It's interesting to talk about Election Day without getting into personal politics and beliefs, but I'm pretty sure I can do it- at least I will try. Since I've been a wee lass I've loved Election Day. I've probably mentioned before that I've always been a bit patriotic, even when I might have just kept my mouth shut. But just like many Americans, my parents followed the elections in their own way and it instilled in me a love for political engagement and informedness whether or not we have the same political beliefs. That's something they should be proud of, no matter what my registered party is. So for that, I thank you Dad and Mom.
I didn't think an Election Day could be more memorable for me than 2008 but back then I had no idea that in 4 years time I would be living overseas in India, filling out an absentee ballot, following the election through iMessages with friends, constant online news reading and Facebook feeds. A year ago, I remember sitting at our dining room table here in Hyderabad and telling R "I am so sad I am missing this election year!" To which R replied, "I am sooo glad you are missing this election year." Hold on! Who says I've been known to have blood pressure spikes, angry outbursts, or multiple facepalms in a row over politics? Pssshh!!! But I had to laugh last night when R said to me "I'm sort of sad about missing this election year." For R to say that, well, seriously, it's been interesting.
Me and my friends, Election Day 2008. Just kidding: Election Day in Philadelphia, by John Lewis Krimmel, 1815.
Because the debates happened pretty much overnight for us, I would wake up in the morning with a fresh Facebook newsfeed of hilarity. Mitt Romney says "binders full of women" or he's going to "fire Big Bird" or Obama totally lost that debate, and what jerk Joe Biden came across as, this or that. And there was the constant "I AM SO TIRED OF THESE ADS!" Meanwhile, I saw no ads but heard a lot from non-American friends here who had their own ideas about who should be President. That was something I didn't really expect. R mentioned that he has also enjoyed explaining the voting process, the electoral college, swing states and other things to various coworkers or non-American friends. I can say that I also enjoyed more than once feeling super cool to explain that the Vice-President was President of the Senate. What's the Senate you ask? OH, Well! Let me tell you! I don't remember a ton from my US Government classes, but man, I've felt like a pro lately. And also, I felt very proud that OHIO is once again, the heart of it all. :)
This Election Day I am sadly not watching the results come in with 100 other neighbors and friends on a large screen at our local watering hole while taking photographs with lifesize cardboard cutouts of the running politicians. I am not sitting at home with family waiting for a debate to happen at any second over why "my candidate is better than yours." I am probably not even going to be sitting at home watching results on TV. I will most likely be falling asleep knowing that our President is Barack Obama, and waking up to the news of who our country has voted in for the next 4 years. I will also fall asleep very proud to be an American, proud to have exercised my right to vote- even while living abroad- and knowing that no matter what happens, I will always be proud of where I come from. (P.S. Ohio, do me proud!)
....and yeah...I probably lied. Maybe I won't be going to sleep tonight at all.
There are not too many Americans living amongst us. Stumbling upon other native English speakers, one will find that they usually seem to hail from the UK. About 9 months ago, I was very lucky to find myself thrown together with another American girl who is like-minded, around my age give or take a year, and also- big surprise- childless. No doubt, the trifecta was in place when many said to me "You should meet Ashley, she's your age, American, and uh... doesn't have kids- but she has two dogs!!!" Beside the point, because I can save that for a whooolle 'nother post! Anyway, we have another friend who is Dutch. I will often forget that she is not American because it just never crosses my mind that "hey! you're not from where I'm from!" when we're hanging out. Marjon speaks very good English, contrary to what she thinks about her skills, and we all have a very similar sense of humor so it's easy to feel so comfortable around each other.
One day, during our weekly quilting class (yes, I do take quilting), Ashley and I were reminded that Marjon was indeed not American, as she answered her cell phone and began speaking in a very very quick Dutch. We both looked at each other, wide-eyed and bewildered, and then said almost simultaneously, "THAT is NOT English."
