Monday, October 31, 2005

How do you say "Move Over Martha Stewart" in Bengali!?

If I am permitted to first dinner party in India was a resounding success. Dinner was tasty (though it still did not have that true puertorican taste - mother I need sofrito!) Dessert was outstanding (something to be said for fresh fruit and dairy products). The chicken after the initial trauma of the purchase was Dee-LICIOUS! Though I had to make up for its lack of skin by...Gasp...battering, it still came out pretty darn good (so good that even the vegetarian was eyeing a piece).

But the best part (aside from the ice cold mango juice with vodka and guava juice with rum) was the company. It was a nice relaxed atmosphere full of fun lively conversation. And surprising to me, instead of helping me start building a sense of "settling in", it only helped to make me miss my friends more. It reminded me of all the wonderful times I have had with my friends.

All in all, I can't wait to have more get togethers. But for now I will wait till I get my gas canister. This cooking on a one burner camping stove thing is SO not fun. And I really wish I had an oven!

Below are the results of over-eating. I, of course, cooked way to much (out of my fear of leaving anyone hungry - must be a brown thing) so after way too many helpings of rice, beans and chicken and the result was total food coma.

"Who wants to go clubbing!?" "You are so on your own on that one."

Sujeet - Doesn't this seat recline!?

Avo - Thank god I'm small and can just curl myself in here and go to sleep.

Andy - I've been slaving away in the kitchen all night, someone better come fan me now!!

Margarette - Oh yyeeaahh it was good!

Karan - Why are you bothering me!? I'm digesting!! Is there any dessert left?

Friday, October 28, 2005

Even my emotional baggage is Louis Vuitton

I come from humble beginnings. My fairly will attest (and endlessly remind me) that no matter how many airs I put on I'm still a simple island boy. That being said, that does not mean that I haven't learned to appreciate the finer things in life. I may not be able to afford them, but that does not mean I don't want them.

Which brings me to the preparations for my first ever dinner party in India. First off, my meager stipend does not allow for some of the culinary luxurious that I would normally splurge on (paper plates it is! Who needs coke when you have Thumbs Up!) . Second, the food requested was a traditional Puertorican vittles (which today will consists of white rice, red beans, and friend chicken), which is tasty but not very glamorous (and many thanks to my blessed mother for the huge package of Puertorican seasonings, this dinner is dedicated to you!). It's is really hard to look fabulous when gnawing on a chicken bone! Third, I don't have all the necessary kitchen utensils (how am I supposed to make the whip cream for the dessert when I don't even have a whisk let alone a hand blender! BTW - the dessert course is neither Indian nor Puertorican, just a creative use of available resources - glazed apples over warm parathas with fresh whip cream and pomegranate seeds for a touch of color).

Lastly, my market experience. For the most part it was easy. Buying rice - No problem. Veggies - a snap (the pumpkin looks great). It really is amazing what a couple of mispronounced ben-hin-glish words can do when coupled with some hand signals. But buying the chicken!? Oh my flying spaghetti monster, that took some resolved. My western sensibilities accostumed to the nicely sterile experience of pre-packed, styrofoamed, vacuumed sealed, anonymous meat products, were not prepared to having to picking my own chicken and having its head cut off, blood drained, plucked, skinned (why don't Indians eat the skin? It's the tastiest part), and quartered all as I watched. All this before my first cup of coffee mind you (not that I drink coffee, but you get the point).

In all honesty, there was nothing brutal or gory about the whole affair. It was as mechanical and quick as the deli man slicing your cheese behind the counter. I just never been so close to the process. I have a vague memory of my grandmother plucking a chicken in the kitchen when I was really young, and skinning a rabbit which we later ate that night. But I was too young and they really didn't register. This was live, raw, and undeniably normal. I don't know how I feel about getting to now the animal I'm about to eat. I admit that I felt a need to thank the chicken for giving it's life for the sake of my dinner party. And god knows it's going to be the fresh piece of chicken I've ever eaten (it was still warm when I got home and I had to remove some hanging veins and such). Not quite sure how often I will be up for the experience. But at least I know I can do it.

