Today we ventured to the local craft village to pick up some holiday gifts for our trip back to the US.  Now, the craft village is a sight to behold.  It is a little oasis in an otherwise loud, crowded city.  Spread out over quite a large area, pathways snake through rock gardens, statues, ponds, and a “museum”.  Statues of craftsmen and native farmers and such dot the landscape, looking right at home among the beautiful scenery.  They are very life like, so much so that at a distance they appear to be real people going about their daily business of crafting, farming, fishing, painting, and…  building statues themselves!  It is all quite charming and peaceful.  Unfortunately, for the second time, I forgot to bring my camera.  Next time…I promise!

On this visit, Scott convinced Addie and I to get our hands done with henna.  Now they have different names for it here which I don’t really know, but to me it is henna.  I have seen it on many people here.  It is always very intricate.

Though it looks very detailed, the whole process on Addie and I took about 10 minutes.  They apply the paste with little tubes that look like cake decorating bags.  The paste dries in about an hour, and then you can flake it off.  It takes some work to get it off, and I can imagine that the process would get pretty tedious if you had a large portion of your body done.  After the paste is removed, you are left with a light-colored stain.  Supposedly, in the next 24 hours, some sort of chemical reaction occurs that makes the color much darker.  You are not supposed to get it wet in this time as it will ruin the chemical reaction.

Unfortunately, it was evening and the kids needed showers before bed.  I had to sacrifice myself so that Addie’s could remain somewhat dry.  I washed her hair for her while she stood there like Frankenstein.  As a result, hers is darker than mine and will probably last longer, but mine is still pretty.

Scott wanted me to have this done for our trip back to the US.  If it looks as if it is wearing off completely by that time, I will try to get it done again before we leave.  If done right, it should last 4 to 6 weeks.  Next time I think I’ll let Addie go to bed as a dirtball! 🙂

If you have driven around Hyderabad near Hitech City (and presumably other places as well), you will undoubtedly have come in contact with the junk sellers.  Like the beggars, they flit in and out of stopped and moving traffic like Frogger on steroids, but unlike the beggars, they are selling things instead of just outright asking for money.

The junk sellers can be any age or gender, but they all have 2 things in common.  They all have some cheap junk that they feel is incredibly necessary to your life, and they all have this highly irritating habit of standing  and tapping on your window for a very uncomfortable duration.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve waved them away, if you are slowly inching the car forward and threatening to run over their foot, or if you let loose a stream of angry rantings (yes, Scott, I mean you…), they stay there, staring in the window, tapping, tapping, tapping, hoping that you will buy whatever it is they are selling just to make them go away.

Now, I wish that I could say that there is a good selection of cheap junk to choose from, or that the junk changes regularly so as to always be new and different, but it is not so.  Here is a rundown of what we have seen over the past 4 months  (I know that I have missed a few):

Toy Space Shuttles:  The peddlers walk amongst the cars, zooming their space shuttles through the air like toy  airplanes.

Toy well Pumps:  Each peddler has a bag full of them.  Tiny little water pumps with a moving handle that ACTUALLY PUMP WATER.  Though I have never examined one, I know that they pump water because it has been demonstrated at my window-side probably 200 times.  I’m afraid that these people must be suffering from carpel tunnel syndrome with the number of times they pump that little handle a day.

Tennis Racket Bug Zappers:  Is it a tennis racket?  Is it a bug zapper?  It’s BOTH!  Give that mosquito a good wack, and delight in the faint crackle and puff of smoke that results.  The score will most certainly be Love-Love for you and your electrified tennis racket!

Multi-connection car chargers.  Have a Sony cell phone, an Apple Ipod and a Nintendo DS that you want to charge in the car ALL AT ONCE?  Well, have they got the product for you!  They are nice enough to swing it around by the wires so you can get a good look at it too!

Multi-purpose towel:  I’m assuming that this is mostly to clean your car with, but since I’ve seen them wiping the sweat from their brow with it as well, I know that it has many uses.  Just don’t expect it to be particularly clean when you get it.

Rubber Balls:  A multi-colored ball, made of pure bounciness.  This I know because they stand for what seems like 5 minutes demonstrating that it bounces up and down, up and down, up and down.  I am not sure if it is some sort of hypnotism geared toward getting me to buy, but it leaves me wanting to scream:  “Its a ball, it is round, it bounces…I GET IT ALREADY!”.

