Friday, June 27, 2014

Exploring History

 Since we are still waiting for our apartment to be vacated, we have some extra time on our hands. Most of the Indians we've met work 12 hour days six days a week so they don't have much leisure time but they all agreed that we would enjoy spending time at The Caves. With that powerful recommendation, we set off.


Tucked up in the hills of a national forest are 110 hand-carved Buddhist caves dating back to the 1st century BC when it was a thriving meditation and learning center for this religion. 


You could literally walk anywhere you wanted and touch any part of these ancient sculptures that struck your fancy. Our guide encouraged us to sit on the "sofa" and to make ourselves at home. Done.


More shocking than the unprecedented freedom to investigate such fabulous ancient history was the fact that we saw actual Indian couples by themselves - as in, they were all alone - just the two of them hanging out in a secluded spot. I had to ask our guide why, all of a sudden, couples were everywhere when we never saw any at any other time. Two words: Indian mothers. Couples came here far away from the prying eyes of their Indian mothers who would not approve of such a match. Some dates were apparently going better than others.

The caves were a huge hit. The sea breeze and view at the top was worth all the sweat it took to get us there. Now if our apartment never comes through, we've got another option.


Friday, June 20, 2014

Favorite Question

There is a distinct lack of mingling here between guys and girls. You'll see big groups of guys hanging out doing nothing (except starring at you) but women are always busy going somewhere or doing something. I love this intimate moment I accidentally captured.

Indians are very curious by nature and we get all sorts of questions. One of the men at church approached Ty & I and we had the following conversation:

Stranger: "What kind of marriage do you have?"

Me: "Pardon?"

Stranger: "What kind of marriage do you have? You know, arranged or love."

Me: "Oh! Love - we don't have arranged marriages where we are from."

Stranger: "No??? You not have an arranged marriage? Most people have arranged marriage."

Me: "Where we are from everyone chooses for themselves who they will marry."

Stranger looking very puzzled: "Oh!!! The Church arranges dances for you to meet!!! Very good! You meet at a Church dance!"

Me laughing: "No, we didn't meet at a Church dance. We met at university. We have a love marriage."

Stranger nodding his head because he finally understands: "Ah, yeah-yeah (head bob). You meet at Church university! They arrange for love."

Now that was a hard point to argue since we did meet at BYU so Ty & I laughed and bobbed our heads in agreement.

Chocolate, Please

One of the things we were warned most about before coming here were beggars - particularly children beggars. Over and over we were told not to give anything because they can't keep it but will have to hand it over to the mafia. Thankfully we never see beggars in our area but when we played tourist and went to the Hanging Gardens, I made a few "friends."

Of all the people hounding us, this little girl was impossible to ignore! She tugged on my sleeve and followed me pleading that I spend 500 rupees ($8) for her peacock fan. I really tried to pretend she wasn't there but just look at that face! She kept lowering her price and throwing in extra fans until she put her hands on her hips and declared, "100 rupees for two!" ($1.60) She had such spunk that I laughed and pulled out my camera to take her picture. She forgot all about selling me her fans and started striking poses.

She claims this is her brother but kept making a face and saying she wanted a sister instead of a brother. What she really wanted was chocolate. How anyone would keep chocolate alive in their purse with this heat defies imagination. She settled for a couple of mints and set off after another tourist.

The other big request of the day was for Danielle and me to join Indian people in their family photos. One after another they approached, politely nodded, and beckoned for us to stand by them while someone else snapped away. 

We finally escaped and snuck our way into a secluded corner to snapped our own selfie, slowly made our way back through the beggars, the street hawkers, the car window knockers, and back to our driver for the long ride home. I think we were the ones in need of chocolate!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Grocery Haven

I have found mecca! Hyper City - a grocery shopping haven - exists 45 minutes away conveniently covered with a temporary bamboo awning to block the monsoon rains.

It's along the lines of a super Walmart but it's definitely a place you want to visit. Just the sight of all these aisles full of non-negotiable, reasonably priced, hygienic foods was enough to win the gratitude award for the month.

We told our driver we'd be one hour. At the two hour point he came looking for us. Trying to decide what things are, or where to find items like vinegar (never did discover that), was a real challenge. What in the world is this?!? Anyone know?

It's mango season! But not a single berry of any kind to be found.

Which kind of eggs to choose....quail, duck, double yolked, brown - all come with complimentary bird droppings that you have to soak and scrub off before using.

The cart escalator is sloped and magnetized for your shopping convenience. No hands needed.

