Thursday, July 29, 2010

If I Have Malaria...

You better hope it kills me.  Otherwise, I will be talking about it nonstop for the rest of my life.  I will find a way to work it into any and every conversation I have.  I can start every sentence with "This one time, when I had malaria..."

On a completely unrelated note, Matt is probably not suffering from allergies, as he has kindly demonstrated by passing his illness on to me, his lovely wife.  Thanks, buddy.  I did find some Allegra at the "Planet Health" store yesterday, so in case it turns out to be allergies, I think we're covered.  However, if it is in fact malaria, we're done for.
This is what the sky looks like here every day.  Except yesterday.  Yesterday it was nice.  Today also, but that's beside the point.  All you need to know is it's raining now, as it usually is.  

Most of the crew members here have been sick the past week or are sick at the moment.  I think it has something to do with the monsoon season.  They have no drainage system here, so there are huge pools and puddles of water and trash everywhere.  People use these for peeing and pooping, as well as washing fruit and vegetables.  I think this might have something to do with the spread of bacteria, but I could be mistaken.  Thanks, India.

Nothing else of note is happening.  Oh, but in the interest of keeping positive, I thought I'd list a few things I like about India:
1. The natural vegetable soaps and oils and all around body products.  They smell nice, and they don't have any chemicals.  My soap today is "Fruits of the Himalayas: Basil and Parsley Cleanser".

2.  The people here are friendly, even if they are extremely inefficient and annoying as crap.  They smile a lot, but that might be because I wear inappropriate clothing much of the time.

3.  The toaster at breakfast doesn't get my pop tarts stuck in the morning anymore.  Matt got one stuck last time we were here and smoked up the whole kitchen.

4.  I walked into the Central Mall the other day and found a brand spanking new Body Shop, gleamingly bright and clean, and fresh-smelling.  Also, they carry my favorite chapstick, and it is cheaper here than in the U.S.  Beat that, Finland (in Finland my chapstick was $15.  Needles to say, I didn't partake).

The ropes they put up around the pool every night.  From what I understand, they do this because once there was a Japanese guy who went swimming in the pool when it was flooded because of the rains.  Apparently there were frogs and lizards in there with him, but he didn't care.  
That's all I can think of at the moment.  I won't go into the things I don't like about India, because I fear it would be too depressing for us all.  Also, I only got a very minor amount of pity about my room pictures.  Most of you thought it was funny.  Rachael was the only one who felt really sorry.  To quote her: "I just read your blog and I wanted to cry when I saw pictures of your hotel room".  She wanted to cry!  I think you could all learn a little something from Mrs. Winfield.  Cry for me, America.  Weep.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

If You Can't Say Anything Nice...

Don't say anything at all.  It was in this spirit that I have been neglecting my blog for my first week back in India.  I'm trying to stay positive here, because I think that it's better to put positive feelings out into the universe... also, people like reading my blog more when it's not filled with whiny garbage.

So, since we last met, I have spent a week in India.  I thought this would be sort of an easier transition back into it because we already know where everything is and such. While it is sort of easier, it's also a lot more boring.  I already know where the stores and restaurants are, so I don't get to (or have to, depending on how you look at it) spend hours walking around looking for stuff.  It literally feels like we never left India the first time.  Like those four months between the end of March and the middle of July just never happened.  We are already sick of the food and the hotel, and the beggar children have certainly not forgotten about me.  (Yesterday I had quite the altercation with them... they got my pants all muddy by slapping me with their muddy hands, so I yelled at them, so they left and got reinforcements and proceeded to attack.  My life flashed before my eyes... the only thing that kept me going was one thought: I cannot die at the hands of Indian beggar children, it would be so embarrassing.)

