Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Note About The T-Shirt Thing

Don't worry.

I'm not planning to sell t-shirts on the blog. ^__^

Though it did provoke an interesting response.

The post was labeled "humor," after all. As was the implication that the only reason I was doing it was to get you to give me money, like the Girl Scouts do. Also the fact that I used the word "thong." ^__^

The slogans, for the benefit of new visitors, were not meant to be "desi-centric;" they were meant to be "Pretty Blue Salwar-centric," in that they're all things that have happened to me or that I've said, on the blog. I'm not trying to out-desh anyone.

Obviously, wearing one would be super-duper-meta, probably so meta that no one else would understand what you were referring to. I'm not that popular. Yet.

Which means that the only point of the thing was to "social guilt" my friends and family into giving me money, which I very openly stated was my purpose for creating the t-shirt campaign. ^__^ ("If you like me, you have to buy one!" That kind of thing.)

Anyway. Now that that business is over, I'm going to move on to Plan B:

The Pretty Blue Salwar Pledge Drive.

You Wouldn't Believe It, Except It Is True

So while I was in India, bein' all culture-stealing an' all, my university was busy putting a rather large error on my tuition bill.

An error which I did not discover until I returned back to the states.

Essentially, they charged me for out-of-state tuition although I am a resident of my university's state and have been getting in-state tuition since the start of my grad program. This adds over $1500 to my bill.

So I went to get it taken care of.

It would seem like this process would be easy. Go to the billing office, explain that there has been an error, and watch someone push a few computer keys to make it right again.

It wasn't so easy. First of all, the university staff didn't seem to know where I needed to go. I began at the registrar's office, who sent me to Student Accounts, who sent me to the bursar, who sent me back to the registrar; by this time it was a different employee sitting behind the desk, who said "oh, of course, we can take care of that."

First, however, I had to prove that I did in fact live in my state. Which my university didn't seem to believe, despite the fact that they had been mailing things to my address for the past few years. But they have a rule, intended probably for undergraduate "dependents" but applied post-retroactively to graduate students as well, that unless certain documents can be provided it is assumed that all students (regardless of age) live under the jurisdiction of their parent/guardian and are residents of their parent/guardian's state.

Which is, in this case, out-of-state. Never mind that I've been receiving in-state tuition every semester previously, and have had my own apartment for four years. Suddenly, I'm back to being a ward of my family.

So the person at the registrar's office asks me to bring back some documentation, including my driver's license, my car title, copies of bills sent to my home address, copies of bank statements from a local bank, my current apartment lease, the previous year's tax statements, etc.

The next morning, I arrive with my sheaf of papers.

"Oh, no, we need photocopies," the woman tells me.

I ask her if there's a copy machine in the office I can use. She tells me I have to go to the student center and use the copy shop there. (My university is baffling in its lack of copy machines. There are a few ancient machines in the library, but for all other copying we are expected to haul a$$ down to the Kinko's-style copy shop in our student center.)

There isn't time for me to do this before I go to work (am temping again), so after work I set out for the copy shop. (Yes, I was tempted to just do the copying at work and get it over with. But we're talking about 30 pages of material here, and I'm a good employee who doesn't steal copies from her employer.)

The copy shop, as I have found from past experiences, only takes cash. And I rarely carry cash, as I have found out (again, from past experiences) that if I carry cash I am very likely to let it dribble away into vending machines and the like.

So I had to find an ATM.

Frugal-minded, I set off to use my bank's ATM and avoid nasty surcharges.

But -- oh, here's the part you won't believe -- when I drove up to the bank, I found that the building was in the process of being torn down. Funny the things that can happen in three months. It's a national chain, so I'll be able to go to another building, but I didn't feel like tooling around the city to find out where the next closest banking opportunity was. At some point, after all, burning gas outweighs the ATM surcharge.

I ended up using the ATM outside of the university copy shop. $2.50 for the privilege.

30-plus copies later (and an interesting exchange with a rather vacuous clerk who asked me, when I went up to the register, "how many copies did you make?" and really wanting to answer "um... one..."), I went back again to the registrar's office, thankful that it was open late. I showed her the photocopies and then she gave me a form to sign.

The form needed notarization.

But the notary leaves work at 3 p.m. and had gone home for the day.


In less than two minutes, I was outside feeding a dollar into a vending machine.

We'll see if I can get this problem solved tomorrow.

I'll Be Your PA, Too!

The NYT had an editorial about the rise in hiring Indian "personal assistants" (people willing to do any task you request, from buying groceries online to selecting birthday presents to recruiting and assessing romantic partnerships). I've written on that subject already, here.

The editorial took me to this blog, which took me to a British website titled I Want A PA.

I scanned the website eagerly, looking for the one piece of information I could not find.

Where to sign up.

No, not as an employer. As a PA.

I'd be darned good at it; I'm charming, articulate, youthful, and full of internet-savvy. I could make those dinner reservations for you, no problem. I'd even make a chart incorporating nutrition information as well as any reviewer ratings of various dishes, so you'd know exactly what to order.

Why should this new world-flattening trend exclude me? You could even pay me in rupees, as long as they eventually ended up in my Midwest, USA bank account.


Interested parties can contact me at prettybluesalwar AT hotmail DOT com.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Fun With Avatars, Disney-Style!

