Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Good-bye's

Now, the goodbye wasn't all that hard, we had arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare. However, we weren't allowed in the airport so we had to say our good-byes outside. I gave B and J a hug and told them it was great to see them and in B's case so nice to finally meet her after hearing so much about her, she's my other mother. :)

Well, DH had also hugged them and Mom, but I was the last and she kept hugging me repeatedly with each one getting longer and longer. She had then started to cry and I just kept smiling, or trying to at least. However, the more she cried the more I teared up and the dams had almost broke loose, but then I had decided that I didn't want her to see me crying. DH had pulled me to his side and we stood there together smiling so that Mom could see us like that. Mom was crying so hard that even the security guard had asked what was wrong with her. DH had simply told him nothing was wrong, just that she was seeing off her daughter.

I was so tired, emotionally, physically and mentally it was all I could do to jump on the volvo and come home. Here I was talking with some friends about it and broke down for all of 2 minutes because crying wasn't going to help. I missed her more than I did before she came to visit. However, thankfully it won't be another 7 years before we see each other again because she's already planning her next trip and she hopes to bring all of my siblings along. God, heaven help me if that happens because it'll be chaos!!!!

Boycotting the Indian Museum

My family and I had planned to go to the Indian Museum, which I thought would be something they would enjoy. Having gotten in on an Indian ticket before and adverse to paying the foreigner price since I live here, I had asked the guy at the desk for 3 foreigner tickets and 1 Indian. However, he wouldn't give them to me and had asked a security guard, who had then taken me to talk to the Education officer, who goes by the name of Sayan Bhattacharya. He refused to let me in on an Indian ticket because, get this, BECAUSE I DIDN'T HAVE AN INDIAN PASSPORT. Despite all of my paperwork that I carry with me (marriage certificate, resident permit, DH's passport) I still was being refused the Indian ticket. I had tried to reason with him, but he wouldn't listen. Therefore I had told my family that I wasn't going to go, but they could go if they wanted.

However, they decided to stay with me because it wasn't the Rs 150 that was the big deal, I would have paid that, but it was the fact that I a *RESIDENT* of the city for 6 years couldn't get in on an Indian ticket. This essentially means that the government just wants to make money out of me because they think I make USD, which isn't the case since I don't even work! Anyways, I told this to DH and we are planning on filing a RTI (right to information) to figure out exactly where we stand on this.

End of the Visit and Hyderabad

Well...the family left on the 25th and thank goodness I had some recuperation time before I was required to do anything else. We had 2 more days, which was nice because we were able to spend more time together. We had mostly just hung out and Mom had taken us out for lunch to Tangra (me, DH and J, while B stayed back at the hotel). We had introduced them to misti doi (sweetened yogurt) the night they returned and their first question was why we hadn't given it to them before?!? They fell in love with it and needless to say J requested one more round before leaving, plus a recipe.

Well...we had met up early on the 25th since they had to be to the airport that night and they wanted to visit the Mother House. We arrived 2 minutes late since they close at 12, so we didn't get to see the museum or anything, but we did see her tomb. I silently sat on a bench while they did their thing because I don't see her in the same way, but that's something else all together.

Right before this my friends had been messaging me on WhatsApp asking if we were alright because of the earthquake tremors. We were like, wait? what? earthquake tremors? Well, needless to say we didn't feel any of them. We had decided we would go to Indian Museum and we grabbed a taxi and went, however, when I tried to get in with an Indian ticket I wasn't allowed (but that will be it's own blog post). We decided to boycott the museum since I live here and was against paying the foreigner fee to get in. So we had waited for the rain to go down a bit and went to Park Street and had some cold drinks.

We had then grabbed the metro and went to meet DH at the Indian Coffee House for lunch. We had lunch and DH and I drank some coffee and then headed back to the hotel. It was raining, so we wanted to get there early. We had to take 2 taxis to the airport, so DH had gone with J, who talked the whole time I'm told. So we get to the airport and see them off. (I'll write more about the good-bye in a few minutes)

They had then landed in Hyderabad where they got a taxi and went to their hotel. They had arranged for this same taxi driver to pick them up in the morning and take them around the city, but he had wanted Rs 2,500. Eventually they had bargained him down to Rs 2,200 and I had to spend the night comparing prices and finally told them just to take the taxi. They went around the city and had been mobbed by the people at the various locations wanting to talk to them and take photos. I've never had that happen and would hate it, but DH says it's probably because of the crowd we hang out with, which is primarily Indians and large muscular ones at that...

