Rae
Rae
India 2016
VIEW FINAL REPORT
Rae is spending 6 months in New Delhi, India Read More About Rae →

It’s Mango Season

Hello again!

Goodbye lychee season, hello mango season! I was warned about the deliciousness of mango season for months and months in advance. A few of my coworkers even deemed it the “best part” of summer. Something to make the heat “bearable.” It was hard to wrap my mind around how delicious mangos could be. How would they be any different than other mangos? Here we are. Mango season. It’s unreal. The mangos are so ripe and so juicy and they’re everywhere.

IMG_4332

Like many things abroad, there’s an “Indian way” to eat mangos. It’s quite logical, really. Especially if you’re on the go. Because it’s so hot here all the time mangos are pretty soft.

The typical way to eat mangos here is to cut off the end and squeeze the mango out of the peel. This works great especially when walking around in outdoor markets. I have never seen this happen in the States but maybe it does? Comment below if you have seen this!

Since there are so many mangos here there are multiple ways to eat them. The second way is pureed and put into cubes and then frozen. Kind of like how we make baby food in the States.

The other way to eat mangos is how I like to eat them in the States. Frozen! I usually buy my mangos from Trader Joe’s already cut and frozen but here in India people cut and freeze them themselves.

IMG_4333

Mangos are such a refreshing treat! I will definitely having them everywhere and being able to eat them all the time.

Until next time,

Rae

New Routines

Hello from India!

Since my time in India is winding down (kind of) I have been thinking about what I have learned so far in this experience. It has been amazing so far and I am so thankful for this opportunity. I have grown so much.

I am naturally a positive person which is probably why I have not posted anything too negative or hard about my experience so far. The hard parts are a huge part of my trip too so I am making an effort to talk about them more.

The hardest part of my experience when I first arrived was finding a new routine. I love a good routine. I have a strict during the week routine that I follow. It makes my work days flow smoothly and I am a much happier person because of it. As you can imagine, moving to a foreign country really throws off your routine! And not just your morning routine... ALL OF THEM.

I was so overwhelmed when I first got here that I did not even realize how much this mattered to me. Once I could chill and journal a bit (after the initial sleep deprivation) I realized I needed to find a new routine to make India feel like home. Since India is dramatically different from the United States I realized quickly that my new routine was not going to resemble my former routine at all. A big problem for me was the inability to exercise outside. Those of you who knew me at Belmont know that I religiously woke up at 5:00am everyday to rock climb and ran or did yoga almost every night. It was my way of taking my mind off school and feeling fresh and healthy. The pollution is insane here in India and there is no way to exercise outside and the gyms are well I don’t know how to say this nicely but pretty dirty. :( A gym membership is not a common thing here so there is not a lot of money invested in them.

Here are things that I have implemented to make India feel more like home.

  1. I still wake up at 5:00am even though I do not have a dynamic workout. I do YouTube yoga in my room for an hour to at least keep flexible for climbing when I’m home. And then I respond to emails from the States/Facebook Video with friends and family. Then do work for my side projects. I started taking a few classes over here (online in the States) to hone some technical skills that I didn’t have the chance to work on in college. And honestly, because I can’t stay away from classes and learning.

Something really interesting that I found in the States that I missed in India is running into the same strangers all the time. I know this sounds weird but it is weirdly comforting. The same thing happened to me when I lived in London and I always seem to see the same strangers in New York too.

2. I will admit that I don’t eat Indian food everyday. I did in the beginning when it wasn’t as hot but now that it is consistently 108 or above everyday eating hot and spicy food isn’t my first choice. :) As a result, I eat a lot of Subway. My office is in a food desert so I find it funny that there is even a Subway here but there is! Great news for me!

image2

^ this is what I eat multiple times a week

The funny part about me eating Subway is that the second I walk in the door they start making my sandwich. I always get the same thing: wheat bread, grilled chicken, every vegetable, minimal mustard, salt & pepper – they have perfected it! Even though We can’t communicate (sort of) they are so sweet and it’s nice to see the same people over and over again.

Around 3:30pm or so almost everyday I need to stand up and walk around. Usually this means getting some “fresh” (read: hot) air and some light. Our office doesn’t have any windows...

I usually walk to a cafe down the street and get what they call “cold coffee” over here. It’s kind of like melted ice cream, coffee, and a lot of chocolate. They love Hershey’s!

image1

^ my two most common drinks in India: water and coffee! I meant to take this picture before I drank my coffee but I completely forgot! Whoops!

