Week 2: Kites, Shopping, and Surprises

Trip Start Jan 05, 2013
1
8
42
Trip End May 06, 2013


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What I did
Adalaj Step-well Ahmedabad
Read my review - 5/5 stars
Meritorious Restaurant
Havmoor Eatery
Millowner's Building
Alpha One Mall
Police Commissioner
Heritage House
Old Town Ahmedabad
Cafe Upper Crust
Sun Temple, Modhera

Flag of India  , Gujarāt,
Monday, January 21, 2013

My idea with this blog was to post weekly updates, seeing as it is difficult to update daily. However, I am considering re-thinking that idea. I realize now that I cannot tag on the map every place that I have visited, only the city that I was in. So, from now on, I will post separate entries when I go to different cities, but I will also continue to post weekly updates. Consider it details about certain sites and trips depending if they are to different parts in India or not.

Eighth Day in India – January 14, 2013
The Monday started off typically until I got to studio and was able to talk to my favorite little Hawaiian, Joey. It was the first time I was able to talk to someone at home, seeing has everyone is usually sleeping when we are awake. It was such a great way to start the day. After Okki and I worked on our studio project, six of us went off campus on the hunt for a new restaurant location. After coming across our studio professor down the street, he recommended "Café Upper Crust," a place known for their diverse food selection. So, we decided to give it a shot and headed down there. It was the first time that we saw chicken on the menu, so we all got very excited. It had a great environment in there: classic American musical hits, quaint space, and a dessert counter that was filled with chocolate treats. After we received our water, we ordered and received our food relatively quickly. I ordered baked chicken, which was chicken, pasta, and a white sauce. It was very creamy but so different from the foods that I had been eating recently that it was perfect. After we met the others back at the hostile at 2:00 PM, we all headed to get rickshaws to head over to Old Town Ahmedabad to our friend Skye's friend’s house to celebrate Kite Day. Skye is a professor teaching a 2 week writing course at CEPT and just happens to be staying at the Presidency Enclave also. When we got to the festival, we found out that the “Heritage House,” as it is called, was named the number 98 place in Ahmedabad to see. The Kite Festival is a celebration held in Ahmedabad, but it is only celebrated in Gujarat. We had been told that the day of the festival, there would be more kites flown than the day that we went down to the Riverfront to see the festival. Skye gave us a tour of the three floor house, as it was recently restored to its original condition, and then after brought us all up on the roof. From the time that we stood outside the entrance of the house, you could hear music playing and could see people on the roof. There were so many people. The view was the most incredible thing I think I have ever seen: kites were flying everywhere in the sky, people were dancing, singing, socializing, and having a great time. From the roof that we were on, you could see the roofs of the surrounding houses for at least three miles. There were so many people. We were all shocked with everything’s beauty. For a while, I just stood to the side and watched as the Indians celebrated life in a way that no American would ever be able to.

After being a bystander for a while, I began to take many photos and watch the kite-flyers. (Flying an Indian paper kite is much harder than American plastic one; not that I can actually fly either.) For the first hour, I just observed, as I honestly could not do anything but that. I was in awe and wonder. I never imagined that I would feel so happy in one place at a single moment in time. After moving up to the upper roof, I sat and watched all of the kite-flyers on the other roofs. I have never seen anything more beautiful in any part of my life. After I got out of my shell, I hit the dance floor with one of my classmates and we learned how to dance Indian style by some girls around our age. The girls were very nice, but were clearly embarrassed by our lack of dance skills as they would always walk away and leave us standing there dancing by ourselves as the song ended. We would go walk over to the place that they had just moved to and keep dancing, only for the same thing to happen again. We gave up shortly thereafter. After we gave up, we moved back down into the house to go cool down and get my camera. Even though we were not at the party area anymore, I took the party with me, as I could not stop dancing.  We could still hear the music that was being played and I could not control myself.

As the time for the sunset was quickly approaching, we all went back on the upper roof and waited for it to set. From the minute that we realized that it was setting, it was gone within 5 minutes. Thankfully, I got tons of photographs in that time, but others were not so fortunate. We all got so wrapped up in seeing lanterns flying in the sky and being sent off into the air. It was just as amazing as the kites, but even more special somehow. It was like a dream, watching the families light the lanterns and taking their time to make sure that it was warm and stable enough to fly away. What the significance of the lanterns was is unknown to me, but I do know that it is a new tradition that began this year. I took many long-exposure photographs so that I could capture the fireworks as well as the lanterns’ motion. We then danced with the family for one last time in one large circle. (Yes, all 50 plus some people at that party were all family members.) After a few songs went by, I went to go get my camera and purse as we were planning on leaving soon, but was stopped by three gentlemen who introduced them to me. (No, not another proposal; do not worry.)  One of them stopped mid-sentence and said, “You have beautiful eyes. Do you want me to play you any songs?” and told me that he was in charge of the music selection at that party. So, I went over to the others and asked them if they wanted any songs played and Tyler said that he wanted to DJ as well. So he put his American music on and jammed with some younger members of the family.  We all then went downstairs for dinner consisting of a potato dish, roti, and a bean dish. It was delicious and was the first time that I had home cooked Indian food. You can most certainly tell the difference between the commercially cooked food and the food made with tender love and care. We also had a piece of chocolate vegan cake that Skye made for the festival.

