Sunday 28 April 2013

Lazy blogger's day

Dear reader,
Oh, well, so it is hot in Mumbai, and the activity and energy among my friends seem to decrease... And do I see signs of decreasing energy, - almost laziness-  in myself too? Yep, think so. I take a long and hard look at myself in the mirror. Not so eager to rush out in the heat and explore these days. The home delivery business is more tempting than ever. Long walking tours? Hm. Whats wrong with taking the car? The heat is on in Mumbai!

But, the timing is perfect for having these visitors here - my wonderful cousin who is also an excellent writer. Hm. My laziness overwhelms me. She is blogging with such great joy, energy and enthusiasm about our experiences here in Mumbai! We have had some hilarious moments together, and she describes it so well. The other day we went together to Worli fishing village - a visit she blogged about. This piece is from when we came to a temple there:

We strolled around for another hour, our pace slowing down as the heat increased. Just outside a temple in the middle of the village, we discovered a pink and yellow wash basin. Apparently women walk around it before entering the temple. “It's for good luck. You should do it!”, Taronish encouraged me.
So I did. But I got more than I bargained for.
I actually paused briefly at one point before my seventh round was up. “So, what will actually happen?, I demanded. “You will get stronger!”, my guide shouted reassuringly.
But hadn't she mentioned something about marriage as well? But, Taronish had no time to answer, because my fiance, who helped me keep count, ushered me on. “Two more rounds. Keep walking!”
So, I blame what happens next – now or in the very distant future – on him.
Because, eventually, the seventh round was up and I turned to Taronish. “So, what happens now?”
“Now you have your husband Dominic for seven lifetimes!”, she stated triumphantly.
“Err…For seven lifetimes?”, I repeated, “I didn't sign up for that.”
Likewise, my boyfriend. “Whoa…whoa… Seven lifetimes!? I thought it was just for a long time. Because I was thinking in the third lifetime of maybe, you know, swap…”
Laughing, Taronish shook her head.
“No”, she said, simply.
Yes – so that is us, people. Deep blue bliss for seven lifetimes. 

See what I mean? Fun and well-written, right?! So, these days I just lean back, stretch my legs up and read and enjoy her blog. It is quite entertaining to read about myself through someone else's eyes too. And fun to read about how they see it, our life here in Mumbai and our experiences. She really has an amazing way with words... :-) You can follow her blog here. So, a few pictures from our steaming hot walk in Worli:

Listening to the guide - Worli

Love the colorful houses

And colorful clothes ..

Hot and smelly at the fish (and flie) market..

Fishing boats with sealink..
I hope you have had a good weekend dear reader, and wish you a wonderful start of the new week!
Stay tuned!

Longing for a dip in the sea..

Dear reader,
It is getting steaming hot in Mumbai! Steaming hot! Hot and humid! I can just sense how my friends' energy level kind of decreases day by day and the temperature is rising.. Oh, it is hot, hot hot! " Oh, let the monsoon begin" sighed one of my friends the other day. Yes, some have started to long for the monsoon. Not, so strange maybe because you see- it hasn't rained in Mumbai since autumn last year ( autumn last year - did you hear that, my Bergen friends?)... The other day I got carried away by this anticipation too and caught myself staring suspiciously up on the sky: What was it about those grey clouds? Could it be rain? Rain? Or just wind? Where was the usual blue Mumbai sky? Was this it? Would it really rain? Would the monsoon start super-early this year?