The guy in the very top corner is who makes me the same coffee almost everyday. We also can’t communicate (except with smiles). I know they think it’s funny that I come in so often! It’s really the only option.

Until next time!

Best,

Rae

Lychee Love

This week has been another crazy one! This week I moved away from my PG and in with a coworker and her family. It has been great so far. They are super welcoming and it’s nice to have people around again.

It rained this week in Delhi which means the weather is hopefully going to start to cool down. Fingers crossed! After the first rain it is officially mango and lychee season!! Before I lived here I had never had a lychee or even heard of them. They are amazing!

A lychee is a tropical fruit that is most likely imported into the United States in fancy grocery stores but here they are super common. There are lychee orchards everywhere. 1kg of lychees costs around 150 rupees which is about $2.31. 1kg should last you a few days but they’re so good that I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t. 😉

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 5.21.41 PM

^ the anatomy of a lychee

The big red balls are the lychee after it is picked from the tree. When I purchase them they are still on the stems. The white ball is the actual fruit and the other part is the pit.

Here is how to eat a lychee:

  1. Peel the outer red layer. It is thick but peels off easily. It’s kind of like if a strawberry had a skin.
  2. The white part is what you eat. It is super sweet and kind of tastes similar to a grape and a strawberry together but much sweeter and not tart at all.
  3. There is nothing to do with the pit, just eat around it.

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 5.21.50 PM

^ lychees in an orchard

Lychees can be eaten many different ways! My favorite way to eat them is with ice cream or on cake. I don’t think my coworker and I have eaten a normal dinner any night this week. We just eat ice cream with lychees on top. I hear mangos are a great addition to this concoction but we haven’t tried it yet.

Anyway, moving on from food. I’m getting hungry!

We’ve been having long power cuts almost every day this week. On Tuesday it was super hot and we had a pretty long power cut. The power kept flickering on and off. Then all of the sudden we heard a pop and a boom. We all looked at the power lines outside our office and sure enough they had caught fire!! Of course I was thinking, we should evacuate but everyone else was super chill about it. Haha. I guess this happens more often than I think. Luckily there are fire extinguishers on every floor. The guys in the office above us put the fire out right away and we all went back to work like normal.

Electric Fire

^ If you look really close you can see the burned wires. This is right outside our building window.

I can’t believe I have already been here for over three months! It feels like the weeks are flying by. In some ways I still feel like I just got to India and in other ways I feel like I have been here forever.

Until next time,

Rae

An exciting week

Hello, it has been awhile! This is going to be a long post.

:)

I didn’t write last week becuase it was just a normal week in the office. Nothing to report, really. I knew I was going on a work trip the next week so I knew there would be a lot to say. Or so I thought.

Two coworkers and I were sent to Ujjain which is an eighteen hour train ride from New Delhi. This was supposed to be a really fun trip becuase the the festival of Kumbh Mela was happening. This festival is one of the most sacred festivals in the Hindu religion and happens every four years at rotating locations. VisionSpring has five vision camps set up at this festival. We were going to visit these. Long story short, I got food poisoning and most likely e.coli on our way there! Definitely an adventure in a foreign country!

Here is how everything went down:

We went to work on Tuesday and left straight from work to head to the train. I had never been on an overnight train before so this was exciting! I can’t say my first overnight train experience was the best :) hopefully my next one will be much better.

We stopped to get some food to go on our way to the train. We were told not to eat the food on the train and didn’t want to risk getting sick. Hahaha... I ordered an indian rice dish and the other girls ordered similar things. We got on the train, hung out, chatted with our neighbors, and ate dinner around 8pm. We chilled for a few more hours and headed to bed around 11pm. I woke up at 2am feeling kind of un-easy. I wondered if it was motion sickness which I have never had before and then tried to fall back asleep but it never really worked. I was gradually feeling worse and worse. I listened to some podcasts and tried to forget about it. The train was not super smooth and moving so I really did think it could be motion sickness.

At about 6:30am I knew I was going to throw up. I crawled out of my bunk and headed to the bathroom. The funny thing about train bathrooms in India is that everything just goes straight out the bottom of the train and onto the tracks. Hahaha... I threw up 3 times and felt a bit better.

Then for the next several hours... until 12:45pm I tried to rest and keep my mind off of what was happening but I still had to get up every so often to throw up again. I was so happy to be off of that train. At this point I really still thought it was motion sickness and maybe something to do with the food.

