Friday, 31 May 2013

Behind the Beautiful Forevers

So, I went to the NGO office for the last time before the summer. The heat and humitidy is almost unbearable now, and mixed with the smell from sewage I was leaving the office quite quickly - hurrying through the dark alleyways. Suddenly there were two goats in front of me, almost blocking the alleyway - like a goat gathering of some sort. A black and a white, with flies all around, chewing on something and staring at me.
Before I even could start to push my way through, I heard giggle and someone shouting: - maybe they think you are the third goat only, Miss teacher? The smiling kids appeared from a doorway, and I recognized the one boy from my class. He was laughing and laughing. Aha! I started to laugh too! What a funny thing!

You see, dear reader, some months ago, we had read the fairytale about the 3 Billy goats and the scary Troll (Bukkene Bruse) and that was what he remembered! In an instant of a moment! So we couldn't stop laughing. There we were - in a smelly dark slum path - remembering the funny 3 fairytale goats who happily bounched up a bright green and flowery hillside! Contrasts?!
In contrast to the green hillside....

... where the 3 Billy goats lived happily ever after.... 
Back home I was still amazed by that moment. I sat down to read the online news from Europe. Of course I couldn't concentrate - on the article about the shopping mall who will charge their costumers for parking, the piece about getting in bikini-shape within 4 weeks. It all seemed unreal - and I could only think about the goats and the giggling kids... And how their voices are never heard and how the weirdest unimportant voices are heard... Contrasts!

If you should want to hear their voices? And I have mentioned this book before: Read Behind The Beautiful Forevers!  It is from the area where the NGO works. The goats are there, Priyanka is there and the other giggling kids are there - behind the beautiful hotels, the office buildings, the colorful gardens, the swimming pools, the spa and the tip top restaurants.
... a must-read ...
Fancy new buildings.. 
.. and the not so fancy behind...
Yes, I do look forward to go to my home country/-ies for summer holiday.  I havent been back there for a year. Still the expatlife in India, including the kids in the slum, has got under my skin now- so maybe I will see things differently back home? I don't know. What I do know is that some of the last things I will see through the small airplane window, before my plane takes off,  is the tall classy hotels and then the areas behind them, and my mind will go to the people who live there.

Bye bye from Mumbai! 
Because, after all, it is all about the people isn't it?

Have a wonderful weekend dear reader! Enjoy the moment! 

Monday, 27 May 2013

Dining indoor inside in Mumbai

Oh, dear reader - India has taken my relatively limited home-delivery experience to a whole new level! Well, it happened in Norway too: especially on rainy/snowy/icy/windy/- days - when staying inside was too tempting, and the fridge was too empty, and-what-will-we-have-for-dinner? So- we would call- usually for a pizza - delivered through rain and snow to our doorstep within an hour.

Please do not let me sound like a spoiled brat now, but here in India  I have called homedelivery a few times lately - because it was just tooooo hot outside! There! I've said it. Yes, yes, I do remember my frantic search for outdoor outside restaurants in Mumbai, but hey-  that was like 15 degrees ago! And I haven't seen a raindrop in 8-eight months. Honestly! Eight months, guys! And it is really hot.

No, no, I am not complaining, and we haven't stopped going to restaurants, but some days - oh how wonderful it is - just to call home delivery! It is really one of the amazing things in India- you can have anything delivered at your doorstep- anytime! And my point is: that includes also the most delicious dinner dishes - signed, sealed & delivered at your very doorstep. But what to choose? Pizza ( half an hour delivery time in India! ) or other Italian? Butter chicken & Nan or other Indian dishes from Zitar or maybe from Great Punjab? Or Chinese, Asian, Mexican or multi-cuisine?  You can find an overview of home delivery restaurants on zomato

Doesn't it sound great? It is! Talking to expats who are leaving Mumbai for good - they say that the home delivery service and the tailors are something they will miss when they leave India. So, yes, the summer parties and sad farewells are still on, the heat is on, and the monsoon time is almost here..   Not a drop of rain in 8 months... Wonder what it looks like...:-) :-)

Have a wonderful start of the week, dear reader! Ta ta from Mumbai!

