Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Wedding time! 2

When I last stopped writing we had just made it up to Tirumala from Tirupathi through the foot path...

When we arrived at the hotel where we would be staying (supposedly... see below) all we wanted was a shower and to rest a bit. Obviously people already there had other plans, at least for me. I took a quick shower and was out the door to have lunch with A's parents, sister, cousin, my mom and brother (the people who did not hike up). Despite my MIL's protests that we should not have a heavy meal, my brother, mother and I all had great thalis. After that we went back to the hotel and rested for a while. At 3pm I got worried and started searching for people as, in theory, that was when the pujas were supposed to start. A was sounds asleep, his cousins had gone to get darshan and his sister and parents were nowhere to be seen. Hum... that was a little weird.
Making of the groom...

Suddently SIL comes running asking me for my packed bag (which was already half unpacked by that time) and I went to get it. She told my mom we'd be going ahead and that they could continue resting. Also, that they should not worry about repacking as only I was going to spend the night at the marriage hall. SIL ran off again and while A and I were offerings suggestions about what my Mom and brother (MB from now on) my SIL showed up rushing them to pack their bags, as plans had changed and MB were already late and should come with all their bags. Just to give you an idea, by now my mom was asking me every 2 minutes what the plans were (which I had no clue) and getting lost in what was going on.

Making of the bride

Well, at around 5pm we started the "making of the groom" ceremony, which was short and simple, consisting of the married women in the family putting some chickpea flour, turmeric and cumcum paste on A's arms, feet and face. This was under the ornate mandap which had lots of flowers, banana leaves, coconuts around. Next was my turn and the "making of the bride" ceremony was quite similar to the groom's ceremony. Then suddenly all the drumming stopped and it was time to head to the shower and get ready for the  ceremony.

Me in the bluish gray sari

Now began the rush with putting on the sari. A's cousin was in charge of helping me and, boy, am I grateful for that! She and A's sister also tied my hair with jasmin flowers and I did my makeup. Overall it was quite a success, despite Peripa's (A's father's oldest brother) protest that we were taking too long! So I finally come out, drums beating, in my bluish gray sari, followed by a girl (something like the bride's little friend), my MIL, SIL and A's cousin. We walked around the room and then I sat down next to A (who was already there). As I sat down my MIL went around the room and came back with my FIL and handed me a gift: a sari. And, after 2 hours to get ready and 2 min sitting there it was time to change to the next sari already!!

Sari 2 and flower garlands.

So take off sari 1, put on sari 2, rush out, go around the room again. And then the Janwasan ceremony started. This was a ceremony somewhat like an engagement, in which both families come together to "seal the deal". The part I did not like in this ceremony (and also other wedding pujas) is that, according to Hindu tradition, only married couples can take part in the ceremonies. This meant that my family (my mom, a widow, and my brother, happily single) did not take part in anything but instead they asked a couple in A's family (his grandmother's nephew and his wife) to stand in for my parents. Nothing againt them, but it felt quite impersonal... Mostly there was a lot of gift exchanges (both from my side as well as A's), A got a suit and I got a ruby set. Around 8pm we were all done and craving for dinner!

During Janwasan

Then we had to decide who would sleep where... there were 6 rooms at the wedding hall and the others at the hotel and no one wanted to go to the hotel, since we all needed to be up by 4am anyway. After some discussions and lot's of moving suitcases around we finally managed to go to sleep around 1am...

Friday, August 27, 2010

Village life or city life?

I am looking for a place to live in Norway and there seem to be a few options on location.

The first is to live in Ås, the village where my job is at. It is a really small place (18k people) and does not have much of a town feel to it (the houses are pretty spread out to either end of the university and along the main road that crosses the area). Most of the international students seem to live here, mainly due to the convenience of being close to work.

The second alternative is to live in Oslo, which is 30 minutes away by bus. Living here would mean I'd pay as much to share an apartment in 4 as I would for a small studio in Ås, plus the train. The advantages of the city life are the same everywhere: more cultural happenings, places to go, etc (and you have to consider that indoor activities are a must in the long dark winter). The downsides are the same as well...

The third option, is to live in Drøbak, a fairy-tale town by the sea and right on the fjord! It is beautiful and only 9km away! But after going there during the week to look at an apartment and seeing how dead the village is after 5pm I revised the alternatives and crossed this one out. I figured I can always go there on the weekends for a stroll around.

And all of this choosing is further complicated by the available housing... Now is when students start their semester, which means that there are too many people looking for housing (both in Oslo and in Ås) and few rental options. Which makes me either consider every apartment as the only one I might get a chance to have...

