Parsingtime

More Annoyed than Amused

Archive for July, 2007

Dharavi

Posted by parsingtime on July 25, 2007

Random Banker and I went to Dharavi while in Mumbai. It is the biggest slum in Asia and an company that basically works as a non-profit trying to provide schooling ect provides a tour of it.

If you told any native Mumbaiker that you were going to visit Dharavi they would have told you you were crazy and to give it a miss. However, I’m going to tell you that if you are in Mumbai go take the tour. http://realitytoursandtravel.com/

It is really worth your while. Of course there are some smelly parts (it is a slum and there is raw sewage) and the roads aren’t finished but I can’t tell you how interesting it was. It is a group of poor people who need a place to live and built shacks and now it is a place where over a million people live (in 1 sqaure KM no less) and proves that people fundamentally want to trade.  There is a complete society within this slum.  They collect plastic bottles and recycle them and then resell it. They clean out oil cans, scrape off the labels and resell it to the oil makers. The women make papads (an indian type of appetizer). A company provides the raw materials and they roll them out and package them. Over $65 million US dollars flows into that slum. They make clothes (which certainly makes me think about the made in india labels!) and have doctors and schools all within the slum walls.

It was dirty and smelly and definitely not for the faint of heart but RB and I got to see a part of Bombay that very few people see. Poor people who are working really hard to make it. They don’t have a lot of electricity, running water is only for two hours a day and they are all dirt poor by most of western societies standards but you could tell they were proud to show off what they do and how they earn a living. They may live in Asia’s largest slum but it is a community where people really are trying to work for their money and do better for themselves.

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Delhi & Agra

Posted by parsingtime on July 22, 2007

So I’ve been traveling with Random Banker these last few days. She has probably learned or relearned a couple of things about me. One, I’m incredibly impatient. Two, I slather on sunscreen all the time because I don’t want to get dark. And three, I’m not afraid of being “firm” with people who need a “firm” hand.  

For instance the Delhi Tourism Board will be hearing from me. I rented a car from them. I was told I would have it from 9am to 9pm. At 7:50 RB and I called the car and went to the place where the driver had last been. We could not find him and his phone was turned off. After calling the board, the hotel and the driver multiple times he finally showed up at 8:30. We were probably 45 minutes from our destination. At this point he dials a number from my phone and puts me on with his boss who informs me that I now have to pay 720 rupees to get me home because it is going to be past the time agreed upon. I try to explain to him again what has happened and that it is not my fault the driver turned off his phone and wandered off. He then tells me well I have to pay regardless because my 12 hours of time started when the driver left his port station. Of course no one told me that. Never was I informed of that little clause and when I said as much the boss guy told me “well I’m telling you now” and “it is your fault you didn’t ask.” I was absolutely livid and you can bet that I will be writing the Delhi Tourism Board and Lonely Planet to lodge a complaint.  It is just another example of India screwing me over (like the Hindi teacher and the internet people). There is just no service here. Also the guy enraged me further by not giving me his full name. He said his only name was Hemrat. And when I asked if he was like Prince or Madonna and only worthy of one name he said yes. You know that did not sit well with me. Oh, and also we asked for an English speaking driver and the guy we got could only parrot out the monuments and five star hotels in Delhi. Not speak English. I will be writing about that too. If he had spoken English perhaps he might have explained the clause to me before we wondered around for an hour just killing time. 

Anyway, despite all that RB and I have been taking in the sights of Delhi (Humayun’s Tomb, Red Fort, Jama Masjid, India Gate etc) and are now in Agra. We saw the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort this afternoon (wonderful of course) and spent the afternoon laying around the pool, cooling off.

Of course then I had to be firm with the hotel people and let them know the banging that is going on next door to our room and has been going on since 9am this morning needed to stop. I am not at a Five Star hotel so that I can listen to banging and have my reading of Harry Potter interrupted.  Oh yes, RB and I are reading Harry Potter in India! It is wonderful so far but since we are in India and trying to be good tourists we aren’t devouring it like the last few.  That’s all for now, more frustrations coming your way soon I’m sure.

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I’m so Arrogant

Posted by parsingtime on July 17, 2007

Do you know what it is like to be the most attractive person in the room? No? Neither did I until I joined the gym here in Bombay. I have been to the gym in the morning, early afternoon, late afternoon and evening and the only time I’m not the most attractive female working out is when Gina, my flatmate is around.  She is very attractive but we don’t usually go to the gym together.

This will sound horrible and I really don’t mean it to be but the women at the gym are not attractive, not even the female trainers (who in my opinion should not have the look of three month pregnant bellies if they are going to be trainers but is a whole other story).  The women overall, young and old, all look a bit rough.  I think it is probably due to the fact that most of them don’t wear sunscreen or for that matter use any sort of moisturizer on their face. Also I think women especially here take care of their families etc before they would take care or do something for themself.

