Sunday, March 10, 2013

"Kitty" Parties

Back when Mr. ATK and I arrived in India (one year ago today, as a matter of fact!) we were walking down the street when we saw a flyer for a local restaurant. On the front of the flyer was the exclamation "We do Kitty Parties!!!"

Kitty parties? What's a kitty party? Keep in mind this happened really soon after Mr. ATK and I arrived and we were still getting used to the oddities and differences of Indian English (discussed at length here.) So after some discussion, we decided "kitty parties" must be the Indian equivalent of "kiddie parties." It makes sense, right? Kittens are baby cats and, you know, I'm fairly sure that the term "kid" actually refers to a baby goat. So we figured, they must have just confused "kiddie" and "kitty," those wacky Indians. They have a slightly different word for everything.

Fast forward a year, and we are in Hindi class. The teacher asks me to say the sentence "I used to play cards at kitty parties." Well, naturally, Mr. ATK and I started to giggle. The teacher asked why we were laughing and Mr. ATK starts to explain how in the U.S. we call parties for children "kiddie" parties, not "kitty" parties and the teacher stops him confused.

"Kitty parties aren't for children," he says. "They're for women."

"What's that now?" we say.

He goes on to explain how kitty parties are where women come together and be all women-like: dressed up in their fancy clothes and jewelry, gossiping and cat fighting. You know they are called kitty parties because women are like cats—always with the fighting. And wouldn't you know, these kitty parties cause problems in the family because the mothers-in-law and fathers-in-law usually don’t like them (apparently they usually invited. Probably a bunch of killjoys.)*

So the kitty party went from something I found mildly amusing to mildly offensive. The more you know.

*Our Hindi teacher is pretty sexist so maybe a non-sexist person would have given a less sexist description.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Have you seen this potato?

This potato?

No. Not that potato. The potato I'm talking about is skinny and white. Covered in fur. Has four legs. Likes to chew on furniture.

Oh. Uh...How about this potato?

Yep. That's the potato I'm talking about!

Yes, Dear Reader, the day that every dog owner dreads has finally happened. Aloo ran away.  (Spoiler alert: I found her. I don't want you to get all sad and worried.)

So here's what happened. It was early December*. Mr. ATK had left for Dubai the week before so it was just me and Aloo and two more rescue puppies.  Because I can't trust Aloo in the house by herself (and she broke the door to her kennel so I couldn't crate her) nor could I trust her alone with the puppies, I had to keep Aloo on one side of the roof and the puppies on the other. 

At this time, there were workers in the other apartments, getting them ready for the next tenants. On my way out, I stopped by the apartment with all the people working in it to tell them that there were dogs on the roof.  I usually mark the door by weaving the dog's leash through the door handle, but it never hurts to actually verbally tell people what that means. So I pop into the apartment and tell the foreman, "Hey, there are dogs on the roof, so, you know, be careful if you go upstairs." 

The foreman is all, "Yes, I know. Dogs on the roof. Gotcha. Don't worry."

So off I went to the mall, Christmas shopping for Mr. ATK.  

Oh, but before going to the mall, I stopped by the German Embassy for their annual Christmas mela** because I heard they sold real bratwurst and German beer. And while beer isn't that tough to find here, I certainly have not come across any bratwurst. Plus, I was told there would be sauerkraut. 

Overall, it was good. Of course, I paid $5.00 to get into the mela and then $7.00 for the plate of food making my bratwurst and German potato salad (with no sauerkraut, by the way) one of the most expensive brats I have ever had. I wasn't even at a Brewer's game. 

But yeah, so I went to the mall and came home and was greeted by the guard with, "I think the white dog is gone." 


The guard's English isn't that great, so I went inside and ran up to the roof. Of course, the front door to the building was wide open and all the workers were still working. But the roof door was slightly ajar and Aloo was nowhere to be seen.

So I run back downstairs and my driver is like, "He says Aloo ran away."

"When? What happened?" 

"About 10 minutes ago. He says some workers came and he opened the gate and then Aloo ran."

Meanwhile all the workers are just hanging out painting or whatever and when I tried to ask them about it, they just shrugged. Of course, the language barrier is an issue, but still...

Now, I get that leaving my dog in a communal space is not the best move, but I can't really leave her in the house because she destroys everything (we are still working on getting her used to being alone.) It's not my personal roof for only my use, but I told the people she would be up there and they were like, "That's cool."

