Archive for the ‘Expat Living’ Category

Each day I take a walk by myself here in Delhi. Mostly at a local park named Lodi.

I try and give the Fitbit some action. But I also sit and do a lot of watching. There is always something going on here. More than twenty types of birds. Hawks swooping down with their unique scream agitating the crows. It’s a cacophony that the forty young deaf people doing some type of team bonding in the middle of the field cannot hear. Soccer/football playing. Family photo sessions. Picnics. People working out on exercise equipment. Contortionists in the yoga section.

Starting to see some of the same people each day. An old fellow with what appears to be a radio in his hand. A guy walking a Bull Terrier just like Spuds Mackenzie-except black. Too many young lovers to count. Not sure if they are same ones each day. An elderly man who is undergoing chemotherapy walking with a cane and a young assistant. He wears a tweed jacket that is too big for him and a black Greek fisherman’s woolen cap. A guy playing the flute on a bench in the middle of the park.

India really is incredible. You never know what to expect. Every day is different.

See below for some of my park photos. I hope you enjoy them.

nowine2

I am all for this.

nowine

Wait a second! The back of these signs. I’m getting mixed messages here.

greenbirds

Bird house in the middle of the park? Check out the two photo bombers.

greenbirds2

Hundreds of these birds in the park. Never gets old.

sacredfig

Caught my eye. Sacred Fig. Considered a sacred tree for Hindu folks.

disabled.JPG

Very cool. Section of park that has exercise equipment for those in wheelchairs.

turquoise

Not the best quality photo. Color coordinated Sikh family photo shoot.

carving

carving2

Loved these carvings.

hijira

Hijra (transgendered folks) looking for monetary donations from people in the park.

smoke

Not sure what the colored smoke symbolised.

lilies

Lily pads.

colors

steppingstones

Stepping stones.

narcissus

I call this one Narcissus.

pigeon

sweetpotato

Sweet potato man. As in the potato is sweet. I am not sure about the man.

wall

birds

hawk.jpg

hawks

Hawks on the ground, in flight and resting in the trees.

vendor

Vendor with a lot on his mind.

palms

Palm trees.

spuds

Spud Makenzie’s Indian cousin.

parrakeet

I happened upon this crew. A parakeet chowing down with three squirrels.

lovem

M for Mary.

doggie

A dog just curled up and napping away.

yoga

Seriously how does one do that?

donotfeed

I liked this sign. They certainly spelled it out for visitors.

exit

The end. I slip under the chain to exit at Gate 11. Not where I entered. 🙂

 

Hope you all have a fabulous weekend!

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About six months ago my husband told me about a Parsi funeral ritual that takes place in India. I had never heard of it.

Parsi is a Zoroastrian community. These folks from Greater Iran fled mostly to India centuries ago to avoid persecution and to retain their religious identity during the Muslim conquest of Persia. Zoroastrianism was the dominant religion before Islam.

That’s just a snippet of a history that could fill books.

Ain’t gonna lie. I was horrified when I heard about their funeral practice.

Sky burial.

Letting nature take its course. No burial. No cremation. Just exposure to the elements on an elevated area. Cutting up bits of the body for the vultures to feast.

Towers of Silence.

I was soon reading about different rituals. It appears that there are many reasons for this Sky burial. Tibetan Buddhists feel it is a generosity for the departed because it’s providing life source for other creatures and they respect all life. Some feel that the body is only a vessel. That fire and burial pollute the earth. Some view the dead body as impure.

Practicality, rather than religion, might have also played a role. The places where these rituals originated tended to be rocky with no source of timber.

India’s pretty cool in a lot of ways. It’s just so diverse and in many ways tolerant of other practices.

This ritual still takes place today.

But there is one small problem. Well, not really small.

The vulture population declined drastically. The birds (the cleaner uppers) were getting sick from eating the carrion of Indian livestock.

Hmmmm.

I learned more about vultures than I ever cared to imagine.

Since it’s India (Hindu) there are 500 million cattle and only 4% of that number is for human consumption. Cows are considered sacred so most people aren’t eating them.

That’s a bunch of cows.

So when cattle die the vultures are a welcome sight. A natural and efficient process.

But due to an anti-inflammatory drug which was being given to the cattle the vultures started dying in droves. Their system couldn’t take this particular drug.

By now I am not thinking about funeral practices at all because I am so fascinated by vultures!

Apparently vultures can make efficient, quick work of any animal carcass and due to their metabolism not suffer the effects of (or carry) any pathogens from their recent meal. Stops with them.

Wow! Truly cast iron stomachs. Except for when humans inject animals with a certain drug.

This decline in the vulture population has led to a host of problems for India.

