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Adventures from Here and There

India Days continued July 9, 2012

Filed under: Travel,Uncategorized — travelchokri @ 9:42 am

Written a couple of weeks back….and continuing….

Delhi is hot as hell. I guess I am here during the monsoon season. Weird, almost each visit to India has been during these months. A colleague from Geneva was in town last weekend. We went to Chandni Chowk, the Red Fort and the Pacific Mall on Saturday afternoon after sleeping at The Taj. Wearing sleeveless today. No one else on the metro seems to be. Girls do not walk around with wet hair…like me! Maybe they think it looks too oily….the days can be tiring with the heat. Right from the am it’s bloody hot. I walk 5 minutes to the metro, then have to go through security. The great thing is I can be in the ladies only car. However, it is packed. Transfer onto another train after 30 mins of riding and pushing my way through the crazy crowd. Always get shoved as there is no concept of waiting for people to get off the train first. At some of the stations you see men run to get a seat. I’m not kidding. My colleague who was visiting from Geneva thought I was joking, until she saw it herself. It’s such a hoot. I want to film it but no cameras are allowed. Though I’d love to do a flash mob on the metro and see what happens. Maybe wear a saree….that easily comes off…and then underneath I’m wearing the shortest shorts and a tank top. Of course i have to wear a few janjhars on my ankles…and maybe a bhindi too. So ya, back to my journey. Then i get off and have to try to run across the road to the middle without getting hit. Then i usually have to wait on the island until traffic is not so bad and then run again to get to the other side! Then i walk about 12 mins to the office. By the time i get there, im soaked in sweat. It sounds like the stories some of our parents used to tell us…’I used to walk miles to get to school’.

I’m sitting at a place in Hauz Khas village called diva piccolo. Going to have dinner here tonight. It looks like I will have to head out to Bihar and Gujarat again to do some documentation. And I will be here for a week more than planned. So basically ill be here for another month…more. It definitely is not easy here.

I haven’t  picked up any more Hindi than I already knew. today I saw men fighting on the bus. The bus driver was getting a beat down. It was not nice. My arm hairs stood up. Yes, I’m in India and I have not waxed my arms. Girls here hate hair on their body. I don’t feel full at all. That meal was not satisfying, which is unusual for India. I am usually satisfied with the portions and the quality of food in India. There is too much good food here…most of the time overly spicy though.

It’s the following day now and I’m on the metro. Feeling tired. Not sure when I’ll sleep like normal again. Insomnia has overcome me this past half a year. There’s always something to do. 1am, lets read. 2am lets watch tv. 3am, lets post pics on Facebook, 4am, maybe I should get 3 hours of sleep at least. After I leave India I’ll head back to Geneva. Figure I should go home for a bit. Then the states for a weekend. Then back to Geneva. I’d like to see some more of Europe while it’s summer.

On Saturday, I ended up going to the national art gallery, khan market, then INA market. I definitely cannot buy my chicken and fish from there, even if it’s more fresh and less expensive than in the shops. I don’t want to see live chickens being slaughtered, heads of animals and the flies, my goodness! Not my scene. Later that evening I went out for dinner with a few friends. We went to a restaurant called the yum yum tree. I met a girl there from the states and ended up going to a German diplomats residence with her. Wow, to see how the other people live. The house was massive, on a lot of land and had a fabulous pool. Him and his wife throw parties there often. The crowd was mixed. And the dj preferred playing African music for most of the night. Some songs reminded me of Kenya. the unplanned nights always turn out to be the best. Yesterday, I went to the park hotel for an all you can eat and drink brunch. 4 hours of both. We then hit the pool, where there was a private party with about a hundred Indian kids. The average age mus’tve been 22.
It is now Tuesday morning and I’m on the first leg of my journey to the office. It doesn’t seem as brutally hot today…well at least not this morning. Last couple of days have been long, trying to get a report done on our end in India, so that we can pull together 3 countries and do a final report in Geneva. I miss that I’m not in Geneva for the summer. My handbag smells like chicken. Probably cus there’s chicken in it. Not a live chicken or a head of one. Just cooked chicken breast.

