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!!!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Anecdote #12 for riding a scooter in India

Never wear chap stick or sticky lip gloss and then get on your scooter in India. Or anywhere really.

Unless you want dirt for lipstick, and I guarantee you that dirt brown is not the new pink!

# 1: Things I miss from home

I miss red wine! You can't find it here. And when you do find a bottle of red wine it's sweet and sugary and tastes disgusting.

I found some Italian red wine at a restaurant a few days ago, but it cost a fortune, 400 rupees for a glass, which equates to about $8.50. Not expensive, really. But when you consider the average person in India makes about $400 a month, it is very expensive.
But I bought a glass anyway, and sipped it so damn slowly, and I even made moaning noises as it went smoothly down my throat.

Waaahhh. I miss red wine!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Season confusion

I had this conversation yesterday with my friend, all the while thinking I was in some bizarre universe.

Labels: "Winter's coming. My skin is all cracked and dry."
Me: starring at her oblivious "You're kidding, right? The weather has been a steady 30 degrees for months now. It barely fluctuates." ( I have NOT noticed the "seasons" changing).
Labels: Seriously, don't you feel winter coming?"
Me: "I know winter is coming when there are no more leaves on the trees, when I have to wear 15 layers to go outside, and snow is falling from the sky! Then I'll show you what chapped dry skin is!"
Labels: "Well this is India"
Me: "I KNOW!!!! But you CAN'T CALL IT WINTER! It's 30 degrees outside!!"

Seriously. When I arrived in April and it actually was summer, it was 46 degrees, and it felt like a ridiculous version of summer, then everyone kept raving about monsoon season, how the weather cools down. It still felt like summer to me, only with rain, (which most experienced this summer in Ontario anyway). And now, winter is coming, and it still feels like summer to me.

I think I'm going through season confusion. No change in season is making me a little crazy. The change of season for me, was like a new beginning, change in the clothes I wear and the sports I play. Here there are no new beginnings. You wear the same clothes, the same sandals, nothing seems to change. This is my first time living in a season-less country, and although having 30 degree weather is nice, I love the seasons, even though I bitch about winter and spring sometimes in Canada (I mean they can be harsh), I like that I live in a country that has 4 distinct seasons!

Although, I am certainly not complaining the next 4 days, as I will be going to a beach in October, and it is 30 degrees out. All is not so bad I guess.......

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


My first real vacation is this week. I just took 4 days off and with the weekend it gives me a nice 6 days of relaxation on the beach. We were going to go to Goa, but decided to try another Indian beach in the same state I am in already- Andra Pradesh-, called Visakhapatnam or Vizag for short, as I will call it. Now, just because it is in the same state does not mean it is any closer, it will take us 12-13 hours by bus from Hyderabad. We booked the trip a little late and couldn't get train tickets, so opted for the bus, which is pricier, but still economical. It feels like it has been a while since I've done the traveling thing, and although it will just be for about 4 days, the excitement of seeing someplace new and being close to the ocean (in this case the Bay of Bengal) on the eastern part of India, keeps me thriving!

Click here, to see some pictures and get a feel for Vizag. I'll be taking a lot of my own pictures as well, and getting some sun on my super fair skin. It's summer all year round here, but I still haven't managed to get much colour other than on my arms and some on my face. I wear sunscreen a lot and of course I cover myself up when I'm out.

We leave on Thursday and I can't wait!

Here is a map of India, I have circled Hyderabad, and Vizag in green, just to give you a visual of where I am and where I'm going. They look close together, I know, but again, this is India and places take the double the time they normally should to get there, I think it is about 650km away. Which we could probably drive in about 7 hours in Canada.