Huge problems. It was a natural system. And when things break down….

In the 1980s there were 80 million vultures. Today several thousand. That’s unbelievable.

Vultures used to pick clean the carcasses in no time. Now the dead cows and other animals rot in village fields.

Contaminating the drinking water.

And if there are no vultures on the scene? Who takes their place in this pecking order? No pun intended. Who’s on deck?

Rats and wild dogs (India has 18 million wild dogs-seems like about a million on our street alone lol) are all too happy to step into the newly opened positions. But they, unlike vultures, do carry things like rabies, anthrax and plague. And pass it on to us. The humans. Yikes!

Back to the Parsi death rituals. They are still performed but not with the same frequency due to the decrease in the vulture population. Some people are opting for cremation. Those who choose the “old way” will be doing so with the assistance of solar reflectors to move things along. Remember when you were a kid with a magnifying glass trying to use the sun’s reflection to burn a piece of paper. Yeah, that. Same.

I never knew anything about the Towers of Silence. And I did not know much about vultures except maybe seeing them as a menacing backdrop in cute Disney movies. Or observing a turkey vulture munching on roadkill that one time in Lake Tahoe while we whizzed by it.

Pretty amazing to think about it. One small bit of human tinkering can upset a system that has been working just fine. Maybe from the beginning of time. Compromising the health of a nation. And in the process eradicating rituals that have been around for centuries and centuries.

First I was horrified to hear of the Parsi practice. Then I moved on to understanding and sort of appreciating it. I remain sad about the Indian vulture crisis and its effect on the nation.

Lastly, I’m feeling more than a little sympathetic for the Parsi community as they lose a grip on pieces of their tradition and identity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I try not to be too superstitious. Been working on this for years.

Most are harmless enough, right? Maybe even a bit fun.

Not stepping on a crack in the sidewalk wouldn’t have actually prevented “Mother’s broken back.” But it might have made the boring walk down the street to Cabral’s corner market for a loaf of bread and a pack of Mom’s L&Ms a little less monotonous for a kid.

I remember when a bunch of us kids were passengers in Mrs. Gillett’s car. She was our neighbor but also our friends’ grandmother. That’s the real reason we were in the car. Anyway, when Mrs. Gillett came to the railroad tracks in the road she lifted her feet. Not for long. Maybe just a few seconds. Nope, she wasn’t doing it to strengthen her lower abs. She did it for good luck.

I still do it.

But I falter from time to time. Step on cracks all the time and my Mama is perfectly fine.

Recently, I was in a Delhi shop. Narrow as all get out. One of the employees had a ladder out in the middle of the floor. No way for me to go around it. So I waited. Waited some more. There was no way I was walking under that thing. No way.

Also have this other thing. I should always leave from the same door I entered. Not sure where that one came from but I am always aware of it.

But this is absolutely one superstition that should be left by the door.

Here is why.

In 2003 I was living in Dallas, Texas. On a February evening, many, many miles away in my home state of Rhode Island there was a terrible fire in a night club. It claimed the lives of one hundred men and women. And injured hundreds of others. Like horribly injured.

Young people were just having an evening out, listening to music and enjoying a respite from one of New England’s long winter nights. Like I did many a time. As you probably did.

Pyrotechnics (fireworks) which were meant to add a bit to the show ignited the foam that was used for sound insulation in the walls and ceiling. Within FIVE minutes the Station club in West Warwick was engulfed.

People could not see the exits due to the heavy smoke. There was also a massive crush as people tried to get out the main exit. The place where they entered at the beginning of the evening.

So there were different causes of death that night.

The following is a video, taken ten years ago, of my cousin John who was a firefighter in Warwick. It also features his bandmate (yes, singing firefighters) who was actually present at the Station when the fire began. The video is dated 2007 and John has recently retired as a Lieutenant. But the message in this clip is still as important today as it was then.

You do not need to leave from the same door you entered.

John is still in the band and after the tragic Station fire the group would post a floor plan of each venue on their website. He states how important it is to make note of an exit.

I also learned something yesterday that struck a similar chord.

A family that I knew in Kuala Lumpur was recently on a holiday in Yangon, Myanmar. Yes, the perks of living in Asia.

Seems that on October 19th they were asleep in their lovely, colonial era hotel only to be wakened around 3:00am by banging noises. Sounded like people yelling and pounding on doors. But the family couldn’t understand what they were saying. Maybe drunken revelry? Terrorism?

They tried the front desk. No one answering. Finally someone picked up and told them to evacuate immediately due to a fire in the hotel.

The two teen daughters left first and then the parents a few minutes later. The mom was sort of freaked about the separation but they were soon reunited and safe.