Bobble Head Dogs:  A dozen little brown dogs that nod endlessly at the traffic from their perch upon a cardboard tray.  Bring one home today…they’re always very agreeable!

Our level of irritation with the junk sellers is directly proportional to how long they stand and tap at the window and how bad the traffic has been that day.

I have no idea what prices they charge for their wares, but I am certain, as with most things in India, the prices have a direct correlation to the color of your skin.  We would find that our price was much much higher than some of our friends here.

Perhaps some day I will buy something, just to find out, but I guess I have to wait for them to sell out of their bouncy balls and well pumps first.  Judging by the huge bags they carry, its going to be a long time.

I have been informed by my loving husband that yesterday I was way out of line.  He said that I was being too hard on the slimy, white cheese.  He even accused me of being downright mean.  “It’s not THAT bad,” he admonished.  I want it said here and now that I apologize for this brutal attack on an innocent dairy product.  It was unfair of me to say such evil, spiteful things, especially after all it has done for me.  For these last 4 months it provided me with my only link back to my Wisconsin heritage, however tenuous, and this is how I repay it?  For shame.  Thank you, Scott, for helping me to see the error of my ways.  Let me submit this as a formal written apology to the cheese, along with 20 community service hours to be spent admiring our neighbors and suppliers of all things dairy – the water buffalo.

Signed,

Stacy Fluegge

One of the downfalls of living in India is the lack of a good hunk of cheese.  Being a native Wisconsinite, this is particularily upsetting to me.  Growing up in Wisconsin, we had a cheese for every occasion.  Cheese platters, cheese logs, cheese sticks.  Cheese was available in countless varieties at every store and shop.  Oh, yes, I bristled at the term “cheesehead” when it was slung around by residents of that silly state to the south, but, as they say, “you don’t know what you’ve got until its gone.”  How true, how true, because In India, I have found exactly 3 cheese choices. They are as follows:

1.  “Cheese” in a box:  A white, slightly slimy, soft cheese, possibly a cousin of Velveta.  I’m not sure what it is supposed to be, but it tastes nothing like any cheese I have had before.  When I try to shred it for omelettes or tacos, its clumps up into a big, gooey wad of cheesy tentacles, not unlike a dead Man-o-war on a Florida beach.  It sticks to the cheese grater and flops down onto the omelette in a sorry clump, resisting any attempts to be spread around.  Sprinkling a casserole with this cheese is out of the question.  If I took it and wadded it up in my hand, we’d be right back to the original cheese chunk shape, just like silly putty.  We buy it and use it because its our only choice, but that doesn’t mean that I like it.

2.  Cheese in plastic:  Cheese slices, made of the same gooey cheese.  They look like white Kraft slices, but the resemblence ends there.  They are ok for making grilled cheese, I suppose, but then they tend to stick to my teeth and the roof of my mouth making me gag.  Certainly not what I look for in a cheese.

3.  Cheese in a box #2:  “Pizza Cheese”.  Presumably pizza cheese would be Mozzerella, right?  WRONG!  This is something else, masquerading as mozzerella.  It seems to be the white gooey cheese’s big brother.  All grown up and somewhat firmer, but not much tastier and certainly nothing like the real mozzerella that we’ve come to know and love. What I wouldn’t do for a REAL mozzerella stick right about now!  You know, where you take a bite and the cheese stretches out of your mouth like a great big piece of taffy.  “Pizza Cheese” will NOT supply that delightful experience.

So, as you might imagine, it was with great excitement that I came upon a 4th kind of cheese at the store the other day.  Now, I was a bit concerned, as the cheese container was very non-traditional, but I’m a good sport, and I figured that I’d give it a shot, just in case it contained something a little more palatable.

Behold…..

CHEESE IN A CAN!

Now, the words “processed cheddar” gave me the idea that it would probably be similar to gooey cheese-in-a-box, but I’d never know until I tried.

Opening the can was easy:

I’m not sure why, but I was immediately reminded of dog food.  It took a bit of thought, but I finally extracted the cheese from its metal confines by opening the other side of the can and pushing it out from the bottom.  It slid out of the can like the can 0′ cranberry sauce that you crack open at Thanksgiving.  However, to my surprise, it was NOT wobbly, or slimy in any way.  In fact, it was rather firm.  AT least, firmer than any other cheese that I have found here.

