06.03.2012 - 09.03.2012
Hello hello! I am feeling very guilty for not updating my blog all this time, as there has been so much on and I feel like there's not enough space in my memory to be able to relay it all in nice detail. So I guess all I can do now is give it a shot.
It's currently 6.30pm on Friday evening and I'm just waiting around for dinner after having a very lazy day. The past few days have been quite action packed, and it may be noteworthy that I am actually now completely purple. It has been Holi, which is a very important festival, particularly in Northern India, celebrating the new season. It is mainly characterised by the throwing of lots of brightly coloured powders, and everyone ends up looking amazing and beautiful. However, Pranay decided for our Holi celebrations that he would also bring out bucketloads of purple dye - hence, I know strongly resemble Violet Beauregarde after she eats the fancy chewing gum - "You're turning violet, Violet!".
My last post dates from Tuesday morning so I guess we'll start there. We went to school and of course had lots of fun teaching the kids. I feel that it's becoming a bit more productive and I'm looking forward to going back on Monday and making some more progress. As I mentioned before, I've been focusing on sh/ch/th/ee/oo/ph, and 'carrying numbers' in addition and subtraction. My kids have been understanding it pretty well so I'm really excited to go back and work on it more. Break was particularly fun. We didn't play any duck duck goose, but a few of the children decided to have a bit of a dance-off. Of course, Manisha was absolutely adorable and I've got some great video footage of her busting some moves, as well as Arti and some attention-loving kids from the class above. It was so much fun and they're absolutely crazy. I just love how happy these kids are and it's so so inspiring.
At about 12.45 Pranay showed up at the school and told us we'd be finishing early, and we were all to get in a circle. (Sidenote: it's funny how Asha and all the students suddenly change when Pranay shows up - it's clear that he's the boss. There's kind of a weird hierarchy thing that I've noticed and been told about. The only thing I really worry about is the learning consequences for the kids, but anyway that's another story). He gave each of us all a samosa and cookie each and we had a nice little feast together to celebrate holi. But that was just the beginning! He the passed each of the teachers a bag of coloured powder and all the kids went absolutely MENTAL - and I must say, so did I. It was so much fun! I can't really describe it properly unless you try holi yourself, but basically you just run around smearing different colours all over peoples faces and clothes in a very friendly way. It's pretty hilarious, especially with the kids. Additionally, we'd been told at home that we wouldn't be able to leave the house on actual Holi day (Thursday) as it's quite dangerous and male-dominated, so I was really happy that we had this, as I was sceptical about the celebration we'd have at home and this definitely satisfied well beyond my Holi expectations. The only downside is that my new pretty pink kurta got caught in the firing line, but I think the colours quite nicely compliment the hot pink!
Once we were thoroughly covered we got in the auto-rickshaw back home and surprised everyone at lunch with our brightly covered faces. Some people washed it off but I was certainly in no rush to get rid of my colourful new look - personally I think I was pretty sexy . I wish we could replace foundation powder with Holi powder! We had some lunch and later in the afternoon a bunch of us went for a walk in search of sarees. We still hadn't got rid of our 'new look', and Sasha and I were definitely the worst off, so we got a bit of attention but all in a lovely 'Happy Holi!' kind of theme. We found a saree shop and Sasha and I tried on many. As you can guess, I settled on hot pink. I paid about $9 for it, which I know I could get cheaper at the market, but I really love it - and in the end it's $9! Sasha got a rusty red colour which looks really good on her too, but we have to get the shirts tailored at some point.
We continued to walk through the streets (many more funny looks and 'Happy Holi's' were exchanged along with some 'strange Western tourists' glances) and eventually made our way home for dinner. We got back, had dinner, and I don't think much else for the night. I hadn't felt too well so I went to bed pretty early and caught up on some sleep.
