Friday, July 20, 2012

About India...

Things I love:

  • Tailor made shirts! Mr. ATK and I visited Grover the tailor and got him some suits and me some blouses. Fine fabrics sewn together to perfectly compliment my non-cookie cutter figure at $32 a piece. I don't think I can ever go back to Van Heusen. Sorry JC Penneys.
  • The fact that the name "Grover" is popular here and doesn't remind people of a shaggy blue Muppet yelling antonyms. Oh how I crack myself up shouting "near" and "far" after meeting a Grover.
  • Khan Cha Cha! The most delicious chicken and paneer tikka there is. So good.
  • You know what? I'm going to expand that previous bullet point to encompass all Indian food. It's got a kick (in fact, my stomach tends to revolt in I eat it for, like, a week straight) but it's very tasty. Dosa, chicken tikka masala, lamb tikka masala, paneer tikka masala.... it's all right up there with Korean food for me. 
  • Fabindia! Or as I call it "The Indian Gap." It has traditional Indian clothes like kurtis and saris, made in a traditional manner but uses rural producers in something called "inclusive capitalism"... Uh, and it sells organic things... erm, yeah... I really just like the clothes. If there's some sort of fair trade stuff/helping women out of poverty stuff in there, that's an added bonus.
  • Cricket. Okay, well maybe I don't "love" it per se, but I'm certainly interested in it. I watch it whenever I see it on tv. In fact, the games are so long that usually they edit them down to just the action, which makes them exponentially more interesting. Baseball should consider this strategy. Of course, then the games would only be 30 minutes long, but they could easily be shown opposite 'According to Jim.'
  • Kabaddi. Another Indian 'sport' that I have never seen but only heard about. Still I love it. Listen to this: Two teams stand on opposite sides of a playing area. One player from one team has to run over to the other side while repeating the word "kabaddi" over and over. They have to try and tag someone on the other team and then make it back to their side without being caught by the other team and without breathing. My reaction to this being explained to me was to exclaim, "That's a sport?!" Because it sounds like a cross between Red Rover and Steal the Bacon. Look for it in the 2020 Olympics. 

Things I do not love:
  • Nestle's Chocolate Morsels are very expensive.
  • Even more expensive is any type of seasonal candy (you know, Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs, Reese's Peanut Butter Hearts, Reese's Peanut Butter Christmas Trees. The standards.) At the commissary a bags of those sells for $16. Yes, you read that right--SIXTEEN DOLLARS! Since that is patently ridiculous, I assume no one buys them. What makes it extra funny to me is that after products expire, the commissary will sell them for 50% off. It's totally a caveat emptor* situation, but you can get some good deals on things. And if you toast stale Pop-tarts, you can't even tell that they're stale. But even at 50% off, these year old seasonal candies cost $8 which is equally hilarious.
  • The driving is still nuts
  • The heat is crazy. I mean, I'm usually cold, but I've finally found a temperature where I am horribly, ridiculously, uncomfortably hot. That temperature is 112 degrees Fahrenheit. Now its down in the high 90s and it feels refreshingly cool.
  • Learning all the different names for family members in Hindi. I'd expand, but that will probably end up as blog post of its own soon enough.

Sunday, July 15, 2012


Happy 4th of July, Everybody!

Yes, I know, I'm a little late wishing the good ole U.S. of A. a happy birthday. And I sincerely apologize. I hope Lady Liberty and Uncle Sam and the whole crew forgive me. 

I've always enjoyed the 4th, mainly because I enjoy fireworks, hot dogs, parades, and people sitting around in circles of lawn chairs drinking beer and reminiscing about some iteration of "the good old days." For me, this usually occurs in Wakefield, Michigan (the Upper Peninsula, or "North Wisconsin" as it should rightfully be called.) But due to circumstances beyond my control, I am in India without lawn chairs to circle and without Miller Lite to drink.  

