Creating Indian Bracelets

In the basement of my hotel outside one of the many restaurants, a turbaned gent sits cross-legged in front of a small charcoal fire taking requests to make bracelets.  If you dine in the restaurant, you get a complimentary bracelet.  Of course, I’m not eating in India so I was told to just tip the craftsman a few dollars and he will make some for me.  I decided to tip him with all my remaining rupees.

Picking out the colors I wanted from the blocks on sticks, he melts each color, smearing them onto his tool one at a time .  After sizing up the two thin pieces of copper onto my wrist which he will curl the melted colors around to form a circle, he expertly rolls out the colors somehow manipulating the swirls of black, gold and silver to form a gorgeous and unique piece of art.  After some banging and more sizing, the bracelet is finished and hot.  Literally.  Allowing it to cool off, I proceeded to get others made for Mia and co-workers.  When I proudly wear mine, I will always remember my incredible adventure in India.

Eating Challenges in India

I ate fish on a plane.  Not wise.  After spending a week in India only drinking bottled water and eating Cliff bars, I was so hungry I tempted fate and took a bite of the offered meal on my Emirates flight out of India.    After 2 bites, common sense took over and I put down the fork.  Facing 2 long flights to get to Munich from Hyderabad, I couldn’t afford to be sick so all eating airplane food had to cease.  Too risky.  But with an aching back, I did order up an OJ with a side of whiskey to loosen up my muscles.  Starving but wise I am and 5 pounds lighter too.WP_20170320_18_14_30_Pro (2)

Life on the road with a weak stomach is a challenge.  First, I have to pack enough food to last me and scads of Imodium.  Cliff bars are heavy thus the aching back from my backpack full of snacks.  Then, you have to get used to explaining to everyone inviting you to eat that you just can’t partake and try not to share too many medical details but just enough to get them to stop pushing food on you even though they are just trying to be hospitable.  Socially it’s awkward at best to tag along with those of strong stomachs as they go to the “hot” restaurants and sample the local cuisine and you can’t join in.  I have to keep explaining that it all looks delicious so as not to offend our hosts.  But, no thank you, if I eat the lamb curry and lentils, I’ll die. 

Unfortunately, one of our team members did partake and felt like dying for at least a day.  She tempted fate and lost.  Checking on her and sending up Gatorade and antacids, we all knew it could happen to any of us.  Nothing worse than being on the road and getting ill.  No one to hold your head as you puke your guts out or get the hotel doctor for a house call.  Luckily, she recovered in time to fly home.

Okay, besides Cliff bars I did happen to sample wine in every city including a nice Chateau St. Michelle Syrah in Delhi.  I certainly eyed the morning breakfast buffets at the hotels as they were over-the-top with offerings from all around the world.  Thom would have gorged himself had he accompanied me.  He likes a good buffet.   One day I did go down and got a plain waffle.  Very boring but it was hot and delicious.

The work cafeterias offered a wide variety of options daily from Indian cuisine to Subway.  Since the locals eat with their hands, there are washing stations for easy clean up.  Ice cream is a big hit too and necessary to cleanse the palate after a hot and spicy meal.  The coffee cart was interesting with delicious (I’m told) boiled sugar cane sweetened drinks served in small clay pots (biodegradable).  The barista was kind enough to just give me one of the little cups to take home as a souvenir.

Now I’m off to Germany where I will try not to gain back the 5 pounds when I grab a pretzel or two. 

Dog vs. Monkey. Monkey won. #india

Walking the local streets of Hyderabad, we heard intense barking.  A group of dogs, so skinny their ribs stuck out, were going crazy by the side of the busy road so, of course, we went to investigate.  “Don’t get too close!” my co-worker yelled as I weighed the odds of dying if I ran through scooters, cars and buses to get a picture of the monkey vs. dog urban turf war.  In a wise choice, I decided not to get any closer to the angry monkey as he drove off the dogs and wandered back into the trash-infested vegetation to claim his territory.  One lone dog raced up a piece of broken concrete to continue the battle, barking furiously at the monkey but no longer with back-up.  Monkey 1, Dogs 0.


So it goes in India.  Finally escaping the cocoon of hotels and offices, I broke free after work to walk around and soak up the street life in Hyderabad, a city known for it’s tech worker population.  Tall office buildings for HSBC, Allegiant, Expedia, etc. give shade to the tin shacks and roadside food carts where locals huddle to eat in the heat.  Amidst the dirt and debris, we dodged traffic to get a flavor for the neighborhood.  I was struck by the similarity to what I observed in China both with the abject poverty of the locals and the camaraderie of the people smiling as they congregated on the streets to eat and chat.