The next day, Wednesday, I woke up very early and couldn't get back to sleep. Lian (who is from New Hampshire) normally wakes up quite early too so I've become friends with her, and she's really cool. I bummed around and looked at travel options for a while until about mid-morning when I heard squeals from upstairs and girls crying 'there are monkeys on the roof!!!'. Excitedly, I bounced up the stairs to see what was going on to see a freaked out Catherine and Elena (who was in her bra and pyjama shorts haha)! They had been sunbathing on the roof when Catherine, who was getting up to go to the bathroom, suddenly had a giant monkey clawing at her legs. They ran inside and told us their story but freaked out because their stuff was still on the roof. Curious about the 'cute little monkeys on the roof', I offered to go get Elena's iPhone and shoes and stuff, and went up onto the roof. As I was grabbing it I spied a cute little monkey behind the water tank and thought 'aww, I better get a photo on Elena's phone'. Bad move G. Suddenly two big-ass monkeys peered out and Papa was not happy. All of a sudden I had a full grown monkey sprinting towards me. Adrenalin kicked in and I pranced faster than I ever have before, jumping over onto our roof and straight into our house. I was literally shutting the door on this big angry monkey, and I don't doubt that if I had been a second slower I'd probably be getting tested for rabies right now and our house would be a pig sty from being rummaged by a big angry monkey! I stumbled in shaking and giggling my butt off, because hey it was seriously hilarious, but Catherine soon freaked out as I didn't have her phone in my pile of goodies. We came to the conclusion that the monkeys stole it - obviously not funny for her but hilarious for us. After about 10 minutes we were back on the roof, this time with about. 4 of us and armed with brooms and umbrellas as weapons. Luckily Catherine's phone was just hiding under a towel, and we retrieved it just as the baby monkey began to peer its cute little face out again. We all ran back inside and spent the rest of the morning laughing and trying to slow our heart beats.
After our pulses at a relatively safe pace and we'd filled our bellies with lunch we decided to go to Old City/Bapu Bazaar, which is considered one of the best shopping areas in India (I definitely can't confirm this and don't think it's true but it was probably the result of Chinese whispers in our house). Also, by this point another Australian girl named Megan (Canberra) joined the clan and she's lovely too. Anyway, we all got in rickshaws and headed to the markets. It was different to my expectation as it was streets and streets of stores rather than little market stalls. I didn't really want anything except kurtas for work. Many of them didn't have sleeves which was strange as they can't bare shoulders here, but we found out that they tailor sleeves in for you. I got one kurta made this way however unfortunately I tried it on and after he tailored it it no longer fit properly, so it's now Sasha's.
Anyway, after everyone had enough of the bazaar we met up again and headed to the Elephant Festival, which I was excited for due to my love of elephants. Our rickshaw ride there was eventful enough as Elena and I sat in the back and attracted the attention of a motorcyclist behind us who started doing tricks on his bike (hands free, standing up etc). It was pretty funny until he stopped at the same place as u and it was kind of awkward...
When we arrived at the polo grounds we were bombarded with touts and people selling puppets. I hadn't experienced this in a while as I haven't been in very touristy places, but it was funny. I began joking with one young guy who told me he was a magician 'America, Austria, South Africa, I'm famous'. I denied seeing his tricks as I didn't want to get roped into anything but when I said goodbye he asked for a kiss cos 'we friends, we best friends!' haha.
Inside the elephant festival were more white people than I've seen in a month. It was clearly a tourism raising event, and although I would've preferred a big lively street party with music and dancing and pretty elephants, it was still fun. In fact, it pretty much was pretty elephants surrounded by dancing and some music, but it was clearly just a show and put on for white tourists. They were painted beautifully and my personal fav was an elephant in jeans and a flanno, but the treatment of the giant creatures was pretty dire. There were also camels, ox and horses who didn't really want to be there, and one ridiculously sequinned-up horse who tried very hard to whinny and escape and cause a ruckus, only to be stupidly named by the MC the 'beautiful dancing horse'. The human performances were cool with many dancers and musicians, including a man playing the flute from his nose.
After the parade we went to look at all the elephants and were interrupted by a TV crew, who asked us what we thought of the parade. Never being one to be dishonest I said 'I thought it was really pretty though the treatment of the animals was questionable'. The interviewer was a little stumped but I couldn't help it because I just blurted it, but anyway maybe some day we'll be Indian TV stars!
We walked around for a while, and the general theme seemed to be Indian guys coming up to us and asking for photos of us (especially the blondes), and it was funny that the tables had turned. There was one creepy dude who followed us for about 20 minutes and eventually Elena and I went up and confronted him and he stopped.
