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Around The World, Part Thirteen

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Our Round The World Trip home page is here.
Part Twelve is here.

October 17 (Wednesday, Day 16, Hyderabad) –

Filbert woke up having not slept much at all, with an upset stomach.  Finally, around 7 a.m., he threw up and felt a bit better.  Because he hadn’t gotten much sleep, he decided to stay home in Judy’s apartment that day, staring at Indian cable TV channels.  Judy’s shift is from 2 PM until 11 PM to match working times in the U.S. so she had her driver take her and me back to Charminar and she bought a dandiya dress for her Friday night office party.  We were visiting during a 9 day Hindu festival (and Muslim’s eid had just happened, too) and dances are done by women wearing cotton dresses that dazzle with mirror work and heavy jewelry.  Judy had already planned on renting a brand new one for 300 rupees but found one that she could buy for 525!  Then it was time to take her to work. 

Snookums checked on Filbert and then went out with Akbar to look at bangles, shoes, scarves and fabric.  Judy was invited to a Christian wedding (yes, there are Indians that are Christians) Thursday night and we were going, too, but Snookums needed Indian shoes and Filbert needed a party kurta.  A kurta is a long nightshirt type of thing worn over loose drawstring pants.  Snookums couldn’t find one to fit Filbert but Akbar bought 3 meters of maroon fabric (a very royal color, per Indians) and had his friend make the shirt.  The fabric was 315 rupees and the tailoring was 175 rupees (or $12 total).

October 18 (Thursday, Day 17, Hyderabad) –

Snookums went shoe shopping with Akbar again and found some Indian shoes.  They are flat shoes made out of three pieces of leather and have a lot of stitching all over them.  We only went to one store but it took about 2 hours due to the traffic.  While at the store the black burka-clad women next to me started telling me how beautiful my shoes were so I asked their advice on sizing.  Then I told them that the plastic slip on high heeled sandals that they were looking at were also beautiful.  (Most Muslim women in Hyderabad wear the black burka over their sarees when they leave the house.  Some of them have only their eyes exposed and others have their entire faces showing.)  It is interesting how so many of the people talk to us since we are Caucasian.

Indian Christian wedding

We went to the wedding and that was an experience.  The invitation said 4:30 but due to a road being closed, we got there at 5.  The wedding then started promptly at 5:30.  (Judy says that everything in India is late and Snookums thinks that they always planned on starting at 5:30.)  The bride wore a white saree with gold trim and she also wore a white Western-style veil.  The groom wore a suit.  The wedding was all in Telegu except for one of the three sermons.  We don’t know why that sermon was in English.  There were at least 6 “professional” photographers running around, too.  I used the quotation marks around professional since I’m sure they were being paid, but their 1970s/1980s era equipment and their unprofessional clothing (jeans and t shirts) didn’t seem too professional.  And, they were all over the place.  We had the high intensity light shined on us for a good 2 minutes while the video camera filmed the pew where the Caucasians sat.  The ceremony ended at 7 PM and as we were walking down the aisle, two men came up to Filbert and asked for his autograph and his address!  The Indians in Hyderabad just get a kick out of seeing Caucasians!  It didn’t hurt that Filbert was wearing traditional clothing.  I was wearing an Indian outfit, too, but I guess a white man wearing one is more of a novelty.  Judy was wearing a saree.

The famous one and his wife

After the ceremony we drove to the function hall for the reception.  It started by having everyone go inside a big building and take a seat.  The bride and groom were sitting in front on “thrones” and the bride’s brother was publicly introducing members of the bride’s family that were scattered throughout the function hall.  There were probably 500 people there.  They cut the cake (which looked like a traditional US wedding cake) and then servers came by and gave everyone pieces of cake (which tasted like spice cake with dates).  Then we went outside and ate under the tent.  Veg food was served at the tables at the north end of the tent and non-veg food was at the south end.  A family of four invited us to join them and we did.  (The tables sat 8.)  Indians eat their meals with their fingers so that’s what we did.  Bread (roti – like tortillas) was passed around and then came two chicken dishes in heavy gravies and mutton biryani rice.  It was all pretty tasty, but messy!  Every place setting had one flimsy paper napkin, too, but we knew to bring wet wipes and more tissues and stuff.  Dessert was runny, white pudding stuff and we were stumped as to how to eat it with fingers.  We asked and then realized that there were little plastic spoons for everyone to use.  The Indians got a good laugh at our expense since it was pretty obvious that you couldn’t eat it with your fingers. 

