Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas in India

The last few days have been fairly low key and quiet, Christmas was nice, yet it did just feel like any other day.
I did go to mass on Christmas eve at one of the largest churches in south India called St. Mary's. I don't know what the heck I was thinking, the place was packed!!! It was so packed that we didn't even go inside the church, the chairs were set up outside the church. I'm sure there was easily close to 8000-10,000 people, and most were standing. The arch bishop of Hyderabad conducted the mass, and it was mainly in English with some Telegu readings. The carols were really nice, but Muscles and i decided to leave about 3/4 of the way into it, because we knew getting out would be ridiculous, and I wanted to go and get a late night dinner. I'm glad I went.

Other things i did for Christmas:
  • On Christmas morning (afternoon since I slept until noon-remember I'm on vampire hours-hehe), Muscles came over and I opened my gifts from my parents and from him. My parents bought me all kinds of earrings, a couple of sweaters, body butter from the body shop and yummy extras like maple and brown sugar oatmeal, fibre one bars, candy canes, peanut butter and a box of cherrios. The stuff cost over $11 to buy here.
  • Muscles bought me a pair of black and grey snakeskin stiletto heels, and a gorgeous black stole (pashmina).
  • We had a work "town hall" that night, and so we went. it was uneventful. had to sit through 3 hours of boring presentations, before we could finally eat dinner (standing up again) and then dance. We had to dance in a too hot too crowded room. I danced with my HBC friends and then had a coke by the pool with a few friends before Muscles and I took off back home. I called my parents and spoke to them, and it was THE HIGHLIGHT OF MY DAY! Muscles also spoke to my mom, and thought she was lovely! Of course she is!!! Muscles also spoke to my grandmother and he couldn't believe she was 84. Even her voice sounds younger than she is. The cute part was when Nanny called Muscles, not by his real name, but by Muscles. I love that!!!
  • I spoke to Muscles mom on the phone as well. Almost crapped my pants. She's sweet though and not sure why i was so nervous. Indian parents just make me nervous.
  • My sister told me that she would treat Muscles and I to a dinner at TGIF for Christmas, and so yesterday, we went and I had my official Christmas dinner of steak and mashed potatoes. Yummy! Thanks Shar and Tim!!
  • Today my boss from HBC had all the managers over to his place for lunch. He spent a year living in Canada working with HBC and so there were so many reminders of home at his place. His children's school pictures in Toronto, the Canada clock, the shot glasses from each city he visited in Canada, and the best of all, a tin of Tim Horton's cappuccino coffee. Ah, felt like home, and he made pasta for lunch. Nostalgia at it's best.
  • Muscles also bought me a cake for Christmas. The cake here usually has no eggs in it, to cater to the vegetarians. So I hate eating them, so yucky. But there is this cake place, that doesn't advertise and was owned by a European lady before she sold it to an Indian woman. Her cakes are amazing and I had them a few times. I mentioned to Muscles that I loved that cake, and he knew I wouldn't get any of the traditional sweets for Christmas, so he tracked down the number and then bought me a triple chocolate cake from this place. I was in heaven!!! Below are the pictures of the cake, it's that gorgeous and it tastes as good as it looks.
So I didn't have a traditional Christmas, but Muscles did his best to make sure I had a memorable one. It was quiet and low key, but it was nice. Making new memories and new traditions is never a bad thing!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My plans for Christmas Eve

Well, I thought in order to get into the spirit of Christmas I would find a nice church and attend midnight mass.
So tomorrow, I am going to work early and I'll leave at 10pm. Muscles has agreed to drive me and attend mass with me. He is Muslim so I think it is sweet that he plans to come with me. He is certainly not doing it for himself. I'm sure he is curious about Christmas as well.

i heard that there is this gorgeous church called St. Mary's that has a wonderful midnight mass with lots of carols and all that fun stuff.

I hope to take some pictures and I'll be sure to write about my experience!

Merry Christmas everyone! Hope you all enjoy spending it with the people important in your life. My friends and family will be in my heart and thoughts.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Christmas spirit

Muscles and I went to the "mall" on Saturday to look around and see how the people of Hyderabad are celebrating Christmas. I say "mall" because it's a basically one big department store, not like a north American mall where there are hundred's of stores. But this place called Hyderabad central is pretty huge. The bottom floor has a food bazaar (grocery store), a pizza hut, a noodle bar and a Baskin Robbins. Also there is a Mark's and Spencers and Guess store (very expensive). The rest of the floor are what you'd expect in a department store like the Bay, beauty, watches, jewellery, men's clothes, women's clothes. Etc...

I thought I'd take a few pictures of some of the Christmas decorations in the "mall." I wasn't really supposed to be using my camera so i took the shots quickly. You get frisked and your bag gets checked before going into most malls. We even saw them checking the engines of the cars that were going into the car park. I guess after the Mumbai attacks they aren't leaving any stone unturned. I was told "no flash" when the lady checked my purse and frisked me with a plastic wand to detect if I'm carrying any lethal weapons. Geesh.

The last picture below is a video of the Santa band playing carols and a dancing Santa with a little Indian girl having a lot of fun dancing. She then proceeds to go on stage and sing, but I had to stop the camera at about that time. Don't mind the people walking in front of the camera a few times. It was pretty packed and I didn't have much space to move around.

Anyway, going to the "mall" helped put me in the Christmas spirit, but what really did the trick was Muscles bringing me the package my parents mailed me. It was packed with wrapped gifts, a stocking full of goodies, candy canes, and a box of cheerios and LIGHT peanut butter! There was also a gift inside for Muscles and a bag full of candies for him.
My parents are so thoughtful and generous. They have never met him, but yet still thought of him and bought him a little something. Although my parents are an ocean away they still are teaching me things, and that is the spirit if giving. It was really sweet, and meant a lot to me.

We never opened any of the gifts, because I promised my mom I'd wait until Christmas. Of course, if this was my sister she would have opened them all up by now, as she was the one who went hunting around the house when she was younger for her gifts. It's such a cute memory I have of her. I'd find her in my parents room standing on a chair looking in my parents closet for her gifts, she was probably about 6 or 7. HEHE.
So the gifts are sitting in a box waiting to be opened. How exciting!

On Christmas day I'll be at a work party, that was supposed to happen on Thanksgiving but that was postponed because of the attacks in Mumbai. This party couldn't have come at a better time. There will be performed dances, Christmas caroling, free dinner, free beer, and dancing and mingling. It will be nice to be with my colleagues for the holidays. It certainly doesn't substitute my family and friends, but at least it's a celebration!! Christmas is still in my heart.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A minor celebrity??

Muscles came over to my place yesterday to pick me up to go to work since I was going to go early. When he came in, he held the newspaper and told me people were going to be giving us a lot of attention.

A few weeks ago, when I was sick, Muscles asked me to go to some afternoon party from 2-6pm. I was feeling terrible but he never asks me for much, so I got dressed in some nice clothes, did my hair and went with him and his friends to some club. He promised me after 2 hours of being there he'd take me home so I could just slip back in my pj's, and be sick, and get pampered.
I was the only western girl in the bar, and so a couple of photographers asked to take my picture with Muscles. I never thought much of it, since I was told the guy having the party has a website and likes to put pics of the party there.

3 weeks later........
Muscles held the newspaper out for me, and he tells me to open it to the society pages, which is referred to as page 3, and the people pictured on it are P3P's (page 3 people). There on the page along with celebrities, is mine and Muscles picture. I was shocked. Luckily, I look good in the picture, and the caption read "2 to tango."
I asked Muscles how many people read this newspaper, and he told me it was the most circulated newspaper in the state. Still, how many people check out page 3??

