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Asia India

Full Circle: One Year in India

One year and one week ago today, I stumbled sleep-deprived out of my plane and navigated my first 24 hours in India. It consisted of walking out of the Delhi airport into a cloud of polluted heat and finding out from my IIC-sponsored taxi at 2:30 in the morning that I did not, in fact, have my own hotel room for the first two weeks of training in Delhi, but I actually would have a roommate. Something IIC failed to notify me about. I then met said roommate (Priya) when I entered the hotel at 3am (luckily she was awake and we had a nice chat), slept for literally two hours, and then woke up for training. I remember really enjoying the two first weeks (mostly because I liked the hotel and my colleagues and India thus far). I also remember sitting in my room thinking about what things would be like a year from now.

I predicted that our project would run seamlessly. I envisioned myself succeeding brilliantly in the work, hopefully getting a job with MDSF or BCG, and being in the works of moving somewhere new. Everything would line up just right. I’d go to Rachel’s wedding, get a new visa, and be off somewhere exotic like South Africa. The only thing I was nervous about was living in Chandigarh. It sounded boring.

Needless to say literally none of that happened. Yesterday I finished my final presentation for my year-long project in India. The project was okay. I can’t stress how much I do not want to work with MSDF or BCG. Not that I am harboring negative feelings for the organizations, I just simply don’t want to pursue that line of work anymore. And to top off how bad I am at playing Ms. Cleo, I’m also staying in India. In Chandigarh, for that matter. Who would have thought?

I originally wrote a post attempting to articulate the top 5 things I’ve learned from living here. It was vomit-worthy. Entirely too sentimental. Not the type of writing I pride myself on. I’m not really a big fan of blogs where people talk about how much they have grown through traveling. Honestly, I generally sort of roll my eyes because I don’t like publicly talking about my feelings and it seems a bit self-indulgent. Like, really, a sunset in Spain made you feel like a more complete person? But I shouldn’t judge. Sunsets in Spain are pretty spectacular (so I assume). I’ll summarize the warm-fuzzies blog by saying that it’s made me rethink work culture, sex & dating, friendship, family, the meaning of “innovation,” and why/how people travel. But I’m not going to elaborate on those things on a blog. Instead, I’m going to share some anecdotes and some “very Indian” photos from the last year:


  • I recently return from Croatia and I am showing Rohit the three dresses I bought:
    Me: “So, I went in Mango in this nice mall in Zagreb and saw this beautiful red dress but they didn’t have it in my size. So I went to another mall and found it but then I liked it in green and purple too so I bought all of them. And, guess what? I got all three for the price of one!”
    Rohit: “How? By Bargaining?”
  • Priya is in the kitchen with her maid and a monkey jumps on her balcony, runs into the kitchen, opens the refrigerator door, takes out a package, and runs out again.
    Priya’s Maid: Did, what do you do about monkeys in America?
  • In a fancy hotel in Delhi the phone rings in the room. Kathy answers it.
    Kathy: “yes?”
    Kathy: “What?”
    Kathy: “….They are….very good?” *hangs up*
    Us: What was that about?
    Kathy: I think they called asking me for feedback on the hotel slippers….
  • After a conversation about the power of the dollar versus the rupee, I was trying to explain that there is begging in the US but not as much as in India. I was telling my friend here (who is a doctor) that you never see children begging and adults are begging primarily in the urban centers.
    Her: “Oh….Do they pay in dollars?”
  • It’s monsoon season. It literally has rained everyday for the entire summer. Today, Rohit looked out my window and said, “Oh! It’s raining!” and then ran screaming “bluhblahlalalala” through my house and out the door.
  • On the train from Chandigarh to Delhi, after getting our snacks and waiting for our ice cream, a man walked down the aisle handing out instant oatmeal. No hot water, no bowls, just the oatmeal packages.
  • Me: “I went tanning this morning.”
    Rohit: “How? The sun wasn’t working today.”