Police were shoving people aside and trying to evacuate but there was no clear communication, very disorganized and pitch black.

I want to just note here that this luxurious, teak and iconic hotel was considered a 5 Star property.  So it doesn’t really matter where you stay. The rules for your personal safety should always be the same. Regardless of the price tag. Or tag line.

Her advice?

“Don’t take for granted emergency exit information.”

She stressed the importance of staying together. Checking to see if there is a fire alarm and sprinkler in hotel room. Having a plan to meet up if separated. The importance of being close to your family and knowing where they are at all times.

This is the time of year when a plethora of seasonal activities will beckon. Many will welcome the opportunity for indoor, festive gatherings surrounded by loads of people. Seeing the Nutcracker, Christmas musicals, plays, concerts, sporting events and attending worship services.

Some will travel and spend time in hotels. Or pass through airports.

All happy as larks to be in places with closed doors keeping out the cold or staving off the heat.

Have fun but take note of exit signs immediately upon entering. Communicate a place to meet with family members if case you ever get separated. Don’t take for granted emergency exit information. Do your homework. And remember you do not need to leave from the same door you entered. Ever.

Wishing you and all of your families a safe holiday season. Hoping you employ these safety measures all year long. Some superstitions should absolutely be left at the door.

Update: My cousin, John, told me that he was actually supposed to be at the Station the evening of the fire. He did not attend because he didn’t want to be the “third wheel.” But a few folks thought he was there. Including his fire chief.

 

 

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I was never a big fan of pigeons.

Until one was nesting outside our bathroom window here in Delhi. My husband pointed it out to me from another window.

There was a pigeon sitting in a nest on top of our water heater that’s attached to the outside wall. Located on the second floor. For some of you it would be considered the first floor.

It was a good sized nest because I could see the branches and twigs sticking out all over the place.

I could hear her making her pigeon noises when I was in my bathroom.

I was totally excited.

Because a nest means what?

I’ll actually see baby pigeons!

And no one ever sees baby pigeons.

There is a reason for that. Pigeons construct their nests in high, unreachable places. The babies stay in their home for a long time, being fed by Mom, until they emerge almost full grown. That’s why we never see them. We don’t recognize them.

Almost every day I would take a peek out of the other window. She was still there.

Until one day I was in my bedroom and heard a commotion from outside the bathroom window. My dog ran into the room barking after hearing the clamor.

On the ground in the outdoor courtyard was the destroyed nest. 😦

I went and checked for eggs or little babies but I didn’t see any. Just the twigs and branches.

I’d say the villainous black crows with their light brown necks squawking from the nearby fence posts were to blame.

So much for that.

I felt really sad for the mother pigeon.

But then a few days later I was in the bathroom and heard the pigeon noises again.

She was back!

This pigeon is not the only one whose nest has been destroyed.

Happens to many. The predator could come in different forms. Not a crow. But the death of a loved one, illness, job loss, divorce and others. The rug absolutely pulled out from under us. Sometimes expected. Other times, like the pigeon, in a moment.

And what does one do when that happens?

Rebuild the nest.

Maybe not in the same place.

We know that it will never again be the same nest. It will be different.

But we rebuild the nest.

 

 

 

 

 

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I have now been in Delhi for almost two months. And it’s been totally okay.

No, I do not have any real friends here yet. Think I am fine with that for the moment. So no feeling bad for me. 🙂

Although I have reached out to a few groups and/or organizations.

But I’m taking it slow.

I joined this one international organization. Which is present in just about every country in the world. Designed to connect folks.

Only information I shared was my name, gender, birth date and my nationality.

Haven’t attended any events yet but I get regular emails from them keeping me abreast of current happenings.

Was nice to receive a personalized birthday message from them on my special day.

Sweet that I got a request to connect with Sahil from Delhi. He likes movies, wine tasting, badminton, etc. Checked his profile and he has fourteen contacts. All lovely looking young women. Obviously he was taking quite a risk with me since I did not post a photo of myself to the profile. I’m sure he’s a wonderful person. No, I did not accept request.

Lovely to get invited to “Diva’s Night Out with MEN of Exotica.” I don’t even know what that is. No, I did not attend.

Cute that I got a “Twinkle” in my inbox waiting for a response “Twinkle.” Don’t know what that is either! I haven’t twinkled back.

Yesterday I received an email that said my profile was attracting a lot of attention from members.

Really?

It said, “Click here to see who visited your profile.”

Not quite sure how I feel about this.

I guess it’s like “LinkedIn.” The business social networking service where people can see if you looked them up and you can also see who stalked your profile. No, I do not have a LinkedIn account.