So I was doing some research into the Disney Fairies, to see if the DF called "Rani" was actually an Indian-themed fairy (this is mostly because earlier I had predicted that the first desi Disney character would be named Maya, and I hate to be proven wrong).

Rani, however, is as blonde and blue-eyed as they come. She could be one of those "white tigers," but I doubt it.

Anyway. Disappointment aside, I clicked on the link that allowed me to turn myself into a Disney Fairy!

Here it is!

Very sad that there wasn't the option to give my fairy glasses.

Even sadder that most of the available "tops" for my fairy looked like lingerie.

These creatures are, after all, marketed for ages 6-8.

Oh, Disney.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ballet Shoes: A Picture Of The Trio

From Emma Watson Empire:

Too old, too old, too old. All three sisters. (Victoria Wood, who plays Nana, looks about the right age.) It'd be one thing if they made the characters older, but the costuming suggests they're trying to pass the girls, or at least Posy, off as pre-or-very-young teens. (Unfortunately, it just makes them all -- especially Petrova -- look like really early bloomers.)

I'm intrigued by the way Lucy Boynton, who plays Posy, is carrying herself. When I first saw the snap I thought "oh, they cast a real dancer as Posy, not an actor." Then I did my research and found out who Lucy Boynton was. In the shot, her posture's almost perfectly aligned. (Her neck is retracted.) This seems promising. I'm going to be very interested to see her dance.

More pictures here. Apparently the scene in which the trio goes on holiday includes some "dressing up as Native Americans" fun.

Were the actual games described in the book (including "hide-and-go-seek in a hayloft") not good enough for the BBC? Why have our famous trio dress up as insulting stereotypes? And why do they have their skirts hiked up so high?

Just In Time For Some Of The Holidays (and very early for next year's Diwali!)

In my quest for ways to make a little more money (until Daniel teaches me how to break into the world of Mystery Shopping ^__^) I'm considering selling Pretty Blue Salwar merch.

It'll be like selling Girl Scout Cookies; my family will buy some because they're related to me, and the rest of you might buy because you like me. Or because you hate to turn away a Girl Scout.

Before I sign up with CafePress, I thought I would test the waters.

Would anyone reading this actually consider purchasing a t-shirt/sweatshirt/baby doll tee/hoodie emblazoned with any of the following slogans?

1. "What's in your tiffin-carrier?" (Image: Tiffin carrier.)

2. "Life is a continuous travelogue." (Image: None, but a really pretty font.)

3. "Nothing's wrong with eating weevils! Paharganj 2007" (Image: Cereal bowl with cartoon weevils poking their heads out. Also a spoon.)

4. "I Survived The Punjab" (Image: State of Punjab with Amritsar starred. If we want to go all double-entendre and Punjabi pride, I could put this one on a thong.)

If any of this interests you (interest does not mean "commitment to buy"), let me know and I'll get the designs up this weekend.

If none of this interests you, then... I may be putting ads up on the blog pretty soon. ^__^

Ballet Shoes Is Coming

The BBC is working on a miniseries version of Noel Streatfeild's Ballet Shoes.

Will air this Christmas.

Don't have time to write much about it right now, but (like many fans) am a bit perturbed about a primary piece of casting:

Emma Watson as Pauline.

(Also Richard Griffiths as Gum, but he's only a peripheral part of the story.)

Emma's too old for the role, and in the online pictures she looks way too old. (In the story, we watch Pauline grow from 10 to 14 years old.) Also too... angular.

On the plus side, if the press is right, Emma's a huge fan of the book. Which means, I hope, that she'll do her best to be true to the character.

There's already one unfortunate film adaptation of Ballet Shoes. I hope-hope-hope that this one turns out better.

(Emma Watson's website: Apparently she's posting Ballet Shoes updates.)

Monday, November 26, 2007

In Which Blue Adds Up The Numbers, And Considers

Now that I have my temp job secured, I am able to sit down and write out exactly, to the penny, the amount of income I will be earning between today and graduation (in May).

This is, of course, assuming I have no sick days.

Total earnings for this five-month period? $5171.31, exactly.

Then I sat down and wrote out all of my fixed expenses. This includes rent (at $262.50/month), utilities (approx. $60/month, though possibly higher -- I haven't yet seen the first winter bills), food (around $100/month), car insurance payments ($74.00/month), gas (about 1.5 tanks or $35/month, assuming I do no extra travel), credit card payments (minimum is $15/month), and university student fees (a whopping $1500).

Total fixed expenses? $4779.00, approximated.

This leaves me with just about $392.31 to be spread over a five-month period and to include all necessary clothing, travel, textbooks, entertainment, restaurant food, doctor visits/prescriptions, car problems, gifts, what-have-you. (Or I could use it to pay more than the minimum monthly payment on my credit card.)

Or, if we divide it by five, $78.46.

Now, if I pay $30 on my credit card every month instead of $15 (thus making me feel like I'm actually doing something about the debt -- it's only $368.11 at this point, but it's still driving me crazy), then I will have $63.46 of "discretionary money" every month. (I'll also, at the end of the month, have about $250 left on the credit card assuming I make no additional purchases.)

I'll also probably get between $600-800 in tax refunds, although I'm not going to factor that into my budgeting until I see the numbers in hand.

So. Can I live on $63.46/month? On the one hand, it seems easy. Read books at Borders and watch movies in 10-minute chunks on YouTube. (It's a good thing I love cooking and hate fast food.)

On the other hand, one major expense (like my hard drive failure last year) and I'm $crewed.