Now, some photos for your amusement:

The most efficient sink


(2) Vroom
Monkeys everywhere stealing your stuff


bathroms India
Entering a creepy underground public toilet with a snoozing bathroom attendant


India Photos
Tourists flocked for photos


Indian School Bus
School bus walla (3)


Indian Innovation
This is just smart (4)
Child Labor India
Outside of KFC in Chandigarh


India Streets
This is pretty common (1)


Photo References:




Asia India

A Day in the Life Playing Pokemon Go Indian Style

And they say it’s only available in the US. As if the Indians, masters of technology, wouldn’t be able to have it before it’s officially released.

I jumped on the bandwagon a few glorious days ago. Here’s 24 hours in my Indian Pokemon Go life:

Wednesday 5pm (Monsoon Season):

I get data in the market from the uncle who I always get data from. I just walk in and he says, “Airtel 3G?” and I say “Haanji, 295rupees (~$4.50)” and type my number in his phone and in a minute I have data. I start playing in the market and catch a Pokemon. Then the rain starts. It’s monsoon season so it rains really hard for about 20-30 minutes at least once a day. I start walking back in the rain but by the time I’m near by house it’s just a drizzle so I continue walking in the raining, soaking wet, finding Pokemon. I catch 3. People are staring at me, probably wondering why this white chick is walking around a neighborhood aimlessly soaking wet, but people stare at me all the time anyway so I don’t mind.

A man drives up next to me in his car and rolls down the window. “Do you need help?” he asks. I debate asking he if I can sit in the back while he drives around slowly so I can catch more Pokemon without getting my phone wet. Instead I say “No, I’m okay, thank you” Just keep driving, I’m trying to catch my third Rattata today but it’s difficult throwing pokeballs when your screen is covered in rain.

Thursday 1pm (Gotta Catch ‘Em All Uber style)

I decide to go to the gym over my lunch break and then meet my colleague, Priya, at her house to finish some work. The Uber to the gym takes about 30 minutes. Luckily, in India, the traffic is bad enough that the Ubers typically go slowly and stop frequently. I caught six Pokemon inside my Uber to the gym. Then three more on the stairs to the gym. It’s a good day.

Uber Pokemon
Catching Pokemon in my Uber

Thursday 2 pm (Indians and Pokemon Go)

I walk from the gym to Priaya’s house (about a 20 minute walk). While walking on the service lane in her neighborhood, a car pulls up next to me and is driving really slow. Shit. It’s probably some guys who think I’m a prostitute. I’m dressed in gym clothes but white girls don’t really walk down the street in Panchkula, India. So the assumption happens. Or just that I’m easy because I’m white. I mean, guys harass Indian girls, too. Everyone deals with it. So I stare at my phone and walk by the car quickly without looking. Nothing happens.

The cars moves forward, passing me, and then stops again. Maybe it’s a family just lost in the neighborhood? I stealthily look into the car as I pass this time, making sure to avoid contact. It’s a young man. Alone. On his phone. WAIT IS HE PLAYING POKEMON GO?!?!

The car drives off. Slowly. So slowly. But for a split second I’m sure I see the Pokemon Go style map on his phone.

No. It can’t be. It was probably Google Maps and he’s looking for directions and I just so want it to be Pokemon Go that I’m imagining things. 

I could recognize the car by this weird straw hat in the back

I decided he is probably just lost. I also decide I’m still going to tell everyone he was playing Pokemon Go while driving around because that’s just so Indian to me.

He turns down a street. I keep waking and playing. The car drives back down a street near me. I cross in front of it. I stop and look at him. He looks at me. I squint my eyes suspiciously. Are you one of us? 

He drives down the road slowly. I realize I’m so involved in the game I’ve missed the turn for Priya’s house. I backtrack. On the road are a lot of government school children walking home from school. I can recognize them by the uniforms. I wonder if they will wonder what I am doing when I stop to-yes! My phone is buzzing I’m going to get another one!

I’m almost at Priya’s house, annoyed that, while most “stores” are Mundirs (Hindu temples) or Gurdwaras (Sikh temples) the Mundir next to Priya’s house is not.

Mundir Pokestops
Mundirs as Pokestops
Mosque Pokestop
This Gurdwara is a “gym” (territory of high level Pokemon players)

So I can’t get more Pokemon balls. Why doesn’t she live near that big tank war memorial which is a Pokemon Store. Priya, you’re killing me with your living location. Then….Wait….that’s the same car again?! 