My colleague, a diverse female, and I got many long stares as we walked, the only Westerners in sight.  I waved back to the children looking at us with curiosity.  They smiled in return. The men I ignored as they gave us “up and down” looks.  You get used to being surprised by men’s behavior here unfortunately.   The local men immediately speak only to our male team member travelling with us.  Men like to take over and make decisions for the women, a practice that doesn’t sit well with strong women like me.  I now understand why the Indian women I have observed in work situations can speak very loud and firm.  They probably have to in order to live and work in this type of environment and have their voices heard.  Good for them!

Another day in India and then off to Munich and London.  What a contrast that will be to India.   Cheers!



Good Bye Delhi, Hello Bangalore!

Travel is always an adventure.  The Delhi airport, however, definitely took the foreign airport experience to a new level from the armed guards strutting around with large assault rifles to free mandatory massages by security, it didn’t disappoint in the WTF factor. 


Jet Airways was our inter-country flight option.  Not a fan.  Even my small carry-on bag was deemed “too heavy” for the flight so I had to check it.  So much for packing light to avoid the inconvenience of waiting for my luggage.  Just how damn tiny is our plane that a small carry-on doesn’t fit in the overhead?  Dude checking me in couldn’t understand my flight info and tagged my bag to Hyderabad-my next destination in two days.  Explaining I really needed my bag to follow me to Bangalore and not skip ahead to Hyderabad without me took some time and effort, though eventually I believe we got it right but I’ll reserve judgement until I can confirm the bag makes it to the right destination.  Not holding my breath.

Entering the security area, my female teammate and I were told to go to the most remote scanner as we were “ladies”.  Sure enough, not only were there separate “lady” and “gent” lanes to walk through but the ladies got to go into a special curtained tent area where I proceeded to get the most thorough pat down EVER.  I’m talking full body, no private part left untouched and I didn’t even get introduced to the guard.  Perhaps I should have asked for an address where I could send a Christmas card because after that security massage, she knew me better than most of my dearest friends. 

With bags and body checked, we proceeded to shop.  It was that or grab a smoke in the multiple smoking lounges, but I don’t imbibe even after a quality pat down.  Along with the smoking lounges which were quite crowded, there were prayer lounges too.  I chose to check out the Benetton shop which is a blast from the 80’s in the U.S. but apparently still quite popular around the world.  After advising my co-worker to verify the size portions, as a medium would probably be small in US sizes, sure enough she ended up buying the extra-large for her medium-sized husband. 

Why, why do nice airports still have squat toilets for the ladies?  They had the regular kind as well so is it to make the visitors from China feel at home?  I did find it interesting that every bathroom had multiple bathroom attendants who literally wiped your toilet seat for you before inviting you into the stall and then they handed you a paper towel to dry your hands.   I’ll remember these hard-working gals when I think my job is tough and remember to count my blessings.

Spying a spa across the promenade, I decided to follow up my full body massage by the guard with a lovely 30-minute foot massage.  Now,  I haven’t had many massages since my Dragonfly Spa membership in Shanghai so it was quite the treat.  In China, they soak your feet in a big bucket of hot water first which makes sense because people’s feet are yuck.  Really, who on Earth would want to rub dirty feet?  Obviously, here in India it’s not a concern because they got right to the action with no cleaning.  Double yuck. The Indian version of foot massage involved some pretty rough pulling and cracking of the toes and the use of a small wooden rod that she dug into each toe to make a point.  Pretty sure I’ll have bruises but it was all for the greater health and well-being of my body.  Finally, the rough stuff stopped and was followed by a lovely lotion rub that felt amazing.  Here I was leaving Delhi for Bangalore and enjoying a massage.  Who am I and how did I get so lucky???

Finally arriving at our gate, I was surprised to find chaises upon which weary travelers could recline and relax before their next terrifying flight within India.  Ahhhh, it’s all about the journey and what a gift travelling is to experience other cultures.  Next stop Bangalore.

A new day breaks in India

The ABJASS strike has been called off with new talks underway between the government and the group who vowed to shut down the city of Delhi with thousands of protesters if their voice was not heard and action taken. This alleviates some of my tension as I face my first work day in India and brace for the grey pollution that I can taste sitting inside.  Yum.

The ethnic Jat group was campaigning for quotas for Jats in state government jobs and educational institutions.  It’s all about good jobs, diversity, representation and being treated equally all over the world and protests do work. The  U.S. is finding that out too.

