Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Very annoyed

I just spent 38 years uploading photos and I see that only some of them made it to the post for some reason. I am very cranky and refuse to redo them right now. You will all just have to wait.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Pictures, kids! The captions are all messed up and I have absolutely no patience to deal with them. Figure them out.

A field in the middle of town called a maidan where people play cricket, which is all the rage.

I like doorways.

A blue mosque.

Friday, June 16, 2006


I am a grouch today. And here is why. Or part of why.

I have a pants problem. You know they sell all of these clothes on the street here in Bombay. They are very cheap.

I have bought the same basic pair of pants four times in different colors: deep plum, scrubs blue, khaki, and dusty blue. They are for the most part horrible (the scrubs are okay). They are tapered and bulky in the pockets and just in general the pits. But I've been going for something obviously that I was hoping at least one of these pairs of pants would achieve. Breezy cottony trousers that I could wear in casual situations and probably also while teaching (since I sit on the floor so much during teaching). But none of these pants really fit the bill. The scrubs pants would if I didn't just feel like I was in my pajamas while wearing them.

So today I ventured out in the scrubs pants for the first time. I'll usually just wear them around the room or down to dinner. But this morning I was just going out to this cyber cafe about 5 or 10 minutes from the Y so I could type out a response to my first couple of weeks here for my host organization to read.

I got there and all was in chaos; they seemed to be revamping their whole network. So they told me to come back in a half an hour. I decided it would be dumb to walk home again, so I thought I would just walk down the road for 15 minutes and then 15 minutes back. On this little jaunt, which I did not want to take because I've been sick, I discovered that these pants are exceedingly HOT. I was quite miserable. Plus I walked by one of the most horrible stenches I have ever encountered. I think people were cleaning out fish right next to poultry cages. It was horrible horrible horrible, but it lasted only about 20 yards.

I also came upon some very skinny, sad kittens with their mother surveying me menacingly from under a motor scooter; a few rather lovely cows; and many interesting little shops. That is one thing I've decided I love about Bombay: the visibility of the many professions. We in the U.S. don't get much chance to see the intricacies of key making or shoe repair, but here these businesses are out in plain view on the street. In fact, one of the things that has been frequently running through my head since I got here is a line from my favorite English poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins: "And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim..../He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change" (from "Pied Beauty"). And of course another pair of his lines, from "God's Grandeur" fit very well too: "And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil; / And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell."

At any rate, I got back to the place and they let me type out my response but then it turned out there was no way for me to get it off the computer: their printer was not hooked up and they didn't seem to want to hook it up for me; the internet was not working, so I couldn't email it to myself; and every time I tried to save my document to a disk, the computer froze. Meanwhile, I was growing later and later for my 11 o'clock meeting. When it became 10:45, I finally left. I had worn my horrid outfit in part to get myself out of the cyber cafe in a timely manner. I thought that the prospect of wearing it out in the city would be enough of a horror that I would get back to my room in time to change. Apparently I care that little for my physical appearance.

So I got to my meeting 15 minutes late without my response to turn in. All was fine though, except that I was still dreadfully hot because of these bad pants. But then we walked to this fabulous Irani restaurant and I got even hotter. I was so grumpy I could barely enjoy lunch. When we got back to the office, they announced we would have to stuff invitations into envelopes for their big event. This made me very grumpy because I just wanted to go home and take off these dreadful pants (which got very wet in a surprise downpour on the way back from lunch). So me and one of the other girls escaped to this other cyber cafe (the invites hadn't arrived from the printer quite yet) and I'm still here and am bad and don't want to go help. I'm so hot and grumpy and just want to be alone. This is my first truly grumpy day in Bombay and I'd much rather spend it alone (and for those of you who know me, it's for sure no one else wants to be around me on one of my grumpy days). I just want to go to a nice air conditioned movie theater and eat ice cream and watch Clive Owen rob a bank (this is what we did last night).

I guess I should be writing about my daily experiences with the fabulous children I teach. This sort of thing is I'm sure infinitely more interesting than rambling on and on about a bad-pants-induced bad day. Basically, the teachers here are very strict and unsmiling and whereas, again for those of you who know me, I am capable of strictness and unsmilingness, these are not qualities I admire in myself or anyone else. I would much rather let the beast sleep, but I worry that the other teachers will lable me ineffectual. I guess I shouldn't care so much about that.