Not any Greek-home-deliveries in sight - this is from Goa:-) 

Still think I prefer dining outside - and with the sea&sunset:-)
Doesn't get better than that!? 

Saturday, 25 May 2013


-Is it ready-made or tailor-made? She gently touches my blouse, trying to figure it out. She is looking at the fabric, looking at me- a random meeting with a woman I have never seen before, but still she is there: admiring my blouse: needs to know ... - Ah, hm - it is ready made, I confess.. - Nice, eh? She nods her head a bit in the way they do here in India, smiles a bit and walks off - can't really say if she liked my blouse in the end or not.

Oh, dear reader, these questions that pop up here in India.. - about things that were never an issue in my pre-expat-Indian-life..To tan or detan?- for example. And then if your clothes are ready made or not? I giggle by the idea of asking my friends and family in Europe if their clothes are ready-made or tailor made? Ha ha - they will send me the weirdest looks, I guarantee you!

I have already shared with you my fascination for the tailors. They do really good work, and I have to admit: that more and more of our clothes are tailor-made.. We have this amazing tailor who really does wonders - he can make any kind of jeans, trousers, shorts, blouses, shirts, dresses, skirts and suits. He can copy my favorite piece of clothing or work on an idea I have - and make something real out of it.

In addition to him, I have also discovered a wonderful tailor, living quite close to our home: she has a few sewing machines in a rather shabby looking hut, but she creates the most wonderful outfits, and can also transform a kind of creative idea I have -into a wonderful piece of clothing. Blouses, kurtas, salwaar kameez, dresses, skirts, sarees and trousers- you name it and she will make them. And how fun it is, to something in your favorite color, pick the fabric, decorate it as you like, and have it in your size only! And you just know that you will wear that outfit again and again and again- because it is just perfect! Noooope, dear reader, I don't think I will wear to much ready-made after this....

We also brought most of our visitors to our tailor(s), and some of them ended up with way more clothes than they originally had planned to order. But hey- what's not to love about it? Having cheap quality clothes made (and designed by yourself if you like)  - in your size only? One of a kind, dear reader, one of a kind!

The stylish backpacker freshening up his collection:-)
Pick and choose any fabric you like! 
You can have anything made- also Indian outfits-
bring out your inner Diva in a blinking Saree or Salwaar Kameez! 
Good evening from Mumbai!

Sunday, 19 May 2013

A taste of Greek summer: Yemista - recipe

Yemista is for me the ultimate taste of Greek Summer! Of those lazy summer days...  - Coming home from the beach  - all sweaty and full of sand, sun and salt water. Jumping in the shower, and then sitting down at the balcony to eat - those wonderful yemista with some feta cheese, olives and a chilled glass of wine...and the sunset..

So, how would it be like to make and eat Yemista here in India? Ah- dear reader - we loved it! I couldn't find those big, juicy red tomatoes we have in Greece, but it worked well with the ones I found. We use peppers and tomatoes for our dish. So, today I have a taste of my Greek Summer for you, dear reader. We make them with rice only, so also great for vegetarians. This is how we do it:

YEMISTA - (stuffed peppers & tomatoes
You need:

8-10 green peppers
6-8 tomatoes
3 dl rice
4 onions, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, chopped
(1/2 leek - if you want to)
dill, spearmint, salt, pepper
olive oil, water, some lemon juice

You do: 
Clean the vegetables and remove the seeds of the peppers. Cut off the tops of the vegetables (keep them) and scoop out the flesh of the tomatoes. Cut it into small pieces, and leave in a bowl. Place the vegetables in a baking pan and do the filling: In a pan with some olive oil - fry the garlic and onion - and after a while add the tomato flesh, the rice and the spices. Add 1 cup of water and let simmer for 5 minutes. Put the filling in the vegetables (3/4 full) and add the tops. 
Then sprinkle over some olive oil, salt and pepper, and add 1-2 cups of water in the pan. Bake in oven for about 30-45 minutes at 180-200'C. As you can see, I also bake a couple of eggplants with my Yemista - I will tell you about that delicious dish another time.. 

