Birthday Shenanigans!

Kind of late to be talking about my birthday, I know, but things have been a bit crazy here, and the rest of February is also going to be very busy, so here we go!

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MaLau, me, and Rachel at Chili’s for my birthday

This photo is from my birthday! We went to Chili’s, the most American food I have tried yet in India. The menu (and actually the entire restaurant) was almost exactly the same as it would be at home, except that there are much more vegetarian options and the burgers are all buffalo. I had an awesome birthday, which included Skyping with my family and best friend, this awesome dinner out, and then a wii kareoke party back at Sangam.

At Sangam we always celebrate staff birthdays, but this is not the norm in traditional India. Like most other things, this is changing as younger generations become more “westernized” but for example, some of out local kitchen and maintenance staff don’t even know what their real birth dates are.

As always when a celebration or holiday comes around, I had a great cultural sharing conversation with the Volunteers-In-Training. I said one of my favorite things about my birthday back home is that when you go out, you don’t have to pay for anything, because your friends pick up the tab. The girls explained to me that in India, if you go out with your friends on your birthday, you pay for everything. This didn’t actually surprise me much, a lot of things in India seem to go like this. There is also a tradition where when something exciting happens in your life, like you pass your exams, someone in your family has a baby or gets married, or you move to a new house, you bring sweets, called peda, for everyone at work, to announce your good news.  I think some people back home who complain about all the gifts they are constantly buying for people could get on board with this idea…

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Me and Shweta, one of Sangam’s Volunteers in Training

In a few days I’m planning a trip to Delhi with Rachel and Katrina, with a possible pit stop in Agra (where the Taj Mahal is), so I promise I’ll have tons of photos and hopefully some awesome photos to share from that trip!

Thanks for reading, and remember to comment and subscribe, I love hearing from anyone who reads!

Thanks!

Ana

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Krishna Janmashtami

The thing I love about India…ok, ONE of the things I love about India is that there are SO MANY FESTIVALS!  A few days ago was Krishna Janmashtami, the Hindu celebration of Lord Krishna’s birthday.  You can read more about the festival here (Wikipedia!), but basically what happened in the neighborhood across the street from Sangam was this…

Hanging from a wire tied between two trees is a red clay pot filled with a white yogurt/curd-like substance.  The wire and the pot are decorated with orange and yellow flowers, as are the houses and businesses we passed to get to this place.  It’s nighttime, close to 10 o’clock, but the people gathered are wide awake, and even if they are not, there is a man with a hose ready to spray any gloomy faces.  I hear drums, the kind that I expect to turn into the MSU fight song, but of course they don’t.  These are the same drummers we heard outside Sangam earlier in the week practicing, so you know this is a big deal.

Surrounding the area directly under the pot is a group of boys and young men.  Around them a few meters back are the young girls, and us, and then behind us the women, all dressed in amazingly beautiful saris.   The idea is to make a human pyramid of people, tall enough to reach the pot.  The smallest boy will be on the top, and will break the pot and pour the liquid all over the boys below, and there will be much celebration.

But the thing that I liked most about it was that when the boys failed and their pyramid fell, instead of being sad or getting frustrated or blaming the bottom row, the music just got louder and the dancing got crazier and the man with the hose sprayed so much that I felt like I was in the obligitory bollywood rain dancing scene.  The little girls we were dancing with loved watching the boys, and watching us dancing and teaching us how to do it too.

This was a great night.  We had so much fun, and, as always, felt so welcomed by all the people we met, not like we were strangers gawking at strange traditions, but like we were guests who deserved the best treatment.

Up next will be a post (or 2) about my trip to Mumbai, and I just booked my tickets to Agra, so that will be coming up soon as well!  As always comment with any questions, comments or suggestions you have, subscribe if you haven’t already, and share with anyone you think would like it!  Thanks for reading!

-Ana