November 8, 2011

Life is an Indian Adventure

“If everything was easy, there wouldn’t be any fun.”

During the midst of a bit of confusion at the mall, a hallmate of mine uttered this with a smile on her face. There wasn’t mass chaos, just confusion about what cookies were wanted and where exactly to pay and check out. I don’t think there is a quote more fitting to apply to my experience in India than this quote.

My Indian experience has been marked with new experiences in new places, new sights, new smells, new languages, new cultures, and new and different things every day. Sometimes we met frustrating experiences from dealing with the bureaucracy trying to register as foreigners or trying to make our ID cards with the  Dean's office. Seriously, some of those crazy stressful moments are the ones that we can look back and laugh at the hardest. They are the most fun to think about. I have learned to laugh at difficult moments and laugh at them hard. I have found so much joy in the difficult things of this experience.  

Exhibit A
Travel to Pondicherry from Chennai
On our way to Pondicherry we rode the train to Nungambakkam, which is about 45 minutes away. Then caught an auto outside of the station to the Coimbatore Bus Station, which is about 20 minutes away. We then had to ask which buses went to Pondy and we ended up jumping on a bus on Platform 3, instead of 2. Our bus was very comfortable with individual seats and room for luggage above your head. Once the bus starts moving, a ticket master comes by and collects Rupees in exchange for a ticket. We were caught in early morning traffic and it took about 2 hours just to get out of the city and then another 3-4 hours to get to Pondicherry. We got off the bus, found an auto, and made our way to the Hotel.

Travel from Pondicherry to Chennai 
However, going home to Chennai we found our way to the Pondicherry Bus Stand. We asked a police officer which bus was headed to Chennai, especially Tambaram, where we live. He pointed us in the right direction. We found we had to stand in line, to receive a token to reserve a bus seat for us. JJ did that kindly. This bus more closely resembled a city bus and we climbed on and experienced chaos. We didn’t realize that our tokens reserved actual seats for us with numbers and everything. So, we all sat together near the front. Then people whose seats we were occupying came by and were rather frustrated that we didn’t understand the procedure. The aisle was full and 4 of our seats ended up being in the very back. JJ and I made our way to the very back and sat with another gentleman on a 3 seater. I had a big bag, because I bought an extra to take home while in Pondi and had stuffed my backpack into it. I sat that upright on my lap and then JJ and I just kind of laughed at the whole situation. The ticketmaster offered to move my bag to the floor by the door, which was nice. Then, however, we realized that the seat in front of us was broken and the seat leaned back until it was on top of our knees – putting pressure the whole time. This bus didn’t take us straight to Tambaram, we had to get off and then find another bus, but that really wasn’t a big deal. People in India are super helpful.

Clearly, the ride home wasn’t as comfortable as the one to Pondy, but there was no use wasting energy by being miserable over a situation I don’t have control over. Besides, JJ and I couldn’t help by smile and laugh over the craziness of boarding that bus bound for Chennai. If we had expected the EXACT same situation on the way home or even something a little less crazy – we would have been disappointed and upset. But we managed to find the hilarity in the craziness, which is truly where the fun lies.

Today, I was reflecting on why people become disappointed with something. It is when their expectations of a person or a situation are not met as they had originally anticipated. Then I thought that was a little silly as most things we become disappointed in are things outside of ourselves, events or circumstances outside of our control. (Unless we are disappointed with our own performances or thoughts or feelings.) We don't have full control of what happens to us, but we do have full control of how we respond to it. 

Living life should not be an inconvenience, nor should it be smooth sailing. Life is an adventure and sometimes things are crazy or difficult, but learning how to find joy and purpose from those moments are what life's all about. The world isn't all about you, but the world is FOR you. God is FOR you. 

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:2-4


November 2, 2011

Banana Pancakes!

One of my most vivid memories is the taste of Grandma and Grandpa Shirey’s pancakes and King Syrup on Sunday mornings before church. When I was younger, I would spend the night at their house on Saturday nights and on Sunday mornings I would wake up to griddle cooked pancakes. It’s so funny how the taste of food can linger in your mouth, even if you haven’t had it for years and years. Sometimes they would even make the pancakes in K’s for Katie.

We made banana pancakes for dinner tonight to celebrate the end of our finals and to take a break from writing a paper due tomorrow. We are so close to being finished with Academic India, that I can hardly believe it.

Initial Pancakes just like Mamaw and Papaw used to make! 