So, do I long for the rain? Not so much. My selfish me really enjoys this rainfree life in Mumbai. Personally, I am more eager for a dip in the sea. Preferable in the Aegean sea, but with the temperatures rising to 40 degrees-even the freezing Nordic sea sounds utterly tempting. The other day we were walking around, and I could hear the waves, watch the water and feel the soft sea breeze. However, I am not so sure that I have reached such a level of desperation that I will dive into the sea close to Mumbai though, like these kids did:
Cooling off in the sea at Worli, Mumbai..
My cousin and hubby are still with us and still planning where they will travel in India, remember? When they speak with our friends about where to go, all the advice they get include some sort of tip on where to go to avoid the heat! So, they are preparing their journey. India is preparing for monsoon season. And me? I have started to prepare for holidaying in my home countr-y/ies (..not quite yet, but ..). The other day I was telling one of my Indian friends about the Aegean sea. About our beach, where we go with the boat, where the water is clearer than crystal... Where we can see the sandy bottom through the blue-green water- and where we just dive in. Coming up!
Taking a dip in the Aegean sea...:-) Ahhh 
You might remember that The Greek and I were searching for swimmable seawater close to Mumbai. Not quite there yet, I admit. But even though we can not swim in it - walking, sitting or just being close to the sea in Mumbai- love it! But do not expect a romantic peaceful-watch-the-sunset-moment! Here you will share the experience with thousands of others. Like one time we went to Juhu beach at sunset, and The Greek laughed and pointed: "Look! All of Norway on the beach!"  Crowds of people were gathering- well, maybe almost as many as the whole population of Norway? Walking, talking, laughing, playing games, eating, drinking - enjoying the time and sharing the moment.  
A peaceful sea-moment:-) 
Enjoy your moment wherever you are, dear reader!
Good evening from Mumbai!

Thursday 25 April 2013

Sending out two guinea pigs to travel India

So, - Jaipur, Udaipur, Rajasthan,Varanasi, Fatehpur Sikri, Khajuraho or Gangtok? Is Darjeeling worth a visit? Shall we go to Pondicherry or is Kerala it ? It is hot- so maybe Himalaya-area is best? And what about Spiti Valley, Amritsar, Orchha or Jodhpur? Am I going to explore India now? Well, not exactly...

They are! My wonderful visiting cousin and her hubby are! They are looking at each other and looking at us- where to go? So many exiting places! I share their enthusiasm and hang on to them the best I can - as they sit and plan their next move... Where does the road take us from Mumbai? Do we want temples, beaches or hill-stations? Where will we be next week? And the week after? Their future backpacker-days are white and bright - like blank white sheets of paper- ready to be filled with the colors of India.

Actually, they have been so busy exploring Mumbai the last few days, so the planning of The Days Ahead are not too detailed yet. Which is a good thing for us, because we enjoy having them here! They came with me to my NGO, and made a guest appearance (very popular one:-)) in the English class..
Highlight of the class: Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes...

Actually, my cousin, who is such a great writer, blogged about her afternoon going with me to the slum-area.  It is a very moving and so well-written story - I really enjoyed reading it, and I hope you will too! How can I not love having them here with us?!

So, now they are planning the next step of their India- experience. They have had a lot of travel-tips from our friends here in Mumbai, and it is fun to follow their planning from the sideline. In the meantime we are doing Mumbai together! Yesterday, we hanged around in Bandra: shopping, lunching, sightseeing..
A stroll along the sea - Bandra
And what a fantastic timing! Because today the Mangoes arrived! Those 60 delicious juicy mangoes with a lovely scent - that we had ordered - straight from the village! (60 mangoes- 18 Euros, guys!) And as you all know- peeling and cutting mangoes.... well, it's a slimy affair- but, - and here is my point - we have these wonderful visitors who happens to be Masters of the Art of Mangopeelingandcutting. And then they served us Mango with Sticky Rice. Got to love these visitors, right?!
Wonderful cousin preparing dessert for us:-) Mango yoummie! 

And what else? Well, we went to the Kolis in Worli - I have been there before, remember? And I was happy to see that my visitors enjoyed it just as much as I did! Now, I am sitting here with my ears full of Jaipur, Udaipur and Varanasi. Oh, well - let my guinea pigs go off and test it! I am looking forward to hear their impressions and their continuation of the India experience! But for now we are all in Mumbai, and will be for many more days! Great! Now, I am off to enjoy my carefully prepared mangoes:-)

Good evening from Mumbai!

Monday 22 April 2013

When the backpackers came to Mumbai

Good evening dear reader,
The last time we spoke I was telling you about all tourist stuff- Leopold, Gateway of India... So, what have I been doing the last few days,- since Friday? Ups - I did it again: a bit of Leopold, Gateway and some other tourist stuff. BUT - I must hurry to add: this time in company with 2 enthusiastic & cheering first-time-in-India backpackers! So, I can (once again- yippee -) re-live my own first impressions of India! So, here we go again with the cows in the street, the colorful clothes, the smiles, the scents, the food.... Welcome to India!

