London Here I come!!

This site is the cat’s pajamas

Hampi, humpi, we all be happy

Last weekend I went on my first solo trip to Hampi. Despite my co-workers shagrin I went alone. As many people have pointed out to me in the past, you are never alone in India. So despite all their hesitance I went ahead and headed to Hampi. I left on Thursday night and drove (well the driver drove) over night to Hampi. Upon reaching the nice hotel, I headed across the river and started exploring Hampi. Hampi is one of the oldest inhabited places in India and a world heritage site. There are lots and lots of cool looking rocks and lots of temples. I know, temples in India, shocking. It was really pretty and I took lots and lots of pictures!

I spent all day just walking around and taking in all the pretty sites. Well and avoiding all the annoying people trying to sell me things but that’s besides the point. I got home before sunset and headed out to my swing. Yup, I had a really cool swing right outside my room.

I laid down and started to read before the sun even came down, I was out cold! I passed out since I was so tired from seeing all the cool Hampi places.

The next day I headed to see the other side of the river. Which surprisingly had even more temples. Some of them were really old and super interesting. One was supposedly Hunaman’s (monkey G-d) birth place. It was really interesting and naturally infested with fun monkeys which LOVED cookies (or biscuits as they like to call them here). At one of the other temples, I all of the sudden became the main attraction. A group of about thirty kids started fallowing me around. It was entertaining as always. After visiting a few more temples, I was going to head over back to Hampi but then the skies opened up and the rain began. So instead I went an relaxed some more on my very pretty swing.

The next day I had a few hours before checkout to get my last taste of Hampi. I went for a walk around the ruins and rant into yet another old temple. Just like all the other ones this one was really really pretty and it gave me some really nice views of the main temple from far away.

After my quick trip I headed over to the bear ‘sanctuary’ where I was hoping to find some real life bears. After waiting for an hour, I got to see two bears from really far away after they fed him. Overall not a very gratifying experience, but I am glad I went. After the bear fest I started the long journey home. It was a great weekend overall and I am super glad that I went.

Leave a comment »

Drink and be Sari

Last Sunday, on Casey’s last day in India we did what all normal people would do, we headed over to a winery tour. It was quit fun to see how they do wine Indian style. Mostly, it was the same as in the US except that as usual in India the whole tour was disorganized and it was as through they where surprised that we showed up. After figuring out what was going on we headed over to the vineyard, it was really pretty but very odd to see wine grapes appear out of no where right near Bangalore.

After checking out where the grapes come from, we headed to factory to see where to grapes turn into delicious wine. Unfortunately, high season for wine is in Feb-April so we didn’t get to see the whole process in action but we got to taste the yummy wine. After checking the whole place our we got to taste five different wines which Grover makes. Not only was the wine yummy the people on the tour with us were really funny. I have never seen people that knew any less about wine, but they were trying to learn so it was highly entertaining.

After the awesome tour and the even better wine tasting and the yummy lunch that followed Casey and I headed shopping. I needed an outfit for Nandani’s wedding. I finally gave in and decided to buy a Sari. Who knew that the whole Sari buying process was so long and hard. First I had to find the Sari, it only took five stores, and then I had to get the top stitched, then apparently I need a sari skirt and then bangles and then earrings. Who knew that one piece of fabric caused so much work. It was so complicated that on the day of the wedding, Madhura, one of my friends from the office had to stop by and help put the sari on. It ‘only’ took 35 minutes but no worries I looked really good afterwords:).

After the amazing photo shoot we headed to the wedding. Due to the great Bangalore traffic we showed up kind of late, but no worries they were still happy to see us! It was great to see how pretty the bride (and I guess the groom) looked.
Overall a pretty awesome wedding:)

Leave a comment »

Kerala – G-d’s own land

Last week Christine and I flew out to Kochi which is located in Kerala to visit the other Q-center location while the secondees in Kochi came to Bangalore. It was really quit the week. It was interesting to see how things are done in another office, almost like living someone else’s life for a week. We arrived in Kochi in Sunday after a quick one hour flight from Bangalore. We headed to our new apartments and on the way we were happily surprised with lots and lots of green. When we got to the apartment we had another nice surprise when we noticed the balcony and the nice view of the water.

After adjusting to the overwhelming heat we went to a nice dinner by the water. The next day we went to the office, which was just like Bangalore only different. The set up is the same (down to the cubes and phones) but the people are different. The first thing I noticed was the noise. Usually the floor in Bangalore is very quiet, in Kochi however you often hear people giggling and talking. It was an interesting change of pace.

On Tuesday we got the day off:) Thank you Gandhi for having your birthday on October 2nd. Christine, Rob (a secondee from Kochi) and I headed out to Fort Kotchi. Its a nice touristy area near where the apartments we were staying at, and THE thing to do in Kochi. Mostly there is a beach (which naturally was filled with trash) and lots and lots of fishing people. The fishing people use an ancient finishing method which has huge nets. For every net, there were about 7 people who operate it. I can imagine that in the hay day of the fishing industry in Kochi this was the place to be.

