Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Queen Renee Strikes Again

Ever since my phone betrayed me and everything our relationship stood for, our visits with relatives are no longer made more enjoyable with the accompaniment of Tetris. Unless I'm able to bamboozle one of the kids out of their devices (or threaten and strong-arm them, depending on my desperation level) I'm left to stare into space and alternate between stifling my yawns and nodding my head the Indian way (Directions to practice at home: lower ears halfway to shoulders one after the other repeatedly until you've set the entire room at ease with your aura of pleasant attentiveness) and also producing my most genuine and least-menacing of social smiles. I'm exhausted! Who knew sitting and staring for a month could result in such mind-numbing fatigue? I find car rides here to be extra draining, too. Whenever we arrive anywhere, I'm always ready for a nap (in my own bed, back home) because there are no seat belts to hold you in and you're constantly bracing for speed bumps and and herds of animals and inevitable impact because everyone keeps passing each other and cutting each other off. Quite a work-out!
Raja told me many people commented on how much of a drama queen I am not, if he's translating correctly. It seems that when the women from around here move to the West and then come home to visit, some of them act quite princess-y. They complain about the dirtiness and discomfort of this way of life compared to what they've become accustomed to. I don't know exactly what they would expect from me having lived all my life in the West. That I'm going to kick and scream on the floor because I'm sick of the bugs and I don't want to eat spicy rice dishes anymore? I'm glad I've got them all fooled! Haha! Raja's family did ask the neighbours to stop heating their water by lighting a fire just outside our house, on my behalf. The neighbours were trying to save money by not using their natural gas stove in their kitchen. Every day our house was filled with smoke. And it didn't bother anyone until Queen Renee came to town. Thank goodness they agreed to use their stove for the rest of our stay. Between their incense and mothball usage, the indoor air quality is already terrible, so breathing in clouds of bonfire smoke all day were just really cramping my style. Not so agreeable, after all, is she?! Plus, Raja gets an earful whenever I get a moment to speak with him. The poor guy is constantly being inundated with questions, suggestions and demands from all his various relatives, and then his own needy wife and kids. All bouncing back and forth between Telugu and English (and sometimes Hindi and Urdu (show-off)). And guess what? Everyone interrupts everyone else here. Because waiting your turn is not a thing here. You have to act on your own behalf or get lost in the shuffle because there are a million people around you constantly so the manners we are used to don't fit here. Want to hold open the door for the person walking into the building behind you? Wrong! You will spend your day there because the people never stop coming. And there are no neat-line ups, there are throngs. So. many. people. Everywhere. Constantly.

No pictures today! It was simple when I just used my good-for-nothing phone to snap pictures that I wanted to add here but now that I have to sift through thousands of pictures off our cameras, I am entirely over that process. I'll have to carve out some time ( like a week) to figure something out.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Tricks and Treats

Raja found a tiny little coconut on our roof so we had it for a snack. He pulled all the furry stuff off using that big, blunt knife. This was a wise choice because using a steak knife to open a coconut sometimes results in requiring stitches. Right, Raj? Remember that, Hon? Your coconut finger? And what about when you practiced your golf swing under a light fixture? Stitches then too, huh? Well, if you didn't want me to bring that up on my blog then maybe you should have replaced that light fixture with something NOT thrifted from the 70's. 

I shouldn't tease him because he was able to crack that adorable coconut open in a way that made the water pour right into a cup for me to drink because it's full of vitamins but not especially tasty. He's so talented! He honestly never ceases to amaze me. But I've also made some contributions to our decade-long marriage. For example, I like to call him horrible names sometimes to be hilarious but when he turned the tables on me the other day, ouch! That joke isn't as funny as I thought! I'm probably rehabilitated from that particular habit now, asshole.

This guy has taken such good care of us here out of pure guilt love. He impressed me so much when he had to navigate through our time in Hyderabad speaking 4 languages in one day! And I don't even think he was faking any of them! Ight-ray, Oney-hay?!

Maya is enjoying some delicious coconut. Um, how long does it take to grow out bangs? Please tell me just a couple weeks because I'm sick of dealing with this. I never wanted to give her bangs ('a fringe' for my British readers- imaginary as they may be) in the first place but her hair grows forward and I wanted her to be able to see so she could do things like learn to read and not walk into walls. Now we're growing them out for vanity. Literacy is so overrated, amirite? 