Here is one thing: it is very difficult to teach 15 young children in half a very small classroom with another class going on in the room at the same time. I get a little freaked out by the chaos. Plus the room is really echoey and there are always other children running around and yelling in the halls outside so I can barely hear my extremely soft-spoken pupils. And I know they are still getting used to my accent, and they probably also think that since I smile a lot I am a pushover so they are not very obedient. Ah well. They are truly fabulous and they are just kids like kids anywhere. Some are very loud and bad (in an endearing way) and some are very conscientious and want to please.

In my afternoon class, I am not the main teacher, which is better in a lot of ways, and there is a boy I absolutely adore. He is really quiet and nerdy looking and he tends to sit by himself. I had tried talking to him before and he didn't really respond, so I assumed he just didn't know English as well as the other kids. But then I did a reading assessment with him, and he did a very good job. It must be my accent. There's another kid who is straight fabulous. He came bursting into the classroom the first day, full of bravado, and shook my hand and asked me how I was doing and what my name was. When I ask him to do something he doesn't want to do, he gets this very appealing look on his face and says, in the most irresistible little whine"No, didi(sister--that's what the kids call us)! No!" I love this kid.

Well. I guess that's about all. I like Bombay. I miss my cats. I dream of Salt Lake.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Moho in a Mumu

Well, kids, I don't have the ability to post pictures quite yet. There's a really high-tech cyber cafe I may join where it will be pretty easy to upload pictures. We shall see.

Things are going really well. I found out I will be working as a teacher's aid for before-and-after school programs for six and seven year olds! Can you think of a better thing to spend you summer doing? I hope I get along with the teachers and everything. I'm usually much more afraid of adults than kids. Especially I'm afraid of other adults watching me interact with kids, because you're always at least moderately dorky with kids and it's EMBARRASSING. Ah well.

So. I've gotten more used to it here, I guess. I think I'm still a little bit too overwhelmed to write anything coherent. I think the air conditioning is affecting my brain. I was so happy my first two nights here with no AC. Ever since they moved us into the AC room, I've been groggy and snorky. And showers were so much more miraculous before the AC. I know pretty much no one would agree with me, but I kind of wish I were in one of the less deluxe rooms.

The girls I'm here with are really fun for the most part. There are all of these street markets that we've been frequenting and featured at many of these markets are tables of mumus. I desperately want one. Those of you who know me MUST know how cute I would look in a mumu. But my friends here will NOT hear of it. They have tried to explain to me that I have to be at least 55 to wear a mumu. But I WANT one. I'm going to sneak away one of these days and buy one and there is nothing that N and S can do about it (N is my roommate and S is the other girl I'm probably closest to here). N is a Nazarene and S is Hindu. I told them all about how my sister says I am a Moho since I am Mormon (Mo) and have kissed a lot of boys (Ho). So now N is a Nazho and S is a Hinho. I cracked up one day after one of N and S's mumu interventions because N said it might indeed be a little too sexy for me to have a mumu and that when I get one I will have to make one of THOSE movies called Moho in a Mumu.

Speaking of movies, I saw my first Bollywood movie yesterday. It was caled Fanaa (Crazy Love, the guys behind the YMCA desk told us) and was just about the cheesiest thing I've ever seen. But it was so fun and dramatic and beautiful. The tunes were very catchy. A lot of it took place up in the mountains of North India; I've got to get myself up there in August. Here is an interesting thing about the movies in India: they play the national anthem before hand with a movie of the Indian flag waving. So you stand up and watch the filmed flag and some people even sing along with the national anthem. It was lovely being at the movies with people dressed in saris and burkas. Especially concerning the burka-wearing women, it's a good reminder that they are people who enjoy things and go out. Things that should be obviously but unfortunately aren't. It's lovely to have communal things that bring such things to your attention. Long live the movies!

There are some beautiful things here in Mumbai. The architecture is for the most part astounding. I don't know enough about architecture to explain it, but it's a wild mix of British, Islamic, and Hindu, most of it in various stages of dilapidation. We went to a mosque, a Hindu temple, and a Jain temple yesterday. We had to take our shoes off in all of them, and the mosque and Jain temple both had marble floors with some carving in them. It is lovely to walk with bare feet across carved marble.