And I haven't yet factored in the expense of the job hunt. Suze Orman tells the "young, fabulous and broke" to go ahead and put the entire job hunt on the credit card, and consider it a "loan for one's future." I may find myself taking her advice.

(I also haven't factored in paying back my family for the loan they gave me to help pay for the India trip; we've all assumed those payments will take place after I get the "real job.")


I wonder how close I can come to "living on" that number.

I dare myself to do it. ^__^

I Love You, Tiffin-Carrier: Part II

I took my tiffin-carrier to the university today. (I'll be starting temp work on Wednesday, so today I was in my department going to meetings and saying hello to people.)

The shorvedar shaljam I had made the night before (and microwaved to boiling before I left this morning) stayed hot, and was still reasonably warm when I ate it four hours later.

"Is that an Indian dish?" a friend asked me.

"Yes," I said. "It's an Indian dish in an Indian dish."


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Book Club Production Assistant

Well, I finally have a name for the job I want.

Oprah's Book Club is looking for a Production Assistant.

Check out the job description:

Supports team and producer in daily production-including answering phone, getting lunch, opening mail, copying scripts and post-show notes, and other administrative duties. Production skills include research/resourcefulness-proficient in Lexis/Nexis, internet searches, DT searches. Must be resourceful in searching for guests, doing research, and obtaining footage. Reads all books considered to be selected with a critical eye. Maintains up-to-date knowledge of publishing industry. Consistently reads new books, searching for potential book club selections. Can suggest titles that are worthy candidates for upcoming selections. Can create system (charts, procedures, etc.) that are specific to the needs of the club/special projects production process. Charts and tracks show production and book selection process and can anticipate deadlines for the team. Must be able to consistently demonstrate solution driven communication. Communicates effectively with all Harpo departments demonstrating respect and professionalism. Team player works consistently to mesh well with supervisor, teammates, other department members and fellow staffers. Good phone etiquette.

I can do all of those things very, very well. And I have extraordinary phone etiquette.

The online application form, unfortunately, is one of those fill-in-the-blank ones with no opportunity to send off a cover letter. Cover letters and the like (statements of purpose, etc.) tend to be the places where I distinguish myself from the competition. Otherwise I'm just another kid with a degree and a bunch of McJobs.

But I can't not apply.

Well, This is Addictive

The Blog Readability Test.

Insert your URL and it tells you what level of education is required to read/understand your blog.

Mine's high school. SepiaMutiny's is undergrad. Abi's is postgrad.

I should be proud of my "non-exclusivity" and ability to communicate to a wide audience; but comparing my blog with my friends' blogs just makes me think Pretty Blue Salwar should start using bigger words.

Back to my Grad Student Digs

I spent yesterday moving back in to my graduate student apartment.

It's so wonderful to be surrounded by everything clean and organized.

In my closet, the clothes are arranged by color and then by style within the color. I have four white sweaters, five brown ones, five black ones, and one green one. I don't think I've ever had this many nice-looking sweaters. I usually only have as much clothing as there are days of the week.

(In case you're wondering, I do also have a blue sweater, and a pink one, and a few other colorful ones... all from Goodwill. The blue one has a nickel-sized hole in the front, but I wore it to class last winter with a scarf draped over the hole. These sweaters are all in a box under my bed so I won't be tempted to wear them out in public, but so they'll be available for "light hang days" and the like.)

My desk is organized according to the type of materials in each drawer. My kitty is purring happily on her blanket. There are wind chimes above my desk, and candles on my dresser.

Please, please let it stay this organized all year.

Friday, November 23, 2007

But I Like Giving Presents!

If you're in the U.S. (and even if you're not) you're probably aware that today is Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year, where stores open at 4 a.m. and people knock each other down for sale-priced electronics and gifts.

It's also Buy Nothing Day, which is exactly what it sounds like. In order to raise awareness of the consumerist aspects of the holiday season (or consumerism in general), people pledge to buy nothing today.

(A new blogger, CannedIce, penned an essay on the benefits of Buy Nothing Day. She's also my cousin, which makes her cool. Do click.)

And it is, once again, the time of year where people start writing editorials about how Christmas has become too commercialized, that we should give charitable donations or volunteer hours in lieu of presents, etc. etc. etc.

Which is all very well and good.

But... I like giving Christmas presents. I really like giving Christmas presents. (I'd say "I like giving presents" in general, which is true, but I'm always in much better game for Christmas than I am for, say, birthdays, which seem to sneak up on me without warning. With Christmas I've got months to plan and look.)

Sometimes the presents are simple. One year everyone in my family got socks, with notes in the package on which I had written humorous anecdotes from Christmases past. At my absolute poorest, I gave my friends ISBN numbers, with the idea that they were to go to the library and look them up in the catalog and then check out the book I wished I could buy for them. I do mix tapes, handmade sketches, things like that.

But this year I'm quite proud of the presents I've collected, and really excited to give them. I love pretty things and I love giving people pretty things. I'm really proud that this year I don't have to give anyone socks.

Sure, I'm still young. Maybe in fifteen years I'll be tired of giving presents, and ready to send around an email saying "in awareness of the rampant consumerism of the holidays, we are making a conscious decision to abstain from gift-giving and hope you will do the same," or "economists recognize that presents are depreciating assets and thus poor investments; we are putting our holiday spending money into a mutual fund and in return we don't expect anything from you either; really if you were smart you'd follow our example, and if there's anything we really need in our lives, we'll buy it ourselves."