After a couple of hours we left the polo ground to go to hypercity. On my way out I saw an ice cream vendor and decided it was just what I felt like. However as I was walking down the street unwrapping it a beggar woman with her baby decided it was just what she felt like too, and grabbed it out of my hand. Although shocked, I really didn't mind. If anything I felt insensitive for walking down the street unwrapping a $1 ice cream in front of these people who have nothing. When I got in our rickshaw she came up asking us for more money and I saw her little baby enjoying the chocolate ice cream all over his face and it was all completely worth it.
On our way home we stopped at hypercity to get some stuff, and afterwards I noticed several bonfires all over the streets. Apparently this is a pre-Holi thing, but I heard it's supposed to be at 3.30am and I'm not sure what they burn or what it represents.
At home we ate (as usual) and hung out, and I don't thinking anything too much more eventful occurred. I went to bed early again but slept terribly, and ate 3.30 there was definitely more commotion outside, but I was too tired to get up and check it out.
The next day, yesterday, was Holi! Happy Holi!
As usual, I woke up early and pottered around. However this morning Purni (I guess you could call her the housekeeper though she's 19) spoke to me, when she'd been a bit quiet with the new girls before. She asked me to walk to the shops with her which was fine, but I soon learnt it's because of the dogs on the way - which she is really scared of. They were just like all the other passive street dogs in Asia, but even at the shop she was scared of the funny looking sausage dog on a leash (which is a ridiculous excuse for a dog), so it's clear she just has a funny little fear. Anyway, it was great to get to speak to her a bit as she hadn't warned up to the newbies yet, and now I hope we'll be buds.
Amita and Pranay came at around 10.30 and all the girls got ready, signing each others t-shirts to commemorate Holi 2012 - though time proved this was pointless as nothing is visible after Holi action.
We went to the roof and started going mental. I'd initially thought it'd be pretty lame because we're all full grown women, but it was actually really fun and everyone looked great with the powder.
But then came the dye...
Pranay had a jug of what looked like black liquid which I thought would ruin my pretty powder, but he said it was purple so I let him smear a little. However these friendly little smears soon turned into a full-blown dye fight. Amita and Pranay also got attacked but we got the worst of it. Funnily, my contacts also got some in it, so with my purples-red pupils I looked truly freaky.
The fight went on for a while, and later on Pranay brought us some samosas and vodka. Sankalp only allows drinking on 3 occasions in the year, holi being one of them, and plenty of girls (mainly the ones who have been here a whole) took advantage of that. It was pretty funny seeing these purple mutant-looking things dancing around drunkenly.
After a few hours a few people began to realise how potent the dye was and come to terms with the fact that it may not be so easy to get off. A few (mainly the blondes...mainly Sasha...) were very very not cool with it, as it seemed to really latch on to the blonde pigment and their once golden locks were now a vibrant shade of fuscia. Hence, the last 24 hours have been spent googling and testing various hair treatments, including vinegar, bicarb and oil. Sasha is particularly not keen to have purple hair for her pictures at the Taj Mahal on Sunday, though personally I think it's pretty funny and hopefully one day she'll be able to look back and laugh at it all.
That evening I had a good conversation with a slightly inebriated Eve as well as exchanged some funny stories with Megan and Catherine. THEN, after dinner us newbies finally got to experience the real Purni - who is hilarious! I think when Pranay and Amita are around she is not allowed to talk to us, and sometimes I really don't like how she's treated (she sleeps on the floor downstairs), but when we do get to talk to her she's so funny!! She was talking about handsome men and her arranged marriage and all sorts of funny little things, but it's more just her hilarious mannerisms that I can't really explain.
After Purni's crazy chat I went to bed, and when I woke up today I basically just bummed around all day and spent about 20 million hours booking trains - Indian rail booking is the absolute bane of my existence.
I don't think much else happened today, except my roommate Rebecca from San Fran leaving, which is sad cos I really like her, although 3 more Dutch girls came for the week. One is in my room and they seem really nice.
Anyway, dinner's now long-gone and I am now in bed I'm dozing off as I type. Hopefully I didn't forget anything and I did I'll add it later.