These backpackers arrived with surprisingly small backpacks, unbelievable! They have been travelling in South East Asia for 3 months already - and now they are staying with us. So, far they seem to like it ( How wonderful if you would consider adopting us?). They have eaten Indian food, (Best butter chicken ever), ordered tailor-made clothes (Came for 1 pair of trousers and left with 2 suits and 4 pants), been stared at, done sightseeing- and whatever we suggest to do - they are up for it!  So, who are these mysterious backpackers? My sweet cousin and her fiance. It is great to have them here, and wonderful to show them "our" Mumbai! And their first impressions of India? Well, what can be better than having them tell it in their own words? So, please have a look at my cousin's wonderful blog - I don't do camping!

How long they will stay? I have no idea- I just now that when they leave they will travel as the most stylish backpacker couple ever- in their elegant tailor made clothes :-)

Ta ta from Mumbai!

The visitors - This is from the PRE-TAILOR-MUMBAI-PERIODE

Friday 19 April 2013

Leopold, hard rock- and tourist stuff

Dear reader,
Are you ever a tourist in your own city? It strange isn't it - sometimes we do not see the things that are there - just under your nose- because you live there, you are not just a random tourist with a tight time schedule. I remember when I lived in Athens, Greece, and I met this lady - who had lived in Athens all her life- but she had never been up to Acropolis! I couldn't believe it!? And then I met this Norwegian lady, who had never been out of Norway- until the year she turned 60 - then she went abroad for the first time - to Athens - to visit the Acropolis! A dream came true for her! To watch the sunset at Acropolis!

I think I have kept myself quite busy in Mumbai, and seen a lot of the city, but there are some -  more tourist- like- stuff that I hadn't done - up until now. And no, no, I am not talking about the Gateway of India - I have been there - up to several times. And by the way- the last time was just a couple of weeks ago - on a Sunday - so the area was packed with people, and we went the whole family. And funny enough: for the Indian tourists - the Foreigners (us) was almost just as big an attraction as the Gateway- at least judged by the number of pictures they took of us! Some asked politely if they could take our picture, and some just snapped away! Hmmm - my teens are not quite enthusiastic about that... So be prepared - visitors from abroad: In India you might be The tourist attraction- they haven't seen a Foreigner like you before! When I discuss this with my expat friends- some find it hilarious and some get deeply annoyed...
Tourist spot number 1: The Gateway of India. 
Well, after the snapshot-rain, we strolled up to Leopold Cafe. Famous from the Shantaram book (remember?) and a from lot of travel guides about Mumbai. It was also one of the first places to be hit under the terrorist attacks in 2008, and the bullet holes are still there. Being a cafe with a history, it has atmosphere. You will meet tourists - for sure - here, - but it is also visited by locals - and you can get food and/or drinks pretty cheap! And for beer lovers: a quite unique draft beer serving...

And what is it about Hard Rock Cafe? Is there such a thing as a Hard Rock Cafe- tourism? Some people just has to visit the local Hard Rock Cafe when they are on holiday ....I will not say more since we are guilty of rushing off to find the Miami version when we went there and the Kuala Lumpur version the day after we arrived KL... Well, we can tick off another Mumbai spot on our list!  After months in Mumbai we finally acted on the tourist urge, and visited the Mumbai version.
Hard Rock Mumbai
So, we did some tourist stuff and we pleased some tourists ourselves. .. What else is up in Mumbai?
Well, there is a dance festival starting next week: Stark Raven Mad - NCPA Mudra Festival of Dance and Bhakti Poetry - I might check that out.

