Saturday, June 1, 2013

Meditations on Miller High Life (It's the Champagne of Beers, you know)

Greetings Readers!

So it has been almost two months with no post. I know, I know. You've been going through ATK withdrawal.  Mea culpa. It has been a busy couple of months since my last post.  Where to start?

March (before the Thailand trip)

I volunteered to chair the food and beverage committee for the Embassy's annual 4th of July party.  As the title suggests, I head the committee that arranges both the food and the beverages for this shindig.  Now, if there is one thing I enjoy, it's planning a party menu.  I suspect it runs in the family--MamaTK's Packer parties are a thing of Wisconsin legend.  Of course, I don't have a Costco at my disposal here.  And I'm not sure that beer brats and giant cupcakes would be appreciated at this type of party anyway.  Still, it has been interesting working with my team to set up a tasting menu--there have been lots of arguments about whether anything on a skewer is too dangerous and how many types of chicken you can serve when you can't serve beef or pork. Official tastings are next week.  Perhaps I'll let you know how it goes.

Now, while I think I having pretty made food-deciding skills, my drink choosing skills are not so hot.  Really, the problem is beer.  I need to order beer and I really do not need a wide selection of beer. The only guideline I have is that the beer be American (duh!).  I offered up beer choices to other folks on the committee and nobody was really passionate about any particular beer. As a Wisconsinite, I have a loyalty to Wisconsin beers.  Unfortunately, Spotted Cow is not available in India so I am considering buying some Miller product.  I decided to consult noted beer enthusiast Mr. ATK on my decision.  I was heartened when he himself suggested, "Why don't you order Miller?"  So then I was like, "That's what I was thinking.  But what kind of Miller should I order?  High Life?"  This caused him to break into uncontrollable laughter.  Apparently he thinks Miller High Life would not be appropriate for an American Embassy function, even though I non-ironically reminded him that it is "the champagne of beers." He also poo-poo'ed Genuine Draft.  I didn't even bother suggested MD64.  I suggested Blue Moon, too, but he said it's not made in America plus it's Belgian style beer.  He did give Miller Lite his stamp of approval, though.  We'll see what I end up choosing.  Maybe it will be Sam Adams.  You never know. Wildcard, bitches!
What's so funny? It's not like it's Milwaukee's Best or anything.

moving on to...


Most notably, in April I started watching season one of The Wire.  It is now June 1st and we are wrapping up season 3.  As I mentioned before on Facebook, I am now one of those white people who like The Wire. (#85 on the list of "Stuff White People Like")  I am also now one of those people who gets upset that a random review of The Great Gatsby on Al-Jazeera spoiled the fact that Stringer Bell dies.*  Why you gotta do that Al-Jazeera? Why?

Apart from new television watching habits, Mr. ATK and I also visited the holy city of Varanasi in April.  Word on the street is if you die in Varanasi and are cremated there you get to skip reincarnation and go right to heaven.  So as you can imagine there are lots of funeral pyres on the banks of the river.  I can't really describe it to you, so I'll post some pictures instead.  I will say that we stayed on the top floor of our guesthouse and every morning at dawn a marauding troupe of monkey would descend on our front porch, swing in our hammock chair, knock on our window threateningly, and even tried to open our door to come in.  Need I remind you, Mr. ATK is quite afraid of monkeys, ever since he was robbed at the monkey temple in Kathmandu.

Anyways, behold! Varanasi!
Me putting a candle in the river.  Probably not the best thing for the environment as the river is already filthy.  

Funeral pyres at dusk

River parade! (It was Ram's birthday while we were there)

Panoramic view of the ghats from the river

which brings us to...


Well, perhaps you've heard (or perhaps you haven't) but it has been like 113 degrees consistently for  weeks.  I suppose that is not international news, but it certainly makes life unpleasant.

At the end of May, a delegation of ICT executives led by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of South and Central Asian Affairs and a senior official from the Secretary's Office of Global Women's Issues came to India to explore the gender gap in ICT.  This visit was my first playing a pretty big role in the planning and coordination.  The delegation was in India for four days--two in Delhi and two in Bangalore (I obviously worked on the Delhi portion).  Overall, the trip was a success.  I learned a lot sitting in on conversations the delegation had with private sector, governmental, and NGO groups to discuss why fewer girls study science and engineering, why women are less likely to pursue tech careers, and why they are less likely to hold leadership positions in tech firms. Ann Mei Chang, who organized the delegation in Washington and whose idea this whole thing was wrote a great post about the visit for the State Department's "DipNote" Blog.  You can read the whole thing here.  (Also you can see me in the picture! Way in the back, but, still counts!)

One thing I did learn from the trip is for a delegation of 11 women, it is smart to factor in time for bathroom breaks. The more you know....

Of course it wouldn't be a month in the ATK household if we didn't travel somewhere.  In May we decided to beat the heat by heading up to the mountains.  So we took the UNESCO world heritage toy train ride up to Shimla--which used to be the summer capital of India during British rule. (Because, again, it is godawful hot here right now.)

Shimla was beautiful.  I was a little concerned before going because the weather predicted highs of 97 degrees.  While this was still 15 degrees lower than the days in Delhi, it still seemed a bit hot.  I'm not sure whether it ever did hit 97 in Shimla, but walking up on the mountain ridge around noon it didn't feel that hot.  Maybe I am just sensitized to super-heat.

For Shimla, one of the key attractions is the toy train.  It's actually a UNESCO world heritage site (if a train ride counts as a site.)  Unfortunately, when purchasing tickets, I was unaware that there was a first class train and a non-first class train.  We ended up on the non-first class train.  It's not particularly comfortable (and this is a five hour ride.)  Also, though the weather in the mountains is cooler, the ride starts at noon at the bottom of the mountain, where it is 113 degrees.  As a result, the first couple hours of the train ride were hot and sweaty and I was sitting in the sun the whole way.  I'm fairly sure the Indian folks across from us were taking pictures of us, which normally doesn't bother me, but it's kind of annoying when you are dripping with sweat and cranky.  I would have probably taken more pictures but I was not feeling it. 
The toy train passing over one of the many bridges. I didn't actually take this picture

Our train at Barog station on the way to Shimla
Shimla itself is a nice town.  Picturesque and up in the mountains.  The only problem? Monkeys.  Yes monkeys apparently live in alpine forests in India.  As mentioned, Mr. ATK does not like monkeys (what with his monkey-related PTSD and all).  In fact, one day we were followed by a creepy dude.  He was not begging exactly, just following us and babbling.  He followed us for ten to fifteen minutes as we walked around one day.  While I became increasingly agitated by his stalking, Mr. ATK was focused on not crossing any monkeys.  I kept pestering Mr. ATK, "That guy is following us!"  Only to be told, "Careful, that monkey is walking right toward us."  The guy did end up following us into a restaurant, and then Mr. ATK was like, "Hey that guy is following us!"  He (the stalker) may have been harmless and maybe just a bit touched in the head or something, but it is still disconcerting to be followed. Thankfully, he wasn't waiting for us when he got out of the restaurant.  And there were no monkey-related incidents.

Also, Shimla has a famous temple dedicated to the Hindu god Hanuman (aka the monkey god.)  We did not go visit that temple.

Mr. ATK in front of one of the many "Beware of Monkeys" signs

Public enemies 1 and 2

Panoramic of Shimla


June has just started so who knows what it will bring.   Hopefully I'll get around to letting you know sometime before August.

*The irony of me spoiling String's death by writing that is not lost on me. Thankyouverymuch.

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