Which brings me to the meat of my post. As a kid I always wondered what people on the "outside" thought of people on the "inside." For example. If aliens ("outside") were looking down on us silly humans ("inside"), what would they think about large crowds standing together for anything (graduations, speeches, concerts, etc.) and then clapping to show our approval? Clapping is a very strange thing when you think about it. We are flinging our extremities about, hitting them together to make a noise, all for the sake of showing our appreciation toward something. Umm...Weird.
I don't speak Dutch. I don't speak German. I don't speak Korean. I speak a sad amount of Japanese and an equally sad amount of Spanish and less than pathetic amount of French. I have yet to learn Hindi, and I'd love to learn Chinese. Languages are a thing that I've been interested in for awhile but I always had to giggle when I heard certain ones being spoken. No offense, Marjon and the rest of my Dutch friends, but I always thought Dutch was at least a jovial sounding language but one that is so waaaay, totally different than English that I can't help but giggle a bit when I hear it. Now when I hear German I sort of want to run and hide. Uh, yeah, no offense to my dear German friends too. ;)
Living here has made me think about things other than, "What on earth do aliens think when we clap?"
I now think, "Boy, if I think Telugu sounds wacky, I bet they must think English sounds preeeetty weird too."
When Marjon answered her phone in front of us that morning, I was reminded of this video I found almost two years ago. I hope you enjoy it as much as do. It's very "what do aliens think when..." It's a video by Adriano Celentano, and it's supposed to sound like English-specifically American English. And for my non-native English speaking friends, if this is really what we sound like to you... well, I understand, because I'm dying to know what they are saying... OH wait, this isn't a real language.
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”
― C.S. Lewis
You’ve probably noticed that I’m sort of a… “different” person. When I was younger this personality trait was the source of much teasing or more accurate, the explanation for any imaginary friends I might have had. It was a vicious cycle. It can't be said that I lacked friendships, but I can definitely say that I was not a cool kid and I was certainly not Miss Popularity. And I believe that I have always been an introvert, even if my parents would object to this. I knew them well, so it was easy to be my weird, loud self around them. As my years progressed, I found others like me, and there are few friends that I still remember fondly for being some of the closest friends I have ever had.
In Elementary school, I had Kristine. Don’t ever call her Kristina, but you could always call her Kris. Every December, near or on her birthday, we’d have a big sleepover at her house where we’d do ridiculous things. We'd get into near fatal pillow fights, prank call McDonalds, or play Crash Bandicoot until we couldn’t keep our eyes open anymore. Even if I talked to her all day in school, we’d still talk on the phone that night. Don’t get me wrong though. We didn’t talk typical girl things. We talked baseball. We talked Star Wars. We talked nerd. She was that kind of friend. When time took us to different schools, we grew apart, but I still miss her friendship and think fondly upon it as one of the best I've had.
I like to call High School the best days I had. This is of course pretty silly, but I definitely enjoyed my time there. I was social, even if in the nerdiest ways possible. I immersed myself in every band activity I could, as well as drama, art, JROTC, and even poorly attempted cheerleading. The last one didn't pan out so well. When I met Angela, whom I call Angie, the girl I could talk Final Fantasy with, and who remains a friend to me since, I knew I'd have a friend for the ages. These days we may not be as close, but 15 years later, I still want to play/talk FF VII conspiracy theories with her and we meet up when we can. At the same time, I met a kid named Brad, who was equally as strange as I am, although I can never forget the time he called me “eccentric.” We could, and still can, talk on the phone for hours, then go to school 2 hours later and talk more. In the summer, we’d spend hours driving the city in a rust colored car with no speedometer listening to fantasy novels on audiocassette. Somehow, through different cities, several universities, and continents later, I can still call him one of my best friends.
