Sunday, 30 December 2012

An Indian in Kuala Lumpur?

"So, where are you from?"  The teksi driver looks at my husband.. "Well.." My husband smiles and give us a here-we-go-again-look. "Well, my wife is from Norway, I am from Greece, but we live in Mumbai." We have said this tale before, and usually the person comes up with a "Why?", "Greece-is-beautiful" "I-have-a-cousin-who-went-to-Oslo". This taxi driver however, just started to laughed and concluded: "Sooo, you are Indian!"

I am not sure how wise it is to tell a proud Greek that he is anything else but A Greek, but on the other hand they have a saying in Greece: Opou gjis, patris, meaning wherever you live, is your homeland. I have always liked the sound of that - but on the other hand, as expat, your roots are important. I believe you can have both. You can have a wonderful live where you are and at the same time cherish the roots to your homeland (s).  Being here in Kuala Lumpur, I started to think back to when I was a little girl, and my dad and I were laughing at that funny name: Kuala Lumpur. We thought it sounded so funny - like a name you find in Donald Duck. AND HERE I AM!

And a funny thing: we keep meeting a lot of fellow Indians here in Kuala Lumpur, we passed Little India with the car, we walked by the restaurant A Taste of India, and our guide turned out to be from Kalkata. And last but not least: where do you think we went on the first-day sightseeing tour? Well, only to one of the most sacred Hindu pilgrimage sights: The Batu Caves. Aaaand we keep saying that after KL we are going home to Mumbai.  Before that, we will celebrate New Years Eve here, close to the Petronas Twin Towers - remember the stunning scene from the film Entrapment - with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Sean Connery? Well, that is where we'll be! And we feel lucky to be able to see this exciting parts of the world -we greek-norwegian-indians expats! 

The Batu Caves, and yes, we went all the way up.

The monkeys were following us all the way up to the caves.
Inside the Batu caves
Kuala Lumpur and the Twin towers


Thursday, 27 December 2012

Farewell Paradise! Hello Big City!

Dear reader, 
A Christmas is almost over.. This year we have had a Christmas with bare feet and sand between our toes, with shorts, sunglasses and bathing suits. It has been sunny days, long meals, sightseeing and exploring a new country, nature, food and culture.  

For us, it has been a Christmas watching the majestic Eagles circle over our heads and staring at the monkeys who were staring right back at us! We have been surfing the waves in a small wooden boat, just to end up at the most amazing white sandy beach, and we have been driving in the deep deep jungle forest. We have admired seahorses, tropical fishes and colorful parrots. We have enjoyed Malay hospitalitan friendliness. It has been a Christmas lying on the beach under the palms with Frode Gryttens "Saganatt", sending messages and warm thoughts to our loved ones in Norway and Greece, and to our friends all over. 

We have been creating lovely memories together. More than anything we have had a Christmas with a lot of time, time to be together, time to laugh and talk and to try to digest the changes our life has been through the last 6 months.The expat experience we have had. 

Well, now, we will leave Langkawi with fully charged batteries:-) Our next stop is Kuala Lumpur - stay tune for more expat travel tales! 
Adieu my wonderful beach!

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Dining like Shirley Valentine?

Dear readers,
In the 80's, one of my favorite films was Shirley Valentine. Do you remember that one? About the British housewife who went to Greece for holiday and just stayed there? Want to remember what that was all about?  You can have a look at youtube here! You may, like me, love the film for many reasons, but my absolute favorite scene is in the end of the film, when they have moved a taverna table and some chairs just by the edge of the sea, and Shirley Valentine is sitting there waiting for her husband while the sun sets in the Aegean Sea.

A table next to the sea
Well, you may remember that we, and in particular my husband, has a thing for the sea? I told you earlier about our search for the sea in Mumbai? Well, here in Malaysia you can live next to the sea -and we do - and my husband more than anyone! Reading, relaxing, thinking, and last but not least, dining next to the sea - just like Shirley Valentine!