I really like my Yemista when they are not too hot, and together with some feta cheese: just yoummie!  So, that is a moment I really enjoy: sitting on the balcony, watching the sunset and enjoying those tasty Yemista! I hope you like them too, dear reader! Good evening from Mumbai!
A taste of Greek summer, with Yemista, some salad and the sea & the sunset :-) 

Friday, 17 May 2013

Happy 17 May - poolside!

17 May is Norway's National Day. It is an official flag day and public holidaya joyful celebration: happy kids, national costumes, flags, speeches, music, parades, good food and drinks. And all that to celebrate that in 1814 the constitution of Norway was made. In 1814 Norway had been in union with Denmark for over 400 years. However, as a part of the peace-plan after the Napoleon wars, Norway was given to Sweden, and stayed in a union with them until 1905, and then became an independent country. We still celebrate 17 of May as our National Day.

So here we are in India, thousands of miles away from Norway, with our 17 of May history, spirit and tradition. And what do we do? We celebrate of course! Poolside! We wear summer clothes ( we have 40 degrees Celsius...) and after the parade ( with Jens Book-Jenssen's Rødt, Hvitt og Blått) in between the palms, we jump in the swimming pool, but other than that: just like home! Maybe even a bit more intense, - in a way - we are far away from home... Well, we:
...have a parade... 
...jump in the pool after the parade...
...sing the National Anthem... delicious barbeque food..
...and have some cake..
The Norwegian Constitution was inspired by America's declaration of independence in 1776, the French Revolution in 1789, the Swedish polity of 1809 and the Spanish Constitution of 1812 and was among Europe's most radical constitutions at the time. 

I had a wonderful day dear reader - with my fellow countrymen- celebrating my home country:-) Happy birthday Norway:-)

I wish you a great weekend and stay tuned:-)

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

My Mary Murphy Moment

So there I was, placed on a plastic chair behind a desk, in company with the 2 other jugdes: a drawing teacher and a social worker. Our task was given to us: we should decide who should win (and come 2' and 3') in the dancing competition we had at the NGO summer party. -You must take notes, the drawing teacher instructed me, pointing at the paper in front of me - to decide who is the best!  I nodded, sensing already that this was going to a hard task to complete... What if I wanted them all to win? 

And on stage they went, an endless stream of excited girls and boys in their best clothes. Shiny colorful clothes. Some of the kids looked serious but most were sooo cheerful - giggling their way through the dance. Modern dance and traditional dance. Dances from a long row of Bollywood films. Slow rhythms and quick rhythms. 6 year olds and 17 year olds. So much laughter and happiness! And the crowd went crazy eeevery time: applauding, singing, cheering, standing up and dancing along! A very enthusiastic audience and a very happy expat! And there was my Mary Murphy moment - You know- The So You Think You Can Dance - judge, known for regularly holding up her hands and screaming enthusiastically as a form of praise, along with giggling constantly during performances she enjoys. I was sooooo there, dear reader! And as I had suspected: I just loved every single performance, every dance and every single child who just gave it all.

See what I mean? And I sighed to my co- judges: - Oh, it is going to be so hard to decide, they are so different. Maybe we can give them all a small award? Hopeless, I know, but you see, they were all so great! How to choose? - You must pick a winner. They expect that. And so we did, but by the sound of it, none of the contestants will give up their dance passion just because they didn't win. Not a chance. 

They still do think they can dance, and then so do I! 

Good evening from Mumbai dear reader! 

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Sweet summer parties and sad goodbyes

Ok, dear reader- buckle up - here we go again! I have another -packed with emotions - Mumbai tale for you. Because that is what it is about today! The summer parties are lining up, and they all come with a bitter - sweet taste - because they do include a goodbye-element of some sort, in addition to being a party. (A social gathering especially for pleasure or amusement). And the farewells are just not my favorite part! But - as we are closing up on the summer, whether I like it or not - some friends are leaving Mumbai. For good. Remember my Christmas Farewell Tale? Well, same thing all over again! Saturday I went to a party for a friend, a fellow curious explorer soul. It is sad, knowing that she left on a one-way ticket out of Mumbai. But I am glad I got to know her at all, though! That's the spirit right?