But there's something so wonderful about watching someone open a good present. Something they were really hoping to get; or, better still, something that's a complete surprise but manages to make them light up with excitement. I've only pulled that one off a few times in my life, but when it happens it's so cool.

So. Black Friday? Still probably bad. But giving presents? Still totally awesome. I'm not planning to stop anytime soon.

Is MTurk Really The Best Way to MAKE MONEY ONLINE?

So I promised you a story. And, quite anti-Murphy's Laws of Blogging, I'm providing it. ^__^

I wrote a few days ago about my "continuous, constant" thought process re: the post-graduation job search. This includes my trying to do one thing every day that will get me closer to a post-graduation job.

Yesterday, this "one thing" was going shopping and investing in some functional, professional-looking winter clothing. Not as cause-effect related as, say, updating my resume (that's on the list for next week), but a huge step up from my graduate-student wardrobe of thrift-store sweaters and tatty "theatre-person" scarves.

However, there's something else that I'm trying to do "one thing towards," every day. That'd be "finding ways to earn more money."

Now wait, you might ask. Aren't these the same goal? I mean, won't getting a good job get you more money?

Yes and no. Or, more accurately, "Yes, but in the future. I need money now."

Not to mention that landing a decent job is a cost-intensive process. There's the clothing budget, the travel budget, the transcript-printing budget, etc.

Oh, and rent-food-utilities.

So, in the name of "what's one thing I can do today that will help me earn more money," I joined Amazon's Mechanical Turk.

In case you're not familiar with MTurk, it's the sort of thing people do right before they start selling their bodily fluids. (Which I've thought about. There's a plasma bank two blocks from my apartment.) It's... well, click here for the details, but it's essentially a way for companies to outsource menial tasks to anonymous workers, while paying very, very low prices. Think "0.06 per task." That kind of low.

It's also about the only legitimate "make money online" thing I've found, so far. So I signed up.

I chose a task asking me to transcribe thirty minutes of an audio podcast, in exchange for $5.00. I've got over 100 wpm (sixteen years of piano lessons), and so thought it would take me about an hour. That's almost minimum wage!

Three hours and twenty typed pages of text later, I earned my $5.00. I don't think I've ever typed twenty pages in a single block before. 7,000 words.

Part of my problem was that I was a n00b; I didn't know, for example, that I could reconfigure WinAmp to play the dialogue at a slower rate (thus allowing me to type alongside it in real time instead of wasting time stopping and starting the audio). With a little practice I could probably half my transcribing time. This would put me at... well, less than minimum wage, but still something.

And yet I don't know if I can type 7,000 words night after night; an extra $25 or $30 at the end of the week would be great, though, and the incentive is enough to make me want to give this transcribing business another shot.

What about the rest of the offerings on MTurk? Dismal. And mostly related to spamming people. One pays $0.06 if you send them the name and phone number of a local gym owner (for telemarketing purposes, no doubt); another pays $0.10 for you to post advertisements in the comments of people's MySpace pages. One, which I almost did, pays $1.00 for you to call a number and give your opinion about "your college experience;" then I wondered if they were just after my name and phone number (for telemarketing purposes) and decided not to bother.

I suppose today's "one thing towards," then, is turning over the question to all of you (my own crowdsourcing, as it were). Is there a better legit place to make a little cash via the internet, or is Turking, sad as it is, the best way to go?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Tasting Turkey (once more, for the last time)

Well, the Turkey Day fun has ended, at my house. For those of you curious to know, I did taste a small piece of turkey, despite my confirmed vegetarianism. It was because it looked so much like all the delicious turkeys served at childhood Thanksgivings (all happy turkeys look alike), and I wanted to see if it tasted as good as my nostalgia.

But, although it tasted like turkey, just the little bit was more than enough. I think I've lost my taste for meat, which is fine.

On the list of "things for which I am thankful:"

Goblet fold. (If you don't know what that is, you've never worked "fine dining" food service.)

The fact that sweet potato casserole contains marshmallows. And, this year, the fact that sweet potato casserole contains sweet potatoes.

The reminder, while eating the sweet potatoes, that it's almost turnip season and I'll soon get to make this delicious recipe.

The kheer turning out well.

I should do some kind of crazy meme and demand y'all tell me what you're thankful for, but ohmygoodness it's post-prandial rest time.

But tomorrow... tomorrow, have I got a story for you. Wait and see.

Editor's Note: 500 bonus points for the person who can identify the "once more, for the last time" quote. If you want a hint, it's also from a Russian author. ^__^

It Took Two Tries, But We Had Kheer!

Another example of "multiculturalism at its finest:"

A white woman in a blue salwar getting kheer-making tips from an expat from Gambia (who has also lived in a lot of other places, but not India). In the interest of full disclosure, he actually made the kheer. This was after he came in, looked into the pot I had started, said "this isn't going to turn out," and asked if I had any more rice so we could start over.

When it was done, it tasted exactly like I remembered. However, in the ultimate dessert battle of Kheer Vs. Pie, it lost (and lost badly). I guess cardamom and raisins just can't hold up to the charms of whipped cream and pumpkin filling. ^__^

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am certainly the only person in my hometown -- perhaps the only person in the state -- who is wearing a blue jute silk salwar for Thanksgiving dinner. But... clothing that pretty shouldn't stay in a box.