After all this, the food better be fucking good!! Will let you know on Monday. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Just a boring update

Life has entered the realm of the mundane. I have finally moved into my flat. Slowly trying get all settled in. Totally loving the new place. It's conveniently located, spacious, has a water heater and water filter. I have my own bathroom. Overall, can't complain. Just need to get the gas delivered so that I can have a working stove.

Work has slowed down again. I've drafted up a proposed workplan to negotiate with my director as well as get some clarification on what exactly I'm supposed to accomplish while I'm here, but she has been visiting the field offices in other states and I can't move forward until she approves it. Thankfully once that's hashed out I will be able to be fairly independent.

Other than that, still tyring to find my groove. I started my bengali (bangla) lessons. It's hard!! and the teacher is all hung-up on me learning the script and grammar rules. Ugh! But i guess it will be useful in the end.

Still meeting people. Have made a couple of friends, but still looking to beef-up my social life. I'm thinking of joining the hash, but not sure yet. The thought of group running every saturday sounds eeww.

Next week I have a friend visiting. So I will get to explore the city more and take some new pics to post. In the mean time. I eagerly await news from home. How is everybody doing? Keep me posted!

Much love always.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Did I mention...

...that the Nigerian Football (soccer for the Americans) Team is in Kolkata for 3-4 months. Random!!!

...that it finally stopped raining. Yey!!

...that I am still trying to de-fungus my things. Maybe the fact is not raining will help.

...that gay indian men seem to be fascinated by my particular level of browness. "He's not indian, but he's not white. Hum!"

...that I've been able to watch bollywood movies in the theather, even though I don't speak hindi and the movies are not subtitle. Because the plots are so predicatble or stolen from another movie. Chocolate flopped because it was "too psychological" (this movie being the indian version of Usual Suspects - it was pretty good actually). Salaam Namaste was a big hit, because it used pretty people and catchy songs (this one being the bollywood version of Nine Months - the Hugh Grant/Julian Moore flick).

...that I'm going to attempt to throw my first dinner party in Kolkata, even though all I have is a one burner thingy, until my gas cylinder gets delivered.

A Theater Experience

So last night in my quest to be all cultured and shit. I went to this play/puppet show/storytelling thingy. Though it was put on by the French Association of Calcutta it was a story of the Gita recited by an German/Italian guy...don't ask, it's suspect already.

Everyone who knows me knows that I try not to be judgemental (I fail miserably at it, but I at least try), but this performance was strangely (not sure if in a bad way or a good way) captivating. It was basically the Italian/German guy narrating a story from the Gita (which one I have no clue I go SO lost) using this stick figure, puppet, sculpture things...sure why not.

Over all it wasn't bad, the story telling was actually pretty good. The medium is what really got me. I got so lost in the forest of knee-high, stick figure, sculpture things. Aaron - You would have loved it!!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Reggaeton is a form of dance music which has become popular with Latin American youth during the late 1990s and has spread to North American and European audiences during the first few years of the 21st century. Reggaeton - also spelled Reggaetón and hispanicised as Reguetón - blends Jamaican music influences of reggae and dancehall with those of Latin America, such as bomba and plena, as well as that of hip hop. The music is combined with rapping (generally) in Spanish. Reggaeton has allowed the Spanish Caribbean youth, specifically those of Puerto Rico, as well as the Latin American and United States Latino communities, to have a musical genre as a voice. Like hip hop, reggaeton has caused controversy due to its often explicit lyrics and alleged exploitation of women. Further controversy surrounds perreo, a dance with explicit sexual overtones which typically accompanies reggaeton music.

Reggaeton as it is known today is most commonly associated with Puerto Rico where it has really flourished and from where it has been spread around Latin America and the world. The Puerto Rican influence in reggaeton has involved the addition of hip hop to the Panamanian reggae style. Puerto Ricans have claimed reggaeton as their own partly because the movement was originally anti-establishment, with the government attempting to ban the "perreo" dance.

