Send via SMS

Friday, June 30, 2006

The guy at Champaign's Indian grocery store was right: Delhi and Champaign are different!

It is very difficult not to say that India is just like the movies when you're staying in the Taj Mahal hotel. And when you turn on the tv you instantly see two super-recognizable faces (Johny Lever and Farida Jalal, for those of you who are interested).

Flight was long but passed in a snap. Customs easy. Airport big. Left airport to feel a wall of heat - really just like opening the oven door, I know that's trite but it's true - and then glasses fogging up on the a/c bus. Saw both dogs and cows by the side of the road immediately upon hitting the highway out of the airport, as well as a snack bar with posters of Aishwarya Rai drinking Coke. Autorickshaws, scooters, trucks with handpainted signs (and one with a series of pictures of movie stars along the door - perhaps Salman Khan is good for overtaking?), Ambassadors. And fireworks off in the distance.

Hotel is posh and dignified beyond all sense. Literally. We were greeted with fresh lime juice and garlands of jasmine, which I never want to be without ever again. When you put your key card in a slot by the door, the music turns on. The curtains are automated. There were fresh flowers on our pillows and little cards of beautiful stationery printed with a quote by Keats about the joys of sleep. And a candle. And slippers. And the hugest bath towels I've ever seen. And a marble tub. And architectural fragments displayed on the walls. And a sweeping marble staircase down to the pool. And a marble fountain, two floors, with floating flowerse and candles. And. And. And. I really am not a hotel princess but this is beyond anything I could even imagine. And I have been greeted and "ma'am-ed" more times than I can count and it's only 9 in the morning. I do not feel worthy of staying here.

I realize how stereotypical all of this sounds, and believe me it frustrates me that I don't have something more nuanced to say, but every word of it is true. A group of us are getting ready to go to the National Crafts Museum; we have no idea where it is, but we figure a taxi ride through the city will be a treat no matter how circuitous the route.

Good morning India!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

freakout, phase...whatever number, I forget

The suitcase is zipped. Zipped. And it is heavy, although within the weight limit for American Airlines (the weight limit on the airlines we're flying within India is a matter of much speculation, but my stuff is well under what the Fulbright people told us, so...well, so I'll just make do if I have to throw out some stuff as we fly from Delhi to Ahmedabad.) And now I'm not sure what to do other than amuse myself until tomorrow morning when I go to Chicago for orientation. There's a BBQ tonight - thanks, lovely friends who are throwing a BBQ! - but it's thunderstorming.

[twiddles thumbs]

Why is it that yesterday morning, having a weekend to myself ahead of me felt so luxiours, when now it just feels like something to get through on my way to something else? Hmmm. I really ought to cherish this - I have a computer and am online, it's cool out, and there is nothing I need or ought to be doing. Or at least I don't think there is. Maybe that's the problem - given that I am going to be gone for five weeks, surely there is something I should be doing, but if there is, I don't know what it is, and that makes me anxious, as though I'm forgetting something key or am missing out on a fabulous last-minute experience.

Oh, I know, I'll find a nice voyage-related image from Bollywood.

That should do.

Bye! Please write!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

words of wisdom from Fulbright India

Our guide to India document includes the following piece of advice: "Joy and pleasure can be the best learnings you take back to the US." Balle balle to that, yaar!

calming down, phase 1: Saturday morning

As the cool morning breeze blew in over my toes, I realized this is my last Saturday morning to myself in a long time. And while packing is the main item on my agenda today, I figured I could combine useful things like laundry and folding and the shuffling about of papers with lovely things like coffee and email and sitting in front of a fan. So I have. And I actually feel calm for the first time in weeks. It may not last, but it's beautiful while it's here. Now how to maintain it while sitting on top of my suitcase to get everything to fit....

Friday, June 23, 2006

freakout, phase 3: update

No effects from the scary anti-malaria medicine other than grogginess. And that could be from any number of things, really. Phew!

