Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Ladies and gentlemen, there has been a debate started between Daddy G and I about whether or not I am funny. I think I'm funny, but then again, I'm pretty shameless like that. I float my own humor boat, and so I think it's funny. Daddy G, who just found out that there are some things  I do that are outside of his knowledge (yes, shocking), has never read my other blogs and informed me that this blog was distinctly unfunny. Thank you, thank you very much. I think this comes down to a difference in what a person finds funny. For example, I get a ginormous kick out of awful British comedy. Think Monty Python. Daddy G swears this type of humor is just not funny.

 I just want to state for the record that I am not trying (and failing) to be funny in this blog. I find that there is way to much information to pass along to be funny. Plus my family reads (or so they tell me) this blog. Therefore, I have to edit the offensiveness and some of the resulting humor out of it.

I think when one writes for a known audience (i.e. family, friends) that person can either isolate certain groups or tone it down a bit. For all of my shamelessness, I chose to take it down a notch with this blog. Isolating certain groups is rather idiotic because this blog was created to connect with people I care about. So...selling out? Perhaps to a degree, but then again, that's life. It probably won't be all that funny, although I may let some creep in some time. You can always go read my other blogs if you want funny.


These Are a Few of My Favorite Things, Which I Don't Happen to Have Access to Right Now

So. Lots of people ask me what I miss since moving to India. Since I've spent ample time whining about how much I miss my friends (But Mooooommm, I miss my friieends. That was an Eric Cartman reference. Kind of hard to translate that tone of voice into text), let's move on to less metaphysical things, shall we? Anyhow. One of the things that I really miss is bacon. Yep, you read right, bacon. Now, before you accuse me of being one of those trendy foody freaks (which would be right in almost any other context than this one), I'm not a huge fan of bacon. I like it every once in a while for breakfast. I'm definitely not one of those folks who think that bacon is the holy grail of food and should be combined with everything. I'm looking at you bacon chocolate chip cookies. That is just wrong. 

Just Wrong.  

There aren't many Indians who view pigs as an acceptable food source. This is due to a combination of religious and traditional ideals, combined with the fact that pigs are dirty, dirty animals. So as you can imagine, bacon (or any other porcine product) is not a food that is readily available. I have a theory that I could possibly find it at a trendy, expensive import store, but I've never bothered to try. However, I just don't shop at those places because, well, they're just trendy and expensive. I'm all about the authentic.Unfortunately, bacon is one of those foods that once you get a yen in your head for it, there really aren't any other acceptable substitutes. I have yet to find anything related to turkeys either, so turkey bacon is out. And yes, the irony of a craving for one of the symbols of American overindulgence and gluttony does not escape me here. 

Another thing I miss is pre-cleaned, pre-packaged anything. Well, more specifically spinach. The rest of the veggies I can deal with. You do have to give them a good soak in salt water to remove bugs/pesticides/dirt, but spinach is one of those veggies that never gets truly clean in that way. Every single thing that I've made with spinach has been gritty, and I hate it. I love spinach. I long for a day when I can walk into a freezer section and grab a buttload of spinach and just use it for cooking, instead of buying about 8 bundles of spinach (that stuff shrinks when you cook it yo!), failing at cleaning it, and then not wanting to eat the gritty results of whatever I cooked. 

Looks Nutritious, is Actually just Dirty

                                     Looks Nutritious, is Actually Clean AND nutritious.

Another travesty is the lack of dried cranberries here. We have just about every other dried fruit I can think of, but not my favorites. My oatmeal will never be the same.

So all in all, it turns out I just miss a few selected processed foods. We don't have a lot of processed anything here besides Indian snacks, which I'm sure is a pretty positive thing. I still want me some bacon though!


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Alone in the Middle of an Ocean of Humanity

Listening to: Tom and Jerry
Mood: Meh

As I mentioned before, the G household is being run only by myself at the moment as Daddy G is in the US taking care of business.  I don’t happen to be particularly lonely at the moment, but I have had my share of moments like those.  It’s not the traditional type of loneliness though. 98% of the time in India, you are never actually alone. Ever. You would have to go WAY out into the countryside (but not so far that you start approaching civilization again) and probably sit somewhere in the middle of the night to truly be alone – and really, not worth it. It’s that weird feeling you get when you feel like you’re in the middle of a crowd of people, but not really a part of it. That moody, sulky feeling you get when you go to a party and have a hard time finding someone you want to talk to. Or maybe that’s just my teenaged high school memories resurfacing. We live in a huge apartment complex. It’s an amazing place and almost always has people wandering around doing something or other.

Another thing that has been a challenge for me is that it is harder to make friends here, especially being who I am. I’m pretty sucky at making friends. It takes me FOREVER to get to know and get to be close to people. Once I do, I’m friends for life and completely loyal, but it takes me a long, long time to open up to people on that level. It really is reminiscent to me of New York. You can be in and among people for a long time, but unless you interact and really, really make an effort to be friendly and find people with things in common, you can float along without really making friends at all.  