And - you may have noticed that we have had a lot of visitors this spring? Well, the guestroom has been empty for almost 2 weeks now, but tonight it will be filled again! Oh, yes! Stay tuned, and I might tell you about our upcoming visitors:-) It is also their first time in India - so this should be interesting...:-)

Wednesday 17 April 2013

2 expat days in Mumbai

Dear reader,
It is late evening in Mumbai, and I am sitting on our balcony thinking about the last 2 days. This crazy city with all it's contrasts: the rich and poor and slums and palaces. The last 2 days has been Mumbai in a nutshell for me. Yesterday, I spent most of the day in the slum - remember, with the kids and our small library? Our office is inside the slum with small brick houses all around. The classes meet in the upper floor, in a small room, where the roof is made of corrugated iron and the ceiling is looow.  With almost 40 degrees outside (and of course no AC!) you can image.... it's like an oven, really:-) A small fan from the seventies does it best to push the hot air around in the room.

Well, as usual, I climbed up the narrow staircase.. And what a sight: an ocean of kids got on their feet and screamed:  "Good morning teacher!" Oh Shock! You see, on normal days there are around 14  kids in the class, and then it is quite crowded in the room. BUT, because it is summer holiday (and the regular school is closed) the class had magically grown to over 30 kids! They all had a friend, or a sibling or a neighbor - who reeeeeally wanted to join - so pleeeaaase, could they come too?! Well, I just could not send them away, could I?
Some of the kids in the class room, and a veeeery small fan. 
So, there we were! After 2 intense, interesting and hilarious hours, I was the color of a tomato and as sweaty as /¤//&%¤, but they would like to go on, and were thanking and smiling and giggling, and assuring me again and again and again that they would be back next week. Would I? Well, of course I will:-)

And today? What did I do? Well, I started my day with some writing and then went to do yoga. After, I had lunch with a friend, and then I was off to our club. My family joined me in the afternoon after school/work, and we spent the whole afternoon there: spread out on the sunbeds under the palms - until sunset.

So, do you see what I mean, dear reader? The expat days in Mumbai can be just as contrasted as the city itself. Anything but boring!

Good night from Mumbai!

Saturday 13 April 2013

Cinemaing in India - first class!

Oh, how I love to go to the movies in India! The atmosphere, the people, the engagement, the cheering, and then there is the Cinema Business Class. Yes, Gold class; the place where the seats turn into beds, where the glasses are made of - well - glass and an army of waiters (oh yes) is waiting to take your pop-corn order, if you still feel like going with the pop corn( and not Champagne&oysters)  - but hey guys - after all: it is cinema, even though a posh one.

Don't get me wrong! In general, cinemaing in India is a joyful thing - first class or not. And whether you choose to go for a Bollywood film or a "foreign" film, and in Hindi or English it is a really fun experience. I wrote about Bollywood memories before, and considering Bollywood makes 3 times as many films as Hollywood, there are a lot of films to choose from. And just for the atmosphere, a Hindi film is fun!

If you have kids/teens, a tip is- if  you buy your tickets online-  to be sure to check the age limit - it might be different than how they rate the film elsewhere...! With the tickets in your hand you can now enter, but there are some checkpoints. Security check, and ticket- check a couple of times. At the first one, I had to remove the battery for my camera as it was not allowed to bring inside. (They kept in at the security check and I could pick it up again after the film.) (= blurry pics from Inside...)
The waiting room (or should we say lounge) at the cinema (the Gold one) :-) 
If you got safely through the security check and have your age-correct tickets with you, you are now in the waiting area - looking more like a posh salon really. After the waiting room you proceed to usually another check point where - whether you like it or not (if you are a huge fan of finding your own seat) - someone will check you ticket and show you to your seat. At the Cinema Business Class where your seat is made of leather, and a panel on the side can switch your chair to a bed in no time, there are waiters who will take your order, you will have a drink (we got pineapple juice) and a bottle of water, and you are now ready to kick off your shoes and curl up in the chair/bed under a soft blanket.
Complimentary water bottle waiting for you
Wait! Do not get too comfy under the blanket too soon! You see, it all starts with the Indian National Hymn, so up you go, find your shoes you kicked off somewhere,  and stand for the Hymn. Then there will probably be some commercial, most probably anti-smoking ones, and the film starts. Know also that there will be a break in the middle of the film, enough time to visit the washroom, giggle with your mates and curl up again in the bed.
Here I have stretched out under the blanket, enjoying my complimentary drink and the movie:-) 
Oh, how am I ever going to go back to a "normal" cinema after this?