Apparently everyone. When I went to work, I had people come and shake my hand, all excited they knew someone who had made it to page 3. Then a few of my colleagues joked and called me "tango girl." It was really funny. What's even more funny, is I rarely go out. I've been to a club maybe twice the past 3 months. So I'm sure all my coworkers think I'm this party girl.

Regardless, I'm going to enjoy my 15 minutes of fame.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Here is an actual conversation I had with my friend Labels the other day:

Labels: So I think I'm going to quit work.
me: Why? You just got a promotion that took you a difficult exam, 2 interviews and 6 months of waiting to get to this position.
Labels: I just need a break. I'm so tired.
Me: silence
Labels: What?
me: You're 25.
labels: And?
Me: You just started working, and you're tired? You live at home, and you don't even have to do any work at home.
labels: Well my Dad told me to quit too and take a break.
Me: Really?! My dad would boot my ass if I told him that.

What's up with that???

Thanks Mom and Dad. Seriously.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A whole lotta meat!

Living in India I am exposed to so many different cultural festivals and it is quite a learning experience.
Today is the Muslim celebration of Bakr-id, in English that is translated to "sheep festival." Bakr (sheep), and id (festival-celebration). This means that affluent Muslim families sacrifice a goat for each member of it's family. This is to commemorate the sacrifice of prophet Ibrahim (Abraham in Christianity), who willingly agreed to kill his son in behest of God. When Ibrahim had the sword to his son's throat, God-Allah, told Ibrahim it was merely a test of obedience and told Ibrahim to sacrifice a ram in the place of his son. Hence, the festival of Bakr-id.
The Qu'ran is essentially the old testament from the bible which most people don't know. All the prophets I grew up knowing as Christians just take on a Muslim name in the Qu'ran, such as Abraham-Ibrahim, Mary-Maryam, Moses-Musa, Jesus-Isa, Noah-Nuh.

The rituals on Bakr-id, is to go to the mosque early in the morning to pray, then of course the sacrifice takes place of a disease free cow, goat, camel, or sheep at home. 2/3 of the meat is distributed among the poor and the rest to family and friends.

This is of course very interesting, but that fact that my boyfriend sacrificed 3 goats today, and will sacrifice another goat and a cow tomorrow doesn't sit well with me. I, of course spoke to Muscles about this, and he said, well, how do you think the meat you eat gets on your plate?
And he is totally right, I am NOT a vegetarian, and I am not ignorant to the fact that the chicken, beef, and mutton I eat gets killed somewhere. And the way the Muslims sacrifice the animal they pray and then it is done in the most humane way possible causing much less pain to an animal, (this is called halal) and probably the most humane way to eat meat if you do eat it (I mostly only eat halal meat now). Muslims are taught through the Qu'ran that all animals should be treated with respect and well cared for.
Muscles also brought the point to me, that my dad, hunts.
Yup, he's right again. So ya, I'm not sure why the whole thing feels weird to me, I guess it's because it sounds so violent, even though I know some of the meat I've eaten have come from a place where the animal was put through a lot of pain. But like I told Muscles, I don't call the butcher and get play by play about how he killed the animal, so I would prefer not to hear the details of the sacrifice, even if he was the one who did it.

This is why you just need to have an open mind, although this has been hard to wrap my brain around, I feel like by reading stuff about it online, talking to Muscles and a few friends from work I am learning more and more about different cultures every day. Plus Muscles called me today and said "babe, would you prefer mutton or beef?" I didn't expect to get any meat, but Muscles told me "I was family," and that he would drop me off some fresh cuts of whatever I wanted.

Oh man !! "I want the BEEF!" Yippee!!!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas Package and tidbits

I got a Christmas package from my parents this weekend, and although it feels nowhere near like Christmas- it's 26 degrees today- having that package and knowing I can't open it until Christmas, gives me something to look forward to.

Thanks mom and dad for giving me a little Christmas tingle. Although I have to say I don't miss the crap that goes on at home at this time of year. People should be joyful and happy. My friend Amanda told me a hilarious story of a woman who got really angry at her for "stealing her parking spot." The colourful language that this woman used on her is actually shocking, although really really funny. Amanda, I read your Facebook message 3 times this weekend, and read it to Muscles, I thought it was that funny!
Believe me, you're none of those things that woman called you. Least of all, an "inconsiderate punk." HAHAHA!
Ah! the joys and perils of Christmas!

I went to the foreign grocery store yesterday and spent too much money on comfort foods from home. A box of multi-grain cherrios cost $12!!!! I did find strawberries, and i did a dance in the store when I found them too. They only cost about $2 for a quart. So I bought 2 of them. I also found blueberry jam (no blueberries to be had here), and I also bought some Betty Crocker cake mix and icing. I will make a "Christmas cake" and pretend it's my mom's amazing Christmas cookies. i spent like $12 on the cake mix and icing. You can't find chocolate chips here, and I only have a small toaster oven, enough for small cakes, and brownies and toast. I'll have to make do with what I've found.

Muscles and I went to see Max Payne this weekend. And sadly, I'll never get those 2 hours of my life back. The movie was crap. Hyderabad only gets a few foreign movies here, and they are usually just the big box office hits. So my choices are limited. Luckily we download movies and watch a lot of them at home. Muscles also introduced me to an American sit-com that he loves and I have never seen called "How I met your mother," so we watched like 6 episodes of season 1 this weekend! Funny funny, show.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Can I speak to a Canadian??

While working for HBC here in India and listening to at least 10 calls a night (sometimes more) I can really see how multi-cultural Canada has become. Sometimes on a given night I can come across agents calling me over for help, because the other person on the end of the line doesn't speak much English at all. Most of these callers seem to be Chinese-Canadian. But they also include many Italian, and Arabic speakers as well.

One time an agent spent an hour on the phone with a Canadian-Chinese customer just trying to help her. He got so desperate and asked me to listen to the call. Wow, I had no idea how he kept his patience, 'cause even I didn't understand a word. But that's Canada, we're multi-cultural, a miss-mosh of the entire world, with every and language and religion under the sun living in one country.

What pisses me off though is when some Canadians call and ask to speak to someone in Canada, or they say "let me speak to a Canadian." It upsets me because I thought Canadians were better than this.
Let me set the record straight, my agents speak English well, for most of them it's their second or first language, and ALL of them did their University in English. They HAVE ACCENTS!!!! Having an accent does not mean you can't speak English. When you speak to a British or Scottish person, do you ask them to speak to someone else? No, of course not, cause they speak English they just have an ACCENT!!
Biggest misconception is that Indians don't speak English. Of course in smaller village areas English is definitely not abundant. But I live here, and I know they speak English. They speak it well!! My boyfriend's English is excellent, and he barely even has an accent. So please, when you call a call center and you hear an Indian accent on the other end please don't assume they don't speak English.

It's actually kind of funny because on this one call I was listening to, as soon as the Indian agent introduced himself, this Canadian guy asked to speak to a Canadian right away. I cringed when this happened 'cause I thought "are we really this ignorant?" So the agent said no problem and connected him with an agent in Montreal. When my agents connected with the agent in Montreal, the Canadian agent had a thick French accent, and I knew it would be difficult for an English speaker to understand. So I thought it was rather humorous that this Canadian guy who asked to speak to a "Canadian" was probably still going to have to deal with someone with an accent. He probably would have understood the Indian agent a lot more than the guy with the thick French accent.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

An Indian wedding

Labels (my girlfriend from work) invited me to her brother's wedding that was held yesterday. It was the first Indian wedding I have attended, although I have been invited to a few. Labels is Christian and her brother married a Hindu girl, who is a Brahmin (which is one of the highest caste of Hindu's and who are vegetarian). It obviously is a love marriage, considering the two are from different religions. Planning the wedding was difficult because of varying religious beliefs and the bride chose not to convert to Christianity. It was definitely not a smooth path to the "aisle" (there was no aisle...hahaha).