The father of the groom came to our table and thanked us again for coming and an uncle did, too.  We decided to go through the receiving line with Judy and then to leave.  When we got on the stage to congratulate the bride and groom, the official photographer had to get a picture of all of us.  He had not been taking pictures of everyone else shaking the happy couple’s hands, just us.  There will be lots of pictures of us in their wedding album.

October 19 (Friday, Day 18, Hyderabad) –

Akbar took us to the Hyderabad zoo today.  It’s a very nice zoo and one has to wonder why a poor city has such a nice zoo when there are thousands of extremely poor people within one mile of it.  It has 26 tigers and a bunch of lions and everything a zoo should have, except giraffes.  They died in 1995.  We paid our $.50 and took the African safari, too, which was a bus ride through a special part of the zoo where the animals roam free.  We had seen the sloth bear bang on the side of a bus when we were walking outside the safari fence, but unfortunately it didn’t bang on our bus.  We walked the entire zoo in about 3.5 hours and finally found Akbar and the car.  I think he was planning on driving us from one exhibit to the next, but when we got to the tigers, we took a left turn and ended up walking away from the car.  We realized our “mistake” after about an hour.  Oh well.  We don’t think he was worried about us but we were ready to find him and the car since our lunch (and, more importantly, our water) was in it.  There were at least four times when Indians would come up to us and ask us if they could take their pictures with us.  Their cameras were all pretty old and rickety but if they wanted a picture of white people at the zoo, then what the heck.  People just stared at us while we were walking around since we were the ONLY non-Indians at the zoo.  We definitely stuck out.

On the way back to Judy’s apartment Akbar took us to a handicraft shop so that we could get some trinkets for the family in Cairo that we are going to have lunch with after we take our hour long camel ride at the pyramids.  (Our guide’s camel man suggested that we eat lunch with his family.)

Judy doesn’t have internet access at her apartment but her colleague that lives on the floor below does so when we got back we sat in front of her apartment and “stole” her wireless connectivity.  She knew we were going to do that and left her gate to her porch unlocked for us.  It was very comfortable.

We have Judy’s end of busy season party to attend tonight.  Her job is to manage the Indians that complete the US tax returns and October 15 is the end of the tax extension filing deadline.  The 1,000 or so Indians (no spouses or significant others were allowed so the fact that Judy brought us was actually a “no no” but who was going to say anything?) were supposed to wear traditional Indian clothing (with no Western clothing allowed) and we were set with our wedding outfits.  The party was being held on the lake that is outside Judy’s apartment, but it was on the opposite side of the lake so we had to have Akbar take us.

Office party, Indian style

We got to the party and each of us got our two drink tickets.  Much to Filbert’s dismay, the beer was Budweiser, but since it was free, he got over it!  Deloitte is a high-class company and only serves premium beer at its parties.  We thought it was pretty funny, but since Bud is much more expensive than Kingfisher (an Indian beer) it made perfect sense that the company would provide top-notch refreshments.  Judy made sure to point out that although there were trash cans scattered about the open air event, the Indians would throw their cups and bottles on the ground.  It was disgusting, but that’s what they are used to doing.  The entertainment was interesting to say the least.  It was a talent show made up of the Deloitte workers and consisted of singers and dancers.  There were probably 8 or 9 different acts that culminated with a fashion show made up of volunteers from the party right then.  Judy was dragged up on stage to be in the fashion show since they needed another woman and she looked very nice in the dandiya dress she bought two days before. 

