Friday, July 27, 2007

Playing Catch-Up

Mommy is pretty sure that most people who read our blog do so to see pictures of me and to find out my latest happenings, so I realize that I have a lot of catching up to do, beginning with my trip to New Jersey. While we there and Mommy was busy eating, shopping and swimming every day, I was having a blast with my grandparents. I stayed at Nani’s house, where one of my favorite things to do was water her outdoor plants and shrubs each morning. I also had a blast at the mall with her, Ba (my great-grandma) and Mommy, where I got to ride a little train and sit on a carousel. Of course, since I love hanging out with Dada and Dadi too, I was at their house nearly every day as well.

We also saw a lot of extended family because of Sonal Masi’s wedding, in which I attempted to play the part of flower girl. Unfortunately for anyone within earshot, I somehow got stage fright at the last minute, and about 3 steps down the aisle, started screaming and running towards Dada. A shame, really,given all my practice with Dadi. But I figure that I'll be an old pro at it by the time Rachana Masi or Sonu Fia get married.

As Mommy had mentioned, we also had a chance to see a bunch of my pals, and even go to Sesame Place. What a terrific summer vacation!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Mysteries Down Below

Everything about living in a city has always sounded glamorous to me - including the blaring of car horns and police sirens. They signify life, constant motion and excitement. Now that I am actually living in a city – albeit not Manhattan – these sounds are less fascinating and more a disruption of my sleep. As we have been getting used to them, however, a few new – and mysterious – sounds have been beckoning us to our window to try and figure out the sources.

The first one occurs about once a week in the late morning and starts out in the distance, but gets closer to our apartment over the course of fifteen minutes. All I can decipher about this one is that it is a human voice and probably masculine and he is repeating the same thing over and over again as he gets closer to our building and then again further away. What the voice is saying is a mystery – but it sounds something like this: “BHAAAACHHHOMIIIIAAA.” I have also determined that the man is not being tortured or murdered in the streets, as he returns each week yelling the same thing. My guess is that he is selling something, but if so, I can’t imagine who his customers could be since no one seems to understand what he is saying, not even my Spanish speaking maid. One of these days my curiosity will trump my laziness, forcing me running into the street, following the screams until I find the source.

On the other end of the pleasantness spectrum is music from an alto saxophone each afternoon around 2:30 or 3:00 from somewhere down below in the street. Yet again, the exact location is mystery because I cannot spot the musician on the sidewalk, or even in the park below where in my imagination he is sitting next to one of the fountains as passers-by toss coins into an old felt hat he has sitting by his feet. All I know is that the music began randomly last Friday and has continued all week, each day a few familiar tunes whose names I cannot recall. To add to the ambiance, this is just about the time of day when it starts to get cloudy in preparation for the storm that is sure to come within the hour. It is one of my favorite times of day – the sky is the most beautiful color of gray (a color which my description could never do justice), slow saxophone music wafts up from the street, and I have the urge to curl up on the couch with a good book and a chenille blanket.

Monday, July 9, 2007

The Hustle Bustle of New Jersey

Dispersed between my gastronomic binging and retail therapy, I used my first week in the States to catch up with as many friends as I possibly could. The entire second week was going to be devoted to my cousin Sonals’ wedding, and the third week to recovering from the wedding and finishing up last minute shopping, so this was the time to see everyone. Much to all her grandparents’ dismay, I had the nerve to take Asha to see other people besides them, and they were gracious enough to let me.

We went twice to our playgroup (which is really too formal a word to describe how much these gals and babes mean to us), to dinner and a playdate with my law school friends Melanie and Jackie and their sons Dylan and Johnny, who are all just two weeks younger than Asha, and to her cousin Bryce’s house where we were able to spend time with all the children in the family and some of Sonny’s cousins. I was also able to get in some one-on-one time with my best friend Nipa, and even though we didn’t get to the beach, we had a fantastic (and expensive) time shopping for hours on end. It really was a wonderful week, filled with the best of everything New Jersey has to offer – friends, family and of course food.

The next week was all about the wedding – there was a shower for Sonal on Sunday, the graha shanti pooja (a religious ceremony) on Wednesday, the Mehndi (henna) party at Mom’s house on Thursday, pre-wedding dinner at the hotel Friday night, wedding on Saturday and post-wedding brunch on Sunday. Throughout all of these events, we were able to see and spend time with so much of my family, from in and out of town, dress up in Indian clothes nearly every day, and of course eat even more Indian food. By the end of this week, I felt as though it would be okay if I didn’t see any more family, eat any more Indian food ore Indian food or tell any more tales about life in Mexico for another three months, so long as I was able to get some sleep.

All this running around had left Asha kind of ragged as well – for the past two weeks she had been going to bed late, skipping a few naps and experiencing a lot of excitement. It was definitely time to wind down – only problem being that by the third week there were still people we wanted to spend time with (my grandmas and best friend Sudha) and shopping that I had to do. And so went our last week in New Jersey – running around while trying to savor every moment with Mom, get in as much pool time as possible (as we have no access to a pool in Mexico City), spend as much time as possible with Bhabhi, Moti and my adorably pregnant best friend Sudha, and of course buy as many veggie burgers as possible to sneak into Mexico.