Still, the US Embassy, as all embassies are wont to do, put together a shindig to celebrate our "National Day" (we don't really call it Independence Day over here, for whatever reason.)  Also, fun fact, usually the "official" National Day celebration (you know, the one with important people and dignitaries and stuff) is in February on President's Day because it's insanely hot in July and/or there are torrential downpours every day (we call those "monsoons.") I suspect this is partly why we call the celebration "National Day" instead of Independence Day, because usually it's not on Independence Day. Mr. ATK was the emcee at the "official" National Day event. Because he is awesome.

So, unlike other embassies*, our embassy put on two (TWO!) National Day shindigs--official and unofficial. On June 30th (Saturday evening) they had the unofficial celebration on the baseball field. This was your standard festival--or attempt at a standard 4th of July festival. There was food and booze, which you could buy with tickets that you had to buy first. There were eating contests and tug-o-war and bouncy castles for the kids all set to the sweet music of a live band covering American hits ranging from ABBA to Billy Ray Cyrus. And, apparently similar to your Fourth this year in the US, it was 110 degrees the whole time. 

Yet, despite having everything a Fourth of July celebration could want, save a parade and Miller Lite, there were some peculiarities that made me either chuckle or yell at a throng of competitive eaters. First, the chuckle worthy things--also known as "food." There was quite a spread at this event. They had various booths with Asian, Mexican, Southwestern, and Midwest food. Now usually Midwestern cuisine is not a cuisine that is typically celebrated. So naturally as a diehard Midwesterner I was pleased to see that our too often overlooked food finally made it to the big time--a fair! What delicious Midwestern food will I find here to remind me of home? I wondered. Tater tot casserole? Beer brats? Fried cheese? Regular cheese? Some other dish smothered in Cream of Mushroom soup?

Well, Reader, you can imagine my surprise when none of those things were on the menu. Instead, the Midwestern food offered was chicken pineapple pizza, margherita pizza, pepperoni pizza, buttered corn, and corn on the cob. Unless by Midwest, they were referring to Midwest Italy, the only thing on that list that resembled food in the Midwest was corn on the cob. And then they didn't even have mayonnaise or Parmesan cheese. 

Entertainment-wise, in addition to the band, they have competitive eating. Pies and watermelon. They were full sized pies, too. For some reason seeing the pies lined up on a table made me think of the hilarity and third degree burns that would ensue if the pies were fresh out of the oven. I don't know if I saw that in a movie or a sitcom or something, but I could picture it very clearly. Anyways, for both eating contests they let people use their hands. Now, in my limited experience with eating contests (Fish Day Ice Cream Eating Contest Participant '86-'89) you are not allowed to use your hands. That's what makes it a jolly good time. Especially for the pie! Think of the humor of somebody trying to devour a blueberry pie without using their hands! Hilarious, I say! I kept shouting, "Don't use your hands!" and "You can't use your hands!" while simultaneously complaining to those around us about the flagrant use of hands in the eating contests. I believe Mr. ATK was sufficiently embarrassed. He also had never heard of hand-less competitive eating. He's clearly led a sheltered life on those army bases. 

Eventually, after the eating was done and winners were declared, the fireworks started. This was really the first time I had seen fireworks that weren't over a body of water. Well, except for those few times we went to the fireworks in Bessemer, Michigan. There you sat on the football field of a stadium while hell fire rained down upon you because the fireworks weren't shot high enough in the air. We stopped going there after a couple years. 

Still, the fireworks display was very nice. Of course during the whole show, they played Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water." (Fire in the sky! Get it!? Do you get it?! It's FIRE in the SKY!! Like the fireworks!) At first I thought it was clever, but then the song just did. not. end. I had never heard a 20 minute version of "Smoke on the Water" before and, quite frankly, I don't ever need to hear it again. But the fireworks themselves were very nice. I do so love fireworks.

And now I leave you with Senor Coconut's delightful version of "Smoke on the Water." 


(No, I don't know who the little girl is in the video.)

*I assume other embassies don't have two celebrations for their National Day because not many embassies have as many people here as we do. But I could totally be wrong. Maybe they all have a separate "fun" party. Also, Mr. ATK and I went to Norway's Constitution Day celebration back in May and it was awesome.  

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Madeleine Albright says "Hi!"

Ok, no she really didn't say, "Hi!" She did ask if we were a tandem couple though. It's because I look so professional.