After the film, wake up your fellow mates- if needed,  it is tempting to just wanna hang on to this place, and remember to get your camera-battery/lighter or other confiscated items back from security.

Enjoy the movie everyone!

Tuesday 9 April 2013

Children's future India - on Norwegian radio NRK

The 8 year old girl who wants to be a doctor. The woman who started her own vegetable shop. The female presidents of the self help groups for women. The 22 year old student who does not want to marry, because then she can not work. The expat volunteer:-) The proud mothers. The young girls who believe that India is changing for the better. The strong women who have created their own future. Today, Norwegian radio listeners met all these and several more in the programme " The Sponsored Children in Mumbai"

Remember I told you about the journalist from NRK - (The National TV and radio channel in Norway) who was in Mumbai?  Like most people she left the city filled with impressions. She has now turned her impressions in to radio programs. Some weeks ago "Along the streets of Mumbai" was sent, and today we met " The Sponsored Children in Mumbai".

The listeners was brought to the pipeline slum. They could hear the children talking about their future dreams, they young girls telling about how the sponsorship enabled them to stay in school and the women explaining how just a little support can help them make a living for themselves and make sure their children stay in school. The NGO Children's Future India / Fadderbarnas fremtid works here. Almost 300 children from low-income families are enrolled in a sponsorship programme and receive support from sponsors abroad. In the programme we meet some of the children and their parents. I talked about the volunteer work I do, and the Head of the NGO explained how our focus help for self-help works. How to make it possible for families to keep their children in school and how to help women make a living for themselves.

You can listen to the programme at NRK - Ekko - (Find and press the "Ekko" link and then the programme named 09.04 (09:03-10:00). "Our" part of the programme starts about half way in.) It is in Norwegian...

And by the way. I told you about the birth of our small library, right? Well, I am happy to tell you that it is still up and running, and growing fast and strong! Most pupils in Indian school have started their summer vacation now, but that does not mean that they hang around being bored. Oh No! They were sooo exited and happy to tell me that Summer Vacation now means that they can read even more books from the library and they want more time with me doing a lot of extra classes! Yey - for summer vacation:-)
Stay tuned dear reader!
Yeeey Summer! More time for reading and doing extra classes!! 

Monday 8 April 2013

To Tan or De-tan - is that a question?

"Oh - you've got a tan!", my neighbor said when I met her in the elevator the other day.  "Yes", I confirmed and proudly showed her my not-so-milky-white-anymore-arms ( the result of lazy hours on the Goan beaches, remember? And even though in the shade, the skin gets some color right? )  "Why? It is not so good", she declared, shaking her head. Crazy foreigner who wants a Tan. No, no - not in India.

You see, dear reader, here in India it is about de-tanning, not tanning. It is about how to get fairer skin, lighter, brighter, whiter...In a commercial they ask " Did you get a tan this summer vacation? We will help you to remove it. Use our product". At first I couldn't believe it, and we found it hilarious. Complete opposite of what I am used to from Norway. From Norway where, just by the slightest promise of sun, people will rush out of their houses to get some sunlight, some color, some tan...

But I guess to Indians, it is as hilarious to watch westerns stretch out under the sun to get some tan. Or like an Indian friend asked " Why do the tourists want to be tanned? Don't they know it is not healthy?" 

Another Indian friend told me that her mum had told her to use an umbrella whenever she went out. If her skin darkens too much, there is less a chance of finding her a husband, her mother had said.

Here in India they sell de-tanning products. Do you hear that up there in Norway: de-tanning products! They sell a body lotion in a brand which I recognize from Norway. In the commercial for it in India, they promise that it will get you fairer skin (on a scale from 1-8), while in Norway the commercial for the similar product, advertises for getting a lovely tanned "sunkissed" skin color (on a scale from 1-8).

I give up. Do we people always strive for things we don't have? Someone is making money on it though. Imagine if they started selling detanning products in Norway and tanning products in India. Ha ha. What about going for the natural look?