Now I want to be as diplomatic as I can, and I don't want to come across as insensitive when i describe the wedding. But since this is my blog and it is also a learning tool for all my family and friends I feel I need to be honest about my experience.

Firstly, the wedding was on a Wednesday (although there were several days of celebration before hand) such as the saffron ceremony. The Saffron ceremony is ceremony where the bride to be is purified and adorned by the youngest female of the gathering and the application of Mehendi, where the bride's hands and feet are adorned with henna to enhance and celebrate her beauty
I went with a couple of colleagues from work and when i arrived, (it was in a hotel) there was loud techno music playing and everyone was gathered in this room. Shortly thereafter, the bride and groom walked in (to the techno music), both wearing traditional Indian wedding garland. The groom was in a suit and the bride in an emerald green saree. The parents got up to speak for a few minutes (they spoke in Telegu) so i have no idea what was said. Then the bride and groom cut the cake, fed it to each other, then everyone lined up to wish them congratulations and get our pictures taken.
Then we were whisked away to another room where were ate a buffet dinner, standing up! Yup no chairs or tables. I was carrying a clutch purse and a pashmina and I had to put it between my feet on the floor in order to eat my meal. And with Indian food we mostly eat with our hands, so add that to the mix. Trying to hold a plate, rip roti and naan into small pieces to eat the chicken and veg korma. Freaking difficult.
I was there a total of an hour and a half before we finished desert, said good bye to the bride and groom and made our way back to work.

I know every culture has it's own traditions and this has been a learning experience for me. I was honoured to be invited and it was very important to Labels and her mom that I came. And I was glad i went.
I've never been one of those girls who has constantly dreamed about my wedding day and have it planned already. But I have some idea of how I would like it to be. Definitely small, and intimate, special and sentimental.
The Indian wedding was interesting, but it is not how I would want my wedding to be. I also went to a couple of Korean weddings as well when I lived there, and they were also rushed and tacky. Although I would hate to see the whole world westernized, because it would be a boring world if that was the case, I do feel that western weddings are beautiful (when done right and not crazily over budget).

Definitely glad I experienced that, but when I think back to my sister's and her husband's wedding, it was so magical and although their wedding may not be what everyone envisions, I felt it had the best of everything. But mostly you just felt love in the room! And I guess that is what is should come down to in the end.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Miss Spoiled Brat!

One thing I have learned from living in two separate countries and traveling to 16 different ones, is that women and men are essentially the same. Yes, there are the obvious culture differences but essentially, the same.

One thing I noticed though is different is the way we (meaning women) criticize (tease) our friends. In Canada when our friend asks, when out shopping, if her butt looks fat in her jeans, we say no. Of course not, that would be rude. It's not about being HONEST, because we know with women where honesty can get you sometimes. But instead we might suggest another pair that is hotter, or say the colour isn't right. But definitely not that your butt looks fat.

This brings me to my story, on Saturday I went out with Muscles friends, girls and guys younger than me, but still kind of cool people. Except for this one girl, I'll call her, miss spoiled brat. Her parents are apparently filthy rich, and she had a mad crush on Muscles, and made some not so nice comments to him about me. Out of jealousy of course, and i got the last laugh cause I have the guy. Muscles got invited to this day time party and so even though I was sick as a dog I got dressed up and went with him for a few hours. He invited 5 of his buddies and then one of them invited miss spoiled brat. Well after the party we decided to go to KFC. Not my choice but still I haven't been in years, so I went. One of the girls (I'll call her miss innocent, cause she is sweet and well innocent) was eating a chicken burger and it also came with a piece of chicken. As she was eating miss spoiled brat said, and I quote "Hurry up fatty, you don't need to eat that anyway or you'll just get fatter!"

I mean WTF!

Miss innocent is friends with spoiled brat, and she is not fat by North American standards anyway. And yes, Indian women are for the most part slim, but I've seen my fair share of very heavy women, in sarees with their belly's showing for crying out loud. It seems that curvier women get more attention here anyway (by curvy I mean hour glass shape, not overweight)
I turned to miss innocent and said she looked great and that I thought she was beautiful. Then I looked at spoiled brat and told her she her that fat girls could get skinny but ugly girls were pretty much stuck that way for life. I know it's mean, but she pissed me off. And when I meant ugly I meant on the inside and out.
The worse part of this is, that these two girls are friends. Man I don't need or want friends like that.

I told Muscles never to invite me out when spoiled brat was going to be there, I'm too old to hang around with people like that. I left high school and University a long time ago.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Pictures and the christmas Season

Last weekend Muscles took me to a really nice spot outside of the city, it is called Osman Sagr and it's a lovely lake with some actual greenery. Hyderabad has a lot more trees and a few more parks than most cities, but it was nice to get out of the city for a few hours and spend some time in the quiet, with a lot less people. Here are some pics of that day.

Well tomorrow officially marks the beginning of the Christmas season, and although I know I moved away from Canada and I have no reason to complain, or whine about missing my favourite holiday, but this is my blog and so I am going to do just that. I am lucky to have experienced Christmas in 2 different countries, once being in South Korea, and the other time in India last year when i spent 2 months backpacking here (this will be my second time in India for Christmas). But both of those times I was going home shortly after the holiday, I arrived home January 1st from Korea, and December 28th from India. This time I'm here until the end of March at least. Although many of my friends in India are excited about Christmas (they are Christians) there is no where near the hype here as at home, no tree, no homemade cookies, no presents (yes I guess it makes me selfish), no snow, no crazy hustle and bustle on the streets, and malls.
I am hoping to be as festive as i can at work and try to get people at the call centre to really get excited about it. They'll be speaking to American and Canadian customers and so I'll live vicariously through them.
Muscles wants to try and give me some semblance of a Christmas so that's sweet.
But yes, I'll miss the holiday season, even the commercialism that goes with it. I love giving and receiving gifts......and so it will be rough this year. But it also will be yet another cultural experience under my belt, and maybe celebrating Christmas differently will help me see more of the real meaning behind it.

Nah...I doubt it. I never claimed to be a Saint. I do want presents, and cookies, turkey a Christmas tree, snow and MY FAMILY and FRIENDS!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Attacks in Mumbai

I want to thank everyone who has called my mom and dad to check to make sure that I am OK here in India. It means a lot that people are worried. Although it worries my mom every time the phone rings when something like this has happened.

I know my parents are both worried about me and they have reason to fear (the simple fact that they are parents), but I also think they are being strong about this as well.

Firstly, I am safe and quite far away from the incidents. I am about 600km away from Mumbai
, and here is a map to show exactly the locations.

This is a very random attack, and what is scary is it is the first of it's kind, no one has seen anything like this. Also what is scary is that the terrorists are looking for people with American and British passports. I guess this is when it is good to be Canadian. OK, bad joke, because seriously, I look and sound like an American, and last I read on the news 6 Canadians were being held hostage inside the Taj hotel.

No one really knows much about the groups who are involved with the attacks other than they are most likely NOT Indian nationals and that they arrived by boat at the gateway of Mumbai.
The other freaky thing is this time last or around this time I was in India. I had just visited Mumbai about 3 weeks earlier, and I had visited all the locations that the terrorists targeted. I even had lunch and drinks at Leopolds restaurant. This restaurant was targeted because it was made famous in the book Shantaram, where the foreigners would go to hang out and drink.

The attacks have been described by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as "well planned and very orchestrated attacks probably with external linkages to create panic by choosing high profile targets and indiscriminately killing innocent foreigners"

Regardless of what you heard in the media, they still don't know who is responsible for these attacks, and although a group called the Deccan Mujahideen has sent emails taking credit for the attacks, the police think that this is a red herring likely to steer the police in the wrong direction.