We're also having kheer for dessert, along with the pumpkin pie. (That is, if it turns out. It ought to, unless there are unforeseen complications in the whole "boiling rice in milk" thing.)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Secret, LinkedIn, and Why Blue Should Apply For Jobs Instead of Me

Whenever I visit my parents' home, I intuitively sniff out all the new books that have arrived in my absence, and -- with few exceptions -- read them. It's how I became acquainted with Blink and The Tipping Point, and, on this visit, The Secret.

The "secret" of The Secret is that if you think about particular goals constantly, continuously (not continually -- that would imply breaks in the thought process), you can achieve them. The Secret takes it a step further and states that you will achieve them, and achieve them by thinking alone; the power of thought will "attract" your goals to you.

That's why people think The Secret is a bunch of hogwash. I agree. However, there's one thing The Secret gets right, and it's something I already knew: if you want to achieve a goal, it's a good idea to work towards it -- not just think about it -- constantly and continuously.

So. I want to get a job. Not just any job; I've had jobs, and plenty of them. I want a job that allows me to use my best skill set (that'd be the "writing" one, also possibly the "teaching" one, not the "stuffing envelopes and answering the phone" one, although I'm good at that too). And I've got a deadline of sorts; next May, after graduation.

I want the kind of job that a person might more accurately call a "career;" and I'm thinking about it constantly and continuously.

When I was applying to graduate school, I began nearly a year in advance. Every day I said "what's one thing I can do today to get myself closer to grad school?" Likewise, with the India trip, I took some time every day to figure out "what can I do today that will get me closer to going to India?"

And so, in the name of "what can I do today to get me closer to a good post-graduation career," I joined LinkedIn. (I've got a sneaking suspicion that networking is going to play a major part in this career process.)

And after I filled out my profile, my education (state schools) and resume (service and temp work) looked so unimpressive that I quickly ditched the entire thing.

After all, without the background to prove it, how could I promote myself as a "Writing Professional," as the site encouraged me to call myself? No one would believe me.

Then I thought "well, if they read the blog, they'd know where my real skills were." And that's when I began to wish Blue could apply for jobs instead of me.

The real world says my education and experience only qualify me for service jobs; but Blue has been hired to write articles for magazines (real, paying articles), not to mention getting tagged and linked-to across the blogosphere.

I live in the "middle of nowhere," but Blue rubs elbows and trades comments with many influential people; people who have founded successful companies, who write articles for major magazines, who work for prestigious institutions, academic-or-industry; people whose names jump out from the insides of books and remind me of how cool they are (Niranjana, that'd be you, in my copy of Sacred Games). Even someone who might be the Next Marketing Guru. ^__^

(Did I miss anyone? I hope not.)

Blue's even prettier than I am, because the world only sees Blue when the photograph turns out well.

In short, Blue's a much better job candidate than I am. Should I make a LinkedIn page for her?

When I began this blog I chose pseudonymity because I thought revealing my true identity might negatively affect my career options. Now I am wondering if and when I should out myself, or whether I should simply change my name to Blue.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pretty Blue Salwar, Version 2.0!

No, that doesn't mean I've added any new... um... interfaces, or even got my own domain name (Gaurav, didn't you once say you'd help people do that? In return, I can definitely throw some linklove towards The Age of Conversation... though every time you mention "bum rush" I'm going to also have to throw some linklove towards FFVI...).

It does mean, incidentally, that I learned the difference between "continuous" and "continual." Apparently if life were a continual travelogue, it would actually be a travelogue of intermittent, but repetitive, frequency. Who would have thought?

In essence, the reframing I'm going to do over the next few days is my answer to the question "what next?"

I've got some great content planned for PBS 2.0, and you'll have to stay on the ride to find out what it is. ^__^

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Substantive Blog Post

"A substantive blog post."

That's what I wrote on my to-do list today, along with "clean out closets" and several spring-semester-related items. So far everything's been done except the closets.

I've been back in the U.S. for four days now. At my parents' house, temporarily, for Thanksgiving week. My mother was concerned that she would need to put me in bed for several days to detox me from all the pollution, etc. that I encountered on my travels, but a day or two of sleep and fresh fruit seemed to do the trick. As to the jet lag, I recovered very quickly -- mostly because I possess the theatre artist's capability of suspending disbelief, and was able to look at my watch and say "oh, it is 11 a.m.," and never doubt otherwise.

To the commenter who left this note: thank you. ^__^

While I was in India, several people asked me about my "spirit of adventure," as the anon commenter described it, and why I seemed so excited to do crazy-ass things like travel the entire length of India on a train.

I told them that this was, in effect, my holiday; and probably the only one I would have for a very long time. (This necessitated an explanation of American vacation days, or lack thereof -- followed of course by a segue into American sick- and maternity-leave policies. Suffice to say that my Indian audience was always shocked.)

Now that it's done, I find my mind pushing me forward, almost frantically, towards the next step. Which is, at the moment, getting my academic life in order and getting my temp work lined up. (Like an insomniac counting hours, I find myself thinking "if the temp job comes through by next Monday, then I will make $$$$, but if it doesn't come through until Wednesday then I will only make $$$...")

And after those two pegs are in place, of course, comes the even more daunting task of landing the real job. You know, the one that's supposed to come after the degree.

