Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Top 5 things I had never experienced before going to an Indian hospital

1.  Sticking out like a sore thumb for being burka-less

2.  Giving a urine sample over a dirty squat toilet

3.  Being asked if I am married when really they want to know if there is a chance I could be pregnant

4.  Receiving a 1920s-era chest x-ray

5.  Only paying $50US for the experience

Thursday, November 22, 2012

How the Hard Rock Cafe saved Thanksgiving … and lessons on celebrating in Delhi

It was just days before Thanksgiving and I only had one job–procure a turkey for the party. Yet again, Saadia and I got the bright idea to host an American celebration on a rooftop that's not ours to celebrate holidays that aren't theirs. And I had to find the centerpiece food.

I couldn't do it. No one who was willing to sell me a turkey (and believe me, they are hard to come by in Delhi) was willing to cook it for us (no on has an oven in this city). So we started calling hotels. One hotel was willing to swoop in and save the day and prepare us an 8 kilo turkey for the small fee of $400. It was out of the question and I feared Thanksgiving was going sans turkey.

It was so disappointing. My Indian friends had never tasted turkey before, never celebrated Thanksgiving before, and I wanted to it justice.

And then, as if by Thanksgiving miracle, I received an email from the good people at the Hard Rock Cafe, just hours before dinner. They had an extra turkey, and it could be mine. When it was delivered I cradled it like a long-lost child, grateful that dinner had arrived.

With that, champagne was popped, wine was mulled and dinner was devoured. Andy, our lovely UK friend who owns the roof, carved the turkey like a Thanksgiving king. And once we plowed through that, we moved on to the back-up chickens, and then the pies, and then the cake, and then the fireworks.

So, what on Earth am I NOT thankful for? I am sitting here trying to count my blessings the day after Thanksgiving, my fingers still sluggish from overeating, my mind still foggy from the mulled wine. 

And all I can come up with is "everything." I'm thankful for all of it today. I'm thankful that my struggle to work today is due to having too many friends, too much fun and far too easy access to fireworks. I'm thankful that my lack of sleep is due to late-night rooftop chats and overseas Skype calls to family.

I thankful to live in a city where women get their own metro cars, where literally anything is repairable and everything is just an auto rickshaw ride away. I'm thankful for porridge and Oreos and accents.

I'm thankful that last night I got to enjoy a proper Thanksgiving with my new friends. I just wish all my friends from Omaha, Alaska, Bangkok and everywhere else could have been there too.


Ah yes, and the lesson I learned this Thanksgiving? The best way to dispose of chicken bones once licked clean… explosives.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Dangerous Diwali

To properly explain the epic nature of my first Diwali, I will have to tell this Tarantino-style and start with the end.

My Diwali ended with me crouching in the street, huffing and puffing the tears away while my friends and a few random others crowded around to get a look at my hand, in which I had just exploded a firecracker. 

Yup. A firecracker. In my hand. Blood blisters and everything.

That's right folks. So now's you know. When a polite Welshman offers you a bomb and a cigarette to light it with, it ends badly. Be warned. Never trust a British accent.


Diwali is the festival of lights in India, their biggest holiday of the year to celebrate Lord Rama's homecoming. Imagine the 4th of July on amphetamines. Everyone in Delhi – all 13 million people – are stocked up on rockets, grenades, poppers, crackers and everything else that goes 'bang'.

So we had to get involved. 

The party that night was on the terrace, some apartment that has become party central for the human rights lawyers I now associate with. It had a perfect 360-degree view of the sky exploding around all of us. For maybe an hour I just sat and stared at the sky as it slowly became more and more thick with smoke and pollution until the fireworks were glowing in the smog. But, romantic smog nonetheless.

The party went off as most parties do. The lawyers and NGOers dancing and twirling about, the journalists turning it into a photo shoot. And while I should not discuss in great detail everything that goes on in these Delhi parties, I can say this - Gangnam Style happened. Chocolate cake fights happened. Bottle rockets happened. 

And it wasn't until we were one our way home – Saads, me, and the guys – the evening really became a proper Delhi story. One where I can now say, "Hey, have you ever thought it was a good idea to play with dodgy Indian fireworks?" and that's all one can ask for… a good story.

This is Halloween

It's remarkable that I have made more friends in the first eight weeks of my life in Delhi than I did in nearly two years in Thailand. What is it about this city that brings people together so easily?

Saadia and I needed to celebrate Halloween, one way or another. It has become a high priority in my "adult" life since I was sick for so many Halloweens growing up. There weren't any parties that interested us, so we decided to invite people to a party, even though we didn't know where the hell we were going to have it.

Our landlord officially has become a pain in the ass, so our place was off the table. I mean, you break a few things, leave the gas on all day, allow your friends to stay in the spare rooms, throw parties, hold 3 a.m. singing contests on the porch, and all the sudden you're a bad tenant? Please.

So Saads was on the case. How could we throw a party and make bad decisions that wouldn't render us homeless? After a few phone calls in her best girl-in-need voice, we had a venue. Perfect strangers, hopefully not serial killers or evangelicals. 

Well, the party went off without a hitch. Unless you consider a late-night police visit, a little bit of vomit, a few bumps and busies, and dropping a pumpkin off the roof to be a hitch. But with 20 people, all costumed-up, running only on beer and Halloween candy, we're lucky we all survived.

So thank you, all of my new Delhi friends. You not only know how to do Halloween in style, but you make this city more exciting by the day!