New Blog on the New Blog!
11:41 AM | | 1 Comments
I always knew I had the touch of death when it came to technology. I mean, in junior high, I used to go through portable cd players at the same rate as tubes of liquid eyeliner. Okay, so I may have dropped a few in the bathtub. But sometimes they just stopped working. Also, I think I've had 3 laptops since I turned 17. So I've approximately destroyed one computer per year. Even this one, (which I named Norbert cause I love it like Hagrid loves dragons), has already crashed once. Which makes me so sad cause I shoveled a ton of horse shit this summer to pay for it.
But not even I knew that my power extended to things like blogs. Somehow I've destroyed this blog. I was just trying to make it pretty! I was experimenting with different templates and backgrounds and now its all sorts of fucked up. I can't post pictures, what's up with this undefined undefined shit under all my titles (?), I can't make a header, and I can't read my comments anymore.
Damn. I'm good.
I'm so sorry. I hate to do this to y'all. I've tried restoring everything back to the original blogger settings but nothing is working. So I've made a new blog. It's really pretty! AND I'm going to post the link here --> http://indiancowboy-al.blogspot.com/ and that should take you right to my new and improved blog!
Get excited! Once again, I'm so sorry. Hopefully, I will NEVER have to do this again.
(I'm making a blog 3 just in case)
P.S. sorry for the foul language. Just so fustrating! grrr
10:41 AM | | 2 Comments
I know I haven't written in forever, but honestly I've haven't been out of the house much. Marga and Theo's company was hosting board meetings all last week, so they had lots of friends in town from South Africa. So, I was at home with the baby a lot. I love hanging out with Kara but I'm not sure how thrilling a blog post about my day enacting the itsy bitsy spider would be. At some point though I will do a blog about my typical day around the house, whether you like it or not.
I'm completely fascinated by Indian people, which is why people watching in a park sounded so great to me. Indians are so tender and receptive, their clothes are striking, and as a culture they are so modern yet moth-eaten at the same time. It entrances me. So I started off walking around the park just taking pictures of people. I had taken some good candid shots of people on the drive over and I wanted to take more. Like this picture below. The man on the front of the bike seems the exact opposite of the man on the back, but there they are. (Sorry about the blur around their faces. The window was dirty but had to be up because of the beggars.)
It started off so innocently, one man coming over and asking if I would pose in a picture with his wife and daughters. Before I knew it, I was surrounded by people all wanting to take photos with me. I desperately wish I had copies of these pictures - me standing there awkwardly, blushing furiously, as eight guys stand around me posing for a picture on a camera phone. Unfortunately, I only had Theo's very very nice camera and I wasn't about it hand it over to someone I didn't know. I think I must have stood there and posed with over twenty random groups of people before I finally broke away. And that was just round one.
Also people just wanted me to take their picture. They didn't ask me to send a copy or anything, they just wanted me to take their photo. Especially the little boys. It would always start off with just one "You take one photo of me Madam."
"Wait, Madam. Wait. Okay you can take picture now."
The camera lens clicks and as it opens you see about five more of his friends all standing around nudging each other as they try to get to the front of the group.
Or this group of boys below was also funny. The tall boy on the left asked if I would take a picture of him and his friends but as I pulled out my camera he asked me to wait. He then pulled a comb out of his pocket and began to fix his hair. Very cute.
As I was getting some soda from a stand a man in a nice suit approached me and said, "Hello Madam. If anyone gives you any trouble you just come to information desk, okay? I've already sent away a group of boys causing mischief."
I figured when groups of people were being thrown out of the park because I was just so weird, it was probably time to go. Also, I was starting to get creeped out.
I'm fascinated with Indian people, unfortunately, they seem to be equally fascinated by me. Hey, at least I did end up getting some good photos. Too bad not one of them was candid.
4:52 AM | | 3 Comments
My cowboy boots swung from a bar stool as I answered, "Yes, the COUNTRY India" for the upteenth time. It was after work on a summer Montana night and my boss and co-workers from the ranch still couldn't comprehend the country India, let alone point it out on a map. They all stared at their beer for awhile and then started to chime in,
- "Well if you get captured by the taliban...."