On the way out of the house, Niraj, a classmate, told us that he had been invited by three of the family members to go back to their house for a party that night and that we were all invited also. So, when we got back to the hostile, we changed and set ground rules for this party: if any male hit on one of us females and made us feel uncomfortable, we should pretend that one of the 4 guys were our boyfriends. Once we talked strategy for our first Indian party, we headed to the street to wait for the cars to pick us up. After about 10 minutes, there was still no sign of Monesh, the family member hosting us. So, Niraj called him again and was told that they were just a few minutes away and that there would be multiple cars for us. Finally, one pulled up; a white car similar looking to a Toyota Camry. Within a minute, a second car pulled up; a white 6000 series BMW. We were all in awe and literally did nothing else but stare at the car and complement the owner for the five minutes that we were waiting for the third car to arrive. When we got the news that the third car would be a couple minutes late, 8 of us left in the 2 cars to go to Monesh’s apartment.

There was no way that I was passing up an opportunity to ride in such a beautiful car. So, I was the first one to jump in the BMW, thank goodness. With the interior camel, I couldn’t help but think what my Mom would think about this car. It was the most beautiful and sophisticated car that I had ever seen, and all of a sudden I was sitting in it! We knew right from the beginning that it was going to be an interesting ride to the apartment when the driver kept revving his engine and weaving through traffic. It was scary at first, but after a while, it became the same repetitive motions: swerve right, swerve left, slam on breaks. It was like a song with the rhythm and melody. The car had more get-up than I could ever have imagined. We learned later that night that we went 140 km/h. I knew we were going fast, but not that fast! When we got to the apartment, it was gated off and the driver had to let the guard know that it was him in order to get in. The apartment complex was new; clean, crisp, and without a single damaged part. As we waited for the others to get there, we all asked more questions about the car and the driver and we listened to more popular Indian dance music. When the others got there, we headed inside but were told that we needed to keep quiet as to not wake the neighbors. Within a minute that we got inside the apartment, our driver started smoking. What a great way to start the night. When the third group finally got there, we sat down in the living room and got to know each other. We found out that Monesh owned a “Vespa” dealership, a motorbike, the third driver owned the construction company that built the apartment complex, and our driver owned the company that paved the roads that we took to get to the location that we were in in the suburbs of Ahmedabad. All of the men were 24 years old, and clearly very financially stable. (They had told us that they were from a higher class and therefore were able to live extravagant lives.) After we hung out for a couple hours, they brought us home. It was the perfect ending to my best day in India to date (as of January 24, 2013).

Ninth Day in India – January 15, 2013
Again, a typical morning of breakfast, temple, and studio occurred. However, after studio, we went to the Police Commissioner, the place where we had to fill out legal paperwork to make sure we would not get deported from the country. We knew from the minute that we got to the entrance of the building that it was going to be an interesting field trip. As us girls and Tyler were getting ready to walk through the metal detector (the others had already made it through), we were forced to stand to the side. Automatically, this made me very upset as I thought they were going to make Tyler go through first because he was a man. But, that did not happen. Instead, a man wearing a formal suit and official pins walked out through the metal detector and was saluted by two policemen standing opposite of us. We still do not know who the man was, but afterwards, we were all super excited that we may have seen someone important in government. When we got to the waiting room, we were asked to move into the “Canteen” were we would be able to buy chai while we were waiting to be helped. However, it did not look like people were working hard considering they were all sitting in the waiting room watching cricket. When we were finally given the paperwork that was bounded in a booklet, we had to fill out 4 pages of the same exact information; same order and everything! The information was about whom we are, information on our passports and visas, where we were staying, when we left the USA and where from, where we first entered India, and how long we plan to stay in India for. We were then given a separate sheet of paper to fill out with the same exact information again. Finally, we had to hand in 7 passport photos, 2 letters from CEPT, one saying where our permanent address in India was and another saying that we attend CEPT, a copy of the first 2 pages of our passport, a copy of our Indian visa, and a copy of every other stamped page in our passports. After this grueling hour process was complete, the fun began: waiting. David and Niraj had to go into the office and go through everyone’s information and hand-ins to make sure that everything was correct and present. While this was going on, we were all forced to sit in this one small extremely warm room. Thankfully I had packed sudoku’s. Once I started them and offered Kunmi one, everyone seemed to want one. So, for the next hour, we all socialized and did sudoku’s. After what seemed like forever, we were complete and were able to leave. When we got back to the hostile, Okki and I hung up our baby kites that Skye gave us the day before, on our fan and air conditioner. Sadly, they both did not work perfectly and we wanted to be able to save them, so we ended up taking them back down. That night was also my first experience sending laundry down to be done. It was not difficult to figure out at all. They do our laundry here at the hostile and it usually takes 1-2 days for you to get it back and get a bill. I ended the night by taking more photos of all the post-day celebrations.