Teja also enjoyed some of our snack from off the roof. We stayed in our jammies until mid-afternoon today. At which point we bathed and got dressed into clean jammies. I can't wait to take a real shower again! Dumping water from a bucket onto your head with a pitcher is exotic and refreshing but oh-so time consuming. My sister-in-law had shower heads in her bathrooms but, PRANK! they weren't connected to the hot water heater. Good one, India.

Ammon takes his job as a mosquito-killer very seriously. The ceilings are all 12 feet tall here (to deal with the heat) so when the little buggers hang out up there, my boy swats them down with a broom and then zaps them with the tennis racket. When he didn't have the racket, I asked him to give a particular mosquito a round of applause. He got up and clapped it dead and said that was a standing ovation. Yesterday we walked by a house playing some kind of ceremonial music and I wondered aloud if it was a birthday, wedding or funeral. "Or an exorcism," he helpfully suggested. He makes me laugh a lot but other times I get scared because I thought I could be a Mom and just be myself but somehow trick my kids into growing up to be normal. It's become increasingly evident that that's not the case. Seriously kids, stop reflecting my worst attributes back at me! It burns!

Little Vera doesn't eat coconut so she is enjoying a Kinder egg. Here they are called Kinder Joy and divided into two. One half has the toy and the other half has a little spoon and some really sweet gooey stuff with two choco-ball thingies on top. She is mostly interested in the toy as eating is her least favourite past time. Do daily gummy vitamins provide children with all the essential nutrients required for growth and health? I guess we'll find out! Thanks for the ongoing stress, Vera! By the way, Vera was named after my maternal Grandma but Raja just found out his Grandma's Father was named Vera too. Win-win. And he also found out his Mom is left-handed but was punished until she used her right. So that's how Teja became a little Lefty-Lu-Lu. It's neat to see different characteristics my kids got from Raja's side of the family.

After the delicious adventure of finding delicious produce and eating it, I was feeling adventurous/greedy and wanted to try a lime off the tree branches that grow over our fence. That tree always has butterflies all over it and it smells so good. I've never stolen harvested a lime before and these guys were pretty small (didn't get a picture in case it could be used against me in a court of law ;) so I figured they weren't ripe. But I didn't let that stop me. They're green no matter what, right? Well, it smelled divine even before I cut it into quarters and then guess what? It tasted just like a lime! But there was the added bonus of a severe burning sensation on my lips because that is what the peel of unripe citrus fruit does, you big, dumb idiot Renee! (See? Name-calling is fun when I do it). There's a lesson in all of this and I think it has to do with karma or nirvana or thou shalt not partake of the fruit of the tree of lime or some kind of jazz like that but I'm frankly too tired to delve too deep here so I'm just going leave you with this to ponder.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Rants Continue

This picture is to trick you into thinking I've done work during this trip. Nope! I noticed my nails had grown quite long recently and realized it's from all the housework I'm NOT doing thanks to my hardworking in-laws and the ladies they call "servants". I'm putting these talons to good use, though, as I'm speckled with mosquito bites that keep me awake at night, tormenting me and also embarrassing me during the day with their grossness and my incessant scratching. I just read Lindsay Lohan has chikungunya virus which is transmitted by mosquitoes and quite painful (I've heard). I wonder if, while the mosquitoes were biting her, she got all indignant and yelled at them to leave her alone, "You can't do this to me! I'm famous!" For some perspective on why that ridiculous thought entered my mind, I confess to yelling at a lizard yesterday. He lives behind the water heater on the wall in the bathroom but peeks out looking for bugs sometimes. We had just got back from a 6 hour drive to the capital city of Hyderabad (more on that later) and so the girls were all headed to pee (as there are no bathrooms anywhere in India and if I never see another strange man taking a leak in a random public place it will be too soon!) and when it was my turn, the lizard scurried across the wall, back to his hiding place so I yelled, "Oh, did you miss me while I was gone?!" before realizing how crazy that was. I've been swearing at the bugs too. This picture of the leaves being swept reminds me of another part of Indian life that is driving me insane. These guys don't sleep like we do. I'm sure I've brought it up before but it is just too exhausting not to dwell on. Here, they go to bed late and wake up early and then just lay down and doze off a couple times during the day to catch up on some z's. It sounds like a good system, eh? Wrong! I am so flipping tired because I can't summon the magic powers it would require for me to sleep through all the noise here. With so much population, nobody tries to be quiet while you sleep (or talk on the phone, Raj realized) because it just can't happen and they don't need quiet to sleep so why would they tiptoe around anyone else? I've seen a person lay down on a cot, midday, in a room full of people and immediately start snoring, then wake up to answer a question and start right up with the snoring again. We saw a man sleeping in the dirt next to the road a couple days ago, sun beating down on him, surrounded by traffic and people and animals and noise and ohdeargod the bugs! 
I woke up in the dark a couple of nights ago to the sound of someone (probably my angelic mother-in-law so I feel guilty about it now) sweeping the leaves outside the bedroom window and I thought, very sarcastically, "God forbid there are 7 fricking leaves out front at 5 in the bloody morning!" (I'm not my usual sweet self on sleep deprivation) Plus, the plates and cups and everything are made of metal so it sounds like someone is playing the drums on the pots and pans day and night here. Of course I'm not expecting anyone to change their way of life to cater to my namby-pamby need for perfect comfort and peace, so I've been wearing earplugs at night but they're not made of kevlar so....