The most horrible things I've seen so far all involve babies. One day we were in Colaba, a really touristy area of South Bombay (I'm actually going to be working in Colaba), and there were some children sitting by the side of the road. The gutter at this particular part of the road was very wide with some cobbling that extended for a while until the road proper began. A baby was sitting with its back to the traffic right at the edge of this cobbling. A little girl was watching the baby, but it was so dangerously close. It made me queasy just looking at it.

Yesterday I took the train for the first time. Trains here are kind of fabulous because they have no doors and are thus very breezy. But there was this trio of children plus a baby and a little yellow chick sitting next to one of these open doorways. The oldest girl was sitting right next to the door holding the baby. If anything went wrong, it looked like they would just fall right out.

The worst thing happened when we were driving in a taxi on the highway. I think this is actually the worst thing I've seen in my entire life. The highway has a large shoulder where people live, and the shoulder is divided from the road by a picket fence. A baby was sitting halfway between the road side and the shoulder side of the fence holding onto the pickets. She was closer to the road than the shoulder. And a woman who must have been her mother was sleeping 15 or 20 feet away from her. The baby was seriously at most 2 feet away from the traffic. I wanted to jump out of the car and put her out of harm's way. The thing is I probably could have. Traffic was pretty bad and we weren't moving that fast. But how do you do such things? On the other hand, how do you not?

Saturday, June 03, 2006

I Loves Me Some Mumbai

So here I am in Mumbai.

And I love it. It is sultry and hot and the food is amazing and the textiles very colorful.

Can anyone else believe I'm here, because I barely can. On the other hand, the moment I stepped out of the airport I knew I would love this place and that it would be some sort of home for me.

Of course, I am being a little hasty in falling in love (me?), so ask me in a few weeks how I feel.

I realize I am not being my normal fluid self. I think jetlag is affecting me more than I think it is (nonsensical sentence, I know). Plus I have to go to the bathroom and it's hard to find places to go to the bathroom when you're out and about. I had Diet Coke at lunch though, so don't feel bad for me. I brought it on myself.

All of the dogs in Mumbai look to be of the same breed, or rather non-breed. They look like just a dog. Like a normal yeller dog. I've seen a couple that have deviated into more foxish territory. It's such a change from all the designer dogs in New York. And the cats! They are downright creepy (or would be if you weren't in love with cats)! Very muscular with big long ears.

We went shopping today, which was very necessary since I brought only two pants and 2 or 3 shirts. I bought a sharwa shemeez (however you spell it...those tunic-and-pants combos), a really pretty long shirt with poplar trees on it, a white skirt and blue shirt, some green linen pants and some flip flops for the shower. All for just about sixty bucks. For reals. And it was only that much because I went to a department store for the first two items.

Here was a lovely thing: when I was flying in the night on the way to Mumbai, I looked out the window and there were some mountains. Huge tall mountains that seemed so close to our plane at 39,000 feet. I think they were in Afghanistan or Iran or Pakistan...we flew over all these countries at some point. I know it doesn't seem like much to just fly over someplace, but it really gave me a thrill to think that just below me were these places that aren't really accessible.

Here and there in Mumbai there are some trees with bright orange flowers. Sort of the same shade as quince. I must find out what they are.

Mumbai is very difficult to navigate because there are very few street signs. I'm not entirely sure how I'm going to get to church tomorrow. It's a little out of the city in Navi Mumbai. I know the directions to get there by train, but I haven't been in a train yet and am a little nervous. We've taken cabs pretty much everywhere. They are SO CHEAP. Like the last cab we took was 30 rupees, which is about 75 cents. Split three ways!

I am so jet lagged. My head is sort of swimming. I must be really thirsty but I don't want to drink because I don't know how long it will be before I get back to the YMCA.

The YMCA is a strange place. We were informed we would have rooms with AC, but apparently we will only have rooms with AC when there aren't more important people than us staying there. We've been told we will likely shift several times in the next couple of months. For now we are in rooms with just ceiling fans and a bathroom down the hall. It's not so bad because it's mostly men on the hall so we get the bathroom pretty much to ourselves anyway.

The showers are strange. Mostly you just turn on the tap and use a little jug to pour water over yourself. It's actually very pleasant and writing about it makes me want to be there right now freshening up. You get very disgusting tromping around Mumbai. In a good way, of course. I love this extreme heat. It makes cooling off so much more exhilarting, too.

I think at this point I am just rambling. I hope that I get a little bit back to normal in the next few days.