And let’s be honest the men aren’t that attractive either. Lots of hairy backs on display. Though everyone seems to work hard and are really dedicated to getting fit which is really impressive. What is also really amazing is that after three weeks of work out at the gym I can now run a mile two minutes faster than I could and without huffing and puffing. I’ve also moved up up ten pounds on all my weight training and down a couple of pounds in weight — though that is probably due to my India GI disease which pops up once a week or so.

I’ve been really frustrated the last few days. Husband wants me to spend two weekends with his family and I only subjected him to one weekend with my random family. It just isn’t fair (oh yes, insert whiny voice). Especially since we more or less have not spent any time together and the flatmates are always making evening plans and meeting up after work or whatever (the flatemate’s job is not as busy as Husbands so there is a reason why we can’t hang out as much in the evenings).   Also my Hindi teacher (the first and second ones) have flaked out and I’ve had to yell at the lovely Mr. Prashant every other day about customer service and my expectations.  And now here we are over a month since I got here and I’ve only had one Hindi lesson. So frustrating.  So many things are so difficult to accomplish.

I’m having a bad day…not even being the most attractive person in a sea of unattractive people is making me feel better. Probably because it is like the most attractive warthog out of all the warthogs.  It isn’t really saying a whole lot.

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Virgin No More

Posted by parsingtime on July 13, 2007

Today for the first time in my life I went and saw a movie by myself. It felt a bit weird sitting next to a skinny Indian guy with a waist smaller than my thigh but you know you deal.

I went and saw Harry Potter which was quite enjoyable. What made it more enjoyable was the fact that I paid 150 rupees for one of the best seats in the theater (you get assigned seats in India). And then I had lunch (bhel), caramel popcorn and a bottle of water all for 110 rupees. So altogether I spent 260 rupees to see a movie on opening day and had lunch and it only cost $6.50. How great is that?  I did think about getting ice cream too, but I thought given that I don’t ever buy anything when I go to movies in the US the ice cream would seem gluttonous

A couple of odd things about my movie experience. First there was an intermission right in the middle of Harry Potter so that everyone could get food or use the restroom. It was quite unexpected but given that there was one I didn’t see anyone get up at any point during the movie to go to the bathroom. Second, when I asked if the movie was in English the girl next to me looked at me and basically said in Hindi, “I don’t speak English” but the movie was in English. I know they offer the movie dubbed in some places so I’m wondering why she was at the same showing I was at. Then they played the national antehm before the movie which was unexpected. Everyone hopped out of their seats and stood at attention. Lastly, there was a girl who had never ridden on an escalator at the movies.  She was probably 17 and it took her a full five minutes to work up the courage to get on the escalator. And even then she asked the security guard to hold her hand going up.

It was just amazing and really quite unexpected. The weekend is upon us and Husband will be back from his week travelling around India. Unfortunately he has a lot of work to do so I’m not sure what we will be up to.

Hope you all have lovely weekends.

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Oh Mango

Posted by parsingtime on July 10, 2007

I just ate some mango. I should know by now not to eat fresh food in this country yet I continue to torture myself because a day without fruit really is painful for me. But now I suffer, my stomach is cramping and I know what will follow. There really has been a lot of diarrhea talk on this blog as of late, and for that I do apologize but I generally talk about what is happening in my life and…well this happens a lot in India. So you have to take the good with the bad.

So given that we are in India and sometimes things get ugly in the bathroom sense (see my post of road trips in India) of the word, Husband and I have crossed some boundries that no two people who have sex should ever cross. Some things should always remain private.  Nevertheless, what’s done is done and Husband and I have decided that what happens in India will stay in India and never be discussed ever again (you know except when we read about it in my blog archives).

OR SO I THOUGHT. 

While in Singapore (WHICH IS NOT INDIA) Husband came in and used the bathroom while I was in the shower. Now sometimes things get ugly in India and one must be flexible in the things he or she finds acceptable behavior. There is desperation and GI disease at work.

However Singapore is a first world country Husband. Bathroom issues are not like they are in India.  Waiting ten minutes will not cause the contents of your intestine to cause you to writhe in pain on the floor in Singapore.  What goes in India does not go anywhere else.  So please, I beseech you (and I’ve never beseeched before)  never again use the bathroom while I’m in the shower.

And let’s never have to discuss this again. Okay? Okay.

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And I’m Back

Posted by parsingtime on July 9, 2007

Well kids, Singapore was wonderful…I filled my time shopping (window shopping really), eating ice cream on bread (because that is how they serve it), getting spa treatments and walking 5 miles a day seeing the various sites.  It was really nice mostly because unlike India it felt really safe to walk around on my own and do whatever I wanted.

