Thursday, March 29, 2012

Recent Indian Eats

 Does this cookie look good to you?  Probably not.  Infact, you're probably wondering at this point why I even took the time to capture its existence.  This, however, is currently the best cookie in all of India (excluding the imports).  I searched far and wide for weeks with no luck. And, just as they say about love, it happens when you're least expecting it.  My good friend Vel kindly offered me one of these last week. 

Vel: Snacks, vedi good.
Me: (Thinking) Suuuure they're good.
Me: (Vocally) Why thanks Vel. What kind are they?
Vel: Coconut cookie.  You like?
Me: (Chewing . . . )
Me: Mmmmmmmm.
Vel: Yesssss. Vedi good! Super cookie.
Me: Verrrrrry good!
Me: WHERE did you FIND these?

And thus the coconut cookie passed its test. They are delicious- soft and chewy on the inside, and a little crisp towards the edges. Just a great home-baked sugar fix that's rare to come by in these parts. The following week I talked Vel into showing me the place where he found the goods.
 Who would think that all of the tasties would come from here?

 It was like discovering the Keebler Elf household. But the Indian rendition. The smiling bakers greeted me and gave me a mini tour of their facility. 

Flouring things up.

 Shaping the cookies . . .

 Weighing the ingredients. *Chef Chengalpattu's tip #241: Always bake barefoot.

Cookies and cakes everywhere.  The wafting scent was supernal.

Needless to say I snatched a few to-goies and was on my way.

And back to reality.  A few snapshots of some more typical Indian eats:
 Breakfast time. Dosa-  Typical Indian type pancake coated (we're talking coated, people) with pepper.  Complimentary mutton sauce for dipping.  

 Lunch & Dinner: Rice and vegetables. Eggs on a good day and fish every two weeks. 
Must . . have . . protein . . .

 A typical variety platter after a day at the hospital.

Another prime example of some of the things we eat at Rising Star Outreach. It tastes as good as it looks. Still trying to figure out what exactly these green octagon shaped vegetables are.

I love these ladies. Nurses Sharmeela, Aberna, and Navamani enjoying lunch after a day of medical.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

My native friend showcases his ability to entertain.

I took it upon myself to document our ride from the city to the village last weekend- a prime example of some of the day to day interactions India has treated me to.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Beautiful people do not just happen.

"The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.  These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern.  Beautiful people do not just happen." - Elizabeth Kubler Ros

I came across this quotation a few months ago and really enjoyed it, but it wasn't until a few days ago that I read it again and realized how perfectly it describes some of the Rising Star Outreach patients I have been blessed to work with. After losing literally everything from their homes to the fingers on their hands they somehow manage to give limitless amounts of love to each individual they encounter.
Beautiful people do not just happen.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Agra (and a little bit of New Delhi)

Time to finish posting about the trip up north. After training to Agra and freshening up a tad, we met with our tour guide and started our day bright and early at the Taj Mahal. 

The Taj Mahal:
Beautiful. These photos don't even come close.
Perfectly symmetrical. (Per-fec-tly.)
One of the most beautiful tributes to love I have ever seen.
The absolute highlight of our 5 day excursion.

Shah Jahan, you are the man.

This is Nitin, our fabulous tour guide for the day who knew enough to write a novel about the Taj. 
He also had some beautiful eyelashes. Lucky us!!

There's nothing better than experiencing something amazing with a person that means so much to you! So great to be able to share these Indian adventures with Kelli Ann.

The Taj Mahal is just as beautiful today as it appeared after its initial completion (or so they tell me). The intricate stonework found all throughout the Taj are entirely composed of inlaid stones. 
No paint. Zilch.

Side view of the Taj.

Exploring the Mosque next door.

Nothing better than exiting a major tourist attraction and finding any little trinket you could ever imagine for a "vedi good price madam".

Site number two of the day: Agra Fort. The historic (and current) base for royalty and military.

I have officially fallen in love with the ever so distinct Indian architecture. 

View of the Taj from the Agra Fort. 

Marble carving and stonework demo.

See all of the lovely circular brown disks on display? Cow pies. Used for fire fuel. 

One of my favorite photos of the day- a perfect glimpse of every day traffic. 

New Delhi time. Visited a number of archaeological sites, worship centers, 
and enjoyed a more laid back day.

Ah, the details. Really worked on taking the time to soak in even the smallest morsels of some of the sights we were able to visit.

Sam and our driver, Rajesh. "You can call me Raj."

Dinner with Praveen, our travel agent, and his beautiful family. 
A delectable meal and great end to our lovely trip.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Varanasi: Gateway to the Ganges

Varanasi: the first destination for our five day venture up north. Situated right on the Ganges river and most known for being the hub of Hinduism.

 After being picked up from the airport we were transported to this lovely alley where we maneuvered our way through the trash and ashes to our hotel on the river.

 Con of the day- missing Holi (color festival celebrated by Hindus). Huge bummer. But, in good news, we did enjoy seeing the aftermath of it all.

Holi powder in every direction.

These kind men gave us a token smudge of Holi on our foreheads while we were out exploring the neighborhood that evening.

 At the airport, in the shops, and on the streets- every good Indian exhibited a pinch of Holi in some way or another.

"Would you mind if I took your photo sir?" (grunt) "Very well then."

Enjoying the street vendor food. Nothing like a dose of deep fried deliciousness.

Varanasi is without question the dirtiest place I have experienced for the duration of my life.

Several of the Hindu pilgrims that had traveled to Varanasi cut their locks as symbol of gratitude.

Varanasi had such a tangible yet unique feel about it. It was eerie, intriguing, and bold. A friend from Rising Star told me that everyone leaves Varanasi feeling something about it. Truth to a T.
The scene at the Ganges was extremely interesting. Ghat after ghat after ghat. Ghat: "A broad flight of steps leading down to the bank of a river . . . used especially by bathers." 24 hours on a daily basis bathers enter the water via bathing ghats and bodies are cremated alongside the burning ghats. After the cremation is completed and the ashes are cooled, family members take the remnants and pour them into the Ganges. If, for a number of reasons, the person does not qualify for a cremation, their body is dumped directly into the Ganges. Seeing eight cremations at once- not exactly in conjunction with the activities that took place in Davis County while growing up. Eye-opening indeed.

Watching some of the ritualistic Hindu practices. A very noisy and chaotic experience.

Day two. We began our morning amidst the Ganga (Ganges) at 6:15.

A group of men taking advantage of the "sanitation and cleansing" offered by the Ganges.

The women, washing and bathing as well. Indian gender motto = segregation in all things.
Kelli and I, getting prepped for a holy dip of our own.

Our trusty captain, easing us though the Ganga, one paddle at a time. 

Mind you, it was brisk and chilly on the morning of our holy dip. I was a tad bit hesitant to complete the cleanse but we all persevered and prepared to go under.

"Five dips- good. Seven dips- good. Nine dips- good. 101 dips- best!" Great advice from our guide. We stuck with option A. Imagine that.

One, two, dowwwwn we go.

These photos- the epitome of grace. 

*MY FAVORITE PHOTO OF THE ENTIRE TRIP* Please take a brief moment and appreciate.


Five dips completed. Hip. Hip. Hooray. And now cleansed of all bad karma.

It's a funny thing, being concerned about the man outside your window, when in fact it's a monkey.

Later that day, visited Saranath- the location where Bhudda gave his first sermon.

Enjoyed a variety of deliiiiiicious northern Indian cuisine all week long. 
I can now officially say that I am converted.

Said our goodbyes to Varanasi and boarded our ever so sketchy night train to Agra. One of the most unsanitary yet hysterical experiences of the trip.