When we arrived at the station there were about a million people around. We found an auto as fast as we could and headed to our hotel. I proceeded to throw up again in the lobby (ugh) and again in our room. Finally I was able to take a shower and fall asleep. The other girls went to the camps. I am so sad I did not get to go.

For the next two days I laid in bed and went through many different symptoms of food poisoning/e.coli. I will spare you the details. :)

I was hoping to be able to post a bunch of really great camp pics so you guys could see our work in the wild but unfortunately that did not happen. I didn’t get to see any of the camps. On the morning we were heading back to Delhi we walked by the water and I took a few pics. The camps don’t start until the late afternoon and then go into the very early morning becuase of the heat.

Hopefully I will have a more upbeat and happy post next week! I am happy to say I am on the mend and feeling much better!

Rae

image1

image2

^ this is the holy water that everyone comes to bathe in for Kumbh Mela

I can’t believe it is already May!

Time has flown! I feel like I just arrived in India. The last ninety days have felt long but the weeks and months have flown by.

This month I am focusing on exploring Delhi. I know that sounds funny because I live here but since I work six days a week, get home after dark, and am always working on a project or class I don’t have much time to explore. My co-workers love to take weekend trips so we are always planning a new city to see outside of Delhi. I am trying to explore a new place in Delhi every Sunday. Because of this I might start posting about the previous week on Mondays. We’ll see.

Yesterday my co-worker Erika and I planned a full day of exploration in 115 degree weather.

We started the day at the National Gallery of Modern Art. The museum was huge and we were there for three hours. While I enjoy the principals of traditional Indian art, I much prefer more modern art. There was a ton of traditional and modern art at the museum which was awesome. We were strictly forbidden (I’m talking guards following you around while you “admire the art”) from taking pictures in the museum so I can’t show you my favorites but if you’re ever in Delhi it is worth a visit.

Next we went to lunch at Yo Tibet. Erika and I both love Tibetan food. After a quick stop for soup and tons of water we headed over to Haus Kaus Village. There are really unique shops here and places to eat. I hear it is a pretty happening place at night but I’ve only been during the day.

To end the night we headed back towards where I live and saw The Jungle Book in 3D. It was so good! I haven’t seen a kids movie since I was a nanny many years ago so I really enjoyed it. Movie theaters are  extremely secure in India. You have to walk through two metal detectors to enter and then empty out your bag or purse to have the contents inspected. The “no outside food” rule is also taken very seriously. For example, I had a pack of gum in my purse with two pieces left and they made me put it in a locker for the duration of the movie. They said I could buy more when I was inside. Hahaha...

Until next time,

Rae

^ we wish these were ours!

^ an alley in the village

Surprise Party

My birthday was on Wednesday and because I’m abroad I didn’t expect much of a celebration. It should be noted though, that I love birthdays! If I was in the States I would either celebrate with a bunch of friends or fly home and hang out with Kansas City friends.

Last weekend I went to Jaipur with a friend and had a lot of fun. I planned that trip to be sort of a birthday treat to myself that, and booking a couple of trips this summer to escape the Delhi heat. It’s only (only being the key word here, becuase it will get so. much. worse. from here on out) 108 here right now but I already feel like a sloth crawling through air made of peanut butter.

I have mentioned this before but my family has a family friend in Delhi thanks to my dad doing business over here when I was a kid. (Thanks for literally paving the way for me to live in India, dad!) He called on Saturday to see if I could come over on Wednesday for dinner and music with his family. Because there is literally nothing to do in Delhi except go to the mall people have these kind of get togethers all the time so I didn’t think anything of it. I didn’t mention that Wednesday was also my birthday because I felt awkward polluting their family plans with my birthday. Haha… little did I know they were planning the “get together” for me and were in cahoots with my parents.

I Ubered to their house on Wednesday night after work and arrived to a decorated house and a ready-to-celebrate family! I was SO surprised! Apparently they had written down my birthday when it had come up when I met them earlier in my stay.

It was a huge celebration! It started with cake before dinner because there is no other way to party, right?! They surprise Skyped my parents in which was so sweet. My parents loved it. You can see them on the phone I am holding in the picture below. After cake there was music and dancing. One of the family members is a great singer and one is a dance instructor so I basically had a private professional show. 😉 And then dinner. In India dinner means you have to have at least three servings of everything so I learned early to start small with my portions, like very small. After dinner we chilled on the rooftop terrace. Most homes in India have rooftop terraces which I love! I am sure they are wonderful in the spring and fall but right now they are only enjoyable at night when the temperature drops to the mid-70s. After some terrace chilling we had ice cream. It was a really tasty Indian flavor that I can’t remember the name of but it was so good.