What I hope most, and I will continue to write about this over the next few months, is that I will be able to keep this sense of assertiveness that I acquired in India. I learned quickly that I had to be very specific and very direct if I wanted anything; I gave up trying to please people in the name of trying to get what I needed. I learned how to haggle with auto drivers and salespeople; more importantly, I learned how to walk away from them. In Amritsar, I checked out of a hotel without looking back, after the manager took me into his office under the guise of looking up cinema listings and then began showing me his porn collection (never told you that story); on the way to Delhi I enlisted the police to remove a young man who had been stalking me for a few days (never told you that story, either).

I don't want to lose the person I became in India; the person who "survived the Punjab" and made it through solo, unscathed, through breakfast weevils and Sleeper II trains and getting lost time after time after time, standing alone in the middle of Dworka-who-knows-where with nothing but a highway stretching in either direction (never told you... you get the idea), but who has her wits about her and is able to wrap her dupatta around her head to shade her face and walk alongside the traffic until she finds buildings again.

In theory I shouldn't be afraid of anything anymore. But in practice I am a five-foot-two young woman who still gets nervous about making people (employers, professors, etc.) happy.

We will see what happens. For other people who have made the trip (Susan, I'm thinking of you), how did you feel when you returned? Were you able to keep that sense of adventure with you?

For now, the scent of India still remains with me. Mostly because my perfume bottle broke en route, and the attar leaked into everything in my cosmetics bag. ^__^

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I Miss Amul

American ice cream just doesn't taste as good as Indian ice cream.

(That's all. I mean, that's all I've got for today.)

Saturday, November 17, 2007


I spent most of yesterday sitting on the couch, catching up on all the episodes of The Simpsons that I had missed while in India, reconnecting with my cat, and eating apples.

Today I woke up feeling better than I had in weeks. Better than I had since Delhi.

I'm not exactly "re-culture-shocked," but I find myself amazed at the softness of everything around me. Yes, you can play with the double entendre if you want, but these past two nights I have tucked myself into a bed of unparalleled comfort. Fresh crisp sheets, two soft pillows, one lovely comforter, plenty of extra blankets inbetween.

Everything feels soft. The carpet under my feet, the pajamas my mother bought for me (having read this blog post about the prior state of my nighties), the bed, the pillows, the kitty, the sleep itself.

It's absolutely luxurious.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Quote of the Day

In some respects, study abroad has become for this generation what going to college was for their parents. Being in a place a dozen time zones away, where Internet service and cellphones are unreliable, provides one of the first chances for true and prolonged independence.
Read the entire article here.

The Best Thing I Ever Tasted

Twenty-four hours. Three planes. Not enough legroom even for a person whose legs are barely three feet long.

And when I got back, a kitty who seemed almost disbelieving. She spent the evening staring at me dubiously, but I found her snuggled up against my legs when I woke up this morning.

I'm at my parents' house for Thanksgiving week (before I go back to seven weeks of temping -- the spring semester starts at the end of January, and I've got to earn some money before then). This morning I went down to see what I could cook myself up for breakfast.

It ended up being an omelette with cheese and tomato and chili powder (you can take the girl out of Andhra, but...) and an apple.

I had asked my mother to make sure there were apples.

And that apple, so fresh and so cool and so crisp, was the best thing I had tasted in months. Better even than ladoos.

Welcome home.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Perfect Send-Off

How did I spend my last day in India?

At a huge, flashy celebration filled with everyone who was anyone in Bollywood (except Hrithik??? or did I blink and miss him????).

Yes, I loved the film. I loved-loved-loved it. Took a friend along, tucked ourselves into a theatre... it was a perfect way to spend an afternoon.

I'm not going to bother reviewing because the general consensus is "it's a little stupid but a lot of meta fun-fun." With which I concur, and would like to add "shiny!"

Two thoughts which I haven't yet seen anywhere else:

1. The creepiest part of SRK's abs isn't the fact that he has them. It's the fact that he doesn't have them during the 1970s half of the film. His shirt raises up a few times and there is definite flesh there. Which makes the body transformation all the more terrifying. (For the record, I prefer my Shahrukh creamy, not crunchy.)

2. Was I the only person who looked at the press shot of our four boys dancing on top of that bar and thought "what if they were Bolly Marauders!" Wormtail, Moony, Padfoot, and Prongs, L-R. ^__^

(Pic comes from Movietonic.)

I'll be on a plane soon. Catch you on the flip side.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Thoughts on the Golden Temple

Back when it was Ganesha Chaturthi, I had wanted to write a post tentatively titled "Why do all these white people want to see pujas?" (This I overheard one desi visiting fac say to another while three of us pasty-style visiting fac were getting ready to go pandal-visiting.)

When I told people I was going to Amritsar, the most common follow-up was "why?"

Of course they knew there was this famous temple in Amritsar. "Then go for a day," they told me. "You can walk through the Golden Temple in an hour and then leave."

Keeping in mind that I did become sick -- very sick -- in Amritsar, and that the last half of my stay there was spent in a hotel room watching the entire "Ross and Emily" arc on Friends, perhaps the people who told me I shouldn't have gone to the city had a point.

But I wouldn't give the three days I spent at the Golden Temple back for anything. You don't "walk through" a place like that in an hour.

I grew up in a very small, very white Midwestern town. We had church. We had plenty of church. One of my high school jobs was church organist/choral accompanist. I was an "every-Sunday" kind of gal.