"I'm not going to the middle east." I said
- "Well then if you get captured by the Indians. Or any sort of trouble just call and say ... 'Applebees' and we'll all come and get you. We'll just ask for the blond white girl."
I laughed "Oh great, a bunch of cowboys in India. How will you get there?"
- "Paddle boats"
Aw. My knights in shining chaps.
It had nothing to do with the Taliban or civil unrest or anything of the sort - just Raju. I'm sorry but that man gets under my skin! And there is only so much you can chalk up to cultural differences. And since I do get along with Abdul and Sajiid so well, I feel comfortable saying - I can't stand the man.
I can't ever understand what he's saying and I'm giving him that look that plainly says, "Raju, I can't understand what the F you're saying." So he just throws up his hands and laughs and repeats the same mumble jumble louder! No Raju I can HEAR you but I can't UNDERSTAND you. Please just let me read my book.
Often when I do occasionally catch on to what he's saying, he's trying to convert me to Christianity. Apparently, I look like I'm going to hell. But the worst is when he snaps his fingers at Kara and claps in her face like she's a puppy. My mama bear instincts kick in and I feel like slapping him.
And thats where our trouble began tonight. He kept calling me like a dog.
(the rickshaw I considered throwing myself out of)
Even though Raju isn't my ideal travel companion, when he invited me to go to his church, I couldn't refuse. I love to get out of the house and explore. Plus the celebration is in honor of Mary Mother's landing. Apparently she flies around for a few days and then she lands and they have a big party, it sounds too bizarre to pass up. So tonight I went to go celebrate Mary Mother's landing with Raju, his gay lover (at least that's my theory), and his family.
(Raju and Raju. I think they may be lovers.)
We had barely left the gate of Whisper Valley when Raju looked over his shoulder and said "Come madam!" I was, literally, close enough to touch him. He looked over his shoulder a moment later and said. "Madam, come!" All I could think was how closely I was following him. Did he want me to hold his hand? "Madam. cooommmmeee!"
"I'm right here Raju!" I finally retorted back. I couldn't take it. We were not off to a good start.
He just barks orders. It can get so frustrating. Here is the reader's digest version of our trip to Raju's church to celebrate mother Mary's landing. "Come Madam. Sit! Take picture madam! Look at the church! Look! Loook Madam! Did you see? I will show you on the way back. Stand here madam I will take your picture. Move over. No, more. Now go back. Do I push this button? Come Madam. This is hospital Madam. Many many sick people here. We'll walk around. Come Madam. Take picture of statue madam. This one too. Now I take picture of you. Come madam. Here's the church again madam. Look! Loook Madam. Madam, looook! You want picture, oh you want, give me camera madam.
The bright side of this trip was I got to meet Raju's family. He has three beautiful daughters and my heart just melts when it comes to kids so that was wonderful. They were so sweet, but unfortunately, we just stayed long enough for me to ask some basic questions and take a few pictures.
(Random window picture at the church that I liked)
It was on the way back that I really just couldn't take it anymore. I was tired and we were in the rickshaw on the way home when it started to pour monsoon rains. Trucks drove by splashing water into the open rickshaw and I was getting soaked. Something happened and the driver and Raju started getting into an argument, I think about how much further the driver had to go. Anyways, the rickshaw stopped and we all had to get out. It was pouring rain and the streets were starting to flood. I was ankle deep in water so brown I couldn't see my toes and the smell wafting up almost made me puke. To top it off, all I could think about was the water and all the scenes of India that I see on a daily basis - women spitting, dead dogs on the side of the road covered in flies, people washing themselves in roadside ditches, rotten maggoty food, men urinating wherever is most convenient. All I could think was, 'I'm ankle deep in India and I can't see my toes.' I took about ten steps and my next thought was 'Applebees.' I need my cowboys to whisk me away to a hot shower and a steak house.
(rickshaw ride in the rain)
By the time we reached the house I was so drenched, filthy, tired, and frustrated. When Raju started talking to me I just blocked his face with my umbrella.