After a long nap and on/off bouts of sleep overnight, I am up watching the local neighborhood outside my hotel wake up.  While I am in a gated compound, the hotel is adjacent to a desolate urban scene with trains rumbling by and hard dirt spaces filled with street carts, homeless camps and construction materials.  I see men walking by and students in uniform making their way to school.  The cars are small and white with the 3 wheel Tuk Tuk carts everywhere and scooters/bikes weaving in, out and between lanes.  General chaos with loose rules of the road by the look of it from my fifth floor perch.

Though it is going to hot here today-close to 100 degrees-the men I see walking by are wearing long pants and long sleeve shirts.  No casual shorts and flip flops here despite the heat.  Carts are being set up again on the side of the roads to provide wares and food.  Hard life indeed.

Where are the women?  Are they home with children?  At brunch yesterday with my male boss and female co-worker, the host of the restaurant at the hotel came to our table but only spoke to the male in the group.  “Get used to it” was the comment from my boss as we commented on the snub.  I’m wondering if this discrimination will be prevalent at work today.  But, hey, they had a clown for the kids at the brunch and he was open to a photo op with a female so perhaps all will be okay.  Here’s hoping!


Sunday Brunch at the Westin Gurgaon-I didn’t eat but enjoyed the clown for the kids!


India First Impressions

India.  Never really thought I would travel here but, as with China, life takes you to unexpected places if you open yourself up to the possibilities.  Of course, with these adventures come the acrid stench of pollution so prevalent where the government doesn’t regulate air quality.  Waking up in Delhi, my eyes and throat are already burning at the 200+ AQI “haze” outside which hangs over the bleak landscape of the local neighborhood outside my hotel room.

On the trip leg from Amsterdam to Delhi, the India culture was evident immediately.  Snacks on the plane were nothing I had ever heard of vs. the usual pretzel/peanut offerings.  I’m still not sure what it was as I am following a strict “never eat on plane” routine to protect my weak stomach.  I looked on as people enjoyed their snacks and dinners and I ate my protein bar.  Boring but necessary.

As I travel, the hot beverages I enjoy tend to move to tea vs. coffee with the electric tea kettle always available.  French press for coffee was the option in New Zealand and also offered in India.  I use  only bottled water, of course, for all beverages so that my Imodium stash is not needed.  Milk is not readily available everywhere so powdered cream is the alternative.  I’ve already gone through my supply of bottled water and had to ask for more.  Even when brushing your teeth, you MUST use bottled water or die.  Seriously.

Enjoying a very Western waffle/juice/coffee room service breakfast on Sunday morning, I am watching The Voice.  Seems that India, like China, is in love with music reality shows.  I remember watching endless reruns of the The Voice in Shanghai and Delhi is no different.  Back-to-back episodes are running while I rest up from the long journey to get here.

Entering the hotel compound around 1:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning, the streets were still busy with many enjoying food carts on the side of the road, which would kill me but Thom would have enjoyed.  Rat or cat, Thom can and did eat everything in China and never got sick.  Never questioning the “mystery meat on a stick”, he will miss out on the India delicacies offered.  So sad because I always lived vicariously through his cast iron stomach.

Staying at The Westin Gurgaon, we had to pass through a guarded gate where our car was searched. Upon pulling up to the hotel, we had to have our bags scanned outside just like at the airport and walk through a metal detector and be hand scanned by a security guard.  WOW.  I would imagine a Western hotel like this could be a target for terrorism so high security is appreciated.  I will not be wandering out of the hotel tomorrow as I normally would when I hit a new country.  While I do look forward to seeing more of India, there is some unrest with election results coming out this weekend and other issues so I’m just going to play it safe this time.

Tomorrow, our first day to work in Delhi, should be interesting.  I just received this SOS travel warning:  “Members in the capital Delhi and the adjoining National Capital Region (NCR) on 20 March should expect significant travel disruption during planned protests by the ethnic-Jat ABJASS group. ABJASS, which has been campaigning for quotas for Jats in state government jobs and educational institutions, has threatened to block the prime minister’s residence, the parliament building, and all highways and roads in Delhi on the day if its demands are not metTens of thousands of protesters are expected to attend the 20 March rally with tractors. ABJASS has threatened to block all lanes and transit points into Delhi if the security forces prevent them from entering the city. A heightened security force presence should be expected around the prime minister’s residence and the parliament building, as well as on all roads into Delhi and near the Jantar Mantar monument.” 

Though I miss him so much already, it‘s probably best that Thom is not on this trip as I can just see him now taking photos of the protests and joining in to get in all kinds of trouble.Good times in India!  Stay tuned.