Streets are well lit, sign posted and the public transport is excellent. I think I feel a bit trapped here in India because I can’t really walk too many places and there certainly aren’t maps so exploring really isn’t possible (and I say that with honesty, I could explore but the chances of walking into a slum where they don’t take kindly to strangers (there are slum lords and everything even a slum mafia) just isn’t worth it to me).

I do have several things to look forward to. Random Banker arrives next week with more toilet paper, pepto chewables, chocolate and of course herself for 10 days of fun in the monsoons. We are heading to Delhi and Agra and will partake in some retail therapy I’m sure.  And then Husband and I are still planning our trip to Car’s homeland, which I’m very excited about.

I can’t believe we have been here almost a month. Time seems to be passing really slowly and really quickly at the same time.

Oh, and I failed to mention on purpose, that I joined a gym here. I failed to mention it because the gym comes with a personal trainer and I didn’t want anyone’s expectations getting up that I might come back from India skinny and buff.  It is a neat experience in that I’m learning how to use all the machines. But my trainer is a bit of a Nazi so I have to go everyday otherwise he berates me for not showing up. We’ll see if any results actually come of this.

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Singapore

Posted by parsingtime on July 4, 2007

I’ve only been in Singapore for about eight hours now and let me say: I heart Singapore. It is so clean. Spitting is illegal. They hide the guard rails on the side of the road with flowering bushes. It is clean. I can walk everywhere in flip flops without fear of that disease you get in India if you walk through dog or rat urine.  Also no monsoon. Everyone speaks English, which I speak too. Shopping. Fresh fruit juices you can actually drink without fear of GI disease. You can drink the water from the tap.  Cake shops on every other corner. Have I mentioned how clean it is?

What makes Singapore even better is that there are no rats running through the airport. Ahem, Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, please do something about the cat size rats in the terminal.

Oh Singapore, I really do love you. Seeing Singapore having been in India for the last three weeks has given me a new found appreciation for just about everything in my life.

Happy Forth of July everybody. It feels weird not to be BBQing or at least watching the celebrations on TV.  

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Road Trips in India: Not recommended

Posted by parsingtime on July 1, 2007

Oh people do I have a story for you. Men please turn away, as there will be menstruation discussion. 

Okay to this weekend Husband and I took a road trip. The place we went to was about 300 kilometers away. It took us 7 hours to get there. It took 2 hours just to get out of Bombay. We stopped on the way to use the restroom. There were no western style bathrooms only Indian style bathrooms. See picture for visual.

  

Okay now that you have that in mind. Think of me entering the bathroom seeing that there are no western style bathrooms wondering how I’m going to hold my bag (no hooks), hold the toilet paper (no TP, just a bucket with some questionable water), hold my tampon, hold my rolled up pants up high enough so they don’t touch the ground AND keep and eye out on the MASSIVE lizard and spider that have made a home in this stall. But that is not all. I had to do all of those things and squat low enough so that blood and pee did not land on my pants.   Let me tell you it is not easy to keep an eye out on the massive lizard and make sure you are peeing in the hole and not all over your shoes. Well I’m sure it would be easy if you were used to this style of bathroom. Anyway, it was a bit of a disaster but I managed to get sorted out and purel-ed my body post bathroom experience.  

Now if you thought that was even semi bad imagine suffering all weekend from diarrhea so bad all you could do was lay on the floor and tell your Husband death was more welcome than the way you were feeling and then imagine having to drive home (it only took 5 hours this time) feeling that way but knowing what type of bathrooms were available. Sheer force of will is an amazing thing. Seriously. I sat for five hours with my eyes closed (a necessity so that I didn’t have to see us cutting off trucks by a mere three inches) breathing deeply and willing all things to stay in.  

And I’m sure reading about my bodily issues was extremely enjoyable for all of you. I am however going to write the next best seller diet book:Go to India, Come back Ten Lbs Lighter: If the fresh preservative free food doesn’t do it the dystenary will!

I would say that the rest of the weekend was fine and it was for Husband but for me it was just painful. I turned down ice cream multiple times this weekend. For me to do that things must be seriously wrong.  


Anyway, I do have one thing to look forward to this week…I’m going to Singapore! Husband is going for a business trip and I’m going for kicks.  Should be fun especially as I’m going during there one month food festival and the big once a year sales. I’m going to buy lots of chocolate and eat a burger. And fries. And all the non-indian food I can get. I love Indian food and the food here is great but even it gets tiring sometimes!  I mean even the chips here are masala flavored.


Okay kids, next post will be less disgusting I promise!

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