In Hyderabad the police are taking precautions as well, since this is the Silicon Valley of India, and so there are increased check posts, and our huge work party scheduled for yesterday at the 5 star hotel The Taj Deccan was cancelled for security reasons. These are just precautions, and although I disagree with stopping your life because of terrorists, I think that Hyderabad is probably quite safe from any attacks. And outside of this incident, I still stand by the fact that India is a safe place to travel to.

So, although I am safe from harm and far from these events, there are many people who lost their lives (125), 6 of these being foreigners and 14 being police officers. The attacks are still continuing, and so please pray for those still being held hostage and pray these attacks end soon.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pay it forward

This weekend, I did a few things I feel really good about. Now I didn't do them so i could come and write about them in my blog. I Just wanted to share my story, so that maybe it might inspire others to pay it forward too.

Muscles and I stopped at a sandwich wrap counter (absolutely delicious), and he ordered a chicken 65 wrap and I ordered an egg and spicy chicken tandoori wrap. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted an old man, homeless an sick. He had a huge tumour on his back. I couldn't see it, as it was just a massive lump under his shirt. He was politely asking me for money. Now here in India, people aren't so polite about begging. While Muscles and I are stopped at an intersection people come to us, beg, cry, touch my feet, legs, arms (and it drives me crazy), and sometimes they carry their babies with them to make it even worse. Of course I feel bad and sad and want to help, who wouldn't. But Muscles tells me that a lot of the time when we don't give money they will scream out "asshole, whore, and bitch" to me. Being western doesn't help, I guess. I don't like to give money, I prefer to give food or clothes or something else. Many homeless people get their children to beg for them and who knows what they use the money for. I've been known to buy fresh lime juice from the street vendors for many of the children who beg me for money.

Anyway this old man, had a sad face, but wasn't being overly aggressive. So I ordered him an egg wrap sandwich and gave it to him. He could barely look me in the eye as I gave it to him and a tear formed in one of his eyes. He walked away without saying thank you, but I know it's because of his pride, and I know he was thankful. Muscles told me with a look of love in his eyes that his mother does the same thing.

Last night Muscles and I went to City Centre, a pretty nice "mall" in Banjara Hills and there is this little girl that I fell in love with who works outside. Yes, she works. She is there from about 7pm to midnight and sometimes later (to get the crowds out of the bar). She's about 7 or 8 years old, clean, beautiful and happy! Her English is quite good and I think she goes to school during the day. Her job is selling packs of gum at double the price than what you can buy them for in the stores. They sell for about 5 rupees (10 cents or so) and she sells them for 15-20 rupees. She is neither aggressive nor annoying. She is the sweetest girl and I want to take her home with me every time I see her. She always greets me with a huge hug, and I have even taken her for a ride on my scooter. I took her around the block while she sat at the back screaming and waving to people. Then when i told her to sit down, she said "chill out, are you worried or something?" HAHA. So I went with it. She is courageous and happy and although my heart breaks for her, I do realize we are born into the life we have. She is making the best of it.
Anyway, last night she greeted me with a big hug and shook Muscles hand (such a little lady), and told me her birthday was on January 22nd and she wanted to see me. Muscles bought a pack of gum from her, and I ran in to the McDonald's and bought her a strawberry shake. When I gave it to her she hugged me tight, and then ran off to greet another potential gum buying customer. She has made many friends there and everyone keeps their eyes out for her, to make sure she is OK. When i went to sleep last night, she was the last thought on my mind. She is so full of life happy, and trusting. I don't pray often, but I found myself praying for her to have a good life and for God to keep her safe. This little girl has touched my heart.

Living in India has made me a better person, it has opened my eyes to the world and to a culture so different from my own. I am thankful every single day that i was given the strength, courage, and drive to do what i am doing. My parents, although it breaks my Mom's heart that I am so far away from home, are the main reason for who I am and what I'm doing. They always said to set my sights high and that I can do anything I want as long as I work hard. They told me to live my life on my own terms.
I am a better person for this experience. So many people told me that going to India would change my life, and for a while I was like, "what the hell does that mean?" It has changed my life, but I wasn't looking in the right place. I was expecting this huge life altering experience to happen, but it's the small things that have changed me.

You don't need to leave home or travel to India to change your life, nor do you have to wait for some life altering event to happen to you. You just have to look for the small things, like I did.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The most frequent compliment I get

Although I always receive compliments about the way I'm dressed or how I look, there is one constant compliment I get regularly from both women and men. They are fascinated by something I wear that is my signature, if you will. Most of you who know me, might have already guessed what this could be.

My earrings!

People compliment me daily. One guy asked me if I could buy him some of the same kind of earrings, give them to him so he can gift them to his girlfriend. Now Indians are not shy about wearing jewelery, especially bangles and ankle bracelets and nose rings. But their earrings are usually understated and small. Mine are large, all kinds if interesting shapes, designs and colours (although I wear mostly silver). It's not so easy to find funky earrings here, so I do miss going to Le Chateau, Dynamite and Aldo accessories for my fix of earrings.

When I tell people that my Mom picks out a lot of my earrings, they are shocked. I usually tell them, that my mom is super cool with great taste and I always get a few pair of earrings as goodies in my Christmas stocking. One pair in particular which my Dad bought me get the most compliments. They LOVE that my dad has picked earrings out for me, and I tell them my dad loves when I wear big earrings.

Everyone wants to know where they can get these earrings. Canada my friends! :)

Here are some pics of my favourite earrings!!!

I love my earrings, there is pair here my sister and her husband bought me on their honeymoon in St. Lucia. I get so many compliments on them. They are made out of coconut. They are the brown ones up top they also come with a matching bracelet. One pair is from my best friend's sister, another my mom picked out, which are the large silver ones that every person says are the same size as wrist bangles (hehe), and a few pair I bought myself.

These are the earrings my dad picked out! I love them!!! They are so long they almost touch my shoulders!! They look terrific with my hair up!


Here are some pictures taken from the last two weekends.

I went to a birthday party two weekends ago and my friends live in a gorgeous apartment block overlooking high tech city and what is called the Secret Lake. Here are some pictures of the view.

This is actually the building I work in. The larger of the two buildings that is behind the smaller building. It's called I-Labs and it houses GE Money and Hyundai.

Muscles took me out Saturday to this place I have never been called The Waterfront. It was a beautiful spot by the water where you can get some snacks and small meals and sit by the water. He took me to see the new James Bond movie Quantum and Solace, and then to this romantic spot. There is a road off in the distance called Necklace road, and it is called that, because when all the lights are lit up it looks like the lake is wearing a necklace. Looks beautiful, but difficult to capture on camera.

Me before Muscles picked me up for our Saturday date.

He looks pensive, but he is actually watching the football match (soccer) on the tv. The view is gorgeous behind him (which is what I was trying to capture) hehe!

More of the view

The food options. The "sodaz" place had awesome sweet lime soda and blueberry soda. It's freshed squeezed lime with soda water and some sugar. Dee-lish. Now not sure what they used for blueberry flavour cause there is not a blueberry to be found here.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A girl with a big heart!

Yesterday, right before i was about to head home, one of my agents (I'll call her big heart) who I have begun training came to see me with big tears in her eyes. She wanted someone to talk to so i was flattered she felt she could come to me.
She has been having ear infections for the last 6 months and when she started to take calls as part of her training her ear acted up again and she was having major pains. The doctor has her on medication but also told her she would need to take 2 months off while her ear healed. This meant she had to take a leave from the company and wait it out.
To most people, I guess this would seem like no big deal. But this is where she is different. She lives with her mom who is a single parent (I have no idea the circumstances here), but in India it's a big deal!! She has put her studies on hold and is attending weekend classes so she can help support her mother. The government doesn't work like Canada and the US, so her options are limited 9in terms of gov't assistance). She kept saying over and over again, while crying, how she needs this job. I tried to comfort her and tell her that her mom would understand. But what she said next just broke my heart. She said her mom would tell her it was fine, then her mother would end up having sleepless nights crying to herself about how she had put her daughters in this situation. Her twin sister also has the same ear problems and is working in another company.
I asked Big Heart if there were options (restaurants or something) and she said you needed a degree for most jobs here. Say what?? To work at Subway or a restaurant you need a degree/diploma in hotel management. I guess there are so many people they need to have a system to weed people out. Kind of crazy if you ask me. Where would I have been during University without my Tim Horton's job (love the coffee hated working there), my retail job selling clothes at Jacob (loved that job-50% off clothes baby), and call center jobs. Which big heart is trying to do to help her mother. But now she can't.