Looky what I found.  I haven't been inside... I'm saving it.  
Anyway, things here are progressing slowly but surely.  Last week I went to the new grocery store that has some Western food, and then later I went to the old grocery store that has some Western food.  They are basically same same.  I also went to the Kashmir store with Ben (from the other crew... he just got here but he hates it... much like the rest of us, I guess) and looked at the carpets and scarves.  Oh, I found a second bookstore in town, which isn't quite as good as the Crosswords, but it does have lots of English books, and they might even be slightly cheaper.  What else happened... oh, on Wednesday I worked out in the afternoon instead of the morning.  I guess you could say I'm pretty wild.
Some interesting architecture.  I'd never seen columns on an apartment before.

Friday I went to the hospital.  For Ryan, not for myself.  (I know, I probably should have started with this, as it's the most exciting thing that's happened, but I thought I'd stick it here at the end so you'd all have to keep reading.)  Ryan (from the other crew... everyone here right now is from the other crew.  Keep that in mind and I won't keep typing it.) woke up early Friday morning with some sort of upper abdominal pain... he thought it was his gall bladder.... long story short, it wasn't... probably.  I was actually excited at the prospect of seeing an Indian hospital (and worried about my friend, too, I guess), and honestly it wasn't that bad.  Aside from those two nearly dead men they kept wheeling around and the smell of raw meat, it was fairly clean and modern (remember, this is all relative to other places in India).  Ryan's room was really small, and he had to share it with a slew of other people who kept coming in and out, but I got the sense he was getting the VIP treatment on account of the fact that he didn't have to wait for hours in the waiting room.  Instead, we waited for hours in the hospital room.  I was going to take some pictures, but something told me that's probably not cool in hospitals.

Saturday we went to the Inox movie theater and saw Inception (it's fabulous.  Go watch it.  Right now).  The theater was pretty nice (again, it's all relative)... they made me spit my gum out before they let me in.  Yeah, because that's what's ruining their nice things in this country.  Foreigners with gum.  I notice that India hasn't really mastered the concept of being quiet in the movies.  There were at least three people on cell phones at any point during the movie.  Those who weren't on their phones were talking.  Loudly.  And the Indian crowd seemed to find Inception exceedingly funny.  It's not a comedy, but they laughed a lot.  They can find joy in anything, I suppose.  Oh, we went to the Seven Seas Mall on Sunday.  I won't be going back there.  Enough said.
Movie theater and McDonald's. So fancy

So, that's about all I have to say about that.  See, not so negative!  Well, kind of negative, but I really am trying to restrain myself.  Oh, Matt has a cold/upper respiratory infection/allergies already.  This happened to him the last time we were in India, and he was sick the entire month until we left.  We don't know what the deal is, but maybe he's allergic to India?  Maybe he needs to be sent home because he's allergic to the country?  Anyway, any suggestions or ideas would be helpful.  I think he'd prefer not to be sick for the 8 to 10 months we'll be here.

In closing, I would like to show some pictures of our hotel room, so that you can all see exactly how we're living.  It looks really messy and cluttered, but that's only because it's so small we don't have anywhere to put anything.  Also we're kind of messy people.  This is a habit you develop when living in hotels... if you haven't tried it, don't judge.
Living room.

Whole room.



Office/kitchen/den combo.



Shower.  Yes, we have a tub, but no, I won't be using it. Something about soaking in Indian water doesn't appeal to me. 

Closet.  Under Matt's hat is the blanket I asked housekeeping to take away because it's too hot. 

Our only two drawers.  There is the second blanket I asked them to take away.  Obviously "please take this away" translates to "please stuff this in any random spot you can find".  Also, equally obvious is the fact that Matt doesn't put his things away.  I think maybe he does it in an attempt to get me to clean up after him... we can all see how that failed. 

Monday, July 19, 2010


After a long and arduous journey, we finally made it to Baroda.  It is very much the same same as before.  Feels like we never left.  Although on the ride to the hotel, we did see two monkeys (the big, ugly kind that hang around the refinery, not the cute kind) and a cart full of beans being pulled by a camel.  Yes, a camel. You definitely don't see that every day.  Too bad I was in such a sleep deprived stupor I couldn't get to my camera fast enough.  Maybe we'll see him again some day.  He'd be pretty hard to miss, I think.