The party ended late, around 11:30pm, as all Indian parties do. It was a blast and I am so thankful to have them here. They make India feel more like home and I know I have a whole family of people to hang out with and help me when I need it.

Best,

Rae

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 3.39.42 PM

A Weekend in Jaipur

Hello, it’s been awhile! I typically try to write on Thursday but last week was pretty normal so I did not have much to say and I knew I was leaving for the weekend and would have much more interesting things to report after the weekend. So, here it is!

Last week: My day-to-day is pretty normal. I get up at the same time everyday, work on personal projects for three hours, and head to work. Last week was just the same the only difference was the weather. It’s already 108 degrees here in New Delhi which makes for excessive water intake and counting down the calendar days until it cools down. I knew the hot weather would be pretty hard on me being snow is my absolute favorite and I love to be cold. But there was really no way to prepare for this part.

Something I won’t ever get used to is the pollution. Before moving to New Delhi everyone warned me about the food and how I should stockpile Imodium and Pepto-Bismol but surprisingly, what has made me really sick is the thick air and the pollution. I have developed this terrible cough that other expats have dubbed “the Delhi cough” it’s pretty constant and sounds like I have been smoking for years.

If you have a weak stomach skip this part…

Something I was really not prepared for is… If you blow your nose in Delhi it is basically just dirt and who knows what else. :) In addition, nosebleeds are a real thing here. After months and months of breathing in polluted air when you are not accustomed to it you might develop random nosebleeds, which I did. This happens a couple times a week usually at the most inconvenient and hilarious times. The hilariousness is escalated because when it happens I am usually around people I can’t communicate with so I can’t explain what is going on and they’re pretty freaked out. For example, this has happened while buying grapes at the market, in the back of an Uber, during a meeting at work, and while dying fabric this past weekend. It happens all of the sudden blood starts streaming down my face, mid-sentence usually when my hands are full and I can’t get to a Kleenax.

Okay, gross part over. I debated including that but I am not the only one that it happens to so if you move to Delhi you’ve been warned. I wish I would have known!

This weekend one of my roommates and I escaped to Jaipur or PINK CITY! Jaipur was on my list of places I really wanted to visit and it was as amazing as I imagined. Everything actually is painted pink! We rented a car and driver to drive us to Jaipur super early Friday morning. This sounds fancy but renting a car and driver for an almost six hour road trip in India only costs $14 USD total and is basically the same price as the non A/C busses. We stayed in an Airbnb (they are much much nicer and cheaper than hotels in India) with the sweetest family. They sent their personal driver (everyone has these here) to pick us up from our car’s drop point and take us to where we were staying. We dropped our bags and set out on an adventure. We visited City Palace, Hawa Mahal, did a little street shopping, and then had dinner at Bar Palladio which was delicious! One of my favorite parts of traveling is eating at new restaurants!

The second day we rented a driver for the entire day and visited Amber Fort which was super cool. Probably my favorite fort in India so far. We then went to the Anokhi Museum of Hand Block Print, did some shopping (blue pottery is huge in Jaipur), and ended the day watching the sunset at Nahargarh Fort which has twelve identical rooms for twelve wives that lived there. It is on top of a huge hill and you can see the entire city.

The next two days we took a hand block printing class in Bagru. Hand block printing began in Bagru and ever since I studied textiles in high school and again during my associate’s degree I have wanted to take a class to learn the history of printing with vegetable dyes. I’m so glad I got the chance. 

Since this post is getting long I will post a separate post on block printing.

Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 11.42.33 PM

Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 11.48.09 PM

Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 11.48.42 PM

Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 11.43.55 PM

Until next time,
Rae

See to Learn

We have had another exciting week here at VisionSpring. Our kids program has been ramping up and we have already broken even! This initiative partners with local schools to provide eye screenings and then eyeglasses free to children. If a child does not need eyeglasses (ultimately what we hope for!) they receive a pair of sunglasses instead. It is so fun watching the kids pick out their new eyeglasses/sunglasses and leave excited and more knowledgable about healthy eye care!