So... any suggestions? Big city or village?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Wedding time!

On July 14th the whole group left the house at 2pm. There was a lot of rushing around to accomplish this: lot's of suitcases, people, kids, grandmas, last minute reminders and things to stuff into the bags. My SIL started numbering the bags, hoping that this would make it easier to take care of them... she got to 8. My FIL was already in Tirupati and would meet us there.

Some of us and the bags at the railway station.

A. had arranged for 3 cabs to take us to the railway station and suddenly there was a cab too many, but that just meant we could all go comfortably. 8 people left from his place and 8 more would meet us at the railway station. Traffic was smooth and an hour later we arrived at the station. Then came the hurdle of carrying the bags to the platform... but our train was not even announced yet! So we sat around and waited. A. announced very proudly that this is how Indians travel, always allowing plenty of time for unpredictables that might delay you (since the train is the only thing on time in India, you HAVE to make sure not to miss it). During the waiting time my mom got her camera out and was taking shots of everything and everyone... which was a little embarrassing. Finally, the relatives arrived and we all got on the train. We traveled in sleeper 3 tier, but because not all reservations were made at the same time the group was scattered across 3 coaches. After lot's of seat negotiations, A's mom, grandma, grandma's sister, sister and cousin ended up together, my mom and brother together, A. and I together and his other cousins and the 2 servants were still scattered. It was quite hot in the train and my mom and brother looked quite uncomfortable, but they endured it well and did not say anything.

We arrived in Tirupati at 7am the next morning (an hour late) and my FIL was already pacing around the platform worried about us (he's always worried when people are late). When we finally put all the bags together we now had 17!! Which means there was a considerable amount of hassle to get the all out of the station at the same time. It was early morning but it was already HOT. A's cousins and us had planned on walking up the 12km to Tirumala but one by one people started dropping out. At the end only A, I and 2 cousins walked up. A and I went barefoot, and while that might seem like much, take a look at the pic where the guy is lighting up a camphor tablet in each of the 3500 steps... that puts things into perspective! I really enjoyed the walk, it was nice to have fewer people around and none of the mothers, it was a little break before the big arrangements to come....

Sunday, August 22, 2010

India time! (Mom and brother's arrival)

The day after my SIL's wedding party my mother and my brother (M) arrived in Hyderabad. The flight got in at 8:30am, but it took them a while to come out... We were getting worried, until A. got a phone call from a immigration officer asking for the address where my mom and M would stay. So we knew they had arrived, but took another while to go out!
History lesson by the lake.

We finally arrived at the hotel (where I stayed with them until the wedding) and soon were off to lunch. My brother had been "practicing to eat chillies" which brings a smile to my face since it was not enough to face the level of spice at the restaurant. :P As a side note, food in Brazil is bland. period. There might be a chilly sauce on the side, but overall it does not even compare to cayenne pepper strength or something of the like (which is what my brother was practicing with). I first asked if they wanted me to point out the non-spicy things but they said they wanted to try it all. They did, but were crying most of the time. As my brother put it, there is nothing like too much chillies in India! Over the 2 weeks they stayed in India their resistance improved considerably, almost to the point of eating street food, but I know my mom had several tomato-and-cheese sandwiches dinners. One funny day was when we went out for dinner with A and ordered Malai Kofta and Shahi Paneer. While ordering, A. told the waiter that if he put any chilly in the food he would send it back. (A had already had dinner at home, he would not subject himself to a spice-less dinner!). My mom and bother did not know about what A had said and praised the food a lot, then wanted to know the names so that they could order the non-spicy delicacies elsewhere.... Until A told them about what he had said to the waiter!

Over the next few days we went to Golconda Fort, then Charminar, Budha Statue in Hussain Sagar lake, craft shopping, etc etc etc. They were amazed by India... sometimes in a good and sometimes in a not-so-good way. It amazes me again and again how little info about India gets to Brazil. Mostly people there have a very idealized 1970's hippie view of India and get shocked about how it actually is. And it does not help either that there was a soap opera last year about a Brazilian girl that falls for an Indian guy that aired in prime time in the most popular channel. Obviously they did not help in explaining things either...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

India time! (SIL's wedding)

So in between updates about my current life in Norway, here goes the story of the 40 days spent in India. I did some updating early on the trip (last post is here) so I'll take up from where I left.

Having arrived in Hyderabad on June 29th, we had 10 days until my SIL's wedding. This meant A LOT of shopping. To get an idea, on the same day we arrived I already went shopping, straight after lunch and did not get back until evening. This is mainly how the 10 days went by... lot's of running around and getting things ready.