Today, another summer party was up, at the NGO where I work as a volunteer. We gathered in the community house in the slumhut area. We had all dressed up- after all it is a party, - we had speeches, activities, games and competitions in addition to juice & snacks and just socializing. We were all in a party-kind-of -mood, talking and laughing and of course with Bollywood music on the speakers.
Patiently waiting for the programme to start:-) 

Homemade vase and flower for The Volunteer (also known as The Very Emotional Foreigner

Confused expat in the craft group

Intense concentration during drawing competition 

A-ha! That was how it was suppose to look like... 
So, for a very long time, the party was in a party mood, and so was I! We were chatting and laughing, and talking about all the fun stuff we were going to do. There were dancing ( I'll tell you more about that another day) I was having a wonderful time, great party! But, oh dear reader, - along came the goodbye-element. Because even though I will go to the office, our classes will take summer holiday from next week, so no more classes before August. Argh! That moment, that moment when they realize and I realize that we will not see each other again before August! Nooooo! They gather around me. We take pictures. More pictures. They stare at me- and in a blink of a moment the party-mood is gone. I swallow. They hug me, I hug them and I hear their declarations (while fighting a growing urge to break down and cry):  I will really miss you! Really really miss you! Don't go! You promise to come back? Sure, promise?Come back, ok?  

I will. Of course I will. And as I head home in the car, my emotions find their way. Tears dripping down at the handmade vase and the flower they gave me. Oh, these parties! So full of joy, and yet these farewells..! The ups and downs. I am happy they are all part of my life: my friends. But I really dislike the farewells!

Well, don't say I didn't warn you...  - yet another emotional day in Mumbai...!:-)

I hope you had a good day today, dear reader! I did, believe me - in a strange sort of way..

Stay tuned:-)

Friday, 10 May 2013

My fear of drowning my little grey ones- in expat cocktails

Dear reader,
When I decided to replace my busy full-time-work-life in Norway with expatwife-and-mum in India,  it meant moving faaaaaar out of my comfort sone. Geographically yes,  - and mentally. In addition to worry about the rest of the family and how the move and all practical issues would be, I was having a series of discussions with myself: What was I going to do there? Was I going to be bored? Was I going to loose all (oh, you have no idea:-) my little grey brain cells along the way? Was I only going to stroll around from lunches to cocktail parties all day long? And then, what? What if this and what if that?  

Well, I concluded my own discussions: I am going to make the most of it! Arriving Mumbai,  I signed up for all activities available plus making some of my own. 10 months down the Indian expat road,  I look back and see that many of the activities has kind of flaked off... And regarding the little grey ones -I discovered the perfect tool! You see- in between lunches, cocktail parties (of course!), NGO work, writing, book club, explorer's group and yoga - I found the time to do some online courses - and they were great! My concern for the future fate of the little grey ones faded away like clouds before the sun when I started to bury my head into articles, books and homework. I am sure my little grey were ecstatic!  

For example, in addition to actually perform yoga physically, (felt kind of an obligation to join - after all we are in the Motherland of yoga itself..) I followed an online course about yoga. What a revelation! For me it was like completing the puzzle Yoga as I was diving into yoga and meditation philosophy and history. As yoga means union (of mind, body and spirit), the combination of physical strength asana and breathing pranayams is the very essence. So, I was reading about how Gandhi lived with ahimsa - non-violence, I learned about santosha: to be content with what you have and not be frustrated about what you don't have. I focused on not to do the pose but to be in it - " just sit in it" and about intent why am I doing this and how to go for what I need most! I learned 16 poses and about how they are connected to 10 yoga commitments. You can also skype with your teacher -  I admit: it can be a bit weird at first - you are in your home and there she appears - in the computer. So, you try to be the mountain- doing your pose, balancing, focusing - she is watching and you hear yourself chanting like mad: "be- the- mountain!-be-the-mountain!-be-the-mountain!"