It's just sad. And it made me realize the opportunities I was given growing up and how lucky I am for my own family situation. A loving mother and father who both worked and provided for my sister and I the best they could, while also teaching us the value of a dollar. I feel like I was a spoiled child when I hear stories like this. I have no idea how to help Big Heart, but I am going to ask around and see what can be done. She is a sweet girl just trying to help her mom, and in India, helping your parents is number one!!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Highlights of my Monday November 10th

1. Forced myself to get out of bed at 12:30pm (remember I'm on a wacky schedule). I've been really tired lately because I've been working 10-12 hour days at work. And it's definitely not sitting behind a desk, I'm up and down and around and constantly moving. Once I was awake I had strong milky sweet coffee, toast and nutella for breakfast and watched a downloaded episode of CSI. LOVE the Internet, my little pieces of home make me so happy. And who doesn't love a little Gil Grissom.
2. Worked out at home, I'm on week 5 and phase 2 of the P90x work out. Today was back and biceps and wow what a work out it is. I've never done chin ups in my life and here I am having to do 5 different kinds. I have to use a chair with one leg on it mind you. Then I cleaned my apartment from top to bottom. My place smelled like a swimming pool I used so much bleach. I like to leave the windows open, but there is just so much dust and sand that sweeping my apartment felt like cleaning a construction site.
3. Washed my clothes by hand. I put it off last week because I had one hell of a lazy week last week (but was working way too much), so I had an extra large load to do. And after working out my biceps squeezing and wringing out the clothes was no walk in the park.
4. I found Kraft Dinner on the weekend at the 'dollar store" when I was out with Muscles and so I made that for dinner. I ate the whole darn pot of it too! I don't even eat Kraft dinner in Canada, but I'm getting a little tired of cooking elaborate Indian meals, so this was the perfect fix. It was three cheese too, so it was extra tasty.
5. Went to work early, because I had to leave for an hour and half for Hindi lessons. So I went at 6pm, was able to meet an agent and do two feedbacks with her. I listen to two of her recorded calls and score them on a voice and soft skills perspective and do some coaching. I was also able to send both my bosses my reports from last week (I work for two portfolio's: the Canadian HBC and the American auto club).
6. I also had some time to work on this PowerPoint I'm working on breaking down various call scenarios from an American perspective. What time means to us, what being stranded on an interstate is like in a snow blizzard (Indians just can't imagine this) so it's my job to help them understand these kinds of scenarios. Also, most people live with their families here so if for some reason their car broke down and the children were due to come home any minute, their mother or grandmother would be home to greet them. Americans don't particularly have this option. So the agents need to understand what is at stake when an American is stranded.
7. Went to my Hindi class at my friends place. There are 3 of us studying and it's coming along, but it takes a hole lot of memory work and using the new phrases and practicing them every day. I work entirely in English, all my friends speak English.I practice with Muscles but still, it is so easy to revert to English. English is probably his first language, so he is almost more comfortable speaking it. So when people ask me (and they always ask me) "say something in Hindi," this is seriously the most annoying thing to hear. I mean talk about being put on the spot. So now I just say "Mei rosana Hindi seek rahi-hoon" I'm learning more Hindi everyday. it's a well formed sentence and so most people are super impressed and leave me alone after that. if that doesn't work I say "Chup baith rai," which means "be quiet dude!" (a gentler way to say shut up) HAHA. Also for the beggars who insist on touching my feet and legs for me to give them money I have my arsenal sentence of "Hath Matt lagau" (Don't touch me). But I was told I say it too sweetly and I need to firm that up a bit. It's hard to sound angry when you're thinking about the right Hindi word to say and pronouncing it right. It will come.
8. Got back to work by 9pm, and worked like a slave for 3 hours with the auto club, then went down to HBC where there was an inter-portfolio competition. They are given a theme and have to decorate the floor, dress up in costumes, and act out the theme. HBC was given Native American and Pilgrims (score)! If you know me you'd know my grandfather (my dad's step-dad) is native Canadian and my aunts and uncles are also (My Dad's half brother's and sisters). So I planned with them all last week. And wow, they outdid themselves. I taught them about tee pees, dream catchers, how to dress, native dancing and drumming and hunting. I wish I could take pictures (no cameras on the floor). We all wore headbands with feathers, had our faces painted with native make-up, wore cool native looking clothes and jewellery. The tee pee they made was awesome, and a group of people danced around a made-up fire to drums. It was awesome.
9. This is a major competition and they have 4 themes over the month of November and the winner will be awarded and awesome prize at the annual town hall (aka work party) the company holds every year on American Thanksgiving. Everyone takes it really seriously. The other portfolios got such easy themes (Hawaiian, New York nights, Casino Royal). So I was pretty proud of our team. It was a hard one. I think there are some people who took pictures in the lobby with their camera phones, so I'll try and track down some pictures.
10. After waiting an agonizing hour, we got the news that HBC won the competition!! Woo hoo! next up winter wonderland. Come on!! With me on their team HBC has this one in the bag. I am winter!!!! Left work feeling so exhausted but happy with our teams win. Literally fell into bed by 4:30am.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The big reveal and a telegu love song

Well, I've decided to reveal the secret, I'm going to tell you which Canadian call center company I work with.

Are you ready????

It's HBC!!!!!! And I love it. Gap and Paypal are also in the building I work in as well, although I don't work with these groups. I technically work for GE Money, but these companies all fall under GE.

I thought it would be fun for you all to know (my friends and family) that when you call to activate your new HBC mastercard or call about HBC, you'll be calling where I work, and speak with agents I train, I might even be sitting next to them. Here's a hint, I'm usually with this group Monday-Friday at 230pm-4:30pm (EST time).

Yesterday while working with HBC, one of the agents started singing to me in Telegu (the state language). I had no idea what he was singing but apparently it was about him taking my exam of love with me being the love teacher and him being the student. Ya, I have no idea.

This is how the rest of the conversation went:

Mr. romance (obviously not his real name): "lalalalalala" (this is my cheap imitation of his singing in a language I don't understand).
me: "Mr. Romance, are you on a call?"
Mr. Romance: "Ya, Shelley, but it's a nice song"
Me: "Are you waiting to transfer the customer or something"?
Mr. romance: "No"
Me: Is the customer on hold????"
Mr. Romance: "Yes, I put her on hold to sing you the song"
Me: "What!! Don't do that.....get back to the customer, are you crazy?"
Mr. Romance: "Sorry for keeping you hold Ma' can I help you today?"

So next time you call HBC and the agent puts you on hold, he might just be signing me a Telegu love song. HAHAHA!!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Hand washing my clothes and the # 3 thing I miss from home

When I first moved into my new apartment, the thought of washing my own clothes all by hand seemed so primal and Indian and I was excited about doing it all by myself. Most working people here hire a maid to do this for them, or buy a washing machine (seems so exotic here). But I'm stubborn and refuse to pay someone to clean my place, wash my clothes and cook for me, when I have a lot of time to do it myself, and know when I do it, it gets done right. When I lived with Timothy, he had a maid and she did my laundry, and ruined a pair of white shorts and a pink tank top because she put a couple of turquoise never been washed dish towels in the same pail.
I was livid.