11:23 AM | | 2 Comments
This was my reaction when I learned this morning that the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh (the state I'm in) died last night. As far as anyone can tell, he was not assassinated. His helicopter crashed last night probably due to monsoon rains. As Abdul told me, "The whole state is in shock, he was the best Chief Minister we ever had."But then again, people in India cannot get too attached to any politician, choosing a political career in India is the deadliest career path one can choose. Corruption rules and assassinations are as frequent (if not more so) than the elections themselves. Due to his death, roads will be closed for his funeral procession and Sajiid informed us that it might be too dangerous to go out tonight. People are charged up and there might be trouble.
(People in India have a million names! Okay, well only four of five but still! I got very confused looks when I told the man at the post office my name was Alexandra Chambers. He exclaimed, "Thats it?! What a strange name..." You're strange, just mail my package! )
And the police wouldn't be any help. Abdul explained to me that the police in India are known as the bad guys. And not just because they suck the fun out of everything, like they do in America. They are a corrupt and brutal bunch. I was shocked when Abdul answered the phone to tell his friend, "The police beat you senseless? What were you doing?" Apparently, Abdul's friend and some others were beaten by the police for riding their motorbikes around an abandoned parking lot and trying to pop wheelies. Crazy huh? I guess his friend is fine, just a bit sore.
Abdul and I have been hanging out over the past week and its honestly been a blast. I'm glad I have a friend so far away from home. Last sunday I went to Abdul's house. I met most of his family and he showed me his neighborhood. His sister even gave me an amazing Henna tattoo!
This month is the month of Ramadan which means all muslims must fast (absolutely no food or water) from 5:30 AM to 7:00 PM - so I got to have dinner and break fast with Abdul. (Break fast not breakfast. )It was nice and I got to eat Indian style - with the right hand and sitting on the floor. Who knew my bad habits were all the rage in India? But they kept bringing more and more and more and more food! I thought I was going to burst from trying to be polite and eat some of everything. His mother also gave me some beautiful material for an Indian dress so I must go to a tailor and get it made soon! After dinner, Abdul took me for a ride on his motorbike. Ha, we did have to wait til dark because Abdul taking a non-muslim girl on the back of his motor bike would be, well, SCANDALOUS! Regardless, it was honestly one of the best things I've ever done! Winding through dirt streets - dogs barking, mosque music playing, women cooking ... my hands up and head tilted back letting the Indian air wash over me. Of course, the hands went back down very quickly every time we approached a pothole (about every 15 seconds).
So in India I ....
- got my first tattoo (check)
- road on my first motorcycle (check)
hmmm maybe not the experiences I had planned on writing about in my diary.
11:03 AM | | 0 Comments
I only had to change my shirt once today due to baby spit up, so it was a good day. I'm pleased to report that my mommy-training(as friends Hailey and Alison would put it) is coming along very well. I finally feel like Kara and I have gotten into a nice rhythm. She doesn't cry when I take her from mom and I've clocked being able to rock her to sleep in three minutes flat (though 15 or 20 is more the average). Tonight I cooked dinner - (which, wasn't very good but it's the thought that counts, right?), washed dishes, and then rocked Kara to sleep. I feel like I've completed a marathon. Maybe I'll call my mom tomorrow, just to say I love her.
Maybe it's because Sajiid watches me carrying around a baby so often, but he's become convinced that its time I get married. It also doesn't help that by Indian standards, I'm an old hag. Most girls in India are married between the ages of 16 and 18 to a man their parents choose. It's very standard for two people to meet for the first time on their wedding day. So by Indian standards, I'm two years past my prime and the clock is ticking. Sajiid has begun to show me newspapers - these newspapers are filled with "bride wanted" adds - advertisements where parents parade their son and comment on his family heritage, his caste, his schooling, and his lightness of skin. Sajiid started pointing out the good ones - which, of course, are all Muslim like him. He's confident I could find a very good husband because my skin is fair, thus very attractive by Indian standards. You'll certainly find no tanning oils or tanning beds in India, and most facial cremes contain lots of bleach. I told Sajiid though that I can't marry a Muslim man, because I don't want to wear a burka (the long black garbs with only the slit for eyes). I would much prefer to wear the bright and beautiful saris that Hindu wives get to wear. Maybe it's shallow but I think it's simple - I'm a girl. I like clothes.