When you make it to college, you can find so many fellow weirdoes, it’s almost too easy to make friends. “What’s your major? Japanese? Oh, do you like anime?” You answer yes, and there you go. New best friend. Join the tennis team. The whole team minus the seniors who hate you, well, they are all your friends! I had some great friends in the three universities I attended. Selina, a girl who carried a shiv in her hoodie and outlined her lips with lipliner was my complete opposite. We met, I secretly judged, we were thrown together by the bonds of sisterhood, and suddenly, years later, she’s the Maid of Honor at my wedding.
Friendship is funny that way. In a way, the older you get the easier and harder it gets to make friends, if that makes sense. You can be forced together by work, or situation, or school even, which should make it easy, but if you think the people are nothing like you, it can get difficult. When I first moved to India I only contemplated friendship as a secondary thought. I didn’t think too much about how it might be easy or difficult to make friends, I just thought a lot about the friends I was leaving behind. I have a lot of great friends in Cincinnati, some made through work connections, others just randomly, and it was really difficult to say goodbye. When I got here a year ago, I met a lot of people who seemed really different than me. Many were about 15 years old than I was and pretty much all of them had children. Their husbands didn’t travel the way mine did, and the more they mentioned it, the more I started thinking how it might be difficult to achieve what I had before.
I was wrong. At the risk of sounding cliché, the friendships and connections I have gained here have totally surpassed my expectations and blown me away. For example, in a situational friendship, where it could have been “Hey, you will be friends now, because this is your husband’s boss’s wife,” Heidi became one of my dearest friends here. I can honestly say that since she has left, there is a hole in our Hyderabad world and in our hearts where their whole family belongs.
Any non-amazing people here are few and far between, however. One of my best friends in Cincinnati, Megan, has a sister who is dying from Mitochondrial disease. She wanted to help her sister Leslie make 1000 paper cranes so that she could have a wish, like the Japanese legend. I thought how nice it would be for some of us to get together here to make some and send them to her, so I posted it on Facebook. Within 2 hours I had over 15 replies, and a couple days later over 25 of us got together to make cranes at my house. Even people I did not know came to my house to drop cranes off for Leslie during the week. I was very touched that many of my friends here have hearts so big, and that even people I don’t even know wanted to help.
Megan is very lucky to have a wonderful sister like Leslie, and Leslie is so lucky to have a great sister like Megan. I’m so lucky to have a good friend like Megan. I’m also so lucky to have friends like all of you- all over this big world- because without you, my life would not be the same. “Can miles truly separate you from friends... If you want to be with someone you love, aren't you already there?”
― Richard Bach
Learn more about Mitochondrial Disease by visiting MitoAction.org
Oh hello there. Yes, it's been awhile. I'm not going to make excuses. I have none...I'll just get right into it. Sometimes you live here for awhile and things lose their luster. Things sort of, stop amusing you as much as they did before, or maybe you can't even think of things worthy to blog about. This is rare of course, because this evening, I remembered how amusing things can be.
For those of you who don't follow every word I write on Facebook, you don't know that for the last two nights now I've been hearing Survivor's Eye of the Tiger being blared in the neighborhood like we all were being summoned from our ultra modern, cookie-cutter, "suburban," gated community villas to fight. Oh, you didn't know? Every day is a fight here. Love is a battlefield. When we're not fighting we're winning. That's when the neighbors play "We are the Champions." Usually comes right after Eye of the Tiger. After all the fighting and winning we're probably coming down from our high. We sometimes get lonely here on the other side of the world and we've all left someone behind, as apparently our neighbors have... because, I heard them singing this as loudly as possible. Trust me, I know this, because this one goes out to the ones we love.
It's not Friday anymore (or really even the weekend anymore), but weekends are for things like going to the movies. Especially here in India. If there is one thing India loves, it's the movies. And it seems like there are so many great movies out to see right now here. Batman, Spiderman, even the Avengers were here for a long time.