You may ask, “Andy, why the reggaeton diatribe?” Well, because I was shocked to find SEVERAL reggeaton compilations at a music store in Kolkata. As much as I consider reggeaton a guilty pleasure, I really cannot fathom how such an allegedly conservative country is going to dance to the beats of Daddy Yankee and Don Omar. Can you really imagine them “perreando”!? They can barely salsa without hurting themselves or those around them!

Monday, October 24, 2005

Smita, the coolest little bird around

Here’s a girl who if it wasn’t because I’m old enough to be her dad (not really, but close) I would have a total crush on. Still in college, she is full of the possibilities that many of us squandered away in our youth. Let’s see what the future holds for this young power woman.

A haven for the portly

Not that I am sizeist or stereotype how a professional dancer should look. However, when watching a classical Indian dance performance I was treated (the term being loosely used) to a rather large and hairy male dancer. At first, I was disturbed by the pendulous man-breast covered in fur rhythmically undulating to the music, but then I was oddly engaged. As he continued to gyrate, his lard picked up the momentum and would stop moving several minutes after he would. As I vacillated between morbid fascination and an attempt to keep dinner down, I realized that all of the dancers were in the “full figured” range. Prior to now, I was under the impression that being a dancer implied a certain degree of physical fitness, but apparently not in the Indian context.

Not being an expert, I am going to leave it to my Indian posse to comment on this fascinating phenomenon. The question being – did I inadvertently stumble into a performance of the West Bengal Professional Stout Dancers Troupe? Or Does being a classical dancer in India not require you to be able to actually move much?

Friday, October 21, 2005

I have a confession to make...

...I don't know how it happened...I'm so sorry...I normally never do something like that...but...uhm...I ate at KFC!! I'm so ashamed. I don't even eat the colonel back home. But the canteen food at the guest house is so bad. I couldn't help it. I slipped. Please forgive me.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

I ceased being homeless

After many trials and tribulations, I have finally found a place to call home for the next year.  Thanks to the cousin of the sister-in-law of the brother of one of the foundation’s board members this Saturday I will be moving into an incredible 2-br, 2-ba fully furnished flat.  Each bedroom has individual balconies one bedroom has a separate office space (the one I’m taking), while the other has an air-conditioner installed.  Open kitchen, breakfast nook, dining and living room space.  Manicured garden and it is only 5 minutes from the office by car or 20 walking.  Yey!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

What exactly is Andy doing in India?

I have work responsibilities! After six weeks of being in this country and five weeks of bloody orientation I am finally trusted to actually produce work. I have two very exciting projects.

First one (which will probably consume the majority of my time), has two main components that I will be coordinating with the intention of using this as the foundation building phase of an in-coming grant, so that when the monies are awarded the project can go straight to implementation.
  1. To assist the Adolescent Resource Center (ARC) to integrate HIV activities into their existing youth reproductive health programs.

  2. Assist the ARC develop a methodology to shift some of their programs from direct service provision to youth, to developing leadership skills among youth for them to become advocates for their Sexual/Reproductive Health needs.
Second, facilitate a process for expanding CINI’s (as an entire agency) concept of sex and sexuality beyond just “boy and girl coming together to make babies”. Will probably be forming an intra-agency workgroup to come up with common definitions for related terms and do some training about the topic.

All in all, not bad! The work excites me and it will definitely keep me busy. Wish me luck!

Monday, October 17, 2005

October Birthday Greetings

¡Feliz Cumpleaños! To:

Chirag Patel
Alan Brock
Terry Abell
Gladys Cardona
Yasir Shah

Many Happy Returns :-)

A deluge of cum

At first I didn’t understand why India has such a large population.  I mean you would think that the heat, men wearing pants so tight you can tell their religion (which could help explain the inordinate number of Indian men with smaller than average members – no room for growth!), and penchant for synthetic fabrics would help hamper fertility, but no, not in India.  Here it actually seems to help.

Then finally it dawned on me! Looking out the car window while driving through the city I realized there’s cum everywhere! Pub-CUM-Restaurant, exhibition-CUM-sale, model-CUM-actor.  With such rampant cum, it’s any wonder India has not surpassed China on number of people.