Judy laughs

Filbert said the entertainment reminded him of the crew show put on at the end of every cruise and he was right.  I just thought it was pretty interesting that Deloitte was actually able to get people to volunteer to sing and dance in front of everyone else but as one of the ex-pats said, “They grow up very poor with just music to have fun with so they all know how to sing and dance” and I think that is very true. 

The buffet dinner was basically a repeat of the wedding dinner (chicken dishes, rice biryani, vegetable curries, roti) but this time we could use silverware (which we did).  The roti (bread) was being made at the event by the catering staff and it was interesting to watch the guys take little balls of dough and make “tortillas” out of them.  The dance floor was absolutely packed with the Indians and it looked like they were kind of just jumping up and down to the extremely loud music.  We left around 10 since the invitation said the party was from 7 – 10.  Snookums thought it was funny that there was an ending time to the party, but Judy said it was since transportation had to be provided to and from the venue since very few people own scooters or cars.  (Akbar told us the next day that a scooter driven by a drunk Deloitte person leaving the party hit a child [and the driver kept on going] and Judy figured that meant that at all future parties no one would be allowed to drive personal vehicles to or from the party.)

October 20 (Saturday, Day 19, Hyderabad) –

Since it is Saturday, Judy isn’t going to work and will spend the day with us.  We went to the Salar Jung Museum that houses stuff that a man collected throughout the years.  The highlight is a cuckoo clock.  This is NOT a big deal to Westerners, but the Indians are amazed by it.  The clock is in a very large hall and there are even video screens posted so people in the back can see.  There are about 200 chairs in the hall and there were at least another 300 or so people standing.  We happened to come to this part of the museum right around 11:55 so we decided to just stand and watch the Indians.  They were all watching the clock and we were watching them!  At noon the man (or bird – it was so unremarkable it is unmemorable!) came out of the clock and hammered twelve times.  Then it was over and all of the Indians got up and left.  Some actually immediately sat in the front row to wait for the next “show” which occurs every hour.  (And at 1:00, it would only hammer one time!).  Judy knows that Akbar thinks the clock is really neat, like the other Indians do, so when we got back to the car we made a big deal to him about the fact that we saw it at noon and saw it do its thing 12 times.  We probably spent one hour total in the museum since it really isn’t impressive but Judy did have a point about how “weird” some of the exhibits were (like the clock and the room full of French chairs – not antiques and not special, but a lot of them).  The power went out in the museum for about 2 minutes and no one even gave it a second thought.

Then we went to Snow World.  Judy had been saving that for us and had no idea what to expect.  We offered to pay for Akbar to go with us, but he said it would be too cold.  It was very expensive for Indians (250 rupees or $6).  We were lent socks, boots, a parka and mittens.  Filbert did NOT want to wear their boots so he didn’t.  Judy and Snookums played along and were pleased to find out that everything was clean and in good shape.  After everyone got all bundled up, we had to enter the acclimation room.  It was probably 50 degrees in there and Filbert didn’t put on his parka or mittens.  He’s such a Norwegian!  Finally it was the time we were all waiting for and the door to Snow World was opened for our one hour of fun.  We walked into a room that was about the size of a basketball court and the floor was snowpacked.  There was a slide that you could toboggan down and there were balls and a volleyball net.  There were also chairs and tables carved out of ice.  We sat on one of the two wooden benches on the side and watched the Indians play in the snow.  It was pretty funny.  Filbert finally put on his parka.  We saw that there were some events scheduled during the hour and decided we had to wait to see what they were.  The snow making machine shot out snow from the top of the room for 5 minutes and when it started there was a loud squeal from the crowd and they all ran over to where it was falling the most and had fun in it.  There was also a dance floor (?) and at a certain point they started playing music and had lights flashing and the snow dance floor was filled with Indians jumping up and down (or dancing).  Snookums got cold after about 40 minutes so the three of us left the “fun” early and decided to eat some of the arcade food that was being sold at Snow World.  Judy bought some boiled peanuts (they were good), Snookums had a veg puff (it was some kind of vegetable mixture baked in puff pastry – not that tasty and very greasy) and Filbert had a samosa.  We enjoyed watching the Indians leave Snow World and take off their parkas and stuff, try to warm up and then buy the food.  Other than the fact that it was SOOOO expensive for Indians to do, it seemed like a normal Saturday afternoon activity for the family that could take about 3 hours or so (due to the time it takes to get to Snow World and the time to stand in line and the time in the acclimation room and the time playing in the snow and the time afterwards buying junk food).