So here's what really bugs me about the whole thing. Someone went up to the roof and opened the door allowing Aloo to escape. But there are two other entrances between the roof and the street: 1) the front door to the building and 2) the gate to the street. Apparently after whoever let her out, she was running around inside the building and the car park area. So everyone knew there was a dog, all of a sudden, on the loose. And yet no one did anything. No one was like, "Oops, I let this dog off the roof." Or was like, "Why is this crazy dog running around?" 

So they just left her and didn't say anything. They didn't alert the guard, who could have called my driver or my housekeeper. And so when the guard opened the gate to let someone in, he had no idea Aloo was on the loose and waiting by the gate. Not at all surprisingly, when the gate opened, Aloo made a bee line out the door and was off to roam the streets.

Now the guard can't just abandon his post to chase a dog, so I don't really blame him. I blame the douche who let Aloo out and who, instead of saying something (such as, "Oh shit, I opened the door to the roof and a dog just ran out"), just went about the rest of his day while the dog was on the loose inside the property.

So anyways, the guard indicates which way Aloo ran and Vicky-ji (my driver) and I set out to find her. I figured she would probably stay around the area she was familiar with and I'd find her playing with the grubby street dogs that I never let her play with. Vicky is asking all the people we pass if they've seen a white dog. At first it seemed like we were on the right track as various people were indicating that they has seen lil' Aloo and that he went thisaway or thataway. But then the leads grew cold. Vicky and I decided to split up.

So now I'm alone wandering through the neighborhood yelling "Aloo!" which, if you are not aware, means 'potato' in Hindi. Imagine you are sitting outside on a nice fall day and all of a sudden some crazy foreigner comes down your street yelling "Potato!" repeatedly. I can only imagine what the legions of drivers, guards, and everyone else that was outside thought of me while I was doing this. Sometimes I would chuckle to myself as I'd see them giving me the side eye during my hunt. I guess that's one of the perils of naming a pet after a vegetable in a foreign language.

But anyways, I continue to walk around Aloo's standard walking route with no success. About 45 minutes have now passed and I'm starting to get worried. I mean there's a lot that could happen to a dog here--tons of cars and packs of street dogs are just two of the dangers. As I'm kind of working myself up, a guard on a Scooter drives up and says he has seen my dog. (I don't recall if he was an Embassy guard or not. He may have been, though I didn't realize it at the time.) 

Yeah... so this guy says he's seen my dog....but that she ran away from him and he is chasing her and will catch her. I tried to tell him that Aloo is scared of everyone who is not me, Mr. ATK, our housekeeper, and our driver and that the more he chased, the more she would run. That worried me, because she might run too far or cross into a different neighborhood without being able to find her way back. Still the guy assures me he is on the case and speeds away. 

I continue to basically canvas the same four block area that I had been canvas for the past 45 minutes. Still yelling "Potato" and still having Indian people look at me funny. And you know how it goes. You start thinking, maybe you won't find the dog, especially with helpful people like Senor Moped trying to chase her down but really driving her further away. After 15 minutes along this line of thinking, I started getting sad, thinking maybe I wouldn't ever find Aloo. (You know how emotional we women are.***) 

All of a sudden an SUV passes by and stops and some men get out. Their clothing indicated they were guards or security people of some kind. Then I saw the "On Embassy Duty" sign on the car. 

"Ma'am," the leader says, "we hear your dog is missing. We are trying to find it. One man saw it not to long ago."

Well, now I just about lost it. I totally started crying. And nothing makes men more uncomfortable than a woman crying.**** They were all, "Don't worry. We'll find your dog." And I was like, "It's not your job to look for my dog. You have more important things to do." Of course you have picture the intermittent sniffling occurring as I'm saying this. 

They were like, "No, no, it's our job to help you." (It's totally not.) "Don't cry, ma'am, we'll find your dog."

I don't know why I got all sniffly. They were very awkward, which I found amusing at the time, even when I was trying not to cry. Luckily about 5 minutes after they pulled up, they received a radio message that Aloo was found. There was audible relief as they relayed the message along with an unspoken, "Stop crying now, Lady."

Turns out Vicky found Aloo totally not near any normal walking route. And, since Vicky is one of the four people Aloo likes, she came right to him when he called. 

And we all lived happily ever after.

*I actually started writing this post in December but got sidetracked. So perhaps it seems a little outdated, but I can't let a good story go to waste.
** "Mela" means "fair" in Hindi
*** Sarcasm
****I find this is true in all cultures. I'm fairly sure the only reason Mr. ATK proposed was to get me to stop crying. Whatever works, amiright?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Water buffaloes and hog deer and rhinos, oh my!