Going to the movies here is always an interesting experience and oh! Such a pleasure. To see a movie here, you must first purchase tickets in advance or at the box office, sort of like in the U.S., with one main difference being assigned seating. I have not attempted to purchase tickets at the box office because I prefer to pick out my seat online as if I am on ticketmaster attempting to attend a Rebecca Black concert at the finest cricket stadium in town. Don't be silly, of course it's not like ticketmaster. But, it is sort of the same. And occasionally (or like, every time the first time) when your booking fails, you get redirected to a cute little page that says "Booking Failure!! :) We cannot confirm. We encourage you to try booking again!" If you didn't catch that, there is most definitely a big yellow smiley face cheering you up as you feel like a giant failure. Also, be aware that there are different classes of tickets. I said classes, not castes. For 5 bucks, the "Royale" treatment gets you oversized leather seats in the back row with a strange little tables next to them. For 2 dollars less, you can purchase "Executive" seats, or regular movie seats. Royale seats go quickly, as there are less of the them and reserved for the high rollers, so we tend to end up in the Executive seating with the common folk.
Once you've decided which seat you should take, booked them successfully, and the big day has come, you can proceed to the theater for your gender segregated frisking. After the extremely sad and ridiculously terrifying occurrence in Colorado the other week, metal detectors and pat downs actually do make me feel a little more secure for once. The more you know: These tiny little "security" guards will pry your foreign-manufactured chewing gum from between your jowls as well as well as your fists. Keep it secret, keep it safe. Carrots in a ziploc-equivalent, however, seem to be perfectly acceptable to smuggle on one's person.
My favorite thing about the movies here is INTERMISSION. Most movies you will go to will have an intermission, guaranteed to be at a very pivotal moment or most definitely right in the middle of someone on the screen saying a line you would never want to miss. This is when you can run to the bathroom, get more veg samosas, ice cream, microwave popcorn, or bottled water. It's something every movie needs.
In other words, I see more movies in a month while living in India than I'd ever see in a year in the US. I've become a movie-going expert, so far off from the days when I saw Lion King with my mom and got lost in the dark theater after taking a bathroom break (see! This is why we need intermission!). So take my expert advice: before Friday comes, consider what to do this weekend. Push off thoughts of psychos (because that's what psychos want- you to be scared!), remember the victims of the Colorado shooting, and thank the heavens you don't have to book tickets days or weeks in advance... then go see a movie. You'll remember how people all over enjoy this great communal pastime and know that even crazies can't take that away from the entire world.
P.S. For the record, if there is one thing that really gets my goat, it's when people say "Holy (insert whatever they are talking about here), Batman!" That really gets on my nerves, so I'm basically giving away my kryptonite. Use it wisely. P.S. I totally know that kryponite is like Spiderman's weakness, not Batman. I mean, come on now.
I have found that my job here in India involves many ceremonial duties that I never anticipated. This week, it was judging the monthly ladies club cooking contest. While many of our employees do eat meat, the tradition is for the contest to be 100% vegetarian. The contest has the following rules:
- There is one seasonally fresh ingredient that must be used.
- There are 8-10 optional ingredients.
- Three judges will score based on Taste, Quality, and presentation in that order of importance.
The focus ingredient this month was sagoo or sago
. I found myself wanting to award points more for presentation than for the other criteria.
I guess I should have taken pictures of the winners holding their dishes, but I didn't really think about it.
There were 27 dishes in all. We picked the top three and three consolation prizes. I don't know what the winners got, but they had gifts for the judges. I got a pen.
There really is so much to write about on a weekly basis. At the beginning of each week I have so many things I'm sure I want to say so I think, OH, I'll just post a little now, but then I think, No! Keep it simple... once a week!...or something..like...that...The thing is, by the end of the week, I forgot all the things I wanted to say, even though I am constantly "writing" in my brain. Since I was little (oh, you know, four or so) I felt like I was narrating my life, sort of like that Will Ferrell movie that no one probably remembers the name of because it was pretty depressing (hint, see my post title), where the lady tells the story of his life while he's doing it. Yeah, that's how I live my life. It's no wonder I always enjoyed writing.