Today is my last day of work until August 7. I really, really love working for a university that wants its employees to go do things like this. I really, really love my museum for being so good to me in so many ways, for having coworkers who truly support me, for people who understand and are excited for me and for what this means for our museum, not just "oh that's nice." Lucky hoon.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

freakout, phase 3: the mefloquine edition

I have just taken my first dose of my antimalarial medicine. The list of side effects on this thing is a little scary: upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, loss of appetite, muscle pain, dizziness, loss of balance, ringing in ears, headache, sleepiness, difficulty falling or staying asleep, and unusual dreams. Golly. I haven't slept well, truly well, in months, so I'm a little concerned.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

I heart info

Have just received our program schedule for the trip! So now I have a reasonable idea of what we'll be doing every day. Quickly scanning the first week of events for museums (very, very few, sadly), I noticed we are given an optional visit to the US Embassy guessed it, July 4. Somehow I think I'd rather enjoy Delhi.

more websites - this time on the Indian-American community

Asians in America Project's Community Profile: Indian Americans
Wikipedia Indian American

An interesting offshoot of what we'll be learning about....

Saturday, June 10, 2006

freakout, phase 2

With the arrival in the mail this morning of the bulk of the presents I will be taking, it hit me that I likely have more stuff than will fit in the suitcase. While not at all a procrastinator by nature, I sitll find myself unwilling to deal with this realistically, to haul out the suitcase and put things in it so I can know with certainty. And then put it on the scale to see if I can even take everything.

And on Thursday, some of the lovely ladies of Amasong took me out for dinner at one of our Indian restaurants (love that buffet!) and it really hit me that I am leaving for quite awhile. I haven't been away from home for this long, whatever my home was at the time of travel, since 1995. I will miss many people very, very much. Suzanne gave me a little photo album for pictures of favorites from home, and it's going to be really hard to prioritize what to put in there, to predict what I'll miss and what I'll want to show people. I do have a picture of Custard Cup already, though, so all systems go.

It's an interesting question: when you live in a place that is wonderful for living in, but not necessariyl for visiting or looking at, what do you take pictures of to capture is greatness? I love sitting at a sidewalk table in downtown Champaign on a breezey summer evening, but the pictures I took of one of those sidewalks don't at all convey the joys of being there, how magical the little lights in the trees are, how freeing it is to sit and let the air blow around you while you laugh away with dear friends.

Friday, June 09, 2006

I choose option B, thanks

I was just telling my friend Mark, who is studying Chinese, that I know four words for "love" in Hindi but cannot say "Where is the toilet?" He suggested that while I might end up peeing somewhere odd, I also might just find true love, which almost made my coffee come out my nose. Mark is not in the loop about my current fake-pretend international fight over a certain young man, documented here, and he's from Tennessee, with all the charm and manners and mischievously twinkling eyes one would expect from a southern gentleman, which greatly added to the effect of said comment. Mark would be great to travel with.

get a moooove on

I found this little guy (gal?) on the side of the road while walking my dog the other morning. While he probably came from a set of farm figurines, with a few pink pigs and a big red barn, I like to think of him as a good omen for my trip. So here he is with a few of my DVDs.

this post makes no sense, but I have a good reason

which is that, oh my stars, I only have ten days of work left before I go. There are a few things I have left to shop for, including presents. So at lunch I walked to the university book store to buy UIUC-themed prezzies for people I haven't met and know nothing about, but anyway. I was blown away by how much UIUC crap is available. Room after room of stuff - there was the typical range of school supplies and t-shirts, which I was expecting, but things like dog leashes, foam hats, pig-shaped keychains (of which I purchased two, in case I meet any small children - and these are appropriate mementos form a hog-producing state). Woah. There is so much irrelevant, ridiculous stuff to spend money on. Here's a picture of the t-shirt room of one of the three campus bookstores (this one not run by the university, at least).

And yes, I know blue and orange are ugly together. Not a thing I can do about it. On my way home I'm going to figure out this power and voltage adapter question. No one seems to know, but I have my camera battery recharger with me, which is the only thing I'm taking that requires power. Can I just say I think it's ridiculous that none of the three Radio Shacks in this town has what I need, so now I'm forced to fight traffic on North Prospect and go to Best Buy? Bah.

On an entirely different note, here are some pictures from my visit last weekend to Chicago's Indo-Pak neighborhood. They are inspired by a conversation with darling Akshay (this is what he always gets called now, for whatever reason, I do hope that's okay with you, dear) about food. He taught me how to say "yum" in Hindi, and it sounded familiar...

And look, the emperor has yummy food mixes.