The novelty of washing my clothes in a bucket has now officially worn off. Have you ever tried washing a large fleece blanket in a bucket? I need to sit down and catch my breath after wringing the water out of the damn thing, never mind trying to get all the soap out of it! It's a nightmare. The next day I feel like I have carpal tunnel from all the wrist action I use. But I have to wash my blankets often, there is so much dust that comes in to my apartment, because of all the new buildings going up around me. And India generally is a dusty place.

On the plus side, no need to do any cardio exercise on laundry days. So if you're bored running on a treadmill, wash your linens in a bucket of tide and warm water.

So that brings me to the #3 thing I miss from home: A washing machine!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Pictures: and Indian sky and me!

Here are some pictures I took and thought I'd post. The sky was gorgeous a few nights ago so I took some shots. I'll let the pics do the talking.....

Taken from my small balcony

This was taken a few weeks ago at my work retreat.

The homes just outside my balcony. It's sad, but the children seem very happy.

The Indian sunset...gorgeous

The awesomness of TGIF

Muscles and I went to TGIF last night, and it was awesome! When we walked in, I got that tingly feeling of some semblance of home. Except the waiters were Indian men wearing cowboy hats. But it put a smile on my face, nevertheless. Also, awesome rock music was playing in the background, which both Muscles and I love. There were a few other "western" people in the restaurant and they all had large grins on their faces and seemed to be enjoying their time too. I had heard one white guy (most likely American) say to the waiter, "we drove by every few days to see when this place would be open." I guess I'm not the only one excited for TGIF. For some reason I felt bad for wanting and craving food from home, but Muscles reminded me that if he were in America or Canada and there weren't any Indian restaurants around and then one suddenly opened up, he'd be lined up waiting for it to be opened and excited about eating there too. In Korea there were many western restaurants I could go to to get my fix, but this is really the first chain to open up in Hyderabad. There are a couple of western style places, but the prices are ridiculous and the food a little more fancy. TGIF reminds me of going to the Outback or Kelsey's, which I only do rarely at home and expect to once and a while here too (maybe) . I pretty much wanted everything on the menu, but that wasn't possible. I haven't had a salad in over 6 months too, as they are difficult to come by here. So I vowed to go back soon and have a chicken caesar salad. A tear almost came to my eye when I saw that on the menu. But I was craving a burger. A big juicy burger. And a burger is what I got, with cheese and bacon. First I checked with Muscles about my eating pork (it's been over 6 months since I ate pork, and him being Muslim I wanted to make sure it was OK). He had no issues with it and he just wanted me to be happy. HAHA. He knew denying me bacon on my cheeseburger would put me in pout mode. But he is not like that and would never ask me to not to do something. OK he did admit, if I ordered the rack of pork ribs that might make him uncomfortable. He ordered sirloin steak and mashed potatoes, and I had to cut my burger it was so huge. Both of us were in beef heaven!!! Beef is so darn hard to find here, so it was nice to have some options. The portions were huge and lived up to the North American standard, and Muscles was impressed. That guy can eat, but he works out a lot so he needs to. Then afterwards, Muscles coaxed me to order some dessert. He was treating me to dinner, cause he knew how much I've been craving food from home. So who am I to say no to dessert? I ordered the brownie and ice cream, and I am so glad we ordered only one, because what we got was a colossal 3 layer brownie tower with ice cream. It was so tall the brownies were wavering and threatening to fall over. Even the other table of 3 westerners looked over and gave us the thumbs up, and I replied "You can tell this is an American chain" and we all had a good laugh. Then I looked at Muscles and said, "No wonder North Americans are so fat." Seriously, I am so not used to these portion sizes. He paid me no attention because he was too busy stuffing his face with brownie. Between the two of us, we still couldn't finish the dessert. But we both had a great time and vowed to go back soon, there's a whole menu waiting for me to dig into. The prices were OK. We've been to more expensive places, but this was somewhat reasonable. For the burger platter, sirloin steak, dessert and bottle of mineral water, the price was 1300 rupees, which is about $30 cdn (no tip required). For India that is very expensive. I can spend that much much on 2-3 weeks of groceries. But once in a while you need to splurge, plus I was going crazy craving food from home.
I really can't believe I wrote a whole post on TGIF. Oh well, goes to show what little things make you happy living away from home. Here are some pics of me and Muscles, of course me looking really darn happy to be there!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Some random thoughts-comments

  • I've finally ran out of the two containers of Body Shop Body Butter i brought with me. Sad sad day. With no Body Shop to buy more, I'm going to have to settle for some other kind of skin cream. I know, it's just cream, but Body Butter makes my skin feel like a newborn baby's bottom. I love the stuff, and I'm sad that it's all gone.
  • I'm convinced that my friends have all disappeared off the face of the earth, or their computers have either been, destroyed, or stolen. Where are you guys??? I'm still waiting for replies from emails I wrote weeks ago! I'm not asking you to sit down and write me a 7 page letter, walk to post office and mail it. Just send me a message on facebook, or on Yahoo messenger, or text me. Whatever. It will take a few minutes of your time, but will mean the world to me. There are a few exceptions here of course.....I have heard from a few of you.
  • Thought it was really funny when I overheard an agent saying "Happy Halloween to you too ma'am" and then putting the customer on hold, looking over at me, and asking "Shelley, what's Halloween?" I take it for granted that everyone knows what these holidays are. So i sat down and sent out an email about Halloween, so now we're having a Halloween day on Monday, with dressing up and decorating. OK, so it will be November 3rd, but it's the effort from the agents to understand Canadian/American holidays that I love!
  • Going to TGIF for dinner tonight. It opened on Monday, and I'm sure the prices will be ridiculous and the place will be packed. But who cares! I'm looking for some greasy North American food. Although I love Indian food, I need a break from the curry. A long break.
  • On week 4 of the P90x work out that I started. 90 because it's 90 days x because it's intense. It's a 6 day a week workout at home (I bought some weights, a yoga mat and some stretch exercise bands). It incorporates some cardio, and weights, yoga, pilates and ab exercises. I love working out at home. I've already seen a huge difference in my body and am seeing ab lines for the first time since I was 13. HAHA. I took before after 90 days if i think the changes are quite noticeable I'll post them. If I get enough courage.
  • I've started studying Hindi. I go twice a week for a total of 3 hours with 2 other western girls and an Indian tutor. I find it really funny though how people think I should be speaking it fluent already!!! Just because Indians pick up languages like nothing and speak no less than 3 doesn't mean I'll be fluent in a month!!! Come on! Most people speak English here so I get lazy and don't practice it. My tutor thinks I'm picking it up really quickly and says it's because i speak French and also studied Korean. Probably true, but don't bet I'll be speaking it like an Indian anytime soon.
  • I've at the half way point of my contract in India, and I'm definitely seeing a pattern comparable to my time in Korea. Culture shock hit me around 6 months in Korea and is hitting me now. The cute, cool stuff has worn off and certain things are starting to annoy me. The staring, the feeling like you are a caged monkey and amusement for everyone, and so on and so forth. It will wear off, but it's good to know it's not really about the country I'm in, but more so the fact that I'm away from my own country and all that I'm familiar with.
  • I'm tired of my wardrobe. The seasons never change here, well I think they never change even though every Indian keeps telling me the changes are quite noticeable. But regardless, they never change enough that I have to change the clothes I'm wearing. I miss boots and jackets, and today I'm wearing open toed shoes, jeans and a t-shirt. One exception is I will bring a sweater for night cause it will get down to about 16. I love being able to buy winter, spring, summer and fall clothes. When I come home to Canada, my summer wardrobe is going to rock!! Too bad summer is only 3 months long.....
  • I taught a sensitivity seminar a few months back about how to treat eldery customers with respect. I spoke about my grandmother who defies all the rules of aging. Yesterday one of the agents asked about my grandmother (a lovely gesture) and about her boyfriend Fred whom I also mentioned. And I was so proud to say that she is cruising around the Caribbean with her boyriend, living her life exactly the way it should be and how I want to live it. She's 84, and my hero. I love you nanny, you have so much courage and zest for life, and all of your grandchildren and children are so lucky to have learnt this lesson from you! Keep rocking it!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Highlights of my day

Here are some highlights of my day for October 28th.