Akbar took us back to Judy’s apartment and Filbert decided he had enough for the day.  Snookums and Judy decided to go to Shilparamam market which is an arts and crafts market that changes some of its vendors every two weeks.  Judy drove to it and as soon as we parked, it started to pour!  We waited in the car for about 45 minutes or so before braving the soggy grounds.  The vendors started removing the temporary tarps over their stalls halfway through our visit since the rain had completely stopped by then.  Judy saw a set of 6 coasters that had the Taj Mahal inlaid in them and Snookums bought one of them for about $1.25 for our travel wall.  The vendor wanted to sell the set of identical coasters, but since they were impractical (wood inlaid with metal – but not water proof or anything remotely like that), Snookums managed to bargain for just one.

Judy drove us back to her apartment and we collected Filbert and then the three of us went to Novotel for a great Saturday dinner buffet.  Novotel is the 5 star Western-style hotel about 20 minutes from Judy’s apartment (and about 5 minutes past the Deloitte office).  The Saturday dinner buffet featured various charcoal grilled items (buffalo [there is no beef in India!], chicken, vegetables, fish), Indian dishes (all labeled), a pasta station, sushi and other things you would find at a 5 star US hotel’s buffet.  It was like heaven for Filbert and Snookums, that’s for sure!  And, the beer was free so Filbert (and Judy!) really enjoyed it.  At $30 per person, it was the most expensive meal in Hyderabad (or probably all of India) but worth every penny!  The dining room was full of Deloitte people in Hyderabad on 6 week assignments that stay at the Novotel.  This was the third time Judy had been to the buffet but the first with family which meant she didn’t need to be on her best behavior and could just relax.  We all had a good time and Filbert brought his laptop and found that the wireless internet was “free” so he did some surfing, too.  (Wireless internet security seems to be pretty lax in Hyderabad which is probably due to the fact that very few people have laptops in order to steal data from the wireless network.) 

October 21 (Sunday, Day 20, Hyderabad) –

Akbar drove the three of us to Sunday mass.  Judy had warned that this was one thing that starts on time and she was right.  The prior mass ended about 1 minute before ours started.  People were climbing over the prior mass goers to sit for the new mass and then the prior mass goers left a few minutes after our mass began.  It was pretty comical. Judy did manage to get us a pew that had lots of leg room.  (The pews were lined up kind of helter skelter.  Some had almost no leg room and others had lots.)  Judy was given a weekly bulletin since she was doing one of the readings.  It looked like they printed about ten bulletins and only the mass participants received them.  They must be too costly to print for everyone.  Judy warned us that the church was dirty (like everything in India).  They must not have an altar society of retired women that volunteer to clean the pews and stuff.

After church we went to Big Bazaar.  Filbert had stumbled upon an internet article a few months ago about this “Wal-Mart” type chain in India and we knew we wanted to visit one of the stores.  The article talked about how the founder put together an organized store with aisles but the Indians didn’t trust this kind of display so he had to kind of jumble things up.