The taste test came next.  While I can’t say that it tastes just like cheddar, again, it is much better than anything else that I’ve found.  I definitely prefer it to ole white and slimy.

Tonight, I tried the grating test and found, much to my excitiement, that it actually grates quite well!  It comes off the grater like the little curlicues of wood from a band saw, and doesn’t stick together once grated.  I could take it and sprinkle it over omelettes and pizza without incident!  YES!

So, in the strangest of places, I have found something wonderful.  (Ok, that’s exaggerating a bit, I know – I’m prone to exaggeration).  It just goes to show you, never judge a book by its cover. (Or a cheese by its can!)

So, as you all know by now, I have a propensity for getting some very serious respriatory illnesses.  After this last, horrible bout of bronchitis, I think I may have to face the fact that this is going to keep happening again and again.  Unfortunately, I am already seeing signs that I may not have completely gotten rid of it, and the occasional cough that I have, though slight, is making me quite nervous.

Apparently, people are concerned.  Mujeeb, our driver, is particularly worried.  While he only told me once or twice to go to the doctor, most likely because he realizes that there’s no reasoning with me, he apparently lectured Scott at length about what kind of cure he should give me, and even had someone translate for him to make sure that Scott got it right.

Then, there was mention of the “fish” cure.  Scott’s co-worker (you know who you are! 😉 ) discussed this with us the other night.  While I had heard of it at some point in the past, I didn’t realize how popular this was until I looked the whole thing up.

The story goes like this:

Mr. Veeranna Goud was a generous and charitable man of Hyderabad.  One day, in the year 1845, he met a holy man.  Impressed by his kind nature, the holy man bestowed upon him the knowledge of a special formula of herbs that could cure people of asthma.  He blessed Mr. Goud and his well as well.  😉  The holy man instructed him to create this medicine using the blessed well water, and offer it free of charge to all who should need it, at a special distribution point called Doodh Bowli.

From what I understand, the medicine, now called the Bathini Fish Medicine, is prepared (and here’s where it gets strange…) and placed into the mouth of a live fish.  The fish is then swallowed whole.  It wiggles down the esophagus (presumably choking on the medicine as it goes), and somehow this cures what ails you.  I’m guessing that the fish doesn’t make out quite as well…  The “patient” is also given follow-up medicine to be taken in the next 45 days, as well as a strict diet to follow during this period.  The medicine is only administered one day a year, to be determined by the appearance of a particular heavenly constellation.  Oh, and you have to do it 3 years in a row in order to be cured….

The miracle cure recipe has been passed down from father to son for several generations, remaining for all time a family secret, and has become more popular as time goes by.  In fact, somewhere upwards of 10,000 people converge on Hyderabad from all over the country and across the world each year to partake of the Bathini Fish Medicine that is doled out by The Bathini Goud Brothers for one day a year.  The same blessed well is still used in the creation.  The mixing is still done at Doodh Bowli.  However, the exhibition grounds are now used for distribution due to the large numbers of people the event attracts.

It is a fascinating story, a modern-day fairy tale of sorts, but I am quite hesitant to swallow a live fish under any circumstances.  I will be interested in hearing more about this come June (the usual timing of the cure), but it would take an awful lot for me to partake in it.  Just the thought of standing in line with 10,000 asthmatic people is enough to make me say no.

However, if the bronchitis keeps coming back, and I have been sick enough for long enough, who knows?  Maybe desperation will make me decide that its not so fishy after all!

Tiger apparently has very discriminating taste when it comes to water.  Not only does he demand cold water, he demands the filtered stuff from the under-sink filter, and, now, he wants it in water fountain format-on the move like a cool mountain stream.

Yesterday when we turned on the filtered stuff to fill some bottles, he was right there waiting for it.  He proceeded to drink and play in it until the canister underneath emptied and we turned it off on him.  They make those little running water pet dishes, and I think that if he behaves himself, avoids abusing Beauty, and keeps his paws clean, Santa may just bring him one.

Looks like fun?
Looks like fun?

Last summer, while taking my legendary “road trip”, I stopped at one or two (dozen) rummage sales while in Wisconsin.  At one of those sales, I happened upon the coolest thing:  A model of a motorcycle made entirely out of lego blocks.  At $3, I couldn’t beat the price.  The only bad part was that we had to make the model ourselves.  I hoped that it would be good for some father/son bonding at some point.

