Sunday, 30 April 2017

Rewards from the Universe!

The downside of moving to another country and giving up everything you once had means you get rid of a lot of stuff before you leave and I really did get rid of everything save a few boxes my mum is looking after for me, plus you no longer have the well paying job to be able to afford anything!  I was fortunate to grow up in a family where we learnt the value of money and how to get by on very little.   At a young age we learnt how to make money by doing odd jobs for people within the town and by age 11 I had a paper round.  I digress!  It also taught us to make the most of things and how to turn what may be seen as rubbish in to something and to enjoy second hand things.  My brother and sister in the garden where we spent many hours pretending soil was ice cream and tried to make bow and arrows out of tree branches!

I am fortunate to have a beautiful terrace here, which I absolutely love and am sat outside here right now writing this.  I spend most of my time out here as I love watching the birds, being in nature and listening to the bats as they flutter around at night.  I also love gardening and as my terrace is my own little haven, my own place to escape when I face any difficulties out here, I wanted to put my own mark on it.  However, that's a little difficult when you don't have any spending money and so I knew I had to employ some of those skills to turn my terrace around.  I began to plan my ideas and here is an example of what I will do, once I have drank all my beer!  Once I've cleaned up the bottles and removed the labels I'll put candles into the bottles to create lighting.  

I do have lights on the terrace but would prefer this kind of lighting.  I'll also get people to collect glass jars so I can put tea lights in to create further lighting!  I already made my own plant pots out of an old plastic bottle!  My lovely Hindi teacher kindly gave me an Aloe Vera plant so that I can try and grow one eventually as big as the one I used to have back in the UK.

I really wanted to decorate my terrace with some plants but when I heard the cost of plant pots, which are significantly more than in the UK, I was wondering what to do instead.  Fortunately my lovely bhai had already offered to let me have some plants when the weather was cooler for planting out....but that left me still needing to get pots....until the universe answered my query for me!  Thanks to the local expat group on Facebook and someone choosing to give away her unwanted pots due to a house move, I not only got some plant pots but five plants too!  They look lovely on my terrace and it is so uplifting to see them and makes me feel even more at home.  My bhai will bring me two curry plants tomorrow which will be great for cooking with and another wonderful addition to my garden.  

Soon though the plants will have to go indoors as it is too  hot here and they'll not be able to cope with the heat.....not really an issue I have had to deal with when it comes to plants in the UK.  It was truly wonderful having my dilemma resolved and receiving this wonderful free gift of plants, I love it when the Universe answers!

Next freebie and thing to be grateful for, was receiving some books!  When I came out here I was allowed to bring around 55kg of belongings and seeing as I wanted my shoes and clothes and hair dye there was no room for heavy books!  Sadly a friend will be heading back to her own country after having lived here for the last nine months.  No longer needing things like books, she thought I might like them.  It's lovely to receive some books as although I am not a big reader it is nice to have the option there and some of the books are about India and so I'll enjoy reading them.

I'm especially grateful for the Hindi dictionary and book about learning Hindi.  Both will be incredibly helpful resources for me and the dictionary will be a great too guide.  Again it would have been nice to have one but I hadn't bought one as yet as it wasn't a necessity and I could make do without, but i'm really glad to have it....and will probably constantly have my nose in it finding out how to say the latest word that has popped in to my head!

It's lovely when you get rewarded one way or another and receiving the books was a nice bonus and helpful and receiving the plant pots and plants to go with it was a real blessing.  I'm on my way to making my terrace look fantastic.....I soon won't need to live inside, just outside, or at least until the rains come!

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Learning the art of Indian cooking!

I love Indian food, it's full of flavour and has such a satisfying taste, very different from the typical UK food which is much more bland although we do seem to eat a lot of Indian dishes back in the UK too, but you can not beat the food out here!  Down side is, I always preferred to get my Indian food as a takeaway or straight from a jar, rather than to actually make it from scratch and all those spices terrified me....what was i meant to do with them?!  I confess that for the first few months I would go to the local supermarket here and steer clear of the whole spices section and make the most random concoctions of food instead....and eggs have been a life saver!  However along with my determination to learn Hindi, I was also determined to learn how to cook Indian food properly, that and if I want to stay living here I need to be able to cook the local food.  One day my intention is to be able to have friends over, serve them Indian food and it almost be as good as theirs!  I'm a long way off from that though!