Sunday Mass

Big Bizarre—er—Bazaar

Big Bazaar was kind of jumbled, but it was the nicest general store we had seen in India.  It was 5 floors and we visited each one and did a little shopping for Melamine dinner plates for our outdoor parties.  Judy bought some household supplies she needed since she doesn’t come here too often due to the hassle factor of the drive.  And, just like in the US, Snookums managed to be charged incorrectly.  We bought 3 bottles of soda and the third was supposed to be free and of course, it wasn’t.  That meant going to the customer service desk.  We also had to talk to the customer service desk to get our 3 kg of sugar for 1 rupee (or about 2.5 cents) since we spent more than 900 rupees ($23) and this was the promotion item they were giving/selling.  The sugar ended up being loose sugar that they weighed and put in a flimsy bag (like we use for produce in a US grocery store) and Judy gave this to Akbar. 

We got back to Judy’s around 2 PM and we decided to go to Novotel for its Sunday brunch (and free internet).  Judy stayed at her apartment and picked us up when we were ready.  Filbert still had no appetite for Indian food.   

October 22 (Monday, Day 21, Hyderabad) –

We used today as kind of a down day and went back to Novotel for about 4 hours.  We sat outside of the bar to surf the internet and Filbert had a buffalo burger and Snookums had a grilled chicken sandwich for lunch.  Both tasted “normal”.  We called Akbar and he picked us up and took us to a shop to get some photos developed for our postcards.  We got back to Judy’s around 5 PM.  That night Judy drove us to Olive Garden.  That’s a restaurant close to her apartment that serves all types of cuisines.  Filbert ordered chicken spaghetti (remember, no beef in India!) but it was kind of sweet/sour and Judy ended up eating it.  Snookums wasn’t feeling too well and ordered fried rice and Filbert ate Judy’s order of fried rice.  We got back to Judy’s apartment and packed up for our trip to Dubai.

October 23 (Tuesday, Day 22, Hyderabad to Dubai) –

After feeling kind of “iffy” for the past two days, Snookums woke up with a definite cold.  Akbar took us to the airport and we had no problems.  Participants from the military games were there from Korea, Azerbaijan, and the UAE.  We were in the immigration line with the Korean officials and they were definitely happy to be leaving India (as were we!).  It was kind of funny.  And, one last bit of India work ethic was waiting for us – one of the immigration officers was busy dealing with one person and then the next and then he suddenly just stood up and walked away and got a drink of water and came back and just sat there.  The Korean that was next in line didn’t know what to do.  It was then pretty obvious that the immigration officer was going to take his break at his desk so that line merged to our line.  We all just rolled our eye since this was so typical of what we saw in India.  The funny thing about the Hyderabad airport was that Snookums found that the women’s bathroom had autosensor self-flushing toilets.  There wasn’t any toilet paper, soap or paper towels, but they had “high tech” toilets.  She couldn’t believe it.

We boarded the Emirates flight to Dubai and breathed a sigh of relief that we were done with a third world country for a few days.  The flight attendant (Claire) that dealt with our seats happened to be from Canada (a native English speaking Caucasian – how lucky can we be??) and Snookums decided to ask her for a decongestant.  In the US you would never be given anything by a flight attendant, but in a foreign country you just never know.  Sure enough, she supplied Snookums with a brand new bottle of nasal spray that Emirates keeps on board for passengers.  Snookums saw that she had Diet 7 Up (and not just Coke Light like India had) and rejoiced over it.  At the end of the flight, Claire gave Snookums a goodie bag that contained items from the first class travel kit (razors, toothbrushes, eyeshades, socks) as well as cans of Diet 7 Up and some Ricola cough drops for her nasty hack of a cough.  It was a fabulous flight.  We landed in Dubai and loved the gleaming terminal and trash cans.

Flight 527 bound for Civilization

We breezed through passport control, baggage claim and customs and found the Hyatt booth where the women gave us cold bottles of water and walked us outside to our waiting BMW 730 sedan.  We got to the Dubai Grand Hyatt around 2 PM and didn’t leave the hotel for the day!  Our room was on the 12th floor and was about the same size as the one in Bangkok but much more plush.  The going rate for the dates of our stay was $577 plus tax per night for a Regency Club room.

The trip continues in Part Fourteen, here.
Part Twelve is here.
Our Round The World Trip home page is here.