Category Archives: Favorites

There is a first time for everything!

My top ten favorite “Firsts” that I experienced in India:

  1. Visiting the Taj Mahal
  2. Eating with my hands
  3. Trying ketchup on pizza (I didn’t say that I liked it… I said that I tried it!)
  4. Riding an overnight train & rickshaws
  5. Wearing a Saree
  6. Riding a motorcycle
  7. Meeting my in-laws
  8. Seeing Mt. Everest (technically this happened in Nepal, but it’s my list, and how can it not be included?!)
  9. Seeing Diwali and Holi and other Indian festivals
  10. Eating jackfruit

My husband’s top ten favorite “Firsts” that he’s experienced in North America:

  1. Getting married (all together now, “Awwww”)
  2. Welcoming Miss A into the world (again….)
  3. Going through a drive through window (yep, these aren’t that common in India!)
  4. Going through a drive through car-wash (again…)
  5. Using power tools
  6. Going to Walmart at 2 in the morning
  7. Learning how to fish
  8. Learning how to swim
  9. Overeating at American Thanksgiving
  10. Seeing the Grand Canyon and Mt. Rushmore

What about you? Any “intercultural-firsts” that you want to share – what’s on your list?

DIY: Homemade Paper Christmas Star Lanterns

While I lived in India, I discovered that you can tell who is celebrating Christmas by the big, colorful star shaped paper lanterns that are hung outside homes and shops. While Christians only make up 2.3% of the total population, Christmas is becoming more and more widely celebrated.
These stars are really beautiful – they are available in every shape, color and size imaginable! I brought some home with me, however, I recently decided to try making my own. I thought I’d share with anyone who is interested how to make these beautiful lanterns and celebrate Christmas Indian style! Plus… it helps make my husband feel at home when we’re far from his home during the holidays! :-)
These stars can be made in all colors, shapes and sizes. Small ones work great for homemade Christmas tree ornaments, while large ones look great hanging from the ceiling or on your front porch! I’ll share a pattern and instructions for how to make your own 5-pointed star. If you want different sizes, just enlarge the pattern… (or you could even modify it to add more points to your star – get creative!)

You will need, glue, scissors, paper (your choice of colors, weight), string or ribbon, and a some sort of light to light up the lantern.
2. Cut out 2 identical stars from the pattern.
3. Fold the pattern along all the dotted lines & glue the flaps to the inside wall of the opposite side (leave one flap unglued until you insert your light).
4. While still folded, cut out openings in any design you like for the light to shine through. (similar to how you’d make an old fashioned paper snowflake)
5. Tie a string or ribbon to suspend your lantern.
6. Enjoy your handiwork & allow all your friends to “ooh” and “aah” over your creation!
P.S. You also sometimes see these lanterns (and similar ones) during the Diwali festival in India.

The Amazing Race in India

The Amazing Race – aired on CBS (in the USA) is one of my favorite shows. It’s no surprise, because I love traveling & experiencing new cultures. If you’re not familiar with the show, the premise is 12 teams of 2 people who travel in a race around the world. Each leg of the race takes place in a different country, and the teams have to complete different activities and be the first to reach the next pit-stop. The last team to each pit-stop gets eliminated. The final team gets a million dollar prize.
I would love to be on that show – a prize of a million dollars would be fabulous, but I think just getting to travel to so many places would be just as great. It’s too bad they don’t allow non US citizens to be in the race, otherwise I’d be auditioning with my hubby! We’d have a definite advantage in India!
If you’re a fan, be sure to tune in this Sunday – Episode 6 of season 13 – the teams are heading to India. I always find it interesting to observe the teams as they get to India for the first time. Sometimes they make embarrassing mistakes, and other times they don’t have much respect for the culture & draw too much attention to themselves by the way that they dress or how they act. To check out the preview for yourself head over to CBS. They also post full-length episodes, which is great if you live in an area where you can’t watch it on TV or if you miss an episode. In this episode (see photo above) the teams are gong to be painting auto-rickshaws, ironing & folding clothes at a dhobi-ghat, and attending an Indian wedding. Sounds like interesting reality TV to me! Although in REALITY, I doubt that foreigners would be working as dhobis or rickshaw-wallas!

Where to Find the Best Shopping in India & Southern Asia

If you’re in Southern Asia or planning a visit in the near future, you don’t want to miss out on the great shopping that is available for those who know where to go!

Here’s my top picks (all places I’ve personally frequented!):

Delhi: Chandni Chowk (near the Red Fort) and Dilli Haat – both are great for souvenir-type things. Tip: be VERY fierce with the bargaining. A guy followed us around for an hour or more, trying to sell us a drum, but by the end he had reduced his price by about 90%!

Hyderabad: This is where my MIL got most of our wedding clothes. I can’t say that the prices are the lowest, but we were very happy with the quality of everything! Be sure and check out Fab India stores in Hyderabad and across India – they have a cool, slightly modern twist on traditional Indian clothes. They can be slightly more expensive than other places, but I’ve found that the quality is usually very good.

Bangalore: Commercial Street has all the bargains (don’t miss all the shops behind the main road too – some of the best deals are off the beaten track!). Brigade Street and M.G. Road are where you’ll find all the top shops. The new mall, The Forum, is one of the nicest malls in South India. If you get hungry for western food, visit Sunny’s Restaurant, located on Vittal Mallya Road. It is one of my favorite restaurants in the world – be sure to order the Chicken Fetuccini with sun-dried tomatoes!

Chennai: Spencer’s Plaza is a huge complex of shop after shop. We found great deals on belts, wallets, Kashmeri hand-painted Ornaments, shoes, and my personal favorite, our silk bedspread set!

Kathmandu: Durbar Square – picturesque with nice temples. Kathmand has lots of other local shops and attractions. I love some of the handmade paper items (journals, stationery, & lanterns) that I brought home.

Columbo, Sri Lanka: One of my absolute favorite places to shop! It is one of the best places to shop in Asia, and perhaps the world. The dollar gets a great exchange rate compared to Indian Rupees, and many top name brands are manufactured in Sri Lanka. The excess stock and leftovers are shipped off to my two favorite stores: Odel and House of Fashion – where a 500 rupee ($5) price tag is slapped on items that would retail for more than $100 elsewhere. Next stop in Columbo: Majestic City next – one of the largest shopping centers in Sri Lanka – a great place to get DVDs, electronics and just about anything else you can think of!

Insider tips for shopping in Southern Asia: If you don’t look like a local or sound like a local, your price is going to go up. To combat this problem, try speaking a little of the local language – the more you speak, the more you will convince the owner that you know what’s a fair price!

At first, make sure to visit several shops before making a purchase – you might just get a better deal one store down!

If possible, become a regular at one or two shops. Once the shopkeepers get to know you, you’ll get a better deal!