Malaysia has really great seafood, and we have dined at local fish-tavernas and at classy restaurants. The common and wonderful thing is that they are all next to the sea. What a great feeling that is: having the sound of the waves, feeling the sea-breeze while enjoying the tasty food. Allow me to give you a small taste here, and have a continuous wonderful holiday wherever you are: sea, mountain or city..Stay tune for more expat tales

At the local Fish Farm restaurant
Yoummie seafood

Stylish scallops

Tuna fish starter

And a delicious sweet finish to the meal


Tuesday, 25 December 2012

A tale from Animal Kingdom

With Thailand in the background - only one hour away!
So yes, dear readers.
Still in Malaysia, still in that wonderful Jungle Paradise - though today I feel more like I am in Animal Kingdom! I already told my family that I am not leaving Langkawi without having seen the famous monkeys - up close and personal! Well, today they came! Suddenly they were sitting there, just by the road. We stopped the car and they looked at us.. probably thought we had food for them (well, guess they would not like our Coke or Tigerbeer cans...)

Hmm. Wonder what he was thinking... Come- on- you- strange- lady- in- the- car- give- me- some- food?

Before we saw the monkeys, we had been with a boat to see the wild eagles- such majestic birds!
Feeding place for the eagles

So, as for Animal Kingdom- they have it all here in Langkawi: bats, crocodiles, snakes, squirrels, otters- it is their home. We are the visitors. Langkawi is green, clean and friendly. Still, we feel like they try to keep tourism as low impact as possible. The beaches are long, white and not crowded and the forest is thick, clean and green with a lot of space for the natural animal life.

We also chose to visit the very popular Underwater World. I loved the seahorses there, they have always been special to my heart! In Malaysia they also have an organisation to save them: SOSMalaysia- save the seahorses. I also enjoy watching all the other visitors- and here they were from all over the world. Oh, well, we are just a part of Animal Kingdom too right?

Stay tune for more Malaysia tales soon!
At the Underwater World.

The fascinating seahorses

Welcome to Jungle Paradise!

Langkawi which means brown eagle - the symbol!

Welcome! Welcome to Jungle Paradise! - our taxi driver opened both his arms like he wanted to hug us all! We couldn't have had a more enthusiastic welcome! So, yes, dear readers, we are in Jungle Paradise - or to be more specific: Langkawi Malaysia.

Believe me: Christmas day on a paradise beach in Langkawi is not bad! Ever since I visited Malaysia for the first time,  I always wanted to come back - and here we are! I love the colors her: white beaches, crystal- blue water and green, green forest with palms, trees and bushes... And monkeys. They told us that there are more monkeys living on Langkawi than there are people. Already the same day we came we saw some along the road.
Do not feed the monkeys who appear on our balcony!
Langkawi is north in Malaysia - almost at the border of Thailand. It consists of 99 island -a fact that led my Greek husband to tell the guide about the over 3000 Greek Islands. The nature is gorgeous, and it is no wonder that the islands has received UNESCOS World Geopark status. The high season is December to February, but tourists find their way to Langkawi all year round. It is also a tax-free sone... So, on this Christmas Day, I wish you all a Merry Christmas morning from the beach in Jungle Paradise. Stay tuned for more Malaysian tales:)

Green forest all around!

Friday, 21 December 2012

Lunchtime in Mumbai - the tale of the Dabbawallas

Dear readers,
How do people have lunch in this city of over 20 million inhabitants? Well, some go out to eat - to anywhere from small pavement-stalls to 5 star restaurants. Some have canteens at their work, and some bring food. But did you know that almost half a million people get their hot home - cooked lunch delivered from home to their office/school everyday? How? Well, this is where our friends, the Dabbawallas, enter our tale. They are the wallas ( person, boy, men ) who deliver the dabbas (box)  ..

My son had a project about the Dabbawallas at school, and peeking into his work made me curious. How can 5000 wallas manage to bring warm home-made fresh lunch from home to work / school for almost half a million people? And if that wasn't enough - in a city like Mumbai - one of the most densely populated cities in the world. And all that, by using only bicycles, hand - wagons and local trains. I found their system fascinating and so did apparently Prince Charles by the way!

I became even more impressed when I got a chance to see their system from close. One day we went to hear more about their work and how they structure their days. Churchgate train station is a meeting point, and we hang around them there - (again in company of my fellow curious adventure looking explorer friends and we watched the hand wagons coming and going,  the dabbas going on and off, the wallas going to and from and the organised piles of dabbas on the pavement. Fascinating! It is indeed incredible that their rate of mistake is like 1 to a million or something. You can see an interesting video about the Dabbawallas on youtube and also at the same time have a look at the busy streets of Mumbai where they navigate every day: The Dabbawallas in Mumbai.