Mr. ATK and I had the pleasure of hosting Mama ATK and Best Friend ATK (heretofore know as BFATK) for the past two weeks. Now both Mama ATK and BFATK were pretty clear in letting us know that, were it not for us, India would not be a vacation destination for them. As such, I made sure to put some extra love and care into our vacation planning.

First up was a trip to Assam in northeast India.

Note: The arrow is pointing to Assam. Oh the wonders of Microsoft Paint.

Actually, stop. I'm going to back it up for a sec.

Before Mama and BFATK even landed on February 14 (Happy Valentime's!) we had a bit of an issue with the water. You see at approximately 7:15 pm, all the water stopped coming out of our faucets. This was weird because our water tank meter indicated that the tank was 60% full. So why was there no water? Where was the water? At first it started in the kitchen where I was washing dishes (to avoid any Mama ATK dirty dishes criticism.)  Then the water stopped. then I went to check the other faucets and though water initially came out, it slowed to a trickle quickly. Now Mama ATK and BFATK were scheduled to arrive at 9:10 pm and we had to leave for the airport at 8:30 pm. How could I tell them that once they had finally arrived after a 14 hour plane ride that there was no water? Not for bathing, toothbrushing, toilet flushing, nothing.

Mr. ATK, on the other hand, was a little less concerned about the situation. I was like, "We need to call them to come fix this," to which he replied, "Well, you are only supposed to call in an emergency. I'm not sure if this is an emergency." I did not care for this response. I may have snapped a bit when I said, "We have absolutely no functioning running water. If that is not an emergency, then what, exactly, is your definition of a water emergency?" After that, Mr. ATK called and the maintenance folks were here surprisingly quick and fixed the whole problem in a jiffy (the water pump was broken).

So after that whole production, Mama ATK and BFATK arrived without incident and the ride home marked their first exposure to Indian traffic. Mama ATK was a trooper and managed not to gasp or dramatically cover her eyes as the traffic weaved around us, honking maniacally.

Ok, after all this came the trip to Assam (see map above).

First, we had a day Guwahati, the capital of Assam. This was Mama ATK and BFATK's first real exposure to the "real" India, I suppose. They found it very overwhelming. In the words of BFATK, "I don't want to spend the whole day in the hotel room. But, I don't want to go out there, either." We did try to venture out to the Kamakhya Temple, but it was crowded, both with people and monkeys, all of which seemed to intimidate them. After that we spent a lot of time in the hotel bar.

The real purpose of the trip east was to visit Kaziranga National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with two thirds of the worlds one-horned rhinos, and a bunch of other stuff.

A male one-horned rhino
This was pretty much the highlight of the trip as we took three safaris--one on elephant, and two in jeeps--to see all the different wildlife.
Mama ATK and me and our very own forest ranger complete with shotgun on the hunt for rhinos at 6 am.
We saw water buffaloes, and hog deer, swamp deer and one other type of deer that slips my mind at the moment. We saw wild elephants and rhinos (obviously), who occasionally got a little too close for comfort.

Ok, so he's not too close to our jeep, but we did have one rhino (not pictured--we affectionately called him Chargey) give us the side eye when we came around the corner and got a little too close. The driver had to stop the car as we engaged in a stare down with a giant myopic animal (who was armed! with his horn!). The  forest ranger even put a bullet in his gun. luckily, Chargey must've indicated he was backing down, because eventually we started up the car and drove on by without incident.

Let's see other than that, the rest of the trip was good. We went to the Taj Mahal--I believe I'll have seen this thing like 5 times by the time we leave; good thing we get to pay the local ticket prices (40 rupees for Indians, 750 rupees for foreigners.)  I took Mama ATK and BFATK on a bicycle rickshaw tour of Old Delhi one day while Mr. ATK went to work. I wasn't sure they'd enjoy it, but luckily instead of being terrified being in a metal open air carriage being pulled through heavy traffic by a dude on a bicycle, they thought it was fun. So despite not really want to come to India for India's sake, they were game for experiencing all the craziness and were really open minded, making the trip extra awesome.

Some of their observations on India (as observed by me):

  • Lots of honking (I think I wrote my second blog post about that)
  • An abundance of "chip huts"--little stand alone stores in the rural areas, and in cities that sell mainly chips and snacks.
  • RUBBLE! -- BFATK never seemed to get over the amount of rubble everywhere. (Her: "Why is there a pile of bricks there?" Me: "I don't know. Maybe they working on that building" Her: But the building is already finished."
  • The lack of Diet Pepsi in plastic bottles.
Besides that... nothing else is popping out at me. Well, Mama ATK and BFATK, feel free to add more of your observations in the comments.