But at last, we are finally home – and this time I mean Mexico City.

Monday, July 2, 2007

There’s No Place Like Home, There’s No Place Like Home

I know I’m not exactly returning from the Land of Oz to Kansas, but sometimes there is nothing quite like being away that makes you realize that there really is no place like home. For better or worse.

We arrived in New Jersey a few weeks ago, and of course the first thing I did upon landing at the airport was to kiss the ground. Okay, so not literally, but just seeing the familiar sights of “my” airport left me so giddy that I nearly kissed the burly customs officer who demanded “Why are you a US citizen living in Mexico?” Hmm, different from the customary “Buenos tardes” I would have received at customs in Mexico City, but I was thrilled at not needing to translate – for the first time in nearly two months – the question or my answer.

On the drive home and over the next several days, I realized that while I missed my family and even my friends, what I was most excited to do for three weeks was to eat and drink and shop. Sounds awful, I know, that spending time with my loved ones did not top the list, but let’s get real – they call and visit us in Mexico. I don’t get to have a big bowl of cereal with milk that has no aftertaste or eat New York style pizza or even shop using my left-over Christmas gift cards (and ultimately return things that I later decide I don’t like) in Mexico. So those are the things I spent my entire first week home doing.

On Sunday (Father’s Day), I dragged my sister-in-law, Shaily, to The Lemon Lounge, my and Sonny’s favorite breakfast hangout in good ole’ Basking Ridge. I know that technically I don’t live in BR anymore, but in my heart I still consider it home, and have been craving Phil’s coffee with REAL cream, and the twelve grain bread for months (we haven’t been there since we moved out of the house in March). In fact, I had been anticipating that first sip of coffee so badly that I didn’t want to spoil the pleasure by drinking any other coffee before hand, so I went coffee-less for the two days since I had been back until I could savor that first fragrant, bittery-sweet sip. All that waiting was well worth it – mmm, heaven.

Of course, immediately after breakfast we had to attend Father’s Day Lunch at Bombay, a fantastic Indian restaurant in town, with my in-laws. The fact that Shaily and I had literally gotten up from our table at the Lemon Lounge and headed over to Bombay, a mere seven minutes away, didn’t stop us from eating again. In my defense, I HAVE MISSED THIS, and in her defense, she weighs like 100 pounds so she can afford it.

As I mentioned, in addition to American culinary delights (I can see Aurelie, my Parisian sister-in-law, cringing at the words “American” next to “culinary delights”), I was also craving some serious shopping. So the next day I walked into Bridgewater Commons, my shopping haven for years, stood inside the doorway, and just smelled that indescribable scent of greasy international fast food from the food court mixed with the burning plastic of American shoppers’ credit cards. I was finally HOME.

As a post script I should add that I realize I sound like I have just returned from years of seclusion in Antarctica as I revel in the superficial pleasures of home. While I have traveled overseas a decent amount, I think my desperation for all things American is borne of a month-long deprivation of the “little things” of home along with the knowledge that, unlike a vacation, I will not have access to these things again for quite a few months. So forgive the dramatic gastronomic descriptions.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Old Friends, New Places . . . .

So here I am in Mexico, alone, as Rupal and Asha have gone back to the usual craziness in the US… not that Mexico is not a little crazy (poco loco, as we say), but it is different. In the US, they are again dealing with family, and as Asha’s uncle, Archan, puts it, to find time with Asha you have to get time on her schedule. Everyone wants to see them and to find time to please everyone in between two weddings takes the negotiation skills of a diplomat and the physical stamina of an athlete.

On the flip side, I am here alone in Mexico. I had the week off to take care of things around the house and just to relax a little. On Wednesday two of my best and oldest friends, Phil and Steve, came to visit. Of course tagging along was my brother, Neil. Although it worked out well for Rupal that Neil came, because she sent two suitcases filled with Mexican food from America and a car seat with him. Without Neil, who would have carried everything (including my cans of Pan Parag)?

They arrived on Wednesday, and we made no real plans but we figured we would get in some drinking, eating and playing of cards. So as I sit here on Sunday night – five pounds heavier and a bit hungover – I can definitively report that we certainly did drink, eat and play cards. And we had a great time doing so.

You might think that if I had visitors from the US, we would have gone sightseeing or something, but no. But it was cool, because we got to do what we do best somewhere different. And thanks to the guys, I found some more cool restaurants and bars here in Polanco, and remembered how much I miss my life in America, because there all I really did was drink, eat and play cards.

Aside from the above-mentioned activities, we were able to do a little shopping. We went to an arts fair in San Angel called Mercado Sabado (appropriately named Saturday Market), where they sell paintings and other types of art work. The guys loved it - Neil bought five paintings, Phil bought three paintings and a bunch of tradicional Mexican masks and Steve bought two paintings, although he was gracious enough to leave me one as a housewarming gift.

Afterwards we went out to eat, drink and came home to play cards… and that is what we call an exciting trip to Mexico with Sonny.