Ta ta from Mumbai!
You can use this....

...if you got too much of this...

Friday 5 April 2013

Soup in the summer? - recipe

It is summer in India. Well, for us Greek-Norwegians it seems like summer all year around here, but now it is - well, more summer than it was when it was winter - if you know what I mean? And the question is: Can we eat soup in the Summer, or is it just too hot for a steaming hot bowl of soup?

You see, certain members of my family seem to think that having soup for dinner is only possible if you live somewhere where the temperature goes below minus - C, and you need to defrost over a bowl of something hot. But the other day I ignored all comments and made a delicious soup. This is how I did it:

SUMMER SOUP (yes, it is possible)

You need:
4 chopped cloves of garlic
2 chopped onions
1 cauliflower, chopped in small pieces
1 broccoli, chopped in small pieces
(you can replace the vegetables with tomatoes or other favorite vegetables)
Salt, pepper, butter
Cream and/or yogurt
In cauliflower/broccoli soup: add some dill and parsley
In tomato soup: add some chili

You do:
Melt some butter in a pan and brown the garlic and onion a little. Add the chopped vegetables.
Pour over 1-2 l water and let boil until the vegetables are soft. Use a hand-mixer to mash the vegetables, but if you like, (I do) leave some of the vegetables in small pieces. Towards the end, add a few spoons of cream or yogurt.
Just before serving, lay on a spoon of yogurt in the soup bowl. Decorate with some fresh dill or parsley.

It is easy to make, healthy, light and very tasty - at least for us strange creatures who enjoy a bowl of soup also in the summer time:-)

Hhmm. Did it seem a bit colorless to you? Would you like more color and more taste for your bowl of soup? Then try the tomato version! A hot and spicy tomato-chili soup. In India we are lucky to get juicy red tomatoes - perfect for soup!

Hope you enjoy it!

Good evening from Mumbai!

Wednesday 3 April 2013

Spicy stuff in Goa

After my last posting you might have the impression that I spent last week either dozing in the shade of a palm tree or smashing plates and screaming "Opah!" at a Greek taverna..? Well, dear reader, let me ask you:   Do you know what a cardamom bush looks like? Or how the cashew nuts are being harvested? I didn't, but I do now, after a very educational stroll in the Goan jungle.

Well, to be more precise: we visited Sahakari Spice Farm. We were welcomed by given a bindi at the forehead and having flower garlands thrown around our necks. With the lemon grass welcome tea we also received a small lecture of the health benefits of some of the spices, and then we set out on the Spice Safari.

Our friendly In-Nature-We-Trust-Guide led the way on a small path in between the tall palms, trees and bushes. We were put in a group with other spice-knowledge-seeking tourists from Australia, India and Japan, and one by one we followed the Guide to the first stop: The Cardamom Bush.

We also saw peppers, chili, nutmeg, cloves and a lot more in addition to cashew nuts, cocoa, pineapple, banana and ...well, what do you know: - an elephant...!?
Yes, an elephant in a spice farm... Kind of a fancy tourist gimmick, I was thinking, as sweaty spice-tourists enthusiastically lined up for being showered by the elephant in the little river... The rest of the tourists gathered on the little bridge to applaud the scenery. Well, we continued our tour and discovered a vanilla tree, cinnamon, bananas, and - ops - a man in a tree!? 

He was there to demonstrate how to climb the palm to harvest coconuts, just with using a small piece of rope.. "And now ladies and gentlemen, it's your turn.." Ever heard that phrase before? Another moment of giggling in the group... Not exactly the easiest thing.. (not that I tried- but by the look of it I mean..) We also saw:  
Cashew nut fruit - used for both drinks and  well,.. nuts... :-0

One plant. One Pineapple. The cutest little one - going to grow biiig

Vanilla tree
After the guided tour, we were given a shower of ice cold water down our backs, for good luck!? And a buffet lunch was included - with lots of spicy food  - of course:-) If you ever are in Goa, it is an interesting place to visit!

And then we went to the Goan sunset on the beach:-) Ahhhh, wonderful Goa!

Stay tuned dear reader!