And yet I couldn't help but notice what I felt to be an absence of spirituality at these churches -- or, at least, the kind of spirituality I felt like I needed in my own life. At my Midwestern church, there was plenty of warmth, plenty of friendship and kind words and smiling. But there wasn't a sense of the divine presence among us. "When two or three gather in My name, I am there," as the quotation goes. Perhaps, and certainly a force may have been watching us and loving us and cracking a wry smile, but for me it was Sunday after Sunday of sermons punctuated with jokes and flickering PowerPoint images featuring clip art a decade old.

To wit: I came from a church where on Christmas, our minister distributed blueberry mini-muffins for Communion and, in lieu of a sermon, told a story about an angel who wanted to learn how to tap-dance.

And so I got on a train bound for Amritsar and one of the holiest, most sacred places in the world.

Why Amritsar and not, say, Tirupathi? In part because I knew the Golden Temple would take me in. One of the tenets of Sikhism is that their sacred centers are open to people of all faiths. And, when I was there, not only was I "taken in," but I was also taken care of. I was welcomed, invited to eat in the langar hall, allowed to sit for hours and listen to the kirtan, even allowed to sleep. (And, when the time came for the temple's thrice-daily cleaning, I was, along with everyone else, handed a bucket and shown what to do.)

Did I "find spirituality" at the Golden Temple? I think it was one of the sorts of things where a person goes to a place to remember what she already knows. That is to say, being there and being invited to meditate on the name of the Lord reminded me again of the necessity of connecting to the larger sense of faith, to what one might call the Divine, the Universal Connector, the Ultimate Source, which may or may not be our idealized human-faced God but is a definite something.

The Golden Temple was a place I was truly sad to leave. I don't know if I will ever be in that kind of presence again, in my lifetime. And -- despite the complications of the rest of Amritsar -- I am so glad I was able to make the journey.

Golden Temple Pictures

In lieu of a more substantial post, I'll share some pictures of the Golden Temple.

As I learned in Delhi, the Nishan Sahib is quite large. ^__^

The langar hall, a free kitchen that is open 24/7. It is a place where people of all faiths and classes are invited to share a meal together.

The Harmandir Sahib (that is, the Golden Temple itself), in the center of Amrit Sarovar.

Pilgrims and travelers circling the sarovar. I'm tucked away in a shady area. I spent nearly three days sitting in various places like this around the temple complex, sitting and watching and resting and listening.

Another image from my anterior/interior position. ^__^

Monday, November 12, 2007

Pretty, Pretty Gifting

Before I packed them all away into my suitcase, I set all of the gifts I bought during my Indian adventure out on my bed and admired them.

I love giving presents to people, and I particularly love these presents. ^__^

Now all we have to do is wait for Christmas.

Sorry For The Not-Posting Thing.

I have so much to write about.

Amritsar, the Golden Temple, Diwali, the wonderful fantasticness that is Indian domestic air travel...

I even have pictures.

(Ooh! Pictures!)

But I am in Hyderabad, with just two days to go before I leave India, and I am caught up in a social whirl. Everyone wants a piece of Blue, and so I am very busy paying visits and meeting people.

And (sigh) there are only so many pieces of Blue to go around.

But soon, Team Readers. Soon.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Blue Is... Feeling Better!

After nearly four days of rest and way too many episodes of Friends and Seinfeld on StarVision (and the realization that although Friends is a really stupid show which deserves all of its criticism, it actually has some pretty good one-liners), I am feeling back to my old self.

Just in time for Diwali and fireworks. (Blue likes fireworks.)

Happy Diwali everybody!

Jab Me With A Spoon

So. Jab We Met.

Well, let's put it this way. There was one thing I really liked about the film. (I try to be a positive person, whenever I can.)

I liked that the Bollyworld they created for Jab We Met actually resembled the India in which I've been traveling for the past three-odd months. When I've seen other Bollywood films on this trip, I've always had to crack a smile at their idealizations of this pretty, pretty country. I would look at the images on the screen (the opening song in Laaga Chunnari Mein Daag, for example) and think "where's that place? I'd like to visit that part of India."

But when I was watching the first hour of Jab We Met, I could finally say "Yeah -- definitely been there."

As for the rest of the film? Oh... let's say it was so boring that I sat during the second half mentally planning syllabi for next semester. And then caught myself doing it.

Oh, and that last dance number is just creepy.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Things that Make Me Smile

Someone has stuck a "Vote Jindal" sticker to the lid of the toilet in my hotel room. ^__^

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Famous Amritsari Pictures!

I actually have several very nice pictures of the Golden Temple. Unfortunately, this internet is very slow at uploading pictures. (Not to mention that it won't let me rotate them, and I would hate to show you a bunch of upside-down pictures.)

So I'll just give you one, to prove that I am still alive an' kicking.

I have been very surprised at the number of people (usually young girls) who want to take their picture with me. In Lal Bagh, at Mysore Palace, and now here. I suppose my face will be gracing countless university hostel-room bulletin boards. At any rate, here I am, surrounded by admirers. ^__^

(Note to my hosts in Bangalore: yes, that is the salwar you gifted me. The tailoring turned out great!)

Blue is Not Alone (in being food poisoned, that is)

So I'm in my hotel -- and first of all I have to give a shout-out to the hotel staff for taking such good care of me; checking on me every hour to make sure I'm okay, etc. -- and there's a knock at the door.