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A Fabulous West USA Tour June 10, 2012

Filed under: Travel,Uncategorized — travelchokri @ 7:44 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

It has been a while since I’ve blogged. I arrived back in Delhi at the beginning of May. Most of my time went to working on 2 proposals – to get funding for programmes in India. I headed to Patna, Bihar for a few days for an inception meeting. Did not get to see anything other than the hotel and conference rooms, as days were long.

On the 15th, I left for my long awaited trip to the West side of USA. I flew from Delhi to Phoenix. I have to say here that I tried No Jet Lag, a herbal medicine that is supposed to eliminate the feeling of jet lag. I landed in Phoenix 26 hours later and i have to say that I did not feel any jet lag that day or in the days thereafter. I hadn’t even slept in the 26 hours! I got to spend some time in Scottsdale, drinking and eating as the late afternoon turned in evening. Went to Crudo for more eats and drinks, then ended up at Roxy lounge. Pizza, mozeralla sticks and salad, late night! Good food. Good drinks. Good company. The next day, Zahra, who flew in from Toronto, and I began our afternoon with some yummy cocktails at the Biltmore Fashion Mall, which we realized later was not the mall we really wanted to go to- Scottsdsle Fashion Mall.

We had a long journey ahead of us the following day, so we just hopped over to a restaurant next to our hotel for dinner. Very Jersey Shore. We ended up in Phoenix because the original plan was to hang with Natasha Kassam in Youngstown and then do the drive to Vegas. However, Youngstown seemed too far from all the action and Natasha’s work got in the way of our plans. Zahra and I headed to Sedona the next day, after having the best pancakes in old town. Thelma and Louise picked up their red convertible and set off on their journey. Of course, on the way we had to stop at an American Walmart and Best Buy to get Norah Jones’ new cd. Walmart was the best! We stocked up on goodies like red velvet ice cream, turkey and cheese! The drive was amazing as we saw lots of cacti and enjoyed the hot air, roof open. Sedona itself was beautiful. Spiritual. Earthy. We had a fantastic view of the sunset from the hotel terrace, which was near the airport.

The following day, we left for the Grand Canyon. We got to the south rim, walked around, took some pictures, and then hopped back in our sweet ride, as Vegas awaited us! I had the most wicked driving experience. I felt like I was in a game. At some point, I was in Fast and the Furious, racing with 3 other cars. Zahra was a real good sport about everything. We made it to Vegas in only 3 hours and 15 mins, rather than 4. The Cosmopolitan Hotel. This would be our home for the next 4 days. Great location, right on the strip. Beautiful hotel. Super packed. The other girls that we were meeting up with were already there and were eating dinner at STK restaurant in the hotel. It was Zahra Hemraj’s birthday. Shazeen had also come down with her friends to hang out for those 4 days. 15 girls in Vegas! I must say that I found Vegas too overwhelming at first. I had a small panic attack after leaving STK, leaving Zahra to calm me down on her own. Perhaps it was too much after being in India, in not such glitz and glamour. The dressing was obviously very different too! I felt a lot better after I molested the red velvet cupcake that was in our loot bag, left in our room by Raheema, the birthday girls’ sister. What a thoughtful and amazing idea! After our quick showers, Zahra and I met the other girls at Club Marquee, which was in our hotel. It was quite big with different rooms and a huge outdoor partying area near the pool. Cabanas, tons of people and good music led us through the night. It was a fun night, nothing too crazy.

The next morning, we walked along the strip and had some breakfast at the mall across the street. We wandered through the different hotels and malls, taking in all that Vegas had to offer. The partying continued that night at white oak and XS. Wow, what a night! The next day was spent wandering on the strip, seeing the other hotels, and window shopping. The final day was spent sunbathing by the pool. By this point, I had gotten used to Vegas and wanted to stay longer.

Next, San Francisco. Got to Rahim and Raheema’s in Santa Clara. Rahim had bbcued and dinner was great. My birthday was spent in Napa Valley. A limo ride and visits to the wineries had been organized by Raheema, who I must say was so awesome. The company was great and everyone made sure that I had an amazing time. Have I mentioned yet that I got a ton of cupcakes too?! We went out for dinner in San Fran. Zahra and I did the hop on and off bus and went to a painting party in the hood! She was so worried at first…but very quickly felt at ease. We met biggie small. San Fran was quaint. Cute.