The fascination with fair skin makes a lot more sense once you understand the caste system. The caste system works as a sort of hierarchy which the whole of India recognizes and operates within. People of a lighter complexion generally sit towards the top while people with a darker complexion sit at the bottom. The five castes are : Brahman (priest), Kshatriya (rulers, warriors, and landowners), Vaishya (merchants), Shudra (artisans and agriculturists), and then Harijan (the untouchables.) Harijan are called untouchables because people believe that they were so dirty that they were not fit to be touched by other people in higher castes. The untouchables are the only caste allowed to do the "dirty work" whether that be making cow dung patties, burning dead bodies, or simply cleaning the toilet. Honestly, it's nothing more than an advance form of discrimination. Its virtually impossible for a person to move upwards or out of their caste - basically Indian children will do what their parents do, even if its burning dead bodies on a riverbank. The Indian Constitution or 1950 (written by an untouchable) outlawed caste discrimination, but ultimately words just don't have the power to change how a whole civilization has viewed their world for centuries.
Everyday I learn so much! I learn from Theo, from Marga, from Rajju, Sajiid, Abdul, from books (graciously lent to me by Theo), and from complete strangers about this beautiful place. I've finally begun to tip-toe outside the whitewashed walls of Whisper Valley (our neighborhood which bears an uncanny resemblance to a Californian suburb) to walk in the dirt (and cow dung) of Hyderabad. I climb the road that twists up the hillside, reach the top huffing and puffing, buy some coconut juice from a roadside shamble, and then head back down. Hey, I never claimed to be a modern day Lewis and Clark, but it's something.
Its kind of unnerving to go out into the city by yourself, even though the Hindi/Muslims codes of honor make it one of the safest countries for tourists. But...everyone STARES at me. Its weird, I find myself looking at my feet as my cheeks turn red with embarrassment. People said I'd get used to all the staring, but I'm not so convinced. Plus, the traffic! The lines that divide the lanes and mark the edges of the road are more like guidelines. You don't have to be in your lane, let alone a lane at all -if you need to get around someone, the side of the road (where I am) will do just fine. There are no sidewalks and I don't know why they have the five traffic lights they do in this city, because nobody pays attention to them. When accidents occur, usually the guilty driver just throws up his hands proclaiming innocence and keeps going. If legal action is taken it is always the bigger car's fault - always. So when walking around Hyderabad - you have people staring at you like a giraffe on roller blades, and you're pedestrian life is usually in danger, at all times. But the coconut milk is so good.
Finally, I have one more reason to be thankful to my walks. They made me no longer aggravated about the cockroaches that climb up through the drain in my bathroom floor. I had started to keep a tally of the number of cockroaches I had killed or attempted to kill (11). I even left one cockroach dead, right on top of the drain where I killed it, so he could serve as a warning to all his little friends. But now, I no longer mind the cockroaches. Why, you ask? Well on one of my walks I saw the biggest rat I have ever seen. It was about the size of a gallon of milk with a tail probably 8 inches long. As long as I never see one of those climbing out of my bathroom drain, I'm happy to entertain cockroaches.
As these posts are getting too long and i always have soo much to say I promise to write more often! Until then, yours truly
8:31 AM | | 4 Comments
...there lived a .... nanny.... from Montana?
I guess to properly narrate this story I must start with the basics.
Setting: Hyderabad, India.
It is difficult to explain Hyderabad without contradicting oneself. The only way I can begin to explain, is to call it the land of contrasts. It assaults the senses while filling the heart with a wonderful warm glow. Here history and tradition go hand and hand with the dynamic present. Men work 21 century jobs with computers and then return home to their parent's house where there whole family lives and often shares one bed. Women are being admitted to colleges at astounding rates but still choose to have arranged marriages. Next to an internet cafe, a group of women swathed in magenta and safron saris sit on the ground hacking away at mangos with machetes. Men walk down the street, some wearing Armani suits, some wearing jeans, some only a turban and a toga. The air smells of jasmine, exhaust, body odor, curry, and cow manure.