India is full of things stranger than fiction. And as many of our friends and family from the US have discovered, many of our best stories come from those closest to us. So really, for this post, I'm not making any of my own stuff up at all. I'm just stealing from the things people tell me (Kind of like the picture up there from the movie... um, that picture, minus what I added to it, because when one is in India, one should always brush with filtered water. Yeah, but that picture totally belongs to the movie people. Does that cover me?? Eek...). Because the things people here tell us make some pretty darn good stories. I'll limit myself to just three for the time being because really I could go on and on, but then who'd want to read me do that? I'll count 'em down backwards for you.
3) Cold killer.
I'll bet half, if not all, Americans have no idea that cold water gives you an actual cold. Seriously. It makes you sick. I am proof of this, you know. One sweltering summer day here I was totally fine, minding my own business, completely healthy- but very thirsty- so I went to the water cooler. Our driver happened to be in the kitchen at the time making tea and he said to me, "Cold water bad, Madam. Make very sick." Um, okay. So I said, "Um, okay. That's okay... I like cold water..." and I drank it. Well, you will never guess what. The next day I got a sinus infection. Granted, the doctor said it probably had never gone away from the sinus infection like, weeks before, but still. My driver was smug the whole way to the hospital. He even mentioned it on the way, like "Cold water, Madam. Bad." So there you have it. If you want to die, or you want to get sick, or you're just begging for a sinus infection that you had weeks ago to present itself again, go ahead, I dare you. Drink that icy cold beverage.
2) I'll take that served cold...
Which brings me to my next story. In what was not my finest moment in smartness, I punched my hand accidentally through a hard plastic planter. The result was none other than profuse bleeding. As I walked as calmly to the kitchen as I possibly could to stick my bloody hand under the water as quickly as I could, Maria, our maid (I prefer to refer to her as our "housekeeper")...and yes, we have one, just like everyone else here- don't get so excited!, comes to see how I'm doing. When she sees the what-I'm-doing, she says "No! No madam! That won't stop the bleeding. Only drinking water will stop the bleeding." Of course, I don't think putting my hand under disgustingly filthy water will actually stop the bleeding, but it's good to see what I'm working with, and somehow I hardly believe drinking water will stop the bleeding either. Maria did not offer to get me any water. It is a good thing too, because I would have wanted it served cold.
1) Here's to you, Mrs. Reddy.
Maria always gives me some pretty great stories. She's Christian, as opposed to being Hindu or Muslim, the other main religions here. For whatever reason, she likes to recount all her churchly escapades of the week/month/whatever it happens to be at the time to me. This time there was no telling me about her bus trip to the 11 different "churches" all in one day, which really turned out to be an amusement park-like setting for the stations of the cross. Instead the story was better than I could have ever hoped for. As I sat in my "office/craft" room working on a quilt and listening to music, she came in and began cleaning. Sometimes I think she likes to be in the room I'm in simply because she is nosy, but that's beside the point. When Simon and Garfunkel came on, I knew she would start up a conversation. "Hm, very nice," she said. "Is this a Jesus song??" Hmm....not exactly.
So folks, it all comes back to stories. And how we have so many of them to tell. And how I am always narrating my life and how it becomes increasingly more interesting while living in another country. So I think, if it's alright with you all, I might just post whenever I have something to say, that way I don't get into this habit of forgetting what I wanted to write and not going back to it when I do remember just because I can be lazy like that. I really will try to limit it though... you know, only 10 times a week. Haha, just kidding. Maybe 2 times. If I'm so so so lucky. And I doubt anything will be this involved. But I'm sure all our posts will be so much stranger than fiction.
L opened with a meaningful post about our ever growing appreciation of life in the United States. Life here in India is full of high-class problems. One of these problems is not driving ourselves due to the crazy traffic and legal risks in the event of an accident. It sounds great and it does have some positive benefits, but there is a good bit of downside. We have decided that we need to change drivers and I am going to follow with live record of L and I talking about what we will tell our new driver when he starts:
- Never ask how much we pay for anything. It is rude and is none of your business. I promise I will never ask you how much you spend on sugar for your tea.