Here's a cat.

This one's a dog.

And to tie it all together, here is the lady that washes our clothes by hand while I'm growing my nails out and either trying to sleep or otherwise occupied with such activities as lounging, loitering, lolling or lazing. (Thanks!)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Blattella asahinai

Between my phone being a goner, and being on the road to meet for a family function, blogging has been a no-go. Then, this morning, I woke up with a big kink in my back. Not my ole' rickety lower back acting up like it did at the beginning of our trip, but a different pain that my stretching and tennis ball massage seemed to worsen. I believe my official diagnosis is lack of vitamin MF (memory foam). My bff/truest love/favourite food ibuprofen didn't cure it either. My father-in-law gave me ayurvedic medicine and down the hatch it went. Why not, eh? My mother-in-law called our wonderful neighbour to find out if she knows any massage therapists and she, herself, said she has experience and came over to massage my sore back. I had a professional back massage only once before, so I don't have a lot to go on, but I think she did a great job! Quick, Raja, how do you say a really big 'thank you' in Telugu? Raja has very kindly been my man-servant today. I've kept a busy schedule of lounging around, scratching my mosquito bites with my old-timey Goody brand hairbrush which I believe has been discontinued. (It was the only brush my sisters and I would let my mom use on us and now it's the only brush my girls let me use on them!) I don't care if that is gross. I have a mosquito bite on my achilles, people!

My niece, grandma-in-law and sister-in-law left for the big city of Hyderabad yesterday so there are only 8 of us in the house now. I want to be able to pick up the slack instead of being a crybaby about my owie. Get over yourself, Renee! We miss them already. I can't imagine what it's going to be like to say good-bye in two weeks. 'See you in several years!' doesn't exactly have a comforting ring to it. The kids were bored stuck in the house today so Raja took them across the street to the big house to play for a bit. It's a reeeeally nice house. We visited a family friend the other day that had real lazy-boy style couches and Ammon and I agreed it was the comfiest we'd been since we got here. I also couldn't keep my mitts off that lady's curtains; it was becoming awkward. I was causing a scene. I couldn't help myself, the fabric was gorgeous!

While we were in the city of Vijayawada, we saw a Subway restaurant and had our driver back that bus on up. (We had the same driver 4 years ago and he's gone quite a bit more grey- so glad I haven't aged a day) Raja translated for me at the "non-veg counter" and the kids and I enjoyed the worst subs we've ever had on our drive home. Yay! As a hypochondriac, I felt certain the lettuce tasted like listeria. Raja was full from the super spicy dish he ate at the function, on a plate made of lotus leaves no less. This part of India has the hottest cuisine in the world. Indians from outside of this district complain the food is too spicy here. And yours truly has been chowing down like a champ! They eat a lot of deep fried bread-y items which I try to abstain from, but I can't get enough of my mother-in-law's vegetable curries, chutneys and pickles. Raja tries to copy her recipes at home but he can't get the right ingredients so I'm always living in a strong-smelling home but rarely partaking of his stinkbomb aromatic foods. And whatever I cook, he dumps a pile of stinky chili powder on! It's not easy being a desi-wife sometimes, I tell ya.
Vera is an air-atarian so feeding her has been especially difficult. She was only a few pounds away from hitting the 40 lbs mark, but I'm betting this trip has set her back. She mostly eats the stuff we brought- pasta and sauce, buttermilk pancakes from a mix, microwave popcorn, chocolate and also, Nanamma makes delicious french fries because potatoes, oil and salt are a language that is universal, just like love.
All this food-talk may have made you hungry but I'm not one to derail your New Year's resolutions, so as a courtesy, I'm providing an appetite suppressant in the form of this home video. You see, Raja made a little friend on his way to the shower (forgive his towel ensemble) and I just want to share with my friends back home. Because I'm a giver.