As all guide books will tell you, Hyderabad is the 5th largest city in India with over 7 million people. It is a meeting point between North India and South India, where cultures blend and the lines between past and present blur. It is a hub of commercial and technological growth, while an ancient city in its own right. And it's where my story begins....
Theo Scheffler - Around the house he's more commonly known as Papa or Master. Theo works as an Actuarial Consultant for the company Sanlam. I have no idea what that means. Theo tried to explain it to me, and after a few failed attempts he finally laughed and blatantly said, "I predict when people are going to die and make money off of it." Something with life insurance, I'm still not quite sure. As far as I can tell now, he's a tech kid. And in the best way! Even when a lot of the house is still packed away in boxes the thousands of movies, the x box games, wii games, guitar hero, flat screen tvs, and surround sound have all been neatly unpacked and set up. With this arrangement I have no complaints, nor do I have any complaints about the flat screen tv in my bedroom. Theo is very kind, courteous, and very enthusiastic to have me learn Hindi while I'm here! As a couple, I'm always impressed with how much Theo and Marga have experienced and all the wonderful places they've been! They are truly unique and all and all are a young, happy, and fun couple.
Marga Scheffler- Known as Mama or Madame by the servants. Marga is also very kind and courteous. She has a wonderful singing voice and is a loving and doting mother to Kara. She's beautiful and has excellent tastes in clothes and furniture. I can tell she is a bit lonely here India and she misses her family and home in South Africa very much. It's hard for her being so far from everyone and everything she loves, plus being a new mom of a completely dependent infant has most likely deflated her sense of adventure and desire to explore India further than she already has.
Kara - She's the reason why I'm here, so of course I'm completely devoted to her. Kara is four months (as of today!) and a very sweet baby. She likes books, especially when you sit there and narrate the pictures for her. As Theo pointed out one night, out of all of her senses, she is most impressed with taste. She puts everything in her mouth (much to her mother's dismay) and seems to be happiest when she fits her whole fist in there. She and I are still getting to know each other, she often cries when Mama first hands her over to me, but I hope this will get better with time and soon we will be good friends.
The Servants - (this is my favorite part)
Abdul - He's actually not a servant, but my Hindi tutor. He's gorgeous ... I mean he's a Hindi Professor at the local University, he's 23, and dresses really well... ummm..... he is a really great tutor and very patient with me when's hes repeating the same foreign syllable for the fortieth time. I always look forward to my Hindi lessons. For some reason (I quite put my finger on it), I have excellent attention. If my Spanish teachers had all been like this, I could have worked at the Madrid embassy by now!
Raju - Raju is ... well he does pretty much everything around the house. He mainly cooks and cleans and is always working very hard. He's a great source of entertainment because, well ...he is obviously gay. Marga agrees with me. He walks just like a gay man - with butt cheeks clenched and one hand up in the air while his hips wave side to side. Its very funny and I wonder what his wife and his three daughters must think of him.
Sajiid - Sajiid is the driver and is someone I've bonded with very quickly. From our broken Hindi/Arabic/English conversations I've gathered that he's Muslim, married, and has three children. The holy month of Ramadan starts today, so he warned me he might be irritable for the next month seeing as he must fast all day and only eat a little at night. I enjoy his company as he is an excellent tour guide and feels comfortable enough around me to rock out to Bollywood music in the car and mock me and my Hindi on occasion.
And then there's me. I guess I am under the servant category even though I'm treated with all the kindness of a guest. I don't know how best to describe myself - I guess I'm just a small town girl with a wanderer's soul. I spent my summer as busy as a bee working two jobs - one, as a waitress at my town's local greasy spoon and another as a guide for horseback riding up the North Fork Creek. I'm a student at Trinity University in San Antonio Texas. I'm a sorority girl (I guess. ah thats so crazy!) and there's nothing I love more than relaxing with my friends (especially on Bonnie!). I like reading, partying, watching tv, camping, dancing, eating late night Taco C, and napping.
It's fairly natural of me to push away. Away from the familiar (even the things and people I love most dearly) in search of something different. I've never quite taken it this far though. So from Cowboys to Indians I'm excited (and a little bit scared) to see where the journey will take me.
10:12 AM | | 5 Comments