  1. Woke up to the loud popping noises of firecrackers, it's Diwali here and it's non-stop popping action, all day all night.
  2. Ate peanut butter and honey on whole wheat toast and made strong, sweet, milky coffee.
  3. Watched a downloaded episode of Friday Night Lights (best show ever).
  4. Did an hour and a half of yoga.
  5. Went to work on the Diwali holiday because they needed floor coverage, so I get tomorrow off instead.
  6. Decided to wear a saree to work today as Diwali is a big holiday and everyone dresses up.
  7. Had one of my friends at work tie the saree for me. Showing your lower back and midriff at work feels really really weird. What ever happened to showing good ol' cleavage.
  8. Got so many compliments about my saree, and admittedly I loved every minute of it. Especially when one of my agents told me I had such a lovely figure. The thumbs up and compliments from the cute men at work didn't hurt either.
  9. Getting a free meal, because all those who worked Diwali were provided one by the company. Butter chicken, aloo curry, dal, and roti tastes so much better when it's free.
  10. The best compliment of all though, came from Muscles who told me that he was the luckiest guy in the world to be dating me! I told him not to get used to me wearing a saree, those things are not comfortable, especially at work.
  11. Coming home, and digging into the bag of sweet chili Doritos I bought at the 99 rupee shop on Sunday. I rarely eat Doritos at home, but when you come across a gem like this, you have to snatch it up. If I eat 5 Doritos a day I can make the bag last a long time. Who knows when I'll find them again.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Am I truly Canadian if....

The weather has been absolutely beautiful here lately. The days are a breezy 28-29 degrees and the nights get down to around 17 or so degrees.
But I have to admit, I'm freezing, especially on the back of a motorcycle. On Saturday night, Muscles and I went for dinner and drove back to my place around 11:30pm (people here eat much later and most restaurants aren't open for dinner until after 7pm). Anyway, I wore a sweater and he wore a long sleeve shirt over a t-shirt. I was so damn cold I urged him to drive faster just so we could get home quicker. Pretty soon I'll be buying mittens and a scarf. How pathetic am I?
Then when we got back to my apartment, we put a DVD in my laptop, turned all the fans off in the house, bundled under a blanket, and complained about how cold it was. All I could think of was hot chocolate and a fireplace. And it was 16 degrees out!!
Then Muscles tells me point blankly what a shitty Canadian I make and thought we lived in igloos and stuff over there. Of course he was joking, but still. I was embarrassed, I was acting like such a wuss.

Man, I'm going to need to suck it up and tell people I'm dying of heat when it's 16 degrees out, or someone is going to take my passport away. Gotta take one for the team...and by team I mean Canadians!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Diwali :The Festival of lights

Last year I was in Goa backpacking for Diwali, and I remember lots of fireworks and people mulling about. It seems to be the biggest Hindu festival celebrated, probably comparable to Christmas for us in the west and Ramadan (Ramazan) and Eid for Muslims. Diwali is celebrated on the first day of the kartick lunar calendar and can fall in October or November. I also just remembered that I was with my good friend Manon in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia in October 2005 for Diwali. Malaysia also has a large Indian population, and I remember seeing so many beautiful lights while I was there.

Diwali is the festival of lights, where the lights signify good over evil with every human being. Now I'm not Hindu, but this seems like a fun festival to celebrate. Whether you are Hindu, Muslim or Christian, I think the premise of good over evil is something we can all relate to. However, only Hindu's actually celebrate this festival. For the last week the neighbours have been lighting firecrackers and they scare the crap out of me. That's how people celebrate it here, they light firecrackers and candles.

How will I be celebrating Diwali?? I get 2 days off from work!!! That's celebration enough for me!! Muscles is Muslim and I'm Christian so we'll keep it low key and enjoy and watch fireworks. But the city is usually in chaos during festival times, and most of the time it's just better to stay home or close to home rather than stuck in the crazy amounts of traffic that will pile up during this time.

I have attached a few pictures of Diwali when I was in Malaysia. I haven't yet seen anything quite like that here, but I haven't been through the city yet since I work nights. Perhaps this weekend I'll roam around and see if I can get some pictures. But for now you can enjoy these ones taken a few years back of Diwali in Malaysia. These pictures are courtesy of Manon, because I lost a lot of my pictures when my laptop was stolen a few years back. Sad, but true story.

NB** Manon just reminded me that the first photo is actually of Diwali in Singapore, the second one is in KL, Malaysia. We were also in Singapore for Diwali and actually stayed in little India while we were there!
Thanks Manon for the reminder!!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

And PS.....

When I write the things I miss about home, I hope you all assume (and by all I mean friends and family) that I miss you the most...more than Tim Horton's or wine, or food. I mean come on.

But that is and should be a given. My heart aches for my family and friends all the time, and leaving the country makes me value you all the more. But missing you is also what makes me stronger, and I'm thankful every day for this amazing opportunity. It's not what everyone would choose for their life, but I'm happy with the way I'm living mine.

So I miss you all......even more than Tim Horton's..but just barely.

Just kidding!!!!!

10 things about him

I figure it's about time to share a few more tidbits about the guy in my life, Muscles. I didn't want to share too much until I knew we were past the beginning stages of the relationship, and now that it has been almost 3 months since we started dating (I've known him for about 5 months), i think it's time to let you in on how we met and other tidbits. I can't exactly have a blog about my life here and leave out the most important part, now can I????

Here are 10 things to know about Muscles and me:

1. When we met, we disliked each other very much. I thought he was too into himself, and he thought I was a snob.
2. After about a month of bumping into each other (he was Timothy's friend), we developed a friendship and would talk and text each other every day.
3. I was dating someone else at the time when Muscles realized he liked me more than a friend. He has always been honest with me, so he told me that he had a crush on me, but he respected the relationship I was in, and wouldn't pressure me either way. But he remained a constant in my life and i soon realized I wanted to speak to him and hang out with him more than the guy I was currently dating. Kind of a sign, don't you think???!!!
4. This is the first guy who has really pursued me. No games, no headaches wondering if he would call. My friend Amanda and my mom always told me, when you meet the right guy it will just be easy. And it was and still is. It felt great for a guy to do the work for a change, and ladies it does matter, the guy likes to chase, so don't allow yourself to get caught too soon.
5. Muscles and I can talk for hours on end without getting bored. His English is better than most westerners, and we have so much in common.
6. Our first date was the one of the more traditional ones I had had in the LONGEST time. He picked me up on his motorcycle, took me to his favourite cafe, Mocha, (because he heard me complain about the lack of good coffee in India). The coffee is the best at this place, hands down!! Then he took me to his favourite Chinese restaurant, and then he dropped me off at home. It felt amazing to have things done the "right" way!!!
7. Muscles is Muslim. And I am learning so much about Islam, the things that ARE NOT written in the media. Islam is very similar to Christianity and Muslims follow the Old testament of the Bible which is the Quran. Of course there are similarities but everything you think you know about Islam has probably been so jaded and misinterpreted by the American media. Are there things about Islam I disagree with? Yes, there are. But there are things I disagree with in Christianity, Hinduism, and Judaism as well. His mother is an English Professor working on her PhD and wrote her thesis on feminism. So even she has issues with certain aspects of Islam, but it's important for us to question our religion, and ask questions. But his mother and sister do not wear Burqa's around the city. That is a woman's choice. Some countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran are more strict about those rules of course. Muscles does a great job in answering all the questions I have about his religion.
8. Muscles has been raised well, by a good family with strict rules, with importance placed on treating women with respect. I have never been treated so well by any guy, apart from my father, who holds the standard to treating women well, in my opinion. He still treats my mother like a queen after 37 years of marriage.
9. Muscles is handy. He can fix a computer, fix his motorcycle to a certain extent, and he takes such good care of me, that I'm probably becoming pampered. He won't let me do anything by myself (not in a possessive way). He just tries his best to make my life here in India a little easier, because sometimes getting things done here can be very complicated. He loves how independent I am, but also loves that he is me.
10. Muscles is younger than me. Quite a bit younger. I struggled with this at the beginning, but what can you do? You can't help these things sometimes. The guy pursued me, not the other way around. I relented after I realized that life is just too short to follow societies rules as to what is right and wrong. You should do what feels right! And I'm extremely happy I did!!!!