Just didn’t realize that Sahil would be able to know I checked out his profile when I received the original “connect” request.

Think I’m just going to take it slow for the moment.

 

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There are signs everywhere. I mean that literally. For bathrooms. Exits. Stores. Everything.

Thank God most of us can read.

And we always see the same old ones.

Stop. Emergency Exit. Toilet.

We read them on autopilot. Not thinking twice about them.

I was in Mumbai last month. As I was waiting for the elevator I read the sign on the wall.

Do not use elevator in case of fire. 

Made me pause. Because I’ve only ever seen that sign displayed, “In case of fire do not use elevator.”

Putting “Do not use” at beginning of the sentence caused me to hesitate for a second. Like I almost didn’t get on the lift. Not out of spite. Just because I was leaning toward the “Do not use.” Because it was at the beginning of the sentence.

Here is another sign. Located at an institution of learning. I won’t mention the name to protect the innocent.

woman

What’s wrong with this picture? Besides me capturing a tree and a partially constructed KL building in the reflection.

First of all. Just for the record. I am cautious about bathroom signs. I pay very close attention. Probably stems from me possibly wandering into the gents’ bathroom when I was about six years old. At the old Tiano’s Five Acres during a turkey raffle for Little League baseball. Scarred for life. I read and reread bathroom signs all the time before entering. Just to make sure.

I stop and stare at this door. You can’t see this part in the photo so you’ll have to trust me.

It actually says “Push” and yet it has a handle. Me no like. At all.

But that’s not the part that confuses me.

I know for a fact that there are three toilets behind that handled door. So if only one woman is allowed at a time how on earth will I know if someone is already in there??

Me no like.

But I understand it was not intentional.

However, there was a sign at a restaurant in the U.S. that was totally intentional.

I would enter the bathroom door that displayed the “Women” sign.

As soon as I closed the door it had a sign, “Welcome to the Men’s Room.”

Yikes! What? What?

The sadistic beings got me every time. Every single time.

I second guessed myself with a mini heart attack every time. I have to assume I wasn’t the only one. Or the sign wouldn’t exist. They (those evil restauranteurs ) knew the world was full of doubting Thomases –not sure how to make Thomas plural so that will have to suffice. People doubting themselves and their ability to read. And make the right decision.

The world is full of signs. Go for the one that makes you feel good.

 

 

 

 

 

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You know what I don’t get?

When a serial killer is caught and family, friends and neighbors say, “I had no idea. He was such a nice guy.”

I do sort of get that those evil beings can be so cunning and devious that they could somehow slip below the radar.

But still.

No one has any clue that something might be a teeny bit off?

I feel like I really know my family, friends and neighbors. Know the words they use. Their phrases. Know their moods. Their likes and dislikes. Know if they are not quite acting themselves.

I am not normally a suspicious person by nature.

Okay, maybe there was that one time.

There was a serial killer in Providence for a very short while in 1984.

I was dating a guy back then and one day maybe the radio was on with a description of the killer. So I might have said something to him or looked at him in a strange, new way.

He was like, “OH MY GOD, Mary!!!!!!!! YOU DON”T THINK I’M THE …………!!!!!!!!”

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m the one who’s nuts. But it’s good to be aware, right?

Last year I received a text from my friend and neighbor Nancy.

Receiving the text was not at all unusual. We were in daily contact. Especially due to the fact that we were both living on our own with the daughters in Malaysia while our husbands were out of the country. So if we weren’t with each other we always knew where the other one was on any given day.

But what was unusual was what I read in this particular text.

“How was your day, love?”

I blanched and immediately thought there was some type of homicidal maniac at her place. Holding her hostage and forcing her to send out weirdo texts.

She’s never, ever called me “love.” Or anyone for that matter. That I can recall.

I then thought she was leaving some hidden clue in this message. Like a bread crumb on a trail. Like, “Help me, Mary. You know this isn’t my lingo. I’m in real danger!”

I text back right away as I’m putting on my shoes. Ready to run two houses down if needed.

My text probably went something like, “Everything okay???? What on earth is going on over there??? Feeling fine?????”

Knew something wasn’t quite right.

And I was 100% correct.

Her response text?

“Lol. That text was supposed to go to Curtis.”

The husband.

Who, in my presence, she always called, “dear.” So, not sure where this “love” thing was coming from but it doesn’t matter.  I’m not all that current on sexting.

This posting isn’t really about serial killers. Chances are pretty good that we will not be neighbors of one. Please God!

It’s really more about listening to your instinct. Being aware. Knowing when someone is not themselves. Truly knowing family, friends and neighbors and not missing any clues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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