true, but none of us was in the market for saffron at that point. Crawford market is filled with food items and is huge. We also ran into shops selling birds, mainly parakeets and two parrots. I felt sorry for the poor birds stuck in the cages. I'm sure they were caught in the wild and brought in to be sold.

After walking around for a while, were we hot and soaked with sweat, so we hopped in a cad and Tom took us to Leopold's Cafe for some water and lime soda (very refreshing drink). This cafe is featured in an epic Indian tale from the book Shantram, which Greg is reading now. For lumch, we went to Indigo Cafe, Tom's favorite restaurant. It boast breakfast all day and had a nice assortment of sandwiches and pastas. A western place, but very good. While we were waiting for a table to open up, Tom had us walk down to the Gateway of India, a famous colonial landmark. This is also where one can catch the boat to Elephanta Island (on our list of things to do) for Rs 130 round trip and the majestic, and famous, Taj Hotel regally sits, over looking the square and water. This is the hotel that had been attacked by terrorists a couple of years ago. They finished all the renovations as of two days ago. The Taj was built by a Parsi developer, who was not allowed in one of Mumbai's "western" hotels. So, he vowed to make the most beautiful hotel in Mumbai to compete against the other high end hotels.

After our scrumptious meal, we walked towards the nearest train station, viewing beautiful colonial architecture. Buildings to note were the former Prince of Wales museum (I can't remember it's new name), high court, University of Bombay, and apartment buildings along the Oval Maiden. I put in a picture of the Oval Maiden and its "lawn mowers," the three men picking away at the grass. (How would you like to do that for a living)?

The train ride back, Rachel and I decided to get on the ladies only car. How wonderful!! We could relax, even when there was a crowd, since we didn't have to worry about groping. The car even announced the next stops. Loved it!!

Friday, August 13, 2010

What Bombay's built on

Mumbai is a series of five islands that have been connected and grown through "land reclamation." My assumption was that had to do with trash or a landfill. When we arrived at the see, Ysiad pointed out these large, concrete triangulish blocks. They are what is piled up, settled, and then built upon. It's what is under a lot of Mumbai. Wow. I'm wondering even more what would ever happen to Mumbai in an earthquake. Don't think it would be too good. These pilings are supposedly about a ton each.

The Mumbai Train

Success!! I finally got myself out of Bandra and into South Mumbai...via train! Ysiad met me and we walked to the Bandra Train station, maybe a ten minute walk because we had to cross the busy SV Rd. (I'm getting much better at just going for it when crossing roads). We walked to the tracks, looking around and trying to figure out how to purchase tickets. We were pointed to the right place and decided to get two second class tickets for 4Rs each (45 Rs equals $1). At the window, on the floor in each line, was someone begging for loose rupees. I enjoyed seeing what Indians did and it's pretty much what people would do in the US. Either brush them away, ignore, and occasionally give out a rupee. We noticed there were a couple "fast" check-in machines, so we asked how to get the "smart card" that works with the machines. "Line 3." We headed to line three and it ended up being 100rs with 73rs on the card. So we both purchased one to use for the ride back and I guess we both decided we would be riding the train again. People were very friendly and helpful and directed us to the "slow" train because the "fast" train skipped the station we were headed to. We hopped aboard the crowded, but not over crowded train. (We found out rush hour times and avoided riding then). I was the only female on the train and being white and blond, of course stuck out like a sore thumb. I had eyes boring into me. I also noticed a hand creeping towards my chest. Men suck every where!!! I can guarantee you that women rarely think about groping some strange guy and do it. At the next stop, I grabbed a seat where I could keep men away from my body. I thought to myself, "maybe all the women are in first class?" Ysiad told me that there were some all women cars and I made a mental note to find those next time. Now, the best "seat" in the house is standing at the doors. Well, there are no doors, it's more about hanging out where you get a nice breeze. On our trip back, the train was much less full and we grabbed those prime spots, as the pictures show. Yeehaw!

Our destination was Haji Ali's Mosque, which is located in the bay. During high tide, the walkway to the mosque is covered with water and pretty much impassable until the tide goes down. We didn't know when high tide was, but decided to test our luck. Well, high tide is close to 1:30pm, when we arrived. So, we grabbed a bite to eat at Haji Ali's Juice shop. We sampled a variety of smoothies and sandwiches. Most were very tasty and I think this is definitely a stop on the Mumbai tour for all of those who visit. Along, of course, with a visit to the mosque at low tide. After our lunch, we headed to Mumbai Central train station, accompanied by a teenage boy, who followed us the whole way and pointed us in the right direction at one point. At first I was wondering why he was following us, but he seemed harmless. I also had my XXL umbrella, which could take out anyone if need be. No groping on the way back, though I still need to figure out the all women cars if I take the train alone. We gave each other a high five as we are now train goers!!! And nothing beats the price of getting downtown, free of traffic, like the train.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sign Spotting

I figure no travel blog would be complete without some funny sign entries. Two are on an electronic billboard that gives public service announcements to change driving behaviors. What's funny about this is a large portion of India's population is illiterate and it wouldn't surprise me if many of the rickshaw drivers are illiterate. Honking is a never ending sound in Mumbai, so this sign is attempting to encourage less of it. One of India's attempts to be more civilized? The other was near my friend, Ysiad's flat. He pointed it out because it's his favorite sign so far.

Joggers Park

Joggers Park is about a 15 minute walk from my flat and it's right on the ocean. It's open in the mornings from 5:30-9:00am and 3:30-9:00pm. In between, the grounds are being taken care of by a small army of workers. It's beautiful and relaxing. I showed up around 1pm along with a man and his daughter. He told me about the hours but would get me inside to look around. He gave me a tour of the place while his daughter ran around enjoying the space. The man ended up being a former manager of the park, hence why he knew everyone and could get in outside of hours. From the park, there are great views of south Mumbai and then the northern suburbs. It was high tide, so the waves were lapping against the walls of the park. Danny, the man showing me around, reported that during low tide you can walk around on the rocky beach below and many families have picnics there. Joggers Park has very strict rules. No food, no drink except water, no chewing gum, and no displays of affection. This is a family place after all. Danny was very kind and offered to show Greg and I around some of Bandra's other sites in the future.