Times flies by

June 16, 2014 at 18:35

Oh my. This blog has really been neglected for a while. It has almost been a whole month since our last post, so we don’t really expect anybody to still follow us. However, quite a few things have happened since our last post. We have had lots and lots of things to do at the office, the weather went from hot to HOT, followed by me having a small heat stroke incident. Friends are leaving for their home towns, as we are also planning to soon do the same. The weather has changed completely as the schorching sun has been replaced with a city soaked in water.

The monsoon has hit Mumbai, and it’s quite beautiful. As Marius and I headed home from work a few hours ago, the rickshaw broke down in the middle of the flooded streets of Powai with the rain pouring down, making the road into a small river, where the driver let the rick carefully roll us down to Hiranandani.

Marius and I ran in the rains without any umbrellas, completely soaked from head to toe, straight into our favorite restaurant. Le Pain Quotidien was decorated with candle lights in the dark, while the the windows had rain streaming down them. It was such a beautiful atmosphere, and the warm meal made everything just so cosy and nice. There’s something about feeling chilly in the city of Mumbai. It just feels so right after the last couple of months with intense heat. It’s amazing how you one minute are desperate after a refreshing mint lemonade with ice cubes, and the next you are craving a cup of hot chocolate. It’s just another aspect of this city of contrast. A part of why we will miss you so much when we go home, dear Mumbai.

- Andrea

Photos from Dharavi

May 20, 2014 at 15:18

I just can’t believe that a whole month has passed since our guests went back home. And during this time we have not been able to upload the photos from the Be the Local Tour in Dharavi, as we promised. Well, here it goes:

Crossing the bridge

Crossing the bridge over to Dharavi

Sorting plastic

Sorting plastic. A lot of work.

Puppies

Puppies. So cute!

Embroidery

Embroidery

Wall art

Wall art. So pretty!

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This man must hold the Guinness World Record in pottery. It was very impressive!

Mom and Maja

Mom and Maja

The original White House

The original White House

The gang

Walking tour.

Dyeing

Dyeing

Hot work

Hot work

Hope you liked the photos!

- Andrea

Syttende mai

May 18, 2014 at 14:35

Yesterday was the National Day of Norway, known to Norwegians as 17. mai or Syttende mai. This day is for Norwegians one of the best days of the year. It is the one day of the year when Norwegians will be most proud of their country. We will dress up in our best clothes, many of us in our traditional bunads, and we will celebrate Norway from morning until night. The day is usually started with a Champagne breakfast with friends, family or both, while watching NRK’s Syttende mai coverage on TV. The most amazing landscapes and nature are broadcasted, which just contributes to our love for our own country on this day. Then people usually take a trip to the local celebrations, where children, russ and others parade in the streets with flags and music. In Oslo the royal family waves to the parade as the people walk past the royal castle shouting ‘hipp hipp hurra’. After this Norwegians often gather for a barbecue or share a meal in other ways with family and friends. It is also known as the one day of the year Norwegian children can eat all the ice cream they want.

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17. mai in Mumbai

This year however, the celebrations were a bit different than Marius and I are used to. It’s actually my first Syttende mai away from home, but it worked out way better than I thought. Eli organized a lovely 17. mai celebration at the Waterstones Country Club here in Mumbai, and gathered 20 Norwegians for a great lunch with typical Syttende mai food like Norwegian sausages, potato salad, eggerøre, spekemat and ice cream. Even Idun ketchup & sennep, lompe and Twist was served. That’s amazing!

17. mai at Waterstones

17. mai at Waterstones

Gilde sausages

Gilde sausages

Waterstones Country Club

Waterstones Country Club

Enjoying the food

Enjoying the food

After the gathering, we were invited over to a lovely Norwegian expat home here in Powai, to continue the celebrations with with dinner and wine, and some really tasty Gulab Jamun for dessert! Then we went home to continue the Syttende mai celebrations with our friends back in Norway over Skype. It was great talking to them, and we really wish we were back home with them this weekend. But luckily we’ll see them in a really short time, and until then we have Skype!

