Doors of India. Open, O Sesame.
Kuchipudi Cutie Tootie Fruitie
11 November 2012:
One of the classes I’ve been taking this semester is a traditional dance of Andhra Pradesh called Kuchipudi. It originated in the village of Kuchipudi and was once a male only dance…of course. The costumes are super color and exaggerated. The dance is comprised of different feet positions, hand gestures, and facial expressions. It is different than any dance I’ve practiced. It is sharp and precise and you don’t move around the space very much.
We learned the basics and after awhile we earned our bells! We had a pooja to bless them and everything.
Then this past week we performed the number we learned in a little more than a week. It took about five hours to get our group into costume and makeup.
(That’s me in my make-up. It was intense. They used eye brow glue…weird.)
We also got hair extensions! Yes…you hear me right: hair extensions. We all got our hair braided into a long black wig.
(That’s my friend Hannah G getting some low lights put in.)
We also got our hands and feet painted.
It was a wonderful experience and so fun to perform. Here is the whole group with teacher, Aruna!
Dance it out. Namaste.
Vizig-Vizag and Araku Valley
10 November 2012:
So now that it’s been a few months, here is another blog entry! I apologize profusely for my absence. It has just been a bit of a whirl wind here I have gotten more and more distracted from writing these posts. Anyways, I’ll try and keep a pace for the next few days before I go home…which is in less than a month. So cray cray!
The first trip I planned and went on without CIEE was to Visakhapatnam (also known as Vizag) and Araku Valley. I was accompanied by Kaley, Jack, and Hannah S. A pretty fabulous group if you ask me!
We night bused it to Vizag on September 5th and got in the morning of the 6th. We wandered around and eventually found breakfast: DOSAS.
From there we made our way to the beach! I love me some good ole sand and ocean so it was exciting to experience taking a dip in the Indian Ocean—more specifically, the Bay of Bengal.
The beach looked nice…until you got closer and realized the sand and the water were filled with trash. It was kind of upsetting. We took a quick dip in the water before getting thoroughly grossed out. We then brought out the one towel we had and split it between the four of us.
Being a white woman, I am used to getting stared at. Sometimes it’s out of curiosity and sometimes it’s out of disdain. And sometimes it is out of longing…a weird longing. We encountered this as we sat on the beach. A group of young men came over and hovered for a long time. We asked them to leave and they eventually did…then they came back and sat down right beside us. Staring and smirking. We all got very annoyed and we decided to pack up and leave.
We went and found a hotel and dropped off our stuff. Then we went nearby and grabbed some lunch! It was delicious and we had some great sweet lassies there. Then we decided to wander around and explore. We rode an incline-type thing and it took us to the top of this hill where there were statues, touristy things, and great views of the city.
From there we asked some guys where they liked to eat. They pointed us in the direction of this cool rooftop restaurant that was right on the beach. We had a perfect of the waves and huge monsoon rain that hit that night. The waves were huge in the storm and the rain poured down so heavily. It was amazing! And we could also see the huge lightning strikes that seemed to hit only a few feet away. It was a great way to end a hot and kind of awkward day.
Then the next day we woke up super early to catch the train the Araku Valley; the real reason I wanted to do this trip. Araku is this huge moutainy/hilly area with small villages scattered around. The train ride is famous for its awesome views as it winds around the hills. I was lucky to share a seat with little Fatima and her younger friend. They taught me how to play doctor/nurse/patient and I taught them how to make paper airplanes.
The train ride was beautiful. I just really love trains. They’re so relaxing and the way they slowly bounce along the track is hypnotizing. I learned from this ride that Indians probably don’t have a lot of theme parks to go to because everytime we passed under a tunnel that was carved into the side of the mountain, they screamed until we were out of it. We must have passed through at least six tunnels. And everytime they screamed. So cute. But I wish I could show them Six Flags…or even Kennywood!! (I miss Kennywood so much).
We reached Araku and checked out the Borra Caves! They were pretty cool.
From there we hoped on a jeep and it took us around the valley. We went to a waterfall, a scenic overlook, and a coffee plantation. They had little stalls set up infront of the coffee plants and it was delicious. I got a second cup!
Then we went to this garden area that had cool plants and cool tree house fort things. Then the nice jeep man took us to find a hotel. It was a really cool looking place. It was painted bright orange and it was super cheap (our favorite thing)!
The next day we woke up at 5:30 AM to go on a sunrise hike up a huge hill/small mountain (when does a hill become a mountain?). It was really nice because the weather was cool and it was really enjoyable because my friends were always there to give a helping hand whether it be holding a thorny branch out of the way, or standing on the other side of a ridge to catch you as you jump across it. We made it to the top and had some breakfast: bread, bananas, and honey! Yum! We ate and waited for the sun to rise, but it got caught behind the rain clouds that were moving in.