Here is how the program works:

A representative from VisionSpring visits a local school and gives a PowerPoint presentation on the importance of eye care to the students and faculty. Most of these students have never had the chance to get their eyes tested and are unfamiliar with healthy eye care. A big aim of the presentation is to get students excited about coming to get their eyes tested!

After the presentation each student is given a voucher for free eye testing and a free pair of eyeglasses or sunglasses. VisionSpring always offers free eye testing but never offers free eyeglasses. This program is the only exception.

Above is a little boy from a nearby school getting his eyes tested! He was very excited to redeem his voucher.

Above is a group of little boys who came in to get their eyes tested after school. They were proud of their vouchers and all walked out with a cool pair of sunglasses! The sun is so bright in New Delhi that sunglasses are a must. It is sunny most of the time and the temperature has already reached 108 degrees!

As part of the Kids Access Program we offer free eye testing to parents and teachers of the students. We have found that if kids have role models wearing eyeglasses they will want to wear theirs too. Parents and teachers receive 40% off their new frames as part of the program.

Until next week,

Rae

This week has been crazy busy! After my last post we had just celebrated the Indian holiday of Holi. We had Thursday and Friday off work so my coworker Erika and I flew to Kerala which is a state the southern part of India. Before this trip I had never traveled to southern India. It is very different from the north. Especially Kerala.

We traveled around to three cities in five days while we were in Kerala. We flew into Kochi, then went to Munnar, and then to Alleppey.

Kerala is the most educated state in India. They don’t speak Hindi like in the north. They have their own language but mostly communicate with foreigners in English. We landed in Kerala at night and woke up to palm trees which was an awesome surprise! The first day in Kerala we rented a rickshaw and driver for three hours. He had grown up in Kochi and had stories for each spot. In the evening we went to see a cultural dance which was super cool. We got to see them doing all the makeup beforehand and it takes a minimum of 2 hours for each person to do their makeup for a 45 minute show.

We spent the night in Kochi again and then got up at 5am to catch a rickshaw to the bus station to take a bus eight hour bus to Munnar. We were only able to spend one night in Munnar but it was worth it. Munnar is where a lot of the tea gardens are in southern India (there are many in the north as well) and they are breathtaking! It is impossible to get a photo that does them any justice. We slept at a resort built into the side of a mountain for only $11 USD a night. That would never happen in the States! :)

The next morning we woke up at 5am to catch another rickshaw and bus to Alleppey. We arrived at Alleppey in time for a beach sunset on Easter Sunday. Kerala is the most (basically only) Christian/Catholic state in India and they are very festive for Easter so it was a fun time to visit.

The next morning we woke up at 5:30am (got to sleep in!) and took a houseboat ride on the backwaters which is really what Alleppey is known for. It was beautiful and I’m so glad we did it.

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 2.27.09 PM

The next day we slept in and then took a train back to Kochi and then flew back to Delhi. This week continued to be busy becuase our corporate team was in town from New York so we did a lot of things with them and had a ton of fun. We’re moving into the 2nd quarter after surpassing all of our 1st quarter goals so things are going well!

I am beginning work on our new POS system which will connect our retail stores to our headquarters in Delhi. I am super excited about this! I love implementing systems and streamlining processes. :)

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 2.27.26 PM

Best,

Rae

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 3.08.25 PM

Hello from India and Happy Spring! This week we celebrated the festival of Holi. Holi is the India’s festival of colors and is celebrated every year to mark the first day of spring! I have dreamed of celebrating this beautiful festival in India long before I knew I would be living here. The Color Run which we have in the States is inspired by this festival.

Becuase Holi is such a big deal in India we celebrated on Wednesday (yesterday) on my office rooftop with lots of colors, water balloons, and water guns filled with bright colors! We ended the day with Chinese takeout. Today, Thursday, is true Holi although it is celebrated basically the entire week the festivals and colors are the most crazy today. I celebrated again today with some of my roommates and neighbors in the society I live in. I had to hurry home though because I am catching a flight to south India for the rest of the weekend.

Holi can be celebrated in any way you want! Some people wear crazy clown hair, masks, colorful tassels, and but everyone is for sure painted in bright colors! There are also music and art festivals that accompany this time. They are all over the city and are pretty cheap to attend. The crowds are filled with color and you can’t see much except lots of colors!

The colors are the the gift of Holi that keeps on giving becuase they colors don’t wash off in the shower completely. As I type this my arms are stained green and purple and there is some yellow still in my hair that won’t come out. It was a great celebration and a really unique way to welcome in spring!

Until next time,

Rae