I left Ty alone with the food cart for a few minutes and came back to five bags of chips and vanilla ice cream. Somethings will apparently be the same in India!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Church in Mumbai

Sunday we had a driver take us to church. Forty minutes, fifty-seven turns, and over a thousand horn honks later we suddenly stopped in front of this building which turned out to be our little branch.

A really sweet security guard, who is not a member, gets there very early and sets things up. I think his only English is "Hi Sister!" "Hi Brother!" but he's the most welcoming greeter I've ever known.

Church starts at 10:30 am whether the air conditioning is working or not.


Angeli and her family have been members for about 7 months. She has been the primary president for 3 weeks now and has already transformed it. Until she came, primary consisted of the president and her counselor stretching out on the floor for a two hour nap while the children entertained themselves. That was my idea for our next family night ;) 

The six missionaries are the very best the mission has to offer. The area has only had missionaries for one year and they are the only ones in Mumbai. They said all the missionaries want to come to Mumbai - it is the Golden Transfer - and they cannot stop smiling when they tell you how blessed they are to be here. They have 25 investigators just waiting for baptism but the current building is too far away and they can't afford the transportation costs to go to church. In 6 weeks we'll be in our new building right in the hub of the missionary work. And since it will be 5-10 minutes from our house, we'll be able to get there with minimal horn honking.

These are the most reverent children - they never even wiggle but sit quietly on the floor with their arms folded the entire time. Be still my heart! Oh, and did I mention that only 4 of the 9 speak English? 


Church is going to be an incredible experience.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Getting the Skinny

I can't decide whether the traffic problems in Mumbai come from the shear number of vehicles on the road or are caused by the creatively aggressive driving style. Either way I'm happy that most people hire drivers to take them places especially since these drivers come with a perk - insider info!

Some interesting insights I've learned:

Women police or traffic directors cannot work past 5 pm for safety reasons (they are a rare sight even in the daytime).

To encourage evil to avoid you, tie a small fruit offering under the front of your car bumper each Saturday - lord ganesha's special day. People smile and acknowledge they are being superstitious but, hey, have you seen the crazy way they drive?!?


Anyone sleeping or trying to set up shelter anywhere is paying "a local hoodlum" to be there. The same goes for someone who is selling from a cart (they usually rent the cart) or even those who have more permanent sidewalk housing. And those people could then turn around and rent that same space out to someone else for a little bit more and pocket the change.

In the city of Mumbai, 45% of it is slums. There are differing local opinions about whether or not the people who live in the slums are rich or poor since they don't pay taxes and many have satellite TV, air conditioning, and have some mode of transportation. Most non-slum dwellers we've met have very little patience or tolerance for those who are "illegals" (illegally living without proper authority or registration - basically all the slums).

 And lastly, the famous cow-in-the road isn't wandering randomly about. Apparently, if you see a cow, that means there is a temple a few feet away. You can buy some holy grass and risk your life to stand in the street to feed the sacred cows. I'm not sure if that will make my To Do list...

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Flying Fun

The two weeks at home for Danielle's graduation and house packing ended far too fast. "We" decided to carry all of the things we would need for the next 2 years with us on the airplane because the boy scouts taught Ty that all he needs is a good pocket knife and a sleeping bag to survive anywhere in the world. I let him worry about the wisdom of that advice while I tucked away essentials like chocolate chips, pop tarts, tomato paste, mac & cheese, deodorant, and Dove soap in between layers of books and padded the priorities with clothes.

Ty's visa was hand-delivered late Monday night and early Tuesday morning we deposited our 9  65+ lbs suitcases and 5 carry-on bags at the airport ticket counter. It really was a little overwhelming seeing all of those huge bags with "heavy" warnings plastered on every side - especially when we saw the tiny plane bringing us to Seattle.

We had 22 hours of flying ahead of us: SLC to Seattle to Paris to Mumbai. Plenty of time to sleep and enjoy a few movies. Oh, if only! Here we are in London enjoying some delicious Wagamama's.

A two-hour mechanical delay in Seattle domino-ed into a missed flight in Paris. A quick exit from Paris resulted in losing my cell phone and landed us in London for 7 hours while waiting for a flight to Mumbai. A taxi strike in Paris and London trapped us at the airports. We were so exhausted we didn't even care that the media system was broken on the last flight. One of Ty's suitcases wandered off somewhere along the way - probably to hang out with my cell phone - but after 41 hours of travel time we were ecstatic to be collecting the luggage that DID miraculously decide to show up!

After strolling through Indian customs (they really didn't seem at all curious about what was in our massive  8 remaining suitcases), we loaded up two vans and celebrated our victorious arrival with some much needed sleep at the lovely extended-stay Lakeside Marriott. Bless you, down comforter!