Thursday, January 15, 2015


My phone is acting up/ruining my life today. The IT department is working on it, but in the mean time, my brilliant smartphone photography skills are being wasted and my budding tetris career is completely on hold. I was only able to post a picture of myself (typical!) in the dress I wore for the festival today. It's from the clearance rack at Old Navy but it was a tube-top so I took it in and put some straps and a jaunty little scarf on it. It looks a lot like a bed sheet but I like to think it's of a higher thread count. Only the best for India's favourite festival! That I have no sentimental attachment to! The gist of today's celebration seems to be that we drop in on relatives at their homes, unannounced, and have a conversation which is mostly centred around us politely and repeatedly declining their offers of various food and drinks. Raja tells them a few things about our life in Canada in Telugu, which Vera calls "Indian". It's only cute because she's 4. She also called English "Sarnia language" today and got very embarrassed when her siblings corrected her in exasperated tones.

Now that the big day is over, I'm ready to pack on up and head on home! Yeah! Let's go! What's that, you say? The month is only half over? Shudder. It's the mosquitoes' fault. They're getting worse here. And even though we are slathered in 40% deet, and reapplying it repeatedly throughout the day, they are eating us alive. The bathroom floors are always wet in India (another aspect of our trip that's gotten real old, real quick) so if we forget to spray our feet again after exiting the loo, the mosquitoes feast! The fattest mosquito I've ever seen could not even stay airborne as it sluggishly tried to fly away from my person, having gluttonously drained my lifeblood. That little bugger. It's infuriating!We're so itchy. The little two-toned ants bite us too. Would everything just please stop biting us already? Yes, the list of things I'm "so over" is lengthening. I would hate to hurt my hosts' feelings. They are working so hard to keep us fed, clothed, comfortable. I'm a spoiled brat is what it all boils down to.
Never fear, faithful reader(s), once my precious phone is up and running again, I'll go back to posting all kinds of blurry, poorly lit photos for you to skim over browse while on the can view in all their majestic glory!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Happy Sankranthi/Thursday!

We got up at 5:00 this morning to go out for the bonfire. We hung out for a bit and then, having seen plenty of bonfires previously, decided to head back to bed. But it was so smokey in the house, Teja and I ended up with headaches. We're both crybabies sensitive like that. This holiday was not shaping up to be the fun-filled event we'd been promised in the brochure! Raja's Mom and Grandma made a special meal but, then again, they all seem special to me. Thanks, ladies!

We decided to go get the girls new earrings. Teja has been stuck with a hoop in one ear and a stud in the other for months. Of course my three daughters can't wear cheap earrings without getting infected earlobes. Of course they always lose their gold earrings. Indian earrings screw together so they're less likely to fall out and get lost but the posts on these suckers are so thick, I wasn't sure it'd be worth the trade off.
Our neighbours were kind enough to host the bonfire. Goodbye old junk, I hardly knew thee!

At the jewelry store. This sales lady tried pushing more expensive items on us until we were about ready to leave, then she gets the stuff we had been asking for all along. I didn't appreciate this tactic. 

We had to leave our shoes outside just like we do before entering a house. I see people with no shoes outside walking on the hot pavement all the time. I know what I would do! The newspapers would call it they great shoe napping spree of 2015.

Each girl got a pair of stud earrings except for the mom-girl. I wear white gold which they've never heard of here. They think my wedding rings are made of silver, like a peasant or something! 

There was a parade outside the store as we left. It was probably about something boring religious.