Tenth Day in India – January 16, 2013
Breakfast, temple, studio. After studio, three of us decided to go to Alpha One Mall to go shopping and get stuff for our room. The day proved to be a bust except that I was able to find a nice summer pink silk tunic for 50%. After the shopping, we got Mediterranean food at the food court for dinner. I got a falafel and Sprite. However, when Okki brought me the Sprite, it was the same color as the Thumbs Up that she got. So, I explained it to the worker about how it was not clear and he agreed. He proceeded to pour me a new one from the fountain but as he was toping it off, the nozzle blew off and went into my drink. Instead of getting a new cup of soda again, he just took the nozzle out and tried to hand it to me. I refused to take it seeing as how many germs were on the spout. Thankfully, there was a man next to me while this happened and he explained to the worker in Gujarati (the local language) that Fanta would do. After dinner, we headed home to work on our studio project due the next day. On the way home, we got in our first rickshaw accident. It was a little scary, but was also funny because the rickshaws only have one wheel so the driver misaligned his wheel and had to drive strangely all the way home. We then stayed up until midnight working on studio.

Eleventh Day in India – January 17, 2013
We woke up at 6:00 AM to finish working on our studio project for our final at 11:00 AM. We still had to print our boards out, so we rushed like crazy to finish the project and get ready for the day. When we got to CEPT, the printer room was empty, thankfully, except for a few people in our studio section. We got a chai and a Limca on the way out of campus. We grabbed a rickshaw driver to bring us to City Gold Cinema, the closest attraction to the Millowner’s Building where we were presenting. As we were deciding where to pin up our boards, we decided that it would be nice to present somewhere local to where our project was based in the building. Unfortuately, because we did this, our boards kept falling, seeing as we were taping them onto very dirty concrete curved walls. (It was a nice idea, right?) Between running back and forth from re-taping our boards and listening to the other presentations, I almost got hit in the head by the same bird 3 or 4 times.  However, the day just got more and more interesting when my computer died. Because the file that we were working with was too large, I could not render (make images of the model). So, I was going to show the file that I had been working on to prove that I did have something to show. Thankfully, I took Okki’s battery and I was able to show it during our presentation. Unfortunately, the presentation did not go as well as we were hoping. It was not the worst that we ever got, but there certainly was no praise. It was our first pin-up in India, after only being here for a single completed week. We knew that we were better than the critique and that we were still getting adjusted to the culture here so we tried to not let it bother us too much. Our studio section then went to “Café Upper Crust,” and I split 2 Chicken Tikka’s with Okki and Kunmi. We then picked out what topics we wanted to studio for our other class that David is teaching us, “The Phenomenology of Architecture.” The idea for this course is based on the idea that architecture goes deeper than the physical structures that are built, and sometimes even into the reason part of the brain: our conscious. Sometimes, it even surpasses the reason and goes into the unknown, only things that you can comprehend through experiencing them; experiencing phenomena. My three choices for these phenomena were: Passage & Sequence, Aperture, and Center & Periphery. The class is based when we go on field trips. In the end, we have to do a project and come up with a thesis based on our phenomena and what drawings, writings, and photographs we came up with throughout the semester. Rather quickly, I found out that I had been assigned Center & Periphery, which is a very broad yet very loaded topic. I was quite excited, seeing as I am able to capture most of this phenomenon by the use of my wide-angle lens. After the meeting, 4 of us headed to “Hypercity” at Alpha One Mall to get stuff for our room, food, and drinks. When we all walked in, within a minute, we were flooded by little Indian children, boys and girls, all wearing the same green flat-brimmed hat with gold lettering that I could not read. They asked us all what our names were and then the gentleman that was with them began to introduce every single child by name. Seeing as there were at least 30 of them, we stopped the man and said that it was great to meet them. After we spent a while in the store, we checked out, but since I had my “Hypercity Rewards Club” card, I was able to save more than 1000 rupees. It was so exciting, knowing that without pointing out how much Okki and I spent, we saved $20.  That night, we went to “Havmor” and then called Mom, Dad, and HeHe in an attempt to make my night a little brighter.