So there it is folks, a little peek into the window of my personal life in India.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

# 2: Things I miss from home

I really miss Tim Horton's coffee. There I said it. I wouldn't be Canadian if I didn't miss my large double double.
A few of the Indian managers from the Canadian portfolio I work for went to Canada for 2 weeks in June, and they even tried Tim Horton's and miss it too. All they could talk about was the large double double coffee they had, and bagels. They were fascinated with the bagels!! I have yet to see a bagel in this country.
Oh man, a toasted cinnamon raisin bagel with light cream cheese and a double double, a simple pleasure that makes me so happy.

I miss you Tim Horton's!!!!

I may be living in India, but I'm still Canadian

59% voter turn out in yesterdays election, is absolutely pitiful!!! The lowest voter turnout in Canadian history!!! I live in India and I still managed to vote!!!

I really really get tired of hearing that all the politicians suck and so by having to choose one, is like picking your poison. Get online to read about the parties platform, read the newspaper, watch the news. There is just no excuse for not voting!!
Women, I'm talking to you now, we have had to fight for the right to vote! Although women were given the right to vote in 1918, other factors such as race, and religion prevented others to vote for another 50 years! Women didn't fight for our rights to vote by having us sit on our ass and say "I just don't know who to vote for," or "all the politicians just lie anyway." That's a bunch of crap.
I hate it more than anything when people complain about the laws, and the taxes and the politicians in general when they didn't even cast a vote. You don't have a right to complain!!

The sad thing is, that the American election is less than a month away and I am pretty sure more Canadians care about the fate of that election more than the one that just happened in their own country.
That's just sad and shameful. Change will never happen if you don't exercise your right to vote!

I'm not even going to comment on the conservatives winning a muscular minority. That's a whole other issue.

I'll get off my soapbox now!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Anecdote # 7 for riding your scooter (in India)

If there is even a hint of darkness in the sky- I don't even care if it's the sunniest day but in the distance you see a patch of dark cloud, don't decide to go out and run errands. It will rain on you. And it will rain hard.

Scooters are awesome- when it's NOT raining.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Vizag beach vacation: pictures

Here are some pics of the vacation Muscles and i took to Vizag. We had a lovely time and mostly hung out on the beach, it was a short trip and since it took 12 hours to get there and back we didn't want to spend all our time running around. We just wanted to chill out!

Vizag is the second largest city in the state of Andra Pradesh but compared to Hyderabad, it was so much more laid back, had much less traffic and dust and way more humidity since Vizag is a coastal city on the Bay of Bengal. The city pretty much shuts down after after about 9:30pm, but after frolicking in the ocean and the sun all day, we were pretty much exhausted.

There weren't many other western tourists around on the beach although there were plenty of Indian tourists, the men swimming in their brief bikini underwear (gross) and the women swim or just walk around in the shallow waters in their Salwars. And then there was me, in a bikini. I didn't go into the water too much as the Ocean was quite aggressive and had large waves. You couldn't go too deep as the currents had the potential to pull you in, so we just went in to cool off. I did meet three westerners, who are in high school studying in Vizag on a 4 month program with their schools. Two were from California and the other was from Guadalajara Mexico. What a terrific opportunity these teenagers are getting by spending 4 months abroad studying. They aren't loving India too much as being a teenager can suck here, but they certainly are getting a taste of a different culture. They live with host Indian families and are not used to the very strict restraints put on them. Anyway, if i have kids, I'd love for them to have this kind of an opportunity!!

Here are some pics to give you an idea of what it was like there, 4 days on the beach just wasn't enough, but it was still nice to go and chill out for a little while.

Our cottage style hotel for the weekend

i actually saw a few guys surfing. The waves were huge! But I have no idea where they got their surfboards from. We couldn't find any surf boards or boogey boards to save our lives!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I can't believe they said that......

I am going to attest to the fact that I was very surprised when I came to India and realized the level of English spoken here, and that all business work places function primarily in English. Oh, stop you all believed the stereotypes too. And not every Indian speaks like Apu (seriously Wikipedia rocks) from the Simpson's. The accents are more British in nature than anything else. Read this to learn more about the stereotypes conveyed through the character Apu. Although yes, some do have the stereotypical Indian accent (but those are mostly northern Indians from the state of Punjab). I consider myself well traveled and was somewhat embarrassed by my lack of knowledge about India and Indians and then pleased to learn all these new facts from a business perspective. I actually give a seminar on stereotypes and I teach the new agents about distinguishing from stereotypes and fact. As I have to teach others about American/Canadian culture, it's important they understand the difference between generalizing, stereotypes, and what they read in the media.

However, that does not mean that there aren't some darn funny things that are said because of MTI, which translates into mother tongue influence or "Indianisms" as it is sometimes referred to but isn't so politically correct. Most of the agents do have a terrific grasp of the English language but English still is their second language so sometimes there are some barriers.

Here are some very funny examples of MTI. Hope you find them as funny as I do, but then again, I guess you also had to be there to get the full effect.

Example #1: Mock call assessment: After the agents spend 6 weeks in training the voice team (that's me and another person) give the agents their voice assessment. We look for soft skills and voice. Soft skills are showing empathy to the client, listening well, customer service, how they open and close the call, effective interaction. Voice will include intonation, pronunciation,grammar, scripted voice and fluency.

Agent: Welcome to the auto club, how may I help you today?
me: I hit a deer and I'll need a tow as soon as possible
Agent: Oh. Ma'am how is the car?
me: How is the car????? The car is in bad shape, but I'M FINE!!!

Doh. Needless to say the guy didn't get too good of a mark. Yes he empathized, but with the car not the person. We still get a kick about this one at work.

Example #2: Mock call assessment: This agent shouldn't have been hired in the first place. So this is how her assessment went down. I use idioms sometimes in the call to give agents a taste of things they might hear on a call. They are trained on this during their 6 weeks. I spend 8 hours with them!!

Agent: Thanks for calling the auto club how can I help you?
Me: I seem to be in a bit of a pickle. I ran out of gas on the interstate, and I'll need someone to deliver me some right away.
Agent: OK, Ma'am, so let me understand this? You are in a pickle shop?
Me: What? A pickle shop? No. I'm on the Interstate!!

At this point I had to mute the call while the other voice trainer and I howled with laughter, tears coming down our cheeks. The other voice trainer is Indian and knew what the idiom meant, and I hear it used by many people who call in!!! Needless to say this girl did not pass. I mean Americans will have this girl for lunch!!

Anyway, some funny stuff. I'll post more of these a little later. I have to dig deep into the memory bag for more of them, these are the two that we use in training as to WHAT NOT TO DO on a call!!!