After looking at the fishing nets a nice walk around the water we did what I never thought I would do in India. We willingly entered a rickshaw knowing that we would end up in an emporium. In my head “emporium” has become an evil world where clueless tourists are unknowingly brought to buy overpriced merchandise. The stories of tourist getting ripped off are countless. So you wonder why we pursued this? Simple, the rickshaw driver said that he would drive us around for basically free all day. After visiting two emporiums, we headed over to ‘Jew Town’. Not kidding, that’s what its called. It is the area of town where Jews used to live (they mostly moved to Israel) and where one of the oldest synagogues in India exists. Last time I was in India, we were suppose to come to Kochi to visit the very same synagogue, but due to terror threats we had to skip it. So naturally I was beyond excited to see it. And….. we get there and its closed. Its Sukkot, and they are closed on Jewish holidays:( I almost had a breakdown and wanted to yell that I was a Jew and they should let me in, but I restrained. After calming down we headed into a nearby shop (I know shocking) and after a lot of bargaining I bought a new addition to my family:

Isn’t he an amazing elephant? He looks really happy next to my hippo:D

The rest of the week flew by until we reached Friday on which Christine and I headed to Munnar. A hill station three hours from Kochi. Apparently, I found this out after we came back, it is the honeymoon spot in south India. The ride to the top of the mountain was one of the worst rides of my life. I don’t usually get car sickness and often times I am able to even read in the car, but this ride was the exception. It was extremely windy and our driver was insane and aggressive (albeit very nice). Once we arrived (finally) we were greeted by our host family and had a wonderful Indian meal. Yes, you read that right, I liked Indian good. Mostly because upon request it wasn’t spicy at all:). The next morning we headed out to ride elephants, Christine’s one and only mission in India. It was very fun although my butt did hurt by the end.

After we finished having fun with the elephant we headed over to the tea museum. As Munnar is basically one big tea plantation it was key that we see how tea was made. Who knew that there were so many steps to making tea? I just thought that it came from the tea fairy. It was interesting to see the different steps and we even got to see a very propagandy video on the tea plantation.

After the tea museum we headed to a damn and then echo point. Two really pretty places in Munnar. For the first time in India I felt like I was a local tourist. There were very few white people around but lots and lots of Indian tourists. I guess it is the place to be.

Just as we finished with echo point the skies opened up and the rain started. It was just what I thought monsoon season would be like. But at least we got home safely and got to enjoy the AMAZING views of sunset from our homestay.

The next day we woke up bright and early and went hiking. Yes you read that right, I went hiking willingly, and not only that I enjoyed it. Our wonderful host people arranged for us to have a trekking guide who walked us through the mountains of Munnar. It was intense! I really realized how out of shape I was! Then again we did walk almost straight up a mountain. After relaxing at the top we headed down through the tea plantations and the jungle. It was a really nice walk.

And thus ended my wonderful week in Kerala.


Be the flower… feel the flower… take a snap of the flower….

On Saturday morning Christine and I decided that it was time to head to Bangalore’s Botanical gardens (Lalbagh). After a wonderful breakfast of omelets we headed out to try to catch a rickshaw. After five attempts we finally found one that understood where we were going and was even willing to give us meter:). After a very long and bumpy ride we reached the gardens. They were really pretty! The flowers were great and the garden was extremely expansive. There were not as many flowers as I expected but lots of space and unfortunately lots of trash:(. As many of you know, I am not a cleaning person, but just seeing all this trash everywhere makes me want to clean! Shocking I know. As we were walking through the park I noticed a major trend: public displays of affection. In India is is very uncommon to see people of opposite sex (men do it all the time) display public touching. But I guess at the park behind a tree is where things happen.

After we finished the garden (and even the nursery, savta will be proud) we headed over to the bull temple. It’s just like it sounds, a temple with a bull. And when I say bull, I mean massive bull!! It was huge!! I was told that it was made out of one stone (must have been on big stone). This temple was the least temply temple I have been too while I have been in India. It was a nice change.

Leave a comment »

On spending the Jewish holidays in India… a reflective post

Over the last two weeks I got to celebrate both the New Year and Yom Kippor (and now Sukkot) in India. And it has been interesting….

When I agreed to come to India, I knew that I would be spending the holidays in India, and I knew it would be tough, as my family wont be there, but I didn’t expect it to be like this. I thought that it would be like it was when I was in Hong Kong, missing my family, but surrounded by fellow Jews. I searched for the Chabad house, as they are known to welcome all Jews for all the holidays. I really expected that in a city of 8million people there would be some sort of Jewish community. I was disappointed, the Chabad Rabbi was in Israel for the holidays as his wife was giving birth. Great for them, not really for me as no services where being held for either holiday.

My roommates really tried to make the New Year special as they participated in my festivities. But it really wasn’t the same as it would be at home, and as I called my family members to wish them a Chag Samech, I wished I was there with them. It was kind of lonely, its weird to feel like you are the only Jew around. Granted, most of the time I am the only Jew, but it feels different when people around you don’t even know what a Jew is.

As I took my various walks on Yom Kippor reflecting on the year and its events and my time in India a sudden depressing thought hit me. Do people in India (and the rest of the world in general) not know who Jews are because of the Holocaust? Could it be that Hitler completed his mission? And then I recalled my childhood where the entire country shuts down for Jewish holidays and where people walk around and wish everyone an easy fast and where when you call someone and its the wrong number they wish a Chag Samach. And I realized that Hitler failed, miserably, and I hope to keep proving him wrong. And I miss my family, and the Jewish community where everyone is welcome and knows the chags and the kosher rules without me having to explain it. And it is with that happy thought that for the first time in my life I look forward to Passover; even for the no bread thing.

Leave a comment »