The great thing about having my SIL's wedding so close to ours was the chance to see almost everything as it would be in our ceremony. There we small differences, mainly due to Telugu traditions (her husband is Telugu) being a little different from Tamil ceremonies (as ours would be). In the pic below you can see me, Perima (father's eldest brother's wife), my MIL and SIL on the morning of the first day of the ceremony.

On July 8th was the making of the bride ceremony and the Janwasan. The first was held at home and only women participated (although I found it funny that the men still sat around and made comments and guided us through the ceremony). The ceremony was short and then soon A. and I were running around to make sure the groom's family was well taken care of. The Janwasan took part in the evening and it is similar to a "engagement" ceremony, in which the 2 families come together and exchange gifts. We all slept at the hotel where the wedding hall was and went to sleep quite late, since the younger crowd stayed up chatting.

At 4am we were up again, getting reading for the wedding. My SIL had a huge flower arrangement tied to her braid in the back (see pic) which ended up being quite a hassle for her (due to the weight of it). Also, since her hair is not that long she got some hair extensions braided in. While getting ready the men were always rushing us, trying to get us to hurry, but I'm sure they were also having fun by doing it. The ceremony itself took about 3 hours, comprised by many smaller ceremonies. As with most Indian functions, not everyone is paying attention to what is going on... usually people in the audience are chatting, reading newspapers, eating something or just people watching while the ceremonies are going on. (The first functions I went to I thought this was strange... now I feel it is quite convenient instead of sitting and daydreaming while faking attention.) Also, as with most Indian functions there was drama... in this case whether A's eldest brother would show up (he had a part in the ceremonies, which a married sibling should perform, and he was considered the only one up to the task since our Brazilian wedding didn't count for much for them). He ended up arriving, but too late.

Wow... finally the wedding was up... I was dying to take a shower and off my sari (it was very hot and I had been running around quite a bit)... And then A's old bosses arrived! So we went with with them to have lunch at the hotel (although we were both too full to eat anything else). Finally, around 4pm (remember the time we got up??) I made it back to A's place and started organizing stuff. He arrived a little later and we all went to sleep quite early. I felt like I had made it through a marathon!!


So here I am, in Ås, Norway. This is a village of 18 thousand people, 25 minutes by train from Oslo and 9km from the ocean. What is actually here? Not much! Initially I was disappointed at the lack of a proper downtown (the village grew around the university, which has lot's of agricultural fields... so now there are wheat fields in the middle of the town) and by how spread out it is. Then I discovered the tons of hiking trails that transform into ski trails in the winter. It is amazing how far and wide you can go even on a bike! There are even old Viking trails close by.

This leads me to the next point: I need a bike! Main form of transport here, a bike is almost a must-have. It is quite frustrating to go around on foot when everyone flies by you on their bikes. Used bikes are quite hard to come by, and new bikes are quite expensive... Even thought of shipping my bike over from the USA, but the cost of that makes it even less interesting (US$500!!). Still trying to figure it out...

And the weather here has not been as nice as I was hoping for... Around 20oC during the day and 15oC at night. Not too bad... but if this is the warmest month I'm bracing for the worst. And then there is rain every other day, which does not help much. I'm wondering why I brought all those sleeveless shirts...

Finding an apartment has also been a difficult task. It seems that many cities (and even villages) in Norway suffer from lack of housing for new students arriving each year and adding to that a small supply of housing... First of all, everything is expensive in Norway, and here in Ås a 20m2 studio costs about US$1000 to rent. So there is only so much above this level that I am willing to pay. A week into my stay here I am already considering neighboring villages... after all a 30 min bus ride should not be too bad. :D

Finally, people are very nice here. Even the guy in his 50 who spoken broken English and who I asked for help in finding flour (normal wheat flour) at the supermarket. He ended up giving me a package saying I think this is it, but even if it's not, at least it is organic". :P It ended up being wheat flour!!

And you? Any difficulties in moving around? Let's hear some stories!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Urgent updating

Wow! Time has flown by!!
It is already mid August and I have a month and a half to write about! And boy where these months busy! Wedding in Brazil, travel around with a couple of friends, off to India, SIL's wedding, our wedding, travel with my mom and brother, then, finally, some traveling around India with A!
And now, since 4 days ago, I'm the newest resident of Aas, Norway!

So how to do this? Well, I figured I'd rather go backwards in time...

Let's do it! Enjoy!