There he was. Parked in front of the Jaat Bhavan, swiping his finger wildly in an upwards direction. I started laughing. He is playing Pokemon Go in his car!!! He’s driving around looking for Pokemon. In his car! At 2pm on a Thursday! That’s so Indian! Who does that?

At that very moment my phone buzzes and I see a Pidgey and realize I do that. I play Pokemon at 2pm on a Thursday. 

As I’m standing in the middle of the road swiping he drives up closer and rolls down his window.

“Are you playing Pokemon?!”
“YES! I TOTALLY KNEW YOU WERE PLAYING!” I’m seriously so excited I want to go hug him. But I also know that’s not appropriate in India. One of his Pokemon is evolving so he sticks his phone out the window to show me and I run over to watch. Then a Zubat appears. I always have a hard time with those even though they are “green” and “easy.”

“Are you finding any over here?” He asks
“Yeah, hold on, there is one by your head.”

I didn’t ask permission to take this

We chat a bit. Cars keep honking at me for standing in the middle of the street. I say I didn’t know the app was available here yet. He says he has had it since it came out last week and has 33 Pokemon. He asks how many I have and I say I don’t know (23 and I just started yesterday). I tell him I’m from the US. He asks what I’m doing in India. I fight the urge to say “collecting rare Pokemon.”

I go to Priya’s house to do work and he continues driving around. I walk completely past her house I’m so engaged. Then I knock on the wrong door since I find one on her stairs and I forget where she lives.

I find another Zubat in a pile of garbage.

Behold, the cleanest city in India

India, these are the days I’m in love with you….


Update: I finally ran out of Pokeballs and went to what was labeled as “The British Library” but actually is the back entrance to a restaurant to get more. Very cultural.

I also had a good time playing on the motorcycle until I ran out

How to Set Your House on Fire Abroad

So, I finally set my house on fire…

It was only a matter of time, really. At this point, I’m more surprised that I haven’t caught something on fire sooner. (And, no, unfortunately this blog doesn’t end with a truck of sexy Sikh firefighters coming to rescue me).

Friday I was working from home in the late afternoon, enjoying things the Haryana Department of Education lacks: AC next to my bed, high speed internet, and the leisures of not wearing pants. My laptop was safely plugged into the wall (it’s always good to keep it full, you never know when the power will go out).

When you straighten half your hair before work and then the power goes out
When you straighten half your hair before work and then the power goes out

Suddenly I heard the AC turn off followed by a deceptively innocent sounding “pop” from the outlet. I looked up to see smoke squeezing out of the socket. Naturally, I panicked, slapped off the power to the outlet, unplugged my laptop, and carefully removed the (hot) plug from the wall.  I decided it was nothing (mostly because I wanted to ignore how potentially bad this could be) and decided to leave my AC off for awhile.

Switches to turn the outlet on and off


So I turned the fan on.


Then I tried the light in my room.

Still nothing.

I hoped it was just a routine power outage. I tried the light in the living room.

It tried so hard. I could see tiny bits of light flickering around the corners. I almost pitied the pathetic little thing. Likewise, my router still had the one red light flickering.

That was it. Not a single other light/fan/or appliance worked. But since those two sort of worked, I knew it wasn’t a power outage. So I went to the breaker box and turned everything off and everything back on.

Still nothing.

I spent another ten minutes standing around hopelessly, plotting whether I could sleep at Priya’s house, not sure how to survive June in India without a fan, AC, or wifi. And then after ten minutes my lights all miraculously returned. For some reason my router only stayed on if the living room light stayed on but I assumed that was just “something Indian” and went back in my room to work. Crisis averted!








Nothing can ever be that easy in this country.

After about ten minutes I smelled smoke so I reexamined the outlet. Then I realized smoke was billowing into my bedroom. I ran into the living room to see the living room light spewing smoke and blackening the wall behind it.

Indian buildings always have way more switches than appliances/lights associated with them
Indian buildings always have way more switches than appliances/lights associated with them
I literally only know what two of these switches do
I literally only know what two of these switches do

So I turned off all the lights, turned out everything on the broker box, and sweating from 3 minutes without AC, called my landlord. He told me he, and the entire family, would be gone until late the next day.