Nothing much happened on the trip.  It was long and fairly miserable, what with all our non-deodorant wearing companions.  Ohh, we did see a guy lose it in the business class lounge in O'Hare.  He was talking on his cell phone in the quiet lounge, and when someone told him to leave because it was the quiet lounge, he just went nuts.  He started yelling and pointing at everyone in the lounge saying "is this the kind of first class people they let in the lounge?!"  And then he told some guy that he hoped he had a heart attack and died.  It was awesome.  Not the threat part, just the whole outburst in general.  Very entertaining.  Oh, and then on our flight from Frankfurt we were still at the gate and the flight attendants came on the PA calling for a doctor.  I believe they said "we'd like a surgeon if possible".  Which begs the question, why on Earth would you need a surgeon on an airplane while we're still at the gate?  If someone is sick enough to need surgery, I'd say you should probably just get off the plane.  Maybe the needed some sort of elective procedure and wanted to get it taken care of mid-flight.  Like a nose job, or something.

Also, I lost my Ipod.  I think I left it in the rental car.  Bummer.  The lady at the lost and found at National had left for the day already, and no one was answering the other phones, (and when they finally did they were incredibly rude) so I guess I'll just call back from here.  Hopefully they have it... otherwise I have no idea where it is.  Good thing Matt said I can use his Ipod for the length of our stay... it's much nicer than mine, anyway.

Anyway, Matt went in to work "for two hours" four hours ago.  I expect him home any minute... or like tomorrow morning.  Wouldn't be the first time he showed up and worked a full 12 hour night shift.  Let's cross our fingers that doesn't happen.  Now I'm afraid I must go for my brain is still incredibly sluggish... I already took a 3 hour nap, but I think I could definitely use at least 9 or 10 more hours.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Same Same

After speaking with several of my family members today, it has become pretty clear that no one understands exactly where we're going in India.  I could probably just re-post an old post about India, but that would be too easy.  Let me clear this up for you:

We are going to Vadodara, India in the state of Gujarat.  The job will take at least four months (4 months in UOP time = about 8 or more months job time).

View Larger Map

Map of Vadodara.  Click on the link to go to the google page and mess around with it.  
The locals call it Baroda, so in order to fit in, I do too.  It is about an hour flight from Mumbai on the western side of the country.  Gandhi is apparently from somewhere in Gujarat, therefore it is a dry state and alcohol isn't allowed.  However, outsiders (of Gujarat, not just of India) can get a 30 day alcohol permit which allows us to buy two units (one unit = 5 beers or 750 ml of liquor) every 10 days.  After your 30 day permit runs out, you have to leave the state of Gujarat and come back in to get a new permit.  Doesn't sound so bad, right?  However, I hear that after a few months things dry up pretty quickly.

That's probably more information than you needed on alcohol purchases, but obviously it's my main concern.  So that's it.  Lest there be any confusion: this is the exact same place in which we stayed in March.  The same city, same customer, same hotel and hotel staff (possibly the same hotel room, in fact), same creepy guy I will continue to avoid at the gym, same scummy pool that I plan to utilize much more than before, same dirt, same cows, same dogs, same dumpsters, same Crosswords Bookstore (which I will also utilize more than the first time), same restaurants, same food, same per diem, same husband, same wife.  Same same.  All our luggage is packed and overweight.  This is also same same as before.  I am taking literally all the same clothes, (except one skirt I loaned to Ashley... Matt is furious about that. I told him, my skirt, my rules.) only plus a lot of extra clothes.  Last time we underestimated the heat and sweatiness of our bodies and what that might do to clothes (it makes them virtually unwearable after one use).  In other news, I got my hair cut yesterday.  It looks same same, but different.

There.  I honestly think I've made it perfectly clear about our situation this time.  Hopefully this trip will be amazing, but probably it will be same same as the other jobs. But different.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

May I Have Your Attention Please?

Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are not leaving today!  (By today I mean Thursday, July 15th, 2010... I know not everyone follows this every day - even though they should.) Our tickets weren't issued in time to leave today (imagine that) so we're leaving Saturday instead.  While I'm glad to have the extra couple days to prepare (let's just not mention the months and months that I've known about this assignment... obviously procrastination is my middle name), I feel bad for Matt who will now surely have to report to work on Monday, as soon as we arrive in Vadodara.  I know, I know, that's just the job, but still, I know how tired we are after traveling for two days, and I couldn't do it.  Thank God he's a better man than I.

I know this has nothing to do with anything, but it's funny.  Jimmy and Matt in Nashville.
Anyway, that's about all my news.  I've been shopping up a storm with the other roadwives in town, and I'm getting pretty antsy about spending so much money!  Everyone who knows me knows just how cheap I am (you can thank my Daddy for the lessons in personal finances), so you can imagine how anxious I get to spend so much money at one time!  It's just little things here and there, but it's every day.  Good thing we'll be in India for the remainder of time.  We'll be saving a ton..... hopefully.  Unless I get my hands on a good tailor to make me some amazing clothes (which I will).

In other news, I keep seeing this commercial for Lanacane Anti-Chafing Gel.  Perhaps you know the one... it's got balloon people walking around with their fat balloon legs sticking together.... pretty disturbing.  It always comes on when I'm running in the gym.  As much as I hate it, it makes me run just a little further every time.  Gotta prevent that balloon leg feeling.  And then they show heavy women dancing around in skirts - so happy to be free of chafing!  Sorry, Lanacane.  Your tricks don't work on me.
Another random picture.  This is the pedicure I got from Jen a couple months ago.  I recently had to demolish it, as the paint had chipped to ridiculous extent. I took a picture so I wouldn't forget. 

That's about all my news.  Today my plans are as follows: laundry (for the 2nd time this week) haircut (I know I just chopped it off, but it grows so fast! I will probably have enough to donate again by the time I get back from India), and picking up last-minute items on my list... which I seem to have misplaced.  Hopefully there wasn't anything too important.  That is all.  Thanks for your attention.  You may now return to your previously scheduled activities.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Quarter Life Crisis

I just found a grey hair... in my eyebrow.  My EYEBROW.  Not only do I not have a job, or any job prospects, or a Masters degree, or a child, or any prospects of a child, AND I'm leaving in two days for the armpit of the planet.... but now I am going grey at 25.  Thanks, nature.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Don't Threaten Me With A Good Time

The obligatory hand-held shot.  Us on the balcony in Florida.  

Well, it would appear that it's that time of year again: India time.  Matt got an email from the tech services guy in Delhi a couple days ago who said that IOCL ("India Oil Company, Ltd"... at least that's what I think it stands for, though I might have made it up) wanted him to start work on the 18th.  I believe their exact words were "please send He, the expert", which we're all assuming means Matt, though I have sincere doubts about his expertise on most things.  Anyway, so we have tickets to leave Thursday, and I'm all set up in my usual economy exit row seat, where I will surely sit staring daggers at what I think is the back of Matt's head in *Business Class*, forever longing to be a part of his world.  Sounds like a plan.  While I still harbor a healthy amount of anxiety at the thought of going to India for the rest of my life, I'm actually pretty ready to get this Vadodara show on the road.  I've had this brown cloud (sometimes I'm so funny and clever it hurts) hanging over my head since we left for India the first time, and I just want to get this party started (and then finished) asap.  A couple things new things are bumming me out: first off, the other crew that's still there will surely finish up within a month or so of our arrival, leaving us all alone, shivering in the cold darkness of their departure for a couple months until our crew arrives.  Also, Luis, who was set to accompany us (and about whom I hear great things but have never met) has been pulled from this job and is now en route to Guangxi, China, where the REAL party is.  Doesn't matter.  We don't need him.  

Anyway, in other news, we DID in fact, have a marvelous time in St. Petersburg, FL, and we had a pretty decent time on the road trip in general.  We played Botticelli and Sign Game (a couple Streett family road trip staples), and sang lots and lots of country music.  After we arrived, the hotel upgraded us into a two bedroom room... for freeeee!  

Our hotel room(s).  Two bedrooms AND two bathrooms!  I've never seen such space!
I know this is too many pictures, but I wanted you to get the full picture of how luxurious we were living. 

Much more space than we needed, but it was awesome.  The whole week we pretty much laid on the beach in the mornings, and then retired to the pool after lunch.  We made a couple sand castles, and of course, they were da bomb (in other news, I've recently discovered that having an engineer on my team makes me sort of a perfectionist when it comes to sand castles).  
Matt with our first beauty. The moat is his, everything else is my handiwork.  

I had one minor setback while constructing the second of our fortresses - I stepped on a bee and got the stinger stuck in my foot.  It hurt (a lot) but I didn't cry, mostly because I am 25 and too old to be crying, but also because the last time I cried when I got hurt, Matt made fun of me relentlessly... sometimes I wonder about the health of our relationship.  Anyway, after much self-medicating, I went back to finish the castle and found that dead bee's body, which I then stuck to the door of my castle... you know, as a warning to the other bees.  
You can't really see it, but that spot on the front is the bee body.  

The weather turned out to be okay for us, and while it rained every day, it usually stopped after about an hour... until Friday, and then we just went to the outlet malls and spent a bunch of money on stuff we don't need but will decorate our storage unit nicely until we have a house.  
Another balcony shot.  Obviously Matt didn't know where to look.  

Things are pretty great in Chi-city at the moment... we switched hotels and while I'm not at liberty to give any details, it was a good switch.  Makes my life easier, which in turn makes Matt's much happier.  Yesterday I went to the movies with Angela and Hema, two other roadwives (there are so many of us now, it's amazing!) and saw Eclipse (that's the 3rd installment of the Twilight saga, for those of you who have been living under a rock for the past four years).  I had this whole thing on here about the movie and the actors, but then I got embarrassed and deleted it.  Trust me, it's better that way.  

Today I have big plans to lay by the pool all day, because now our hotel has an outdoor pool (that's all I'll say!  Don't ask me anymore!), and tomorrow we might just have to go floating down the Fox River again.  Trying to live it up before we get sucked into the black hole that is India.  Don't threaten me with a good time.  

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Jimmy, Matt and me in our red, white and blue.  Gotta love that automatic camera timer.  

Happy Birthday, America!  Our 4th this year was kind of a big mess, but in any case, it was definitely better than my Chinese celebrations of the last 2 years, not that it would take much to beat it.  (Kindly think back to the events that transpired in Urumqi on the 5th of July 2009, consequently cutting out our Internet and phone communication for the remainder of our stay... ) But to really understand this year, I think we must begin at the beginning.  Here is an excerpt from an email I sent last year from Dushanzi, entitled "Happy Birthday, America!"  (It seems I'm not quite as original as I thought.)

happy 4th of july, everyone!  i hope everyone had a great day doing various patriotic things.  i hope you did a little extra for me.  i wore some red underwear and a blue dress.  that's about as patriotic as i could get here.  we did light off some fireworks that the wives of the guys in the hydrogen plant bought, and although they weren't anything super special (sparklers, bottle rockets and a couple roman candles) it was really fun to be around all those americans and have some fireworks cheer.  all in all, waaay better than my last year's 4th, but not quite as good as new year's.  i have to qualify all these holidays i'm spending outside the u.s. i think i've been gone for every major u.s. holiday in the past year.  well, except st. patrick's day, of course.  

Also, it would appear I didn't write any emails about the 4th of '08, which was also in China, but if you'll think back with me again on that one, you'll remember I sat on a train from Xi'an to Tianjin that took 19 hours.  It was supposed to take 11.  It was miserable.  All in all, I think it's better to celebrate the 4th in the U.S. if you can.  You full-time Amurcans don't know how lucky you have it!  

Anyway, we left Florida Saturday and spent the night in Nashville so we could party down with Trace Adkins at the free concert on the river for the 4th.  I was expecting it to be somewhere along the lines of Riverfest in Little Rock or Memphis in May, with lots of speakers and space so you could see and hear the music from wherever... Ahh, how young and naive I can be.  My friend Jimmy (Xu... he's Chinese.  It seems I had a little China with me this year, as well) came to meet us for the celebration even though he's totally not into country music, and we spent the day sightseeing around Nashville.  We drove outside of town in the morning to the famous Loveless Cafe where we ate hands down the best biscuits I've ever had (and I'm really into biscuits, so that's saying a lot).  
Loveless Cafe sign.  It used to be a motel, but now just a restaurant and shops.  

Later we went to see the Parthenon, which is a full-scale replica of the original one in Athens.  It was built in 1897 as part of the Tennessee Centennial celebrations, and it was amazing.  False.  It was not amazing, but rather only moderately interesting to me... that may have something to do with the fact that Matt and I were too cheap to pay the $12 entrance fee.  However, Jimmy got a student discount and went in with my camera, so it was almost like I was there anyway.  After all our sightseeing, we spent some time at the hotel pool with our good friend Yuengling (an East Coast beer that I've grown quite fond of... can't get it in Chicago or Arkansas, but they had it in Tennessee and Florida aplenty), and then headed out on the long trek to fill our hearts with song.

Us at the Parthenon, and a statue of Athena inside.   

Too bad we didn't realize our two greatest obstacles: #1, the show was a three mile walk from our hotel, and #2, EVERYONE IN THE WORLD goes to the Nashville free concert.  EVERYONE.  Also, there is only a small grassy knoll (I'm not even sure if that's what it was, but that's what I'll call it.  The word has a sort of poetic charm that lends itself nicely to my story) in front of the river where they set up the stage, and apparently that small knoll was full of people by 11 a.m.  We got there at 6 p.m.  We never even had a chance.  Not only could we not see the stage, we couldn't really see either of the big screens set up, and we definitely couldn't sit down, as we were standing with the thousands of other people in the middle of the street.  
Matt and me in the street.  This is the cowboy hat that I just HAD to have... you know, to fit in.  It lifted my spirits considerably.  He's so good to me.  

Eventually we abandoned all hope of the music and trudged up a hill to a bridge that crosses the river for a view of the fireworks.  And there we waited.  For two and a half hours.  Ahh, but at least we had good company.  And we got to see a lot of super trashy drunk rednecks.... I know what you're thinking, and the answer is yes, we fit in just fine.  We couldn't hear the music, but we could hear the screams from the crowd, and every once in a while we could see a glimpse of a tiny Trace dancing around onstage.  
View of the stage and crowd from our perch on the bridge.  This is probably only about a quarter of the entire crowd.  Gotta love a free concert.  

Having nothing to do while we waited, we played with my camera and eventually killed the battery... before the fireworks started, so I have no pictures of that.  Too bad, because it was the most amazing fireworks show I've ever seen!  The city of Nashville must have the big bucks because they pulled out all the stops.  The show lasted maybe 30 or 45 minutes, and it was incredible!  So the night wasn't a total bummer.  
River boat near the stage.  I bet THOSE people could hear the music.  

After the show we walked back to the hotel, my legs and feet shaking with every step (a word of advice: don't EVER wear flat-soled gladiator sandals on a walk... I don't care how cute they look.  It's not worth it).  Jimmy made a pit stop at White Castle, only to discover that only the drive through was open.  He hitched a ride with a couple who had already eaten, but kindly agreed to take him back through the drive through so he could get his fix.  He offered to buy them something because they had so graciously driven him through, and they proceeded to order $15 worth of sliders.  That's a lot of White Castle, but I guess that's the going rate for a ride through the drive through these days.   Anyway, our night was pretty much over after that and we crawled into bed around midnight.  Then we headed out early Monday morning for our 8 hour drive back to Chicagoland.  The end.  Oh yeah, and we had a great time in Florida.  I'll post more about that later.  I hope everyone else had a very wonderful and patriotic 4th!  I have pretty high hopes for next year, although I'm pretty sure we'll be in China again.