The man in the pink shirt appears to have albinism. I wonder if everyone stares at him like they do at me. :(

My parade view is momentarily blocked by this shipment of. ..... I'm going to say..fur. 

I didn't think it could get any louder what with the horns honking constantly but they sure proved me wrong. My eardrums hurt and my tympanic membranes hurt too.

Go team orange! 

I'll finish up this post with this video which I hope plays properly because it is a work of cinematic genius!*


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A trip down memory lane but only after a trip down a literal lane that stinks and has a lot of crazy traffic

Imagine being stuck in traffic behind this beast. 

They are transporting hay from the country to the city for the city slicker buffalos. 

We were walking to the store to buy some essentials. Like chocolate. 

We finally rode in one of those autos today. The kids and I sat in the back seat and Raja squeezed in beside the driver. They were chatting and laughing in no time. Raja later told me that the guy just couldn't wrap his head around the way Raja could speak the street lingo here and then switch to English with us. He was talking jive and that man giggled like a school girl, wee wee wee the whole way home. 

Earlier in our walk, an auto that already had four people in it stopped to pick us up. A family of six. Wth, man?! Picking up multiple fares at once is the norm here but that doesn't make it a clown car and that is another thing that my homie doesn't play. No extra fares, just us. Raja bosses everyone around here and they all listen. 

Raja's dad bought a new scooter on the weekend. Note it is not glitter-infused purple or hot pink with florals. 
I saw a family riding their scooter like this yesterday and the little boy at the front had albinism (!). I hope his parents have the means to protect him from the sun. I don't imagine his life being very easy living in this extremely sunny place. 

Vera and her bff/cousin Kavya

When Vera gets into a silly mood, she gets this wild-eyed, frantic look about her and her goofiness and mischief know no bounds. Kavya got to experience this one on one for the past few days. Sorry K!

Raja's cousin Rani, about to head home to the city with the famous temple Chris Rock visited in his movie "Good Hair". If memory serves me correctly, that temple traumatized me last time we were here but we had a great time at her house! 

Kavya convined Vera to only call Mrudula "bad girl". Sorry M!

Govitata and Vaibhavi going for a spin. Clearly, helmets are as popular as seat belts here. I'm going to get an ulcer. 

Vera and Vaibhavi enjoying some tablet time. 

Uncle Raja (Rajumamaya) has been characterized as the equivalent of the boogeyman by her parents and grandparents here. Ie: 'You'd better do what I say or else Uncle Raja is going to come spank you.' This is not a practice I condone. 

She's starting to warm up to this terrifying monster who's been menacing her from afar for the entirety of her young life. 

Raja' s mom and grandma spend their whole days catering to us jerks and it makes me feel like the worst daughter-in-law ever. Sometimes it's like I'm just lounging about, waiting for my next meal to be placed in front of me. I like to go on outings to break up the day a bit but while I'm out I'm in a big hurry to get back here. The kids bombard me with their questions like, why are there so many people here and why does it smell so bad. Dudes, I don't know! Just accept it like I have. I try and be patient but I started to lose it a bit last night when my three daughters were flailing around next to me in their sleep, thrashing their blankets off then scrambling to right them. I don't do well when my sleep is interrupted (understatement). I started thinking how a prison cot would've been more comfortable. (Melodrama intensifies in my sleepless state) Then I just wanted to go home! Just open the wardrobe and walk on through to my own bedroom. How 'bout it science?!
So, I helped myself become more mentally grounded today by listening to music. Familiar music helps with the surreal feeling from being in such a different place for what I deem a long period of time. Try it, you'll like it!

Hey, apropos of absolutely nothing, do you know who draped my sari for me on my wedding day? You'll never guess unless you're Amber because she was there rooting for me and giving me princess hair. It was Mrs. Joshi, our high school teacher! I tormented that sweet woman in her English class, with constant disruptions and calling her out on any and every mistake she made. I was such a bugger to her and then when I up and decide to marry this dreamboat of an Indian man with no local family members a mere 7 years later, who steps up for me, with her heart of gold and comes and dresses me for my wedding? I remember her putting my bindi on for me too. Without her help, I would have wrapped that sari like a toga and looked hideous. Likewise without Amber doing my hair, the toga would have been topped off with a messy ponytail. Thanks ladies!

Tomorrow is a festival where we wear new clothes and burn junk in bonfires. Sounds like good times!