Family's Visit to Varanasi

So, the family had traveled to Varanasi on an AC train from Howrah. They had arrived and were swamped by autos that wanted to take them to their hotel. However, because J wasn't feeling good they had just taken whatever one they could get and got to the hotel. Once they were there J had stayed in the room and slept because he wasn't feeling well, while my mom and B had gone out. They went to the Ganges River and took a boat ride. Well...the boat wallah's knew they were foreigners and despite being told how much they should pay (around Rs 300 for both) they had ended up getting scammed. They had paid Rs 400 EACH for a 2 hour ride. Well, at least they were happy and enjoyed it. They had also been scammed into giving Rs 300 for the cremation wood. They were also told that they would have to pay for the guide, but they staunchly refused.

Well...they had finished their experience by shopping around and Mom found a tapestry that she wanted to buy for B's daughter, L (since that is what she wanted from India), but the store keeper wanted Rs 850 for it. My mom said, no the most I'll give is Rs 500, and the shop keeper counter offered her with Rs 750, but she stuck to her price and walked out. However, the guy called her back and said, ok, 500. That was probably still too much, but mom was extremely proud that she could bargain for herself.

The next day J was feeling much better so they all ventured out to the Ganges again, where to nobody's surprise the boat wallah was waiting for them again. However, J told the guy to get lost and that they didn't need him, which he promptly did. They again went out on the river and saw the cremations and once again the people asked them for money for the cremation wood. J being J, he had decided to give only Rs 100, well...the people keeping telling him "not enough, not enough, give more!" He flatly refused and went on their merry way.

They were supposed to have gone to Lucknow during this time away, but because the train they had booked back to Kolkata was regularly late they decided to forgo it. They instead decided to come back on the 24th instead of the 25th and they had luckily found some AC tickets on the return. However, they had realized that the train would take them over 24 hours to return and ended up booking plane tickets instead. Talk about driving me crazy!!!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Days 2-4 of Family Visit

The 16th morning DH had wanted to take our visiting family out to show them Kolkata and that include some of our favorite food joints. We started this by heading over to Tiretti Bazaar to get the Chinese breakfast and we ended up having a steamed pork bun, some steamed chicken momos and friend pork ones. They were really good and then we headed over to another stall for some fish ball soup and then over to the small store that is owned by the same lady as last time. There we had purchased some prawn chips and meifoon, while DH and 2 of the family had tried the candied plums, which they had declared to be excellent.

After that we had hopped on a tram (which was something they were all keen on doing) and headed over to Dharamtala to our favorite hing kochuri restaurant called Mohan Bhandar. Here my Mom, DH and everyone else chowed down on their delicious combination of potato curry, kochuri's and the lanka on the side. We also had some lassi, singara and tea. After this we had headed back to the hotel using the metro because we had tickets to a hindi film, which everyone had pretty much slept through. However, before returning we had introduced them to the amazing filter coffee from Banana Leaf. After the movie we had planned to go to lunch at the Ballygunge branch of Kasturi, but they only had some daal with peas, shukto, alu posto and fish. We walked over to 6 Ballygunge Place, which had ended up being closed before finally landing up at Oasis on Park Street.

Here we indulged in some more Indian food, which had included some daal, chicken bharta, raita and vegetable malai kofta. This was washed down with some pickle and beer for DH and I and some garlic and cheese naan to fill in the holes. Next, we had gone over to Au Bon Pain or something like that for some coffee and then to Quest Mall. However, to get there we had jumped in some auto's that head to Park Circus so that we could freak my mom out some more (she hates the traffic!). When we were finished at the mall we all jumped on a bus headed to the hotel.

Well, on this bus my mom had a pretty typical bus experience, including a lady shoving her boobs into her personal space and someone asking her to hold her bags. My mom simply gave that lady a blank stare because she had no idea what she was saying. We ended up at the hotel and just hung out for some time.

The next day we were invited to a friends for lunch, but her mother had gotten ill so instead she invited us out for lunch. We had gone over to New Market and sat down for coffee at Raj's Spanish Cafe. Here Raj had teased my family and educated them (before I could get to it) about ignoring the hawkers in the market. When P showed up we headed over to New Market where we wanted to get some things for the family back home. Mom looked at some scarves, while B and J looked for a wall hanging for their daughter and sister back at home.