River of Information - is another course I took. It was about organizing websites you access often and learning how to include them in a personal dashboard. We built up our own dashboard - which I use daily now - very useful. Probably the course which had an immediate effect on my expatlife  -.was the course I took about blogging! When? Well, if you have noticed when I started blogging - that was when! Tatarata! : the direct result is this blog!

So, to other expats out there - are you concerned your little grey ones might be in danger? Either the answer is yes or no, have a look at all the amazing courses you can take. In addition to new knowlegde, you get a nice looking diploma after completing each course:-):-)

 I am sure there are lots of course providers out there. I was inspired by The American School of Bombay and found my courses at ASB Online Academy. You can check out their courses here.

Have a lovely weekend dear reader! Cheers:-)

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Hakka noodles - recipe

As a rather new expat to Mumbai our cuisine is a mix of culinary tradition and new inspiration. Wow! That sounded great eh? - Well, in other words: a little bit of everything! 

Still, with our teenagers, some dishes are more popular than others, and among them: Noodles.Usually there are no leftovers when we have this for dinner, and it is not too difficult to prepare either (the work is really to chop the vegetables). This is how we do it:

Hakka Noodles   
You need:
1-1 1/2 bags of hakka noodles (we use the Veg type)
2-4 chicken breasts
6 spring onions
1 onion
1 cup of green peas (frozen is fine)
½ cup of sweet corn
1 cup of cabbage
1 carrot
salt, pepper, chili powder (we use ½ tsp)
Tip: You can also add some cashew nuts

You do:
Chop all the vegetables in to small pieces. Cut the chicken in small cubes.
In a pan prepare the noodles as shown on the bag. Set aside.
In another pan on low heat: add some oil and brown lightly the onions. Add the chicken cubes and then the chopped vegetables. Add the cashew nuts and the boiled noodles. And then: Enjoy!

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Our Library is growing..

Thidwick The Big-Harted Moose, Mr. Nonsense, Little Miss Twins, Sophie on Safari, Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian, The Runaway Racehorse, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!, I Wish I Had Duck Feet, I'll teach My Dog 100 words....  

Ha, ha, ha, Raj can't stop laughing: teach my dog 100 words!? That is the craziest thing he has ever heard - Dogs don't talk, do they?! But I can see he is curious - he might borrow exactly that book: I'll teach My Dog 100 words! And Clara might go for The Runaway Horse, she is carefully looking through the pages.. Hm, or Sophie on Safari- that one looks fun too?!  
Hm... Which one to choose? And this impressed me: - all the 25 kids today went off with 1 or 2 books!They of course all wanted one of the new books, and the funny-looking ones were most popular..:-) Of course!
Yes, dear reader, we are talking about books. Our tiny, little library is growing bigger - just as I wanted it to! Today I brought more books, some donated and some bought, and now we have games there too. Flash cards, letter games, puzzles. And the children show up, week after week, even though it is steaming hot in Mumbai and even though they have summer vacation from their ordinary school. They are there, greeting me with big smiles, patiently waiting for the class to start. And how I loved it today - when the smiles got bigger and bigger - as they discovered the books - some of the new and so shiny! They couldn't believe they would be the first ones to read them!
Summer vacation and the kids are running to the classes!
More homework, more pupils ( they bring along
 a friend, neighbor or a cousin) , and more books to read- yeah!!! 
A kind of a chaotic moment, when they all want to check out the newest additions to our library:-) 
And after class, as I walk through the narrow dark alleyways, smiling goodbye to the people, the emotions overwhelm me. Thinking about the book Oh, The Places You'll Go! and how Bhakti was holding on to it- she hardly had time to say goodbye - she was so occupied with the book- couldn't wait to start reading it! I walk into the sunshine, and drive away in the AC car- but my mind is still left back there. The eager-to-learn-pupils, the questions, the enthusiasm, their laughter when we repeated the head-shoulder-knees and toes dance - which we learned when the backpackers were visiting. You can, by the way,  read about their visit to my NGO on my cousin's blog - and - follow their post-Mumbai Indian adventures here.