I can and do make my own friends, but I really feel that here, Daddy G is almost like a middle ground for me with others.  I can totally understand why people are a little intimidated by me and aren’t quick to approach me either.  I look different. I come from a completely different world than people here. For some, language is definitely a sticky spot.

The biggest hang up I have in this whole business is getting out of my house and being where there are other people. My kids go out to play every day and it’s such a big relief to have quiet time, I really don’t feel like going out and meeting other people.

There really isn’t a quick answer to feeling alone in another country if you’re more the quiet type like I am. It takes time to meet people and get to feel like you’re a part of a community. It’s been such a long time since Daddy G and I moved across country last time, I rather forgot what it felt like. It’s not overwhelming, or something I would leave over, it’s just rather discouraging some times. I still miss all of our friends a lot. It would be amazing to make some new ones here. I think I should go take a walk and say hello to some people.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Hiring Domestic Help – Or Violating Every Single One of My Midwestern Sensibilities

Listening to: Still the One - Orleans  (Oh shut up. It’s a good song and came up on ipod shuffle.)

Mood: Upbeat

I grew up in a variety of places, from both coasts of the US to the stuffy Midwestern town that I was trapped in for most of my childhood. Understandably, this shaped my views on work ethics and indulgences.  I’m sure being from a Dutch family didn’t help either. The Dutch are a bit, well, crazy for lack of a better word, about their work ethic. I grew up with the attitudes that you have work to do, you will do it, and you will do it to the best of your ability or you are a failure. Unfortunately, this is not my usual hyperbole, it’s actually how my family looked at work. Accordingly, India’s culture of cheap human labor to do tasks that people don’t want to do has always baffled me. In the US, you can’t hire cleaning personnel, or really anyone unless you have a lot of money to throw around, which I have never had. Even living in New York with Daddy G making plenty of money to keep us comfortable, I never, ever would have considered hiring someone to clean for me. All kinds of sirens and red flashing lights would go off in my head about how incredibly lazy it would be to hire someone for something I could very well do myself. I’m not judging anyone who does have help, I just figured that since I was a stay at home mom/wife, I had the time and ability (Hello sturdy Dutch genes) to do whatever needed done.  

When we visited India for the first time 6 years ago, the maid baffled me. She was obviously not well off and worked very, very hard in my inlaws house for her money. It was incredibly awkward for me and I never knew how to sit gracefully in a room with her there or talk about her in front of her, even though she didn’t understand 2 words of English (or so she acted, I have since learned that is generally an exaggeration). I swore that I would never hire a maid if we moved to India, which at that point I had no idea I would actually do.

Fast-forward to living in our own apartment in India. Daddy G, in no uncertain terms, told me that we would be hiring a maid. He didn’t want his family to think that he had dragged me halfway across the world just to make me do housework all day. Apparently, it’s a status thing, especially with his family, whom were terrified that I would hate it here if I had too much work to do. This left me with two main thoughts. The first was terror. How was I going to manage another person that I couldn’t trust in my own home? I’m not trying to sound negative or alarmist here, but it is very, very difficult to find trustworthy people here. Loyalty has a different meaning here and everyone is looking out for themselves first. It’s a product of the competition with so many people in a limited space. The second was what am I going to do with all of my time now? Keeping the house used to take up a lot of my time, and even still I didn’t do too much at any one time.

We put off hiring someone for a few weeks as we got stuff under control. I didn’t want things generally sitting around the house without reason. Small things sitting out tend to disappear if you hire someone who has no compunction about not stealing things from you. As it is almost impossible to know the character of the person you hire when hiring them, it’s always a risk at first.  I had heard many, many stories.

We had a woman come to the door and ask if we needed a maid. Please note that maid doesn’t have the same negative connotation that it does in the US. Maid is just a job description, like driver, manager, etc.  When we had decided the chaos was under control, we asked her to come and negotiate a salary. Negotiation is a huge part of hiring a maid and you have to be at your best or you will be taken for a ride. Daddy G managed the negotiations as our maid only speaks in Telugu, which fortunately is his mother tongue.

At first it was difficult and awkward. There isn’t a written contract about what she is going to/won’t do for the money you pay her. A few things are mentioned/glossed over in the initial negotiation, but not much is specifically spelled out. Much of the standard is set the first few weeks. A few tasks will be extra (such as making chapattis, which are like whole wheat tortillas) and some things are just assumed (cleaning under the beds and behind furniture every other week).

After the initial discomfort of managing a woman on my own without the benefit of a common language, things have evened out. I really do think we got lucky with our maid. She’s rather spotty about coming on time, which I consider to be a result of her overbooking herself and just not getting done with her other houses on time (which I really don’t fault her for, she needs the money), but this is a minor irritation. I have found her to be hard working and for the most part trustworthy. She washes dishes (because I don’t have a dishwasher and I hate washing dishes yo), dries them, puts them away, sweeps, mops, folds dry laundry, hangs up wet laundry (we don’t have  drier, nor space for one), makes chapattis, and cleans the bathrooms ever 2 – 3 days.