Twelfth Day in India – January 18, 2013
The previous night ended badly, this morning began badly. I had seemed to be on a streak. After I had showered, I wanted to use the new squeegee broom that we bought so that Okki would have a dry floor before she decided to shower. Well, the idea was there, but instead, I just ended up kicking Okki out of the bathroom entirely. When I was turning around from squeegeeing one side to the other, the back of the handle caught 2 glass tumblers and sent them smashing to the ground. I had no idea what to do; I could not even see the glass seeing as I had left my glasses outside of the bathroom while I was showering so that they would not get all steamed up. After Okki asked if everything was okay and I explained to her that I would clean it up and not to worry, she had to go shower in someone else’s bathroom. I cleaned up the majority of the glass to the best of my abilities, but we left it in a pile for the cleaners to pick up later that day. When we were on our way to school, David caught us on the way out and told us to be patient because there were basically no rickshaws out. That was very interesting and proved to be true when we tried to find one. Thankfully, we did find one. When we told him where we wanted to go, he told us something that we could not understand, seeing as he did not have good English. The only thing that we did comprehend was that he kept saying 1. We were not sure what this was about but we needed a ride to school, so when he said that he would take us to CEPT, we hopped in the back of the rickshaw and went on our way. When we got there, we asked how much it was and he said 100 rupees; 10 times the typical amount that we pay to get to school daily. It then clicked that he was trying to warn us beforehand when he kept saying 1. But, we knew that there was some sort of strike going on, so we paid the 100 rupees and left. After working on the computer for a while, three of us got lunch and sat on the hill in the sun. I got a call from David who told me that the rickshaw drivers were on strike because the price of gas went up and they could not keep getting paid a minimum of 11 rupees. (I did not even know that there was a minimum for a rickshaw ride. He also reminded us not to get in a rickshaw seeing as if a driver is caught by another driver not obeying the strike, a group of drivers will beat the disobeying driver up as well as whoever he is driving. (This happened to Anne; she was not beaten up, but her driver was.  After lunch was done, we went back inside to studio and got our new studio assignment: an academic campus for a hospitality school. I was also able to find a church in Ahmedabad located at Gujarat College. I was very excited about this, seeing as I thought that there would not be any Christian services in Ahmedabad. When we were all ready to leave, we walked back to the hostile. The walk is not nearly as bad as we thought it was going to be. It took about 30 minutes in total and was straightforward. That night, we went to “Havmor” again and I tried a new baby corn masala dish. It was very good but it was the first time that I did not think that an Indian dish was spicy. I then edited my photos and called my Momma to chat and end the night well.

Thirteenth Day in India - January 19, 2013
The morning started off terribly when I had an upset stomach from the corn from the night before. But after my shower and breakfast, I seemed to have felt better. When we left for school, the rickshaws were still on strike. It was upsetting, but I was glad that I was able to walk to school. At school, I uploaded photos and went on the internet. I was able to write my Dubai entry, finally. Later that day, we grabbed lunch at the “Canteen” and we then saw a camel by the volleyball court. It was attached to a single branch on a tree; probably the weakest branch on the whole tree. We took many photos and videos of it. We also took photos with it, but not very close because we were too scared to get spit on. I was so excited that I had to call my Mom and Dad, even though it was around 1:00 AM Eastern Time. On the way out of the school, we met people from Algeria and Ohio; grad students who were part of a program similar to UNCEF. They were very nice and invited us to go over for dinner and drinks someday. When we got back, I wrote some more on my blog. We then went out to try a new restaurant; “Meritorious Restaurant.” It was very similar in style to “Bon Homie,” but had a more Indian menu. The aesthetic of the restaurant was stunning. I tried Aloo Gobi for the first time, a cauliflower and potato dish in spicy gravy. I also had a sweet lassi that was delicious despite being different than “Havmor’s.”

Fourteenth Day in India - January 20, 2013
(Separate blog entry: "Fun at the Sun" and "Adalaj Surprise")
After we got back from our surprise-filled day, I watched "The Illusionist" with Tiff and Kunmi. It was a great love story about a poor magician and a wealthy woman who fall in love as children but then meet each other again years later. I would highly suggest it. We ordered "Meritorious" take-out and had a family dinner on the roof. We also noticed then that the tree behind the hostile was cut down and now the view from the terrace is even more beautiful. (I have to take a new panoramic photo.) We ended the night by watching "Drive" in one of my classmate's room. Overall, it was a very event-filled day that ended the week very nicely.

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Comments

dabutler
dabutler on

Sweet Erin, thank you for allowing us to experience India vicariously through you and your blog. You continue to amaze me each and every day. I love you to the moon (or should I say India) and back! xoxoxo Mom

erinbutler
erinbutler on

Love you Momma!

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