PS: if you want to sponsor a child - you can!:-)  For low-income families like these, that could mean that they can keep their child in school, and not having to put her/ him into work. And that could be life changing.. It will only cost you around 25 Euros a month.... Have a look here.   

Bye bye from Mumbai! 

Sunday, 5 May 2013

A wedding in India

Dear reader,
My own wedding was a true Big Fat Greek weeding. Hundreds of guests, tons of food, live music, dancing - and all of it just by the edge of the Aegean Sea. And do not think that the party ended when The Greek and I waved the cheering ecstatic crowd goodbye (to go honeymooning). Oh no! They kept the party going, dancing and singing all night song, leaving behind eternal stories like when my own late beloved grandfather and auntie Despina owned the dance floor in the most hilarious dance show ever! Still today, after almost 20 years,  when we meet up with family and friends in other people's weddings they whisper to us: - Nice wedding this once- but nothing compared to yours'. My God what a night!

Last year we were invited to our first wedding in India. It was such a pleasure to attend the wonderful Buddhist ceremony, filled with flowers, symbols, emotions and joy. We were so grateful to be a part of their moment. And this weekend- we had a whole family outing - to a dear friend's wedding! A Hindu wedding.

After entering through a doorway draped in curtains in different shades of pink, we found ourselves placed in chairs in from of a heavily decorated stage. I had been told that Hindu weddings can go on for days, and that it can be quite different from place to place and from family to family. So many steps, so many things happening one after the other: symbolism, colors, flowers. or even better, let me show you:

The stage was filled with ladies in colorful sarees, and they were performing a puja. After a while, we were given a handful of colored rice and we all went up on the stage- to throw it on the couple. We were told not to throw all the rice all at once, because it had to last for 7-seven - throws! That was a lot of fun!
For good luck they said as to why the lemon was on the knife:-) 
Blessings and a very joyful bride and groom...
Could have something to do with The Greek cheering from the sideline:-) 
We got bindis on the forehead and were given red roses and sweets.
The ceremony took place on the stage.

Blessings. See the wonderful fresh flowers?:-) 
Together in the heart:-)  
So, while we were sitting there, following the ceremony on stage, we noticed that people around us were walking to and fro, back and forth. Some were coming over to chat with us, some were going out. Some people left, and some new came in. We were offered water and juice, and it was like the party was already on. We are thankful to our friends who invited us! A memorable and exotic experience!

And since I started this post in Greece, let me finish with some greetings to our family and friends. Today is Easter Sunday in Greece, and I suspect they are all out celebrating now: Lamb souvla, music and dance! Way to party Greece, way to party! We are with you in our hearts and minds!

Good evening from Mumbai!


Friday, 3 May 2013

And then the backpackers left Mumbai

Dear reader,
I can not believe it, but it has been two whole weeks since the backpackers came to Mumbai! They came to India for the first time and I have had wonderful, busy and exiting days following and sharing their welcome-to-incredible-India-impressions. I must say that I have enjoyed big time their genuine interest, curiosity, enthusiasm and positivism. It's so contagious...:-)

Despite the steeeeaming heat of Mumbai theese days, they have courageously been touring and sightseeing all over! They have been to slum areas and fishing villages. They have seen temples and tombs, shopping malls, first class cinema, luxury hotels and clubs. They have met the kids in the slumhut where I work, dined at Leopolds and been at the Gateway of India. Despite dripping of sweat, they have been strolling around in 40 degrees - eager to explore, to see and learn as much as possible. Very impressive and quite inspiring!

Where they are now? Well, you might remember? -  They were planning, at least a bit, where to go next, and they are on their way to other parts of India. You can follow their adventures on my cousin's blog.
Back to everyday life in Mumbai - the backpackers have left the city:-) 
So, our guestroom is empty again. It is back to everyday life here in Mumbai. The weekend is coming up, and what are we up to? Actually, we have an exiting weekend ahead - going to a wedding!
So, stay tuned!