The hand-wagons coming and going..

Organizing the dabbas on the pavement

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Gingerbread Cookies - recipe

X-mas cookies with bindi
Dear readers,
You may have noticed that I have now, with great success, X-mas decorated my house. I have been to X-mas partys and I have been to X-mas lunches. And I have had my moments of nostalgia: bye-bye-good-friends-I-miss-my-friends-and-family. Yes, I admit: I like this time of the year- wherever I might be! I have been eager to share this joyful time with our new Indian friends,  just like they included us so warmly in their wonderful Diwali celebration in November. I must say that not all our X-mas food and sweets was to their taste, but it was one X-mas sweet that they all enjoyed - and that was our gingerbread cookies! So for all our new Indian friends - and for everyone else out there - here is a great recipe for Gingerbread Cookies. I found this on a Norwegian food - blog which I think is very good: Trines Matblogg: Verdens beste pepperkaker. I adjusted it a bit- adding pepper -and here is the English version:

You need:
  • 259 gr Sugar
  • 2 dl Syrup (I used American Mable Syrup)
  • 1 tsp ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground Ginger
  • 1/4 -1/2 tsp ground Clove
  • 1/4 tsp ground Black Pepper
  • 250 gr Butter
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 2 Eggs
  • 650-800 gr Flour (in India: maida)

You do:
Cut the butter in pieces and put in a large bowl. Set aside. In a pan, bring sugar and syrup to boil. Remove from heat. Add all the spices - ( and enjoy the scent of X-mas spreading in your kitchen) and mix. Then add the baking soda. Pour the mix over the butter and stir until the butter is dissolved. Cool a little. Whisk the eggs together and add them. In the end add the flour. Mix well. Cover the bowl and put in the fridge for at least 1 hour. You can also keep it there over night.

Open the dough (like a pizza dough) and make the shapes and figures you like. Cook them in the oven until they are light brown . About 7-10 minutes at 200 degrees C. Keep in a closed tin-box (if they will last that long).

Make the shapes and figures you like.

Aren't they gorgeous? When they are cold you can decorate them. I used icing sugar, water and some food colouring.

Last man standing!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Hindi Crash Course - Take 1

"It's Greek to me" - you have heard that phrase right? Well, I am proud to say that I managed to learn Greek pretty well. Living in Greece for so many years made it unbearable for me not to understand what people were talking about. And I was in love with the country, the man (!), culture, music, basically everything - so the motivation was there!

A peculiar thing was that learning Greek made me forget French. I could still understand French when I heard it, but when I opened my mouth to speak, only Greek words came out. Like there was room for only one foreign language besides English inside my head.

So, now I am in India. Luckily I find that most people speak and understand English. Still, my never-resting curious side wants to understand what they say- the salesmen in the shop smiling to you, the giggling children. Nooo, don't really need to know it all - but it could be fun to understand something and maybe also to say a few phrases!

So -  I joined a Hindi Crash Course, with Manasi- - the star I introduced you to earlier. Ok, to sum up: Greek is a piece of cake compared to this language! I tell you! We were gathered up a bunch of eager-to-learn-ladies and had tons of fun, but it is haard. I think it is a very sound-based language and I like how it sounds:-) Like me you probably know namaste (greeting/hello). However, I will share a few more useful phrases with you (just to make you wanting more:-) - theese could be good to know:
  • Mera naam John nahi hai = My name is not John.
  • Horn mat bataiye = Don't honk!
  • U-turn lijiye = Take a U-turn!
  • Ha = Yes
  • Na/Nahi = No
  • Kripya/Please = Please
  • Shukriya/Dhanyavad/Thank you = Thank you 

We also learned some interesting facts like:
- The name for tomorrow and yesterday is the same: kal (- very interesting!)
- There are at least 3 words meaning but: par, magar, lekin
- The verb always comes in the end in a sentence
- To make a sentence negative, add nahi before the verb.