It's an elderly gentleman from the U.K. who is here on a pilgrimage. He's also come to check to see how I'm doing.

Then he tells me that his son is also food poisoned. He also gives me a piece of advice: eat only at the Golden Temple. "It's only you young people who try eating at the local dhabas," he said.

I have no problem with that. Of course, first I have to want to eat food again. ^__^

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Blue Is... Food Poisoned.

Threw up six times today, nearly every hour on the hour. (Actually, it was every hour on the 0:50, so I missed half the endings of the 90's sitcoms that they show on StarWorld.)

Famous Amritsari kulchas, indeed!

Finally I got taken to the doctor (the hotel staff here is lovely) and got a steroid shot into my arm to stop the vomiting. Also some Punjabi-style Gatorade, which tastes... worse than the vomit.

I want a t-shirt that says "I survived the Punjab." Someone who has access to CafePress, if you put one together I'll send you my credit card number. ^__^

Monday, November 5, 2007

In Which Blue Renounces Her Title

Here's a story.

When I used to work as a waitress, my... um... colleagues used to call me a princess. This despite the fact that I was the one who would tackle the nastiest side work (squeezing hot butter into flower shapes, for example, and various things involving dishwater and chemicals) without complaining. Finally, one of the cooks told them to knock it off.

Anyway. The "princess" label is one that has stuck to me since grade school. But I'm renouncing it.

I spent the night on a Delhi train to Amritsar. It was the only one I didn't upgrade. I left the ticket in Sleeper II class because I thought "oh, it'll smell a bit, but I'll lie down and close my eyes and wake up at the station."


Everything is filthier in Delhi, including the trains.

It was an unimaginable night. I decided, pretty early on, that I would not fall asleep because falling asleep seemed the only alternative worse than staying awake. (I was concerned more with the multitude of insects than with, say, getting robbed; I had my arms around my bag and laptop the entire time.) So I spent several hours sitting at the open door, wrapped in a blanket, along with half-a-dozen people who hadn't bought a ticket (the train was crammed full of people who hadn't bought tickets; there were far more people in that Sleeper II train than there were bunks). At least I had a blanket; many of the people there were wrapped in newspaper.

At any rate. I survived, and no one ever gets to call me a princess again.

Hooked On Delhi Phonics

Here's a quick end to the Delhi story. (I'm still in Amritsar, btw -- will write about it soon.)

On my last day in Delhi I met up with a friend whom I had originally met back in August. (He's the one who gave me palmology.)

I wish I had been able to meet up with him earlier. He had a car, and used it to take me to the nice parts of Delhi; National School of Drama, the Parliament buildings, etc.

We stopped at Bengali Market for lunch and I had a delicious chole bature (yes, Niranjana, it was everything you said it would be). Afterwards my friend left me at the National Museum because he had to get to rehearsal.

At the National Museum -- well, I didn't have enough time by half, but I managed to see several of the rooms and wished I could have spent much more time poring over the miniatures. But the most interesting discovery was the room filled with charts of Indian phonetics; that is, charts of how the various Indian alphabets have evolved over the past 2000-odd years.

And as I was staring at the Telugu alphabets, I noticed something fascinating. The original lettering appeared to be an attempt to draw the shape of the mouth while the sound was spoken. In profile. It wasn't a 1-1 correlation, but for the majority of the phonemes, it was pretty darn close.

Why didn't we leave the alphabet like that, do you think? Probably something to do with manuscripts and people adding curlicues and things, and then the flourishes taking over until the original shape of the letter was obscured. At least, that's my guess. ^__^

Saturday, November 3, 2007

A Quick Story

I have lots to write about (haven't even finished telling about my Delhi adventure yet) but will keep this short.

Still... healing. Slept about 16 hours when I arrived and close to 20 hours yesterday.

Some of those hours were spent sleeping actually at the Golden Temple. I sat down in the shade to listen to the kirtan and...

And I was woken up about 90 minutes later by a crowd of women standing over me and arguing over whether or not they should wake me up. ^__^

Being Sick in Amritsar

When this trip is over, I'm going to make a tally. A sort of "how much money spent on hotels, how much money spent on transport, etc."

On this list I should include "how many days spent being sick."

When I was in Bangalore, I spent about half my stay there taking rest; my hosts and I both agreed that I was probably reacting to all of the pollution.

Delhi is... oh, I don't know... about 5 times as polluted. And filthy.

And Blue is... well... down for the count once again.

At least the hotel room is nice, this time. And the on-staff doctor assured me it was nothing serious. (And it isn't -- just another one of those nameless "upper respiratory infections" people get.)

So I'm hopped up on Indian drugs, and enjoying the view.

More to come later, since this internet costs 2x what it does in Delhi.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Blue is tired....

Delhi's taken both the piss and the vinegar out of me.

And, as much as I hate to admit it, I'm getting tired of being a tourist. The novelty of paying money to look at things has worn off. ^__^

I've got two more weeks in India. Part of the time includes a trip to Amritsar, which is worrying my parents because of its proximity to Pakistan. I don't think it's any more dangerous than any other city, not really.

Right now, watching the news in my hotel room, the two least safe cities in India seem to be Bangalore (at least they're hyping the whole "BJP Karnataka" thing on TV), and then Hyderabad, which is getting deluged by rain almost to the breaking point. And I've been in both of them already.

But throw in your verdict. How foolhardy am I being?