A Day at the Victoria Memorial

Squirrel Security - Tree Lockers

Victoria Memorial - Front View

Church with a view

Avo, Karan, Margarette & Sujit - Trying to look pretty

Walking away from me...makes me sad

Victoria Memorial - View from below

Victoria Memorial - Dome Glory

Friday, October 14, 2005

Durga Puja

Durga Puja (Bengali দূর্গাপুজা) is the biggest festival of Bengali Hindus.

Dandia anyone?Go Smita, Go!
Tribal Pandal
Traditional Pandal
Margarette and Andy going native
Embroidered Pandal (the panels are all hand embroidered by village women)Embroidery detailEmbroidered Idols
Andy and the Tribal Pandal
Tribal Pandal Idol
Mask DanceFairy Lights in Green
Puja By Night
Offering Plates
Communal Pandal

veggie animals, cute or disturbing? you be the judge
Howrah Station on the run
And the prize goes to whoever can tell me what this is
Durga Idols in a Bamboo Pandal
Birla Temple

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Life in Kolkata

Fountain full of marigolds Pretty murky
The infamous gol guppas
I want this back home!
So purty!
Missionary and a SUV
Daily Living
Motherr in Need
Shopping for Religion
Kali Temple - Obstructed view

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Just To Clarify...

...I don't hate Kolkata or India. I'm extremely displeasd with my current living situation and the unending period of orientation. Actuallu, Kolkata rocks! And the orientation has finally ended, starting tomorrow, in theory at least, I will finally start being a productive member of society as opposed to a casual observer. Also this weekend, I'm moving to a friend's place in the city. He and his roommate have been gracious enough to let me crash on their couch until I find my own flat. Yey!

So you see if you bitch enough things get taken care of. :-)

Coming Soon: More Pics! (including Durga Puja shots)

Friday, October 07, 2005

Why it sucks to be single in India

Aunty at the Cafeteria: Are you married?
Margarette (the other fellow): No
Aunty: Are you engaged?
Margarette: No
Aunty: Doesn't anybody love you?


I am so tired of this crappy rural suburbian hell hole (for the record I am referring to Pailan - the periurban spillage that I am currently condemed to - NOT Kolkata). Not only is there shit to do after work or in my room. And it's not like the horrible food is bad enough. But to top it all of I get the pleasure of having to scrape mildew and fungus from my things every bloody morning. As a matter of principle I should not have fungus growing on my computer bag, or my shoes, or my toiletry kit...

Why We Should Always Proof-Read Our Work

Ok, This past month has not only been the longest of my life, it has also been the most annoying. 2 weeks of Fellowship Orientation, Followed by 3 weeks of work orientation is enough to drive anyone to hit the bhang (indian pot). Yet, when I see things like "inter-scrotal collaboration" in a PowerPoint and no one evens stifles a giggle I know that I have hit a low point in my life.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

For the record...

...I have NOT started working yet. I am STILL in the stupid CINI orientation (3 more days to go). I have NOT found a flat yet and it looks like I may celebrate Puja in the freaking village.

If anyone wants to send me anything I would LOVE some adobo - Goya brand would be great, with the black pepper. :-)

Socializing in Kolkata

Life is Kolkata is special. Conservative, but excessive. Peeps here cannot seem to survive without nicotine or alcohol. But thankfully entertainment venues (i.e., pubs and clubs) stay open pretty late. And surprisingly enough the bars are pretty fun, except. However, the queer bar here is über-sketch (for my DC Peeps - Sam's Pub is where the Omega rejects go to die). Not only all the men fat, old, ugly, and (most) MARRIED. But they can't dance worth shit, and don't seem to know it. Kolkata has to be the only city in the world, where a freaking BRAWL brakes out in a gay bar and results in a guy flying through the window. I swear, Indians can't hold their liquor.

Another interesting twist is the back biting, plotting, bad-mouthing, and strategic alliances that form the social circles of Kolkata. It's like trying to win bloody 'Survivor'!! Somehow I got caught in the middle of two rival social cliques last week, and it got a bit ugly. Luckily I was able to pull off the "naive foreigner" card and escape away unharmed. But know I have to be more careful about scheduling my social engagements (who knew hanging out with be so freaking difficult!).