- Do not pull up outside of people's houses and honk your horn for them to come outside. Our current driver never did that, but our friend's driver thought that was a good idea today.
- My wife is in charge, not me. Do not inconvenience her because you think I am more important. That is absolutely not the case.
- If you are asked to do something, do not reply, "today?" or "now?"
- I know everything is cheaper in Secunderabad, but it isn't worth the 2 hour round trip to save 20 cents.
- Find out from Ashley's driver where the wholesale liquor store is.
- Do not treat female family members and friends like they are idiots.
- No, you can't live here.
- My wife is in charge, not me. I know it is a repeat, but it is very important.
We'll let you know how things work out...
This blog was born on the 4th of July. My husband and I have talked about making this blog for over a year now and we just never got around to doing it. As I woke up early this morning, deep in reflection on what the 4th of July means to me I thought, in the words of my little sister "YOLO!" For those of you not hip enough to know what that means: You Only Live Once... or in my case, "You Obey Life's Obligation... to make this blog." Because I do feel awfully obligated to write down our amazing journey.
Since we've already lived here almost a year, it's a little weird to start this now, but I'm sure together we'll recap things nicely at some point. This post, however, is more about the feelings I've gained for my home country since we left. Yesterday I began seeing people already posting their comments and funny little "facts" about how the USA is not actually the greatest country in the world- JUST IN CASE YOU DIDN'T KNOW. Oh really, cause that's like saying "REALLY? YOUR mom is the best mom in the world?! WELP it is WELL known that Bobby's mom makes macaroni and cheese WAY better and in fact many other foods too!!! (so in your face, you!)" What really makes a country the "best" country in the world? I don't know. I didn't study that in college. I was just an art student. But some of the "facts" I saw going around the internet yesterday and today were about c02 emissions, crime, divorce, and even one person complaining in sarcastic congratulatory manner by stating "Good job, America!" about power outages from the recent rash of storms.
The thing is, there was a time in my life when I was nationalistic for no reason other than to be nationalistic like many Americans are. We all know them. Flag wavers, troop supporters, people who stick magnetic ribbons on their cars, some might even go so far as to say ...republicans, (haa, but really..). I was very defensive of good ole' America, but without a real understanding as to why. Then one day, I just grew out of it. Maybe I felt it was silly, or I felt ashamed, or it was totally uncool to love your country...and I never really thought much about it again. When people would bash the US, I stood by and said nothing. I graduated college, went to grad school, got married, and then we moved. Here, to India. Where the livin' ain't so easy. Where kids take baths on the side of the road. Where "GOOD JOB, INDIA," the power is ALWAYS out, and the c02 emissions are, I am SURE worse than in the US per square foot or however one measures gas (again, I don't know about this, I'm just an art person), divorce is really not that heard of- OH because, that's right, arranged marriages are still common, and yeah, by the way, people don't really eat macaroni and cheese here, so suck it, Bobby. My old nationalistic self has come back and just in time for my favorite holiday, 4th of July! Independence Day! Freedom to get married to whomever we want (well, unless you're gay, but really, people I think are hard at work on that), and then get divorced from that person if we darn well please. Freedom to drive a really horrible car or drive a hybrid or hey, drive no car at all. So much freedom people go crazy sometimes and kill people, or steal! And our country is doing so well on what we have that we rarely have to think about power outages until there is an emergency.
So, until you're living in a country where you have none of those freedoms, remember what you have and cherish it. Of course, you'll never appreciate it until you live without, so really, just remember that what makes the best country in the world is the same thing that makes your mom the best mom in the world. She's your mom. The USA is our USA. And I've never been more proud to be and American. Happy birthday, America!! And shut up and move to India, if you don't like it!