The last stop, LA. Loved it! Stayed with Buck, who was a great host. Hung out with Hafeez, Kiran and Sonal. It was so nice to hang with them. Huntley was swanky and we danced the night away. More cupcakes and red velvet truffle! The beaches were insane. I felt like I was in a movie while at Venice Beach. Hermosa, not Mimosa beach had a street fair going on. Really nice. Rahim had flown down for the night to hang with us. We all had a great time. Went to Hollywood of course and Beverly Hills. The last day, went to a bbcue. Good food again. And then back to Delhi….another 26 hours! The trip overall was fabulous.

Being back in Delhi was a bit difficult the first day, as I missed my good friends. I really realized on this trip how much I miss them. It was nice to catch up with Shazeen and meet my new friend, Ayesha, aka Junglee bheli. Seeing Rahim was good as always. And I finally got to spend qt with Raheema. Zahra and I had great fun together and it was nice to be feeling and wanting to do the same things almost throughout the entire trip! We had a lot of McDonald’s and Starbucks during our drives. It was nice to see the other girls in Vegas after so long. Buck has not changed. I love California! Thank you.

 

Back to the Motherland May 8, 2012

Filed under: Projects in Countries,Travel — travelchokri @ 11:36 am
Tags: , , , ,

The CIES conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico in April was informative and interesting. I presented for the first time, as one of my colleagues from Kyrgyzstan did not make it. I took one day off prior to and one day after the conference to see some of San Juan. Of course, one of the days was dedicated to the beach. It was nice spending some time with Linda and Nafisa, who also work within the network. On the way to San Juan, I had an 8 hour layover, which was planned, so that I could meet with friends. The bus ride from Manhattan back to Newark only took 45 minutes on a Friday evening. I met up with a friend of a friend’s to chat about education and development. Faizal K happened to be in NY too at the time for his birthday, so him and I met up for lunch. It was nice and warm and definitely walking weather. I headed back to the airport, met up with Linda and off we went to SJ. Linda and I have roomed together for the last 2 years. I learn quite a bit from her since she has been in the field for a long time, not to mention an AKF employee for ages! She is one of those genuine and honest people and you know that what you see is what you get. I ended up getting tendinitis somehow in SJ and could barely walk mid week. So of course, lucky me, fell not once but twice in the main lobby, hurting my other foot! Oh Shez.

On the way back, I reconnected with my long lost soul sister, Tasleem. Everything was the same in the sense that even though we had not seen each other in years it was almost like we had never left each other. We went for a great brunch and I got to see her place in Manhattan, which was warm and welcoming. It is amazing how her and I experience similar emotions and events in our lives at the same time, truly understanding what the other feels. Then I met up with pal Shaffin, whom I stayed with on my first trip to New York alone. Seeing him is always entertaining and light hearted. Farah, his tiny wife, met with us very late! I missed my connection from NY to Geneva on the way back from the conference. Luckily, I was re-routed but had a longer flight since it was not direct, but had a layover through Frankfurt. I ended up getting to Geneva 4 hours later than planned and went to work.

Back at home in the evening, I began to pack for my long trip to India. My flight was scheduled for the next day. In addition to the India packing, I also had to pack for my US trip, which is soon, since I will be flying straight from Delhi. In my hurry and scurry that evening and my 2 bad feet, I ended up getting into a small accident which sent me to the emergency room for 3 hours. Yes, 3 hours while my head bled. I am not sure if I was tired, physically and mentally exhausted or what. But I alternated between crying and laughing fits, that I think the staff thought I belonged in a straight jacket. My friend Kahila, who was super supportive, even though her and the doctor were flirting insanely, was amazing to sit with me through all of it. I had to ask the doctor to focus and concentrate on my head as I felt the conversations between the two were insanely inappropriate. What does dating mean in America vs Switzerland? Are Kahila and I lovers and would she be staying the night to take care of me? Yes, this was some of the conversation. He was very kind of course to email me only an hour later with a report and to let me know it was a pleasure to treat me. And of course to pass his regards on to my friend!

So I did end up packing for both trips in a timely manner and of course, forgot a few super important essentials, like underwear! Yes, I brought a few, but will have to pick up some things next week while in Amreeka! I am very much looking forward to that trip. For now, I will not mention what the plans are, but will write about it once I return to Delhi. The plan is then to be here for a month and a half in the sweltering heat. I am enjoying staying in my place. The last time I was here in March, I found an apartment to rent during the duration of my stay. I have TV, with English channels for the first time in years. Except for a brief moment in Kenya, I have not had TV in about 6 years. It is close to the metro. Oh yes the efficient metro. I must say something about that. It is fast and clean and there is a lady’s only compartment. However, at one station the compartment becomes mixed male and females, where there is a transfer. Never be the last person on this train. I almost got mowed down by the men. I have never in my life witnessed grown men running into a train, pushing each other so that they can get a seat. How did other countries learn about ‘subway etiquette’? Or is that just part of courtesy that some learn over time depending on the context within where they live? I mean how do you not wait for people to get off before you get on? So today I did something that I have seen other women do on the train. Yes, I am already becoming Indian…not sure that makes much sense when I am. I wanted to sit down and I saw a small space between 2 women and so I squeezed myself in and then I looked over at the other lady and with my hand told her to move aside and make room as she had some extra space there. Yes, I have integrated into society here. The metro station is not that far from my apartment which makes it quite convenient as walking alone after 6pm can be an issue in some areas. I feel safe in the neighbourhood that I live in- very residential. And around the corner is a plaza with food, such as McDonalds, which I have been indulging in. Yesterday was a spicy chicken wrap and a strawberry milkshake! There is also a cinema if I feel like watching a Bollywood flick, without subtitles. But then again, if John Abraham is in it, who needs subtitles anyway?! I will meet him soon. i can feel it in my bones.

The temperature has changed drastically since I was here a month ago. Dry heat. In some ways it feel like Mombasa heat actually. I think it is 40 degrees today. There is no beach of course as Delhi is not a coastal city, but there are some exquisite and superior hotels in India, which one can frequent. I believe a day pass can allow you to dip in the pool. I hope to travel over the weekends within India. When I am back in June I will head to Bihar again and Gujrat for work. I flew to Bihar the day I got into Delhi for an inception workshop on one of our proposals. I did not get to see any of it as we were out by the morning and back to our hotel when the sun had already disappeared. My grandparents are from Gujrat, so it will be nice to locate where they were born and grew up.

For now that is all I have to share. Will post soon. It has been sometime.

 

Delhi Time! March 19, 2012

Filed under: Travel — travelchokri @ 4:25 am
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Delhi time! i arrived here on thursday night…well at 2am…i was picked up from the airport this time and all went smoothly. I have had a bit of an issue with accommodation, but now that I am here, I can sort that out. This trip is only 10 days, so I can survive it. I may be back here in April for a week, but that is still tbd. May, 2 weeks, all of June, and 2 to 3 weeks in July. Yes, the grossest time of the year in terms of weather!

Delhi has been good so far. I feel quite comfortable and safe on my own…even though I keep hearing horror stories. The rickshaw driver only got me lost once, and he was really nice about it. I just couldn’t find another one and walked miles to the main road and that was late at night, but it was totally fine. No one has really bothered me here, compared to my trip ten years ago. Knock on wood. I have found Connaught Place, known as CP to most, and it brings back memories of my last trip here. It does not seemed to have changed much.  Khan Market is a more upscale area, lots of expats and well off Indians. There are a ton of restaurants, cafes, shops and salons in the small block. Needless to say, I have found my fav. Delhi salon. The set up is strange in that 3 floors of a building are occupied. So a restuarant can be on the top floor and you wouldn’t even know unless you were really familiar with the place.

The streets of Delhi are packed with people, but no surprise. Tuk tuks and cars swerve in and out of every lane and the constant honking…well how can one get used to that? It is ever polluted and smoggy and I have not yet seen blue skies. The streets are full of dirt and garbage, some areas more than others.

Yesterday, I ended up going to the Delhi Jazz festival, which was really nice. It was closing day and there were 3 bands, one from Germany, Mexico and Spain. The music was fantastic and the crowd was totally into it. It was set in Nehru Park. People had brought their blankets, snacks and other concotions. I ended up going there with a friend of friends who is with the Spanish Embassy and helped to organize the whole event. So it was a good great experience for me. My first red carpet in Delhi.

Oh yes, there is a metro now, works well. There are women’s only compartments too, which is really helpful. What’s cute is that there are no doors closing off the women’s apartment that is connected to the unisex one and that one is always packed with men, perhaps trying to find their suitable girl. Love it.

I have not done a whole lot of sight seeing yet, as I do have some time, being back and forth here from now until July. It will be interesting to see how the 3 lives unfold over the next few months – the life in the field with the local people, the expatriate in Delhi life, and the life with the better off Indians. It will be somewhat similar to Kenya I suppose. Balance.

I love chai!

 

I Love London! December 7, 2011

Filed under: Travel — travelchokri @ 8:57 am
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the last 10 days or so were spent in the UK – weekends in London and the remainder of the time in Oxford. I was on a Monitoring and Evaluation training there and had a meeting in London as well, but mostly, london was play time. Oxford was great. Met some interesting people and know how to use an impact grid now! I went into the city centre every single day, only getting lost on the first day when i got off at the wrong bus stop and had to walk what felt like miles in the rain! but i had U2 to keep me company. met up with farid, a friend from university, who is now doing his MBA there. the last time we met up was 5 years ago, while he was in Egypt. he looks the same.

london – well, as amazing as it always is. i fell in love with that city the second i landed in 2000, after i ran away from home. okay, not really from home, but yes, i did run away from stuff. for some reason, i felt like i had to go to london. so i quit my job at Saatchi & Saatchi, in the hopes of a new life. I did go to S&S there, where it all began, but my heart told me to…well…forget about a ‘real’ job and work at a wine bar. i lasted a day. next, a member’s lounge in knightsbridge. so what if i knocked over 6 champagne flutes on the first day, after that, it was easy sailing! after a month and half or so, it was time to return home. and so i did…and entered a new career path – teaching. years later, i would return to london again, on the run once again. this time though, i had the not so wonderful opportunity to supply teach. everyone knows that unless you are insane, you do not take something like that up in london. i remember a grade 3 girl telling me to F off. so 2 months went by and i returned home again. back to this trip, i felt alive….more than usual. the city was buzzing and the fact that it was the holiday season made it even more bustling. people hate the crowds. i love them. especially in london. it was nice to see girlfriends and i realized how much i miss them in my life. it was a bit tough to leave them this time, without feeling that horrible feeling that one does in the pit for their stomach when it is time to go. i also met up with ex academy kids. that was interesting. i had never partied with them in nairobi, but it was time.

i ate and drank like the world was coming to an end. from red velvet cupcakes to chocolate souffle. the things you can get in london! M&S in the best! so much good food you can takeaway. i do not have those options in geneva. a few going out nights and dinners, now i shall be fine for a couple of weeks, until i return home to do the same. home? where is home? canada is still home.

london is a place for friends, lovers, singletons, families, mad people and all walks of life. every area offers something different…from artsy notting hill to swanky knightsbridge. i love it all!

 

Bliss November 27, 2011

Filed under: Travel — travelchokri @ 11:47 pm

landed in london on saturday morning. was a nice day. was staying with farrah. the streets were so insane that we could not even move! met up with shy, a friend from nairobi, who is now in london and we had yummy burgers! headed back to her place in portman square and had a few drinks…was different to see her out of the kenya context. glad she is happy. went to the valmont at night for fj’s birthday…the other fj. had a nice time dancing again. i have eaten way too many cakes, cupcakes, chocolates, etc. went to the hilton park lane spa with aliyah today but we were late so we missed one of our treatments. our half and hour massage was not half an hour…15 mins! we were not thrilled, but very tactfully, is that a word, complained. so we may be back there next sunday. the afternoon tea was wonderful though, with scones and sandwiches. rich black tea and bellinis. i am now in oxford. training begins tomorrow for a week. i like oxford. this cute little hotel is so xmasy too. i love it. the train ride was nice…strange…everyone around me was on facebook. what an addiction…seriously…everyone around me, including me, seems so engulfed by this social networking site! i love london. and when i get here, things are totally in perspective again. it is hard to hold on to that though once i leave. well…that is all for now.

 

The Italian Job November 7, 2011

Filed under: Travel — travelchokri @ 1:33 pm
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Florence, Italy, November 4-6.

Good times.

Jesse Cook.  Hotel Party. New Order.

Random street dancing.

Food galore! And walking madness!

Bambino!

Bicycles and lovers.

Fabulous drive.

Round and round.

Thanks FA.