At first it was super uncomfortable for me mentally. I felt like I should be helping her, not just sitting on the couch doing something else.  One thing I will say though is that I LOVE having a clean house every day. I’ve definitely been freed up to do other things that I want to get done, like working, sewing, and blogging. Another benefit that I’ve noticed is that I am forced to clean up the house every single day. The maid doesn’t clean up after us if we leave a mess, or make the beds. So every day I get up and make the beds and go around and pick up any little things sitting around. I want the floor swept and mopped properly, so why leave things around and make it hard for her to do a great job?  It’s brought a level of discipline for me that I’ve never had. Our house is actually clean clean every day. The kids have to pick up after themselves because they know she’s coming. A very positive thing if you ask me.

I’ve gotten used to the idea of the maid doing work for us because I feel like we’re paying someone who needs a job. And from what I hear from her, she really is supporting her husband and four kids on her own.  We pay her fairly too, we didn’t try to be too cheap, just fair. There’s still a bit of awkwardness between her and I which is mostly due to the ingrained class differences that exist here. I’ve always treated her kindly (which unfortunately isn’t always the case here; some maids are treated downright awfully!) and try to talk to her and make her as comfortable as possible. The one thing I will say about dealing with a maid is that you can’t feel guilty for having her do the work she is paid to do. That’s when people start being taken advantage of.

So yes, my Midwestern principals about this have had to be put on a backburner while we’re in India. There’s no way I could do the same amount of work as her every day and have time for the other things in my day and taking care of the kids. There’s always extra work for me to do too. I’ve mentioned the things she does. If I want my mirrors or fans cleaned, closets organized, desks cleaned off, knives sharpened, etc, that’s all stuff that I have to do on my own.  I try not to do them while she’s here, as she always volunteers to do them, but I feel this would be taking advantage.  I also turned down her offer to do cooking for us (which would equal a maid’s salary and a cook’s for us to pay) simply for the reason that I like cooking my own food and being in control of how things are cooked and what goes in them. For example, my sister in law has a cook and has a daily battle with him about whether he will use a ton of oil when he cooks. I just don’t want to worry about that stuff. I enjoy it, so why not do it myself?

So that’s the deal with our maid. It’s been quite an adjustment, but I readily admit that I’m getting spoiled by it. I’m rather afraid of going back to the US now. I know I’ll miss her.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Draping Saris

Listening to: Bollywood songs
Mood: Semi calm

So…what’s the newest masala from India? I know it’s been a while, so let’s get you filled in. Since Christmas, we have settled into our new house and have a schedule going on. My eldest is comfortably in school and the general inept clownish nature of the school has tamed down a bit, but I suppose that’s because I’m not trying to get anything done. As per the G Family tradition, we had all of our boxes unpacked about 2 days after we moved in. And no, I’m really not exaggerating that much. It may have 4 days. We’ve hired a maid, which I’ll get into in my next post.  Daddy G has settled into work with Target India (a subsidiary of Target) and is once again working his butt off in true Daddy G fashion.  My work is going on in the background. I don’t get much, but it’s pretty steady. I’ve been doing a lot of sewing and reading.

My newest project has been learning how to tie a sari. Now if you don’t know anything about Indian clothes, tying a sari properly is one of the most ridiculously complicated ways of wearing clothes ever. They look beautiful when draped properly, but good lord almighty. In true Becky G fashion, one evening I was trying on clothes and decided that I needed to know how to do this. The husband and I have a running argument about how Indian I should be looking these days. In his opinion, I should forever ditch my black Guns N Roses Tee shirts and baggy jeans (p.s., never happening dude. I will be 90 and still wearing the same thing.) and stick with colorful kurtas and jeans. Salwars are outlawed as are saris, unless we have a fancy occasion to wear them to. Again, the minute someone tells me that I can’t/shouldn’t do something, I want to know why. After not finding a great reason, I decided that this was one rule I was comfortable throwing out the window.

Before you get too lost if you don’t know the terminology, this is a kurta (most of mine are regular short sleeved as it's hot) By the way, Fab India - amazing store:

This is a salwar, most of mine are short sleeved too, again because it's hot:

This is a sari, although to be honest, no one wears them this tight. I don't know how this girl is breathing:

So. In civil disobedience, I decided to turn to my trusty source of information to try and learn to drape a sari. Salwars are very simple to wear and I’ve been wearing them for the past 10 years to events, so no practice needed there. I went through about 8 videos that did not have verbal instructions, trying to get the sari on each time before I realized I would need verbal instructions also. All in all, I can do it now without extensive internet help, but that first evening took almost 3 hours. I’ve heard that it’s not so simple, but for now people are humoring me and telling me it looks ok. When Daddy G comes back from his business trip, I’m sure I’ll get a bit more objective opinions.

So. Here’s how it turned out.
Red Sari:

Pink Sari:

Blue Salwar

The blue salwar I just threw in because it was one of the first that I ever bought. Back before there was a G family, I was 21 and only weighed 130 lbs. I never thought I would fit in it again. It obviously fits a bit differently than it did when I was 21, (because hello, 9 years and 2 kids!), but what the hell, it fits!