We were packing up to go down the hill when we heard a “HEEEEEEEEEYYYYY!!!” We looked around and found two young men hiking up the hill. They had the same idea as us so we let them take a picture with us. We said goodbye and made our way down. As we were descending we walked through two small villages. It was amazing to see the small, tight community that thrives in a village. The first village was tiny—there were maybe 30 people living there. They didn’t like photos so we didn’t take any. The second village we went was a bit larger and the kids let me snap a few photos.
Then from there we wandered around hoping to find our hotel once more. It turned out we had made a huge circle because as we left the second village, we continued down a random street that led straight to it!
Then we grabbed our stuff, grabbed some coffee, and hopped on a bus that would take us to Vizag so we could catch another overnight bus back to Hyderabad.
It was a great trip and I was lucky to have such fantastic travel buddies!
Our mantra throughout the whole trip comes from Outkast’s song “Ghetto Music”.
"Feelin’ good, feelin’ great. Feelin’ great, feelin’ good, how are you?"
Feel Good. Namaste.
Half Way José
24 September 2012:
It is officially the half way point to my adventure abroad. A bitter sweet time to be sure. I cannot wait to get home and see everyone again and to share my stories, but I seem to have fallen madly in love with India don’t want to leave it behind.
The love appeared suddenly, out of no where. At first India terrified me. I felt lost and overwhelmed. But these past few weeks have been eye-opening and life changing. I am so lucky to have this opportunity; India is wonderful. It is a vast world of ups, downs, colors, sights, smells, big open spaces, tiny cramped rooms, sweet sweets, spicy spices, opulence, poverty, religion, culture, fashion, technologies and just so much more.
People say that you go to India to “find yourself”. I’m not exactly sure what that means but it seems a bit cliche. You’re not going to go to India and find the secret to the universe (or maybe you will if you meditate in one of the many beautiful ashrams). At least, I haven’t found it yet. But what I can say I’ve found is the ability to put the world in perspective a little more. I now understand, or at least get to see, a completely different side of the world. I get to see how many things I’ve taken for granted in my everyday life back home. I can come home and appreciate the little things around me.
Like clean, running tap water and the freedom to date and marry whomever I want. I pity the people who don’t get to explore the world; they are truly missing out on the chance to experience so much more than their everyday life. And they are also kind of trapped in this bubble or safety net. They may be blind to the rest of the world.
So readers, if you’re listening, travel. Go anywhere. If you can’t get out of your own country, just go somewhere nearby. Find a place that’s different from what you’re used to. Taste some strange foods and then learn to cook them. Meet interesting people. Go to church, or temple, or mosque and observe a different culture. Spend a day with orphans. Give to charity. Anything. Anyways, that’s my two cents. I know it doesn’t mean much but I was just feeling emotional.
I can’t believe that in a week I’ll have been here for three months. Time flies by when you’re in another country (and having a great time). As time keeps moving, I strive to see more of India before I’m dragged out by the Indian government. Kerala is on the list for trips in October. I cannot wait.
Experience the life. Namaste.
Happy Ganesha Chaturthi!
Cooking classes with Bhavani
19 September 2012:
Namaste everyone and Happy Ganesha Chaturthi! That means it is Lord Ganesh’s birthday! As they say, “Ganapati Bappa Morriya Magala Moorthy Moriyya!” They celebrate for 10 days, so it will be over on the 29th. On that day everyone will submerge their Ganeshes into some body of water.
My Hindi professor, Bhavani, is one of the most kind and generous people. As we take her class, she invites us over her house a few times to learn how to make different Indian dishes! Hopefully we’ll be able to bring home some new cooking skills (me…not so much). On our first cooking class, August 10th, we made some delicious palak paneer. It involved rice and fried paneer in a delicious spinach sauce.
(This is paneer. It is a thick kind of cheese. When I first had it I thought it was really good tofu. But…it wasn’t.)
(Spinach sauce with onions, garlic, tomatoes and other various spices and flavors.)
(The finished product! Delicioso!)
Then, this past sunday, we met again with Bhavani to tackle some dosas! Dosas are pretty awesome; they’re like an Indian pancake or crepe. There is a lot of freedom with dosas because you can put anything (everything) in them or dip them into anything. They can be savory or sweet.
For our cooking lesson, Bhavani made a great mint chutney and coconut chutney to go with our dosas. While cracking open the coconuts, Bhavani told us that coconuts are used for religious offerings because it is the purest fruit. This is because it is never touched by hands or creatures. Cool, huh?
(Lily cracking some coconuts.)
(Dosa batter! Made with lentils.)
And, once again, Bhavani so graciously invited us to her house for lunch. This time we tackled tomato biryani, dal, and potato chutney. Everything was so delicious.
I’ve found that eating homemade food is much more enjoyable and delectable. Not only do you get to see every little and intricate ingredient that goes into a dish but it is also made with love. That sounds corny, but it is completely true.
Shukriya, Bhavani! I hope that when I go home I can cook as half as good as you!
Eat well. Namaste.