Once our shopping was complete we had plans to meet up with DH, so while we were waiting we had sat down at Blue Sky Cafe and had some fresh lime soda. We had then headed over to the Free School Street branch of Kasturi and stuffed ourselves full of good Bengali food. We had rice, daal, jackfruit with prawns, spinach, potato and eggplant vegetable, fish paturi (or steamed bhetki in a banana leaf with a mustard sauce) and much more.

We then headed over to Park Street Cemetery where P had begged to get us in for 5 minutes, where we all wandered around the area and enjoyed the time. We had then headed for coffee, again, before going to Gariahat to look for sheets and other necessities. We didn't find them and then we ended up going back to the hotel.

The next day was the elections, which was the 18th and also the last full day that they were going to be here. I had gone over around 11am, armed with my pajamas since I was planning on staying overnight. We hung out at the hotel and made plans with DH for the 2 families to meet. We had gone over to Mocambo where we met up with my MIL, FIL and SIL and had a good lunch. Most of the family (4 out of 8) had ordered some sort of the fish steak.

After, we had gone for coffee and then got MIL, FIL and SIL into a taxi headed for home, while we headed over to Gariahat to see what we could find in the way of sheets and a gift for my mom (which is from the family). However, mostly everything was still closed and we luckily found some sheets for Rs 150, which they plan on using at home as well. We were heading back to the hotel and DH had put us into an auto and the driver had probably thought that he had 4 foreigners in his vehicle. Well, I had said something in Bengali and he was so shocked he kept looking at me and almost ran into a bike. Most definitely the most hardcore reaction to my bangla skills so far.

We got back to the hotel and DH stayed for a bit before going back home leaving me behind with the family. We tried to sleep early, but I was getting hungry so J and I had gone out to pick up some Swarma salad and he ended up having some phucka and papri chaat as well. We went back and just hung out before falling asleep.

In the morning we had woken up early because they had to be to the train station and we didn't want the breakfast from the hotel. Mom and I had walked to Lake Market to pick up some fresh bananas and oranges for their train journey in the afternoon and some other crackers. We had gone back over to Banana Leaf for breakfast and there DH met us. He had flagged us down 2 taxi's and off to Howrah we went.

However, the heat was unbearable in the main terminal and my brother, J, had started to feel ill. We sat down on the ground while we waited for the train to arrive and when it did we promptly hopped on. we got them situated and in their proper seats, with DH also asking the younger man to change seats with mom because she was older.

The train took off at the right time and then DH and I went over to our normal pub for some snacks and beer to help us cool down and relax before coming home for some naps. They return back to Kolkata on the 25th morning and we'll spend some more time seeing the sites before taking them back to the airport in the evening.

So far I've been having fun, but am simply exhausted from running around in this intense heat!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Day 1 of Family Visit

Well...today was day 1 of the family visiting. Initially the flight was scheduled to come in around 10am, but had been changed. So, I arrived at the airport today and picked them up before taking them to the guesthouse. Once there everyone freshened up and we went to get lunch at one of our favorite places. We had ordered rumali roti, paneer butter masala, chicken bharta and some navratana korma. They kept saying "this is soooooo good" lol

Then we wandered around before purchasing tickets to go to the movies tomorrow, which was the one thing that my brother had asked to do. We have plans to get up early, I mean at 5am to go to the Chinese Breakfast and all that before the movie. I am simply exhausted, but watching my mom's face all day was fun and hilarious.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Family and other news...

Sorry I've been away for so long...but some good news! I have family visiting next month. It's kinda stressful because my mom is coming and she's never traveled internationally before, except to Mexico for a day and to Canada, which according to Americans don't count!!!

Thankfully she is traveling with a friend and her son, whom are both seasoned and experienced travelers. This means I should have more stories for you sometime next month about their experiences and mine. I'm currently looking at some of the fun things (also, cheap) to do in the city...so if there are any ideas let me know! So far I want to take them to New Market, Tiretti Bazaar for some good Chinese food, a friend has invited us over for lunch...so ideas please!

We still don't have a cook...so DH and I are still doing the cooking for us, which means lunch is maggi quite often and sandwiches, but that's ok. Also, I managed to cook some tok daal or sour mango daal for us the other night, which came out really good considering it was my first attempt ever. I can also make a mean egg curry, which DH loves.