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.











video

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

Really??

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.
WOW.

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.