- Andrea

Back to work

April 28, 2014 at 14:21

After a fantastic Easter vacation followed by half a week of Delhi belly, it’s surprisingly nice to be back at the office. Marius was back at the office immidiately after our trip to Goa, but I stayed home for an extra week, firstly because my mother and little brother still stayed with us, and then because I joined my brother in getting sick on their last day i India. However, now I’m all better and ready to pick up my project where I left it. And better still, I have had lots of time to really think through all the things I have to do to make my project a success.

Me thinking about my project in Goa

Me thinking about my project in Goa (haha)

Time truly flies by when you’re having fun. Soon it will be only two months until we have to pack our bags and head for Chhatrapati Shivaji. And that reminds me… Chalo! Back to work!

- Andrea

 

South Mumbai sightseeing

April 27, 2014 at 15:52

One of the first trips we made with our friends and family visiting over Easter was down to South Mumbai. Colaba and the Gateway was our first stop, as we had plans to take the ferry over to Elephanta Island. It takes just about 45 minutes to drive from our home to this busy centre of Mumbai, but Marius and I rarely make the trip. Sure, this is where Mumbai really happens. The South has most of the best restaurants, clubs, stores and hangouts, but I find it just oh so crowded and touristy sometimes. I think it is the hillbilly girl in me that just loves green surroundings, peace and quiet. And boy, was I happy when I found out that you actually can have that that inside one of the World’s biggest cities. Powai really feels like a home in that sense. Anyways. As I was saying, we headed down to Mumbai’s most visited tourist attraction for our first stop.

The Gateway of India

The Gateway of India

The Gateway looked great as always and was surrounded by tourists as always. Since we hadn’t been to Elephanta Island in six years we couldn’t remember where to buy the tickets for the ferry, but luckily for us we met some grumpy expat Norwegians who helped us out. And by the way, the reason why I call them grumpy is because as Marius was introduced to them as a Capgemini Mumbai employee, they responded with a blunt “Why? Is he hired as a driver?”.

 

Nice Norwegians in the middle, grumpy ones to the left.

Super cute Norwegians in the middle, grumpy ones to the left.

The Gateway and Taj Mahal hotel from the ferry

The Gateway and Taj Mahal hotel from the ferry

The ferry ride took about 50 minutes, and when we arrived we were met with – do you believe it? Crowds! However we eventually made our way up all the sweaty stairs to the top, and it was definitely worth the workout. The Elephanta Caves were even more beautiful than I remembered.

Inside Elephanta Caves

Inside Elephanta Caves

Our friends taking photos

Our friends taking photos

Beautiful rock carvings

Beautiful rock carvings

Back in Mumbai we decided to go straight for lunch. As every visitor to Mumbai have to experience Cafe Leopold, Marius and I decided to bring our friends there, after a small detour to a Colaba Market back ally with a couple of the cutest swindling children I have ever met. Eventually we sat down at an unusually loud and crowded Leopold’s, I got my back and my bag dripping wet from a Bailey’s leakage just behind my chair and we got moved to another table by the always very helpful and friendly staff at Leopold’s. I got through my ten minutes of “South Mumbai hates me” frenzy, and we enjoyed some tasty dishes of biryani, garlic naan and tikka masala.

On our way from Colaba Market to Haji Ali

On our way from Colaba Market to Haji Ali

After this we all jumped into some taxis to experience Haji Ali at Worli. This place really make a big impact on tourists in many ways. Your first impression of the place might not be too positive, as the pathway to Haji Ali usually is filled by beggars, people with severe illnesses and handicaps and – maybe worst of all – quite a lot of children and babies are sitting or lying there to make some rupees from the people passing by. It is a really sad place in that way, and I know it made a big impact on our friends and family. Even though we made a few ‘donations’ here and there on our way to the beautiful mosque, we know it’s not enough. You really feel both privileged and helpless as you walk past these people, and it’s not a good feeling.

Pathway to Haji Ali

Pathway to Haji Ali

Sunset at Worli

Sunset at Worli

Haji Ali

Haji Ali

When we reached the Haji Ali however, the beauty of this mosque was even more apparent after dark. The way Haji Ali lights up in the dark is quite symbolic, as it is an important place of worship for very many people. Well inside the gates you get another completely different impression of this place, and I think