So did this wake your interest in learning (more) Hindi? I want to learn more - and now I'll go out and practice! Stay tuned dear reader:-)  

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

The Mumbai Christmas Decoration Tale

We moved to India with a couple of boxes and one suitcase each. So, as we were getting closer to Christmas I realised to my horror that I didnt't have any X-mas decorations here. Ok, ok, I will admit - I secretly slipped a few items in my suitcase - like a Nowegian flag (for glorious moments), some Christmas star lights (which I also saw in a shop here -for 1/20 of the price ), and a few other things - small reminders of my loved ones. Some items, I just found yesterday because they were tucked in between some jackets I brought in one of the boxes (dont't ask me why- I have still yet to wear any clothes with long sleeves here in India..)


I still needed some stuff to make my home Christmassy. Being from Norway I grew up with very "natural" Christmasses. Our trees were of real wood, and the decorations were in red, white and green. The light bulbs were white and they did not blink or sing songs. 

In a jubileus mood I went to the Christmas shop areas... Not so minimalistic- nature- like, but holy... what a fun place! I will admit I got a bit carried away - Imagine: pick and choose Christmas balls and ornaments in all the colors you can think of, small and large and xxx-large, stars in plastic and shimmering paper, masks, hats, glitter and glam. Light bulbs shaped like reindeer, angels, stars and Santas- and yes, they were both blinking and singing! Plastic snowmen, costumes, and snowflakes....We were negotiating for the best price ever (!) and of course then we had to add a few items more and then a few more. 

So yes, I am good, and my home is veeery shiny, glittery and veery Christmassy! 

See what I mean?

And more .. - I particulary liked the blue reindeer:-)

The local Christmas tree forest:-)
The name seems promising...

Marigolds and X-mas decor..

PS: After all we are in India...  so after our successful decor-hunt we went to the cutest little thali place to celebrate. Even the waiters there looked kind of X-mas like too we thought, but maybe it was just our X-mas spirit taking over.?

A good and flowery morning!

Dear reader,
Just popping in to wish you a Good Morning from Mumbai! The sun has come up and the Christmas decor on my balcony shimmers in the sun and on my gorgeous bougainvillea. The green parrot came on our balcony this morning too! Later today we are off to yet another Christmas party - Yes, it is still a bit strange - 30 degrees and sun - but Christmas is Christmas and party is party right? I do get the feeling that they like Christmas here - at least the glitter and glam decorations part of it. I will show you what I mean later. But for now- let me just spread some color and flowers to you all here this morning here from Mumbai. Maybe I was a bit inspired by the visit at the Jain temple - at least I have secured my flowers an eternal life on the web:-)
Blue and purple orchidee - I like them:-)

PS: Ok, ok - not to worry - we also have some hints of Christmas in the flowery department - just to give you a taste of what awaits in my Shopping-for-X-mas-decorations-in-Mumbai-tale. Stay tuned:-) 

A minimalistic decorated tree with Mr Gold and Blue Santa:-)

Monday, 17 December 2012

Jainism - the religion of harmlessness

One day we visited one of the Jain temples here in Mumbai. What a peaceful place it was! Maybe not so surprising, as this is the religion of non-violence, harmlessness and renunciation.
Jainism is an ancient Indian religion, and is today considered a "small" religion with "only" 4,3 mill Jains in India ( Note: the """ is because I origin from a country with 5 mill inhabitants..:-) .
The heart of Jainism is the respect for every living creature in the universe. The Jains believe that all plants and animals (incl humans!) contain living souls, and each soul has the same value. They are vegetarians, and strict Jains do not even eat vegetables on roots like potatoes and onions, because the tiny life forms are injured when the plant is pulled up and because the bulb is seen as a living being.

The temple we visited is in South Mumbai,  not far from the amazing Banganga tank - the oasis in the city that I have told you about before. It was a small temple with statues, flowers and the scent of sandalwood, just off the bustling street with the honking cars and stream of people going back and forth. I was moved by the peace and quiet in there, and I could not help being fascinated by learning about this religion and escpecially their non-violence philosophy and how they live by it. You see, their script states:
  • Do not injure, abuse, oppress, enslave, insult, torment, torture or kill any creature or living being.
So, they told us, that some Jains do not go out after dark- to be sure they do not step on some insects, some do not take the bus, car or wear shoes because then there is a bigger danger that they may (accidently) kill another living creature. Oh, dear readers - are you as fascinated as me? With Christmas and - New year -peace- on- earth wishes-  coming up: why not take a look at Jainism -  maybe you'll be as inspired as Mahatma Ghandi was??