Peacefully. Simply. Pancakes. 

Can't you see that it's just raining?
Ain't no need to go outside...
Baby, you hardly even notice

When I try to show you this
Song is meant to keep you
From doing what you're supposed to
Waking up too early
Maybe we can sleep in
I'll make you banana pancakes
Pretend like it's the weekend now

And we can pretend it all the time
Can't you see that it's just raining?
Ain't no need to go outside

What are some of your favorite meals from your childhood? Do you have any particular food memories?
Only 11 days until I’m on a plane to Virginia! I am soaking in the last bit of India right as monsoon has kicked in full swing. 


PS - There is totally a trail that is more or less in South East Asia known as the Banana Pancake Trail.It's kind of a tongue-in-cheek reference to the number of BnBs and cafes that have sprung up along said route, in order to cater to Westerners.

November 1, 2011

Halloween in India

Happy Halloween! 

Well, Happy Post-Halloween! Have you worked off your candy coma? 

Halloween and I have an odd relationship. I love dressing up in costumes and over-indulging on some candy for a day. However, I do not like scary things. Not. at. all. I once escaped from the Haunted Barn during the middle of our tour and sat on the outside while the rest of my friends and family continued the tour. I was probably five. Then one year, I watched some horror films and then I went to the local Haunted Corn Maze with some friends. This was the stupidest idea. Ever. I didn't fare well. I made it home, but couldn't make it through the night at a house that wasn't my home. My mom had to come and get me. I may or may not have been a sophomore in high school. I'll let you decide.

This year for Halloween, my BCA friends and I decided we wanted to celebrate Halloween, because it is such a fun holiday. (Scary stuff aside!) Sparky's, Chennai's American Restuarant, was hosting a Halloween buffet for 500 RS. After being in India for 4 months, 500 Rs was waaaaaay too much for us to spend on a meal. So, we decided to have our own shin-dig in our Hall! Complete with costumes, a dinner of brains and guts (Pasta and Sauce), candy, and a scary movie!

This year for Halloween I decided to be a Cat! I used an animal print dress and leggings. Then I made my cat ears, using Holly's black headband and a fruit loops box! (Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.) Meg, the goddess of the Earth, was kind enough to complete my face with some marvelous whiskers and big cat eyes. My Little Shorty Robinson even got into the fun, by dressing up as a cat toy for Halloween! I know, it was a strecth. MEOW!

We grabbed some Indian candy from Fresh, our local trusted grocery store, and went around the hall in our costumes doing some reverse trick or treating! 
First up, Gnanamani!

When we handed out candy, most people had NO IDEA why we were handing out candy! We all said, "Happy Halloween!!" in unison. Then we had to explain what Halloween was. It's really common for people to hand out candy to OTHER people on their own Birthdays or Anniversary. One guard asked us if it was our birthday. No, sir, just a kicking holiday of mischief and candy. 

Kheya, our Literary and Debate Secretary, was really excited about candy! She grabbed a handful for some late night studying. Get it, girl! 

The BCA girls of Martin Hall: A Cat, G.I. Jane, Demeter, and a Pirate! 

I cut tomatoes and green peppers for our pasta sauce, they served as our delicious guts! One of the biggest things I miss about the US is fresh vegetables with every meal. So, whats the best thing about cutting vegetables for our pasta sauce - obviously, stealing a couple fresh pieces of green pepper to eat! 

Holly and I preparing food like champs! Smashing garlic and making garlic bread!

Our BCA crew (including Pirate JJ) and our lovely Martin Hall MSW girls - Gnanamani and Linda. 

These are the pumpkins we carved for Halloween! Mine is the one on the top, she's supposed to have a little smirk...but it turned out to be a huge half-grin. Also, she was green! B and Holly toasted and salted the Pumpkin seeds this morning and we have been munching on them all day, in between studying for exams and writing our final paper!

Finally, we watched THE GRUDGE, which I thought was going to scare the pants off of me. Somehow, it ended up not being so bad, which may or not have be contributed to how long my pillow was in front of my face! Seriously though, it was a little worse than the Sixth Sense and Signs for me, which people say aren't scary. (Whatever, they so totally are!)

There are 12 days until I am headed home! The countdown has truly begun. I can now say I will be home THIS MONTH. Get outta town!


PS - A HUGE thank you to my fellow Martinian and BCAer Holly for letting me steal her fab Halloween pictures. (And for taking pictures of me as a Cat!) You can check out her blog over here on tumblr: