Adventures from Here and There

Madness in Geneva? August 9, 2012

Filed under: Random Stuff,Uncategorized — travelchokri @ 8:24 am
Tags: , , ,

Being back in Geneva has been alright. I was somewhat worried as to how I would feel after being in India for 3 months, surrounded by madness. This is a calm and quiet place. I guess a good one after 3 months in chaos. The Fete is on, which is the Geneva festival in the summer, so whenever I have the need for craziness, I just go there. It is 2 mins away from my place. The Middle Eastern folk are no longer here, as it is Ramadhan. Last year, the city was full of bhurkas and fabulous cars, which they fly down to Geneva for the summer. Strolling along the water, roller blading and biking have been somewhat tougher with all the people around, but still doable.

I have been getting more sleep than usual, which is good. Perhaps the days of insomnia are over? The energy is still there and it is difficult to find things to do at all hours. I work 9 to 14 hours a day, depending on where I am. I sleep for 4 to 5, which gives me 6 to 9 hours to play with! I read. I write stories. I blog. I facebook and now instagram! I watch movies. Go for walks. I meet with friends. I sometimes do scrapbooking. Tried knitting. Looking at online courses.  I think the next step might be meditation.

I had friends come into town the following day after I landed, and they continue to come. I went on a trampoline with visitors and fell many times. Farrah arrives this evening. My pregnant Farrah. More strolls along the lake and picnics at the waterfront. Cannot forget shopping and eating good food.

I am having many chai lattes again from Starbucks. Why do they call it chai tea latte? Isn’t chai and tea the same thing? Yesterday, a man was talking so loud on his phone and walking around, as though we all wanted to hear what he had to say. And then he complained about his drink twice about how watery it was, while he was still on the phone. Be nice. And get off the phone and explain to the person what the problem with the drink is. I felt like pouring it on his head. Did I say that out loud? I remember when my brother was about 6 years old. I was reading the famous Superfudge, by Judy Blume, which still happens to be one of my favourites. Fudge was being a pain in the butt and not eating. So his brother said…’eat it or wear it.’ I recall wanting to try that myself so I pushed my little brothers buttons and ended up creating a scenario where I could use that line too. Poor thing, he ended up with milk and cereal all over his head and lap. He pays me back now with carpet burns whenever I go home for a visit. He is much bigger than me now.

Dima left for Sri Lanka today. She was my noisy neighbour. She used to have parties through the night on weekdays too. One day before I met her, I banged on her wall with a broom very loudly. But I do not think she got the point. Then one day, I was watching a movie at 11pm at night and the girl had the audicity to knock on my door and ask me if I could keep it down…that she was trying to sleep! I did. Then some time later, I needed a bottle opener. I knocked on her door because I could not find mine. We became friends from that day onwards. I think we saw each other at least once a day ever since that day. I will miss that girl.

Time to go.


Goodbye India July 26, 2012

Filed under: Travel — travelchokri @ 12:10 pm
Tags: , , ,

I leave India tomorrow. I know I’ll miss it for sure. Geneva will seem rather bland. And small. And no good food and no McDonald’s and Dominos delivery! I won’t get pushed and shoved on the metro, causing me to lose my shoe. And which old ladies will give me dirty looks when I watch movies on my iPad that show ‘ adult ‘ scenes that I was not aware of. No more shopping. Nothing to buy in Geneva. And can I make deals with the auto drivers? Nada. I will miss my favourite antique store in the Red Fort, Tularam, where I spent time amongst the antiques, listening to the shopkeeper talk history and his mother, about modern life. No one to practice my Hindi with. And I busted out words in Gujarati that I didn’t even know I knew! Whose going to call me Madame? No more women in colorful Indian suits. No more men seen spitting or peeing on the side of the road. No more messy Hugo. And no more places to hang out after 7pm, when everything closes in Geneva. How about the many temples and gorgeous hotels? And no more red velvet, but I’m alright with that! I will move out of E52 in Saket area. Hand in the old skeleton like keys. Leave behind the Time Out Delhis. And my tin box from Nepal. No room in the suitcase for that. No more dodging traffic and having to run across lanes frantically. No more bag and body screenings everytime I use the metro or go to the mall. Hauz Khas galleries will be missed. And having to find Airtel recharge for the mobile at the worst times, no more! Goodbye to the young boy at PVR near my place that sells me jhanjar (anklets that have bells). And no more American shows in English! The crazy cat that rips apart my garbage will be history. She’s still super skinny, despite the McDonald’s fries I leave behind for her! Oh my goodness, no more mangoes, mango shakes, mango sandwiches, mango soup or mango paneer! And those Bihar bananas are the best I’ve had in my life. Yes, you will be missed India. I will never forget the flight from Gujarat to Delhi. Second worst ever. And cant forget the friendly flight attendant who buckled mine and mansi’s carry ons into the seat next to each of us. And how he played along when we told him they were our children. He even brought bottles of water for them!

But I am looking forward to the beautiful summer in Europe. I have a month to enjoy it. Wearing nice clothes and carrying fun handbags.  No one will look at me funny if i walk around with wet hair. I wont have to worry about sewage smells or jumping over liquids on the streets. I will see blue skies and mountains and breathe in fresh air again! Maybe my sinuses will unblock. Fresh, white chicken and great salmon again! And chai lattes from starbucks! Walks near the jet d’eau. Seeing friends and catching up on the drama over the last 3 months. And yes, many visitors coming through in August! A normal toilet that works all the time is the best. French instead of the other many languages spoken in India. But thank god no more hooting! That is the worst. Dude, there is nowhere to go. Stop hooting! One lock on the door only? Yes, no more bolts and chains and grills on windows. Such different worlds.  No matter how many times I do this, I am still amazed, as if it is my first time to such places.

Things to see and do in Delhi
Red Forth! Chandni Chok, Lotus Temple is supposed to be amazing, though I did t end up there, Khan Chachas for kebabs, Oberoi Hotel to chill, Hauz Khas village for everything, Humayun’s Tomb, GK 1 for shopping of all sorts, SouthExtension 1 for sarees, Try Frontiers. Khan Market for many things. Geetanjslis for spa services. Dili Haat and INA for local market experiences, take the metro, have a coconut, Connaught Place to wander, Wenger’s for dessert, Modern Art Gallery, Kingdom of Dreams…never got to it but hear it is worth seeing, Silver Line for jewelry, Turtle Cafe in Khan Market for books. Great carrot juice there too. Fabindia for organic products and cotton kutis, DLF and Emporia Malls, Mamagato for great watermelon martinis, Elma’s  in Hauz Khas for dessert, Napa Dori for great travel bags. Go to an all you can eat and drink buffet on Sundays. There are many. Great mangoes. ESP. during the season. Global Desi for  funky kurtis. Forrest Essentials for natural face products. Lodhi Gardens.


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
Tags: , ,

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!


This is India! September 21, 2011

Filed under: Travel — travelchokri @ 8:08 am
Tags: , ,

Vibrant, smoggy, individualistic and manic- this is India! If you land in Mumbai at an odd hour (530am) get into your pre-paid cab and head to juhu beach. Pick a hotel to gather your thoughts in. juhu hotel, with its friendly staff won’t mind if you drop your luggage off while you pace up and down the beach with hundreds of others, all on a mission to go…nowhere! How nice it is to begin the work day at 10am. Take a look around and notice the yoga-doers, the 2 or 3 white faces, the dried up seaweed, the rubbish and the gazillion birds being fed. Yes, the birds are being fed in a country that still has one of the highest poverty rates. What’s the source of income for them? The two minute stop while the traffic stops at a red. Little girls carrying girls even younger than them. Whose children are they anyway? At the same time, you just want to be left alone.

Too many rickshaws, cars and bicycles. Constant honking. There are days declared for no honking…but then it just wouldn’t be Mumbai! Why bother having any lanes and pedestrian walks? Whizzing on a moped in the streets is exhilarating. But hold on when those speed bumps arise, as you may land on your bare head. If you dare, take the public train and hang out the door from one station to the next. There are just too many people in this city. Yes, the entire population of Kenya is less than this one city alone!

One can get overwhelmed by all the shops and malls randomly spread out through the different districts. Pashminas in every colour and beads in various shapes and sizes can be found at one of the many stalls in the colaba area. Just around the corner, you have the Gate of India, under construction, and across, the grand Taj Palace Hotel. Stroll through and window shop at the only louis vuitton. Take a walk on the side streets and admire the old architecture and washed out buildings. After a while, colaba, juhu and bandra can all look the same…especially when the night falls. Chor bazaar is anarchic, especially on Fridays. If you don’t need a stereo or a car part, don’t bother!

Bhel puri, pani puri, you got it. But the deprived can relish in a maharajah mac or tandoori chicken pizza from pizza hut..everyday. tantalize your taste buds with fresh mango smoothies or a cold lassi. If spice is not your forte, do not forget to ask for mild butter chicken or yellow daal.

If you are lucky enough, you may see a movie shoot or meet up with people working in the industry of bollywood. Yes, it is larger than Hollywood! And make sure you get the low down. But where are those john Abraham look a likes and the gals that look like ashwariya? Definitely not gallivanting on the streets of Mumbai. Young lovers stroll down chowpatty beach, coyly, but hand in hand. Flocks of girls strut their stuff on the beach wearing the latest jeans from fashion street. On either side, high rises continue to go up; ones that only the real swanky can afford. Yes, for a million dollars, you too can breathe in the smog of Mumbai. Mumbai is definitely a city for walking about and discovering. You never know what you will see or who you will meet!

Bangalore, the silicon valley of India; pretty and much less hectic than Mumbai. This place shuts down at 11pm, including the bars. There isn’t a whole lot of sight seeing to do, but stroll through the streets of Brigade area and find man made parks, gardens rather, where residents do their walking exercises. check out the leela kempinski. Unless you have an exact address to where you would like to go, you will surely get lost, even if you take a rickshaw.

If you are looking for some peace of mind or enlightenment then find an ashram in the outskirts of Bangalore. The art of living centre provides and intro course that lasts about 3-4 days. Be prepared to get back to the basics and follow the 10pm curfew. Enjoy the harmonious bhajans at satsang, a celebration, every evening.

Be lazy in kerala. The best Indian food perhaps, comes from the south; colourful and delectable. Girls, don’t stay out past 11pm or you may get scolded by the police. The beaches in trivandrum are not much to brag about, but you can definitely lose time on the strip browsing for jewelry and sipping on interesting concoctions. Head to alleppey, about 2 hours away by car and rent a houseboat for 22 hours. They come in different shapes and sizes, some equipped with TVs and DVD players. Let your private chef serve you south Indian breakfasts, lunches and dinners as you float through the backwaters. Enjoy the sounds of the birds or take part in a photo shoot! Overnight, you will dock in a small village. Take a walk around the rice fields and remember to bring plenty of pens!

Do not forget to put your sunblock on. And bug spray, a necessity. People are generally friendly, though language differences can be a communication barrier. Watch out for cab drivers taking you on longer routes and then trying to overcharge you! If you have lots of time, then take the train at least once from one city to the next. If you are limited in time, there are plenty of domestic airlines to chose from, all reasonably priced. There is just too much to see and do! So pace yourself and make sure you have a good pair of shoes on!

Julia and I in Kerala