He asked if it was an emergency. I calmly said, “yes. I believe your house is on fire.”

I explained the story two or three times to him but he was still unsure of the details. At some point he hung up and called back. He told me the handyman who lives at the house was also gone for another hour or so but he would call an electrician.

Yes. Anything. Bring him.

Of course, attempting to speak to the electrician was another matter. I sat outside on the stairs out of the sun reading To Kill A Mockingbird for about 30 minutes before the man came. I didn’t know how much the landlord had explained to him, so I used my best Hindi.

I pointed to the breaker box
“toh…sab atcha hai,” (so…everything is good) 

I pointed to the living room light
“lekin yuhuh dhuaan the,” (but here was smoke)

I pointed to the outlet in my bedroom
aur yuhuh dhuaan the,” (and here was smoke)

toh…..nehi atcha hai.” (So….not good)

He seemed to get the picture and started doing something. I just sat inside and watched sweat pool from my forehead onto the book. At some point he summed me outside and was saying something about a wire and so I nodded furiously as he spoke. Then I realized he was asking me a question, so admitted that I didn’t understand.

My Tardis: because it's bigger on the inside
My Tardis: because it’s bigger on the inside

After about thirty minutes he had everything working again and had me run around the house and test every light switch and every outlet. He spent some extra time on the AC and then kept asking me things in Hindi so I just kept saying, “sab tik hai” (everything is okay) “abhi sab atcha hai” (everything is good now).

Honestly, I have no idea what he did and if this is a long-term fix to the fact that I had a small electrical fire. But I sort of completed an emergency task in Hindi so I’m giving myself a gold star for adulting abroad today!

What is the verb “to adult” in Hindi?
Witch Burning Prague
Asia Czech Republic Europe Festivals Abroad

They Burn Witches in Prague

Every spring, on the eve April 30th, the Czechs celebrate pálení čarodějnic or “the burning of the witches.” I celebrated three years ago near the end of my 10-month stint teaching in the country. Having written a 70-page thesis on early modern witch trials (which recently won the Gerhard Weinber Award for best article in European History), seeing this festival was a must. My former boyfriend and I had heard the celebration in Ladronka to be one of the best so we set off to the outskirts of the city.

Witch burning Prague
Image 1: Notice for a witch burning festival

We arrived a bit late, the bonfire had already been built and the witches already burnt. The “witches” constitute small cloth-made witches which are tied to the pyre.

Image 2: A young girl lights the pyre covered in handmade witches

Other times, one large central witch is placed in the center

Image 3: Cloth witch in the middle of the pyre

Then the bonfire burns. After that, it seems like a pretty typically “Czech” festival except that all the children were dressed like witches. They even had brooms. There was a stage with some music, lots of beer and food stands, and people building smaller fires to roast sausages which they brought from home. People from all over the country set up little stalls of crafts and jewelry. I bought some clay-fired heart earrings which I still own and wear on a regular basis.

Why Burn Witches?

Traditionally, it is believe the witch burning festival began with pagan rituals celebrating the spring equinox. Later, the date became associated with the date witches are most attracted to attend the Witch’s Sabbath (beginning in the 14th century until the late 17th century, witches were believed to fly into the woods at night where they would dine on rotting food, boil babies for their fat, copulate in orgies with the Devil and demons, and pervert anything Christian). It is most likely due to the pagan origins of this celebration that those not following the rules of Christianity in the 14th century would perform rituals in the woods on this date, which later became thought of as “witchcraft.” With time, communities began to gather on hills and light large fires to “ward off evil witches.”


It is also likely this festival originally celebrated fertility. The next day, May 1st (May Day), Czechs will visit Petřín Park which is covered in blossoming Cherry Trees. It’s considered a day of love. Couples kiss under the trees. Legend says any girl not kissed under the trees will “wither and die” within the next 12 months. So obviously I drug my boyfriend there ASAP and let’s just say I neither withered nor died…

Petrin Hill
May Day under the Cherry Blossoms


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