When it came time to pack up to leave for India, the model went in our air shipment box.  I packed it knowing full well that Scott would probably never do it, and I would eventually be the one putting it together.

How wrong I was!

When I casually suggested that Scott and Ender make it this Saturday, I was surprised when Scott sent Ender to go and get it.  I was even more impressed when he finished the model completely that day.  While Ender, Addie and I chipped in here and there, the bulk of the project was Scott’s handiwork, and you must admit, the result is quite impressive.

Perhaps we’ve found him a new hobby besides work?

Hard at work...Notice all of the pieces?
Hard at work...Notice all of the pieces?
Proud Construction Crew showing off their creation
Proud Construction Crew showing off their creation
The finished product.  Nifty, Eh?
The finished product. Nifty, Eh?

The motorcycle now sits in a glass cabinet above our kitchen counter for all to see.  Scott has assured that he will never have to rebuild it by throwing away the directions.  I will do my best to keep it whole and sound for as long as possible.  Perhaps Santa will bring Scott another one to work on?

While it seemed a normal day from a work and school standpoint, several hotels around the city had Thanksgiving Feasts on Thursday.  We opted to join 2 other couples and their children for a dinner at my personal favorite, Hotel Novotel.

As you can see below, the food that was delivered to us was quite ornate and impressive. I really have no clue as to the names of the dishes, so I just wrote what they contained.  While my descriptions are lacking, taste surely was not!

Fancy Appetizer #: Apple and Ham something or other
Fancy Appetizer #3
Fancy Appetizer #2: Lobster bits
Fancy Appetizer #2
Fancy Appetizer #3:  Onions, Peppers and Zucchini
A large shrimp (called prawns here), served in a broth
A large shrimp (called prawns here), served in a broth
The main course:  Turkey and Stuffing and a baked potato
The main course: Turkey and Stuffing and a baked potato
Dessert:  Raspberry cheesecake!  Yum!
Dessert: Raspberry cheesecake! Yum!

While the food was very tasty, it ended up being a bit too fancy for our children’s very discriminating palates.  They really would have preferred a plate of french fries to the beautifully presented, lavish food that was placed in front of them.  So, instead of eating, they spent the majority of the time in the lobby with the face painters and balloon artists.

Again with the tiger face....
Again with the tiger face....
Ender Potter (notice the lightening bolt)
Ender Potter (notice the lightening bolt)
Happy Kids, Happy Thanksgiving!
Happy Kids, Happy Thanksgiving!

With the good food and the delightful conversation with our fellow expats, we had a wonderful time.  What a great way to spend Thanksgiving in India.

In light of the tragedy that we awoke to here in India this Thanksgiving, I thought it would be nice to reflect upon what our family has to be thankful for.

We are thankful that our children are healthy and happy.  Many here have little or no access to doctors, medications or clean drinking water.

We are thankful that we are financially stable in this worsening economy.  Many here have no jobs to speak of, no means of support.  They must beg on the streets or dig through the rubbish for their livelihood.

We are thankful for all of the friends and family here and back home who love us and support us, even if they are angry that we are so far away… 😉 Many are all alone on this day and every day, with no one knowing that they exist at all.

We are thankful that we have plenty of food on the table, a roof over our heads, and clothing on our bodies. Those basic necessities are lacking for people in many parts of the world, and not just in the “third-world” countries.

We are thankful that our children are able to receive a good education. In many places, children have no access to education, or must work for a living starting at an early age to support thier families.

We are thankful that we are all together today. Many families have been torn apart by war or disaster of some sort.  Children and parents left wandering and searching for one another, most never to see each other again.

We are thankful that we have had this chance to explore and learn from this great big world. The lessons that we learn here will follow us for the rest of our lives.

We wish you all of the best on Thanksgiving day, and throughout the year.

Love,

The Fluegges

I’m sorry to say that I may have inadvertantly deleted a couple of your comments due to the fact that the website was being hit with over 250 spam messages in the past 24 hours.  If you posted in the past couple of days and the post is gone, that’s why.  I’m very sorry.  I have a temporary fix on the issue, but I need a little more time to research a more permanent fix.  I will try to be more careful in the future.