However a friend and i decided to take a couple of cooking classes to learn how to make some basic dishes which would hopefully see us on the way to becoming culinary experts!  Or at least be able to make Dal....Our first week of cooking we did learn how to make Dal, Dal Fry and Garlic Dal....the Garlic Dal was delicious or at least it was at cooking class....I've since made it a few times and still haven't worked out quite where I am going wrong.  Sadly, with every new skill, you have to practice in order to improve and like many things, I am not naturally good at cooking and i'm having to eat the not so great versions on my way to becoming a better cook!  

We also made paranthas and roti's. Now the roti's I have done OK with keeping the shape to a certain extent and they come out tasting nice.....but then I realised I was making hard roti's/chapati's and they ideally need to be sort so you can bend them and break them and that's what a good roti is....soft!  So it has now become my mission that by the end of the year I will be able to make soft and completely round roti's!  This is no easy task, but I need to get this accomplished, I need my roti's to be soft and to rise when they should  rise.  I've tried making roti's 6 or 7 times now and they never rise and their not soft, fortunately they taste good so that's at least my saving grace.

My work friends tell me it will take only two months under their supervision and so I am going to my friend's house tomorrow to begin the soft roti process.  It should be fun, my friend speaks hardly any English and my Hindi is still very much beginner's stage but somehow we always seem to manage to communicate.  I'm realising the best way to learn is to go ahead and practice myself.....but with a little supervision from friends who have been making these dishes for years.  

One recipe I seem to be managing fairly well is brinjal stuffed with masala.  I've made this twice now and both recipes I used were different and so produce slightly different results.....but dare I say it, they were both nice!  I love aubergine and so it was nice to be able to cook with them and such a tasty recipe like that.  

I tried my hand at Paneer Butter Masala but over did the cream and had issues making the masala because you need a grinder/blender and at the time I didn't have one so although it was a good attempt on my part it did not quite turn out as expected.  Fortunately I have a sweet tooth and love cream so it tasted fine to me!  It also give me hope when I have an idea where the recipe went wrong as it gives me an opportunity to improve it next time round.    Then there was Jeera Aloo that I made which is a dry recipe, that turned out good, but I overdid the salt!  Slight adjustments need to be made to most of the foods that I am cooking and then I am hoping they will taste a lot better and I will be eating them because I want to to and not because I refuse to throw it away and waste food!

So cooking Indian food is a learning experience and as I found out today, the soft roti situation, well if I make roti's three times a day like my friend does, i'll have it sorted.! With a task like Indian style cooking, i'm not going to have time for much else.....gone are the days of my spinach and ricotta pizza bunged in the oven for twelve minutes and instead there is the 60 - 90 minute task in front of me, of reading the recipe and finding  a way of cooking it without crying my heart out over the onions which incessantly sting my eyes or when I accidentally rub my eyes having just handled red chilli powder, to add a bit of extra sting there!

Watch this space and in the near future.....or at least at some point this year, you will experience the rising roti!

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Some mischievous visitors!

Life in India is always interesting, probably because it is so different from the UK!  In the UK we do not have peacocks wandering around or making a cat call every night as they settle down for the evening, we do not have parrots flying over us each day (unless your in a certain area of London!),  we do not have cows wandering freely everywhere, or elephants running red lights or camels pulling carts to work.  Nor do we have cheeky monkeys that break in to your house because you forget to close the gate and steal your bananas!

I first came across this group of monkeys when at 6am one morning, which is never a good time for Dannie, my friend and I were awoken by a loud banging noise outside.  I went out first to investigate and found a little monkey swinging on my neighbours metal ladder attached to the house and getting great fun out of making such a loud racket!  There were about nine monkeys.  One had clearly stolen a top from somewhere and decided it would be great fun to put the top over his head, but not fully down so he couldn't see and then put his arms through and run around like a little ghost.  He seemed to love doing this!

I watched them for a while and then headed in to tell my friend who had also been woken by the noise.  As she came to investigate they decided they would come check out my terrace. So next thing we knew there were three monkeys on our terrace, reminding me that it was their terrace and for me to back off!  How nice!

The next morning they decided to be our wake up call again but decided to start a little earlier at 5.30am....I was not impressed!

However this particular group of monkeys really proved they lived up to their name when one afternoon whilst sat in my lounge, I wander towards the kitchen and see the back of an animal.  It was a lovely grey blue colour and my first natural reaction was, it was a cat!  Then I realised no, not a cat, a monkey!  Three monkeys to be precise and they were all trying to steal my big bunch of bananas that I had left on the kitchen top!  There was no way I was going to lose the bananas I had just bought, so I went charging at them......then realised they could bite so I ran the over way!  They slightly chased me and were hissing at me whilst I shouted back at them from the comfort of the half closed door!  They had each got a banana and were going back for more, which is when I figured I would chuck the cushion at them.  Fortunately this worked and they scarpered, they each only had one banana and one dropped half of his!

After they left I locked the screen door, which is what I should have done in the first place!  A few moments later I hear a crying sound and it is the monkey back and crying for his other half of the banana he dropped.  So like a fool I am.....I felt sorry for him and chucked the other half out!

Having your bananas stolen by monkeys is not your every day UK experience and although I was down a few bananas for my oat cakes it was a funny experience!  These monkeys probably frequent my terrace once a week that I know of, sometimes I can just hear them outside calling.

Today as I walked home from work, down our very quiet residential street i came across a man with his camel and cart, just plodding along as you do.  The novelty doesn't seem to wear off......

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

What a difference a year makes and a change of perspective!

When i wrote in here almost four weeks ago i was feeling a little down and frustrated and as is always difficult for me, having time and patience, the time and patience to allow things to happen in life rather than rushing through it!  Time and patience is something i still struggle with but reading my blog post from 8th March makes me aware of how much has changed in four weeks!

I try to be a positive person, to see the good in situations, to believe things happen for a reason and that some situations require the time to see them through and when we look back we can understand what their significance was.....but i'm only human and there are times when it can weigh me down and that was certainly the situation four weeks ago.  I love living in India and to me it most definitely is home.  That doesn't mean there aren't plenty of frustrations, after three months of living here it annoys me that people still want to come and say hello to me as I walk to work just because I am a foreigner and female,  Almost every day for three months, it gets wearing!  To be fair I don't get it that much but that's mainly because i stick my music on and block them all out and i'm usually very oblivious to most things!  I know they are staring and talking about me anyway so they can do that without my involvement!  I guess I get used to the place but i'm still interesting and new to some people!

Then there is the bank account I have been trying to open for the past two and a half months and I still haven't been successful;-)  Internet finally got sorted and oh that made life easier for me.  Dannie without internet is not good!  Things can take a long time to get sorted and once they are you can breathe a sigh of relief and get ready for the next challenge!  Just the other day they turned off my sim because I had had it for three months and as a foreigner that's as long as I was allowed it, fortunately my two bhai (Indian brothers)  managed to sort that out for me:-)  It took three visits to the phone shop but they sorted!  Their good brothers to me and look after me brothers should do!

So how does life look at present!  Firstly it is hard to believe that it was a year ago that I set off for two months on my travelling expedition with 1 week in Nepal, 1 week in Tibet and 8 weeks planned in India, the one place I just wanted to be in, never realising that I would in fact actually want to make it permanent!  Those two months were great because they were very tough, having to deal with many situations and dealing with them on the whole on my own, things did not work out as I had hoped and I had to deal with various challenges and I now realise the importance of them as it seems to make things easier second time round and make me aware of what is still important to me.  So if it had not been for those two months of travel and seeing what India was like I would not be sitting in my apartment now, feeling cosy and at home!  So time does indeed tell on many situations!  It also helps, as having seen a small proportion of India already it means i am not desperate to rush out and see lots of it at present and right now i want to focus on getting settled here and working on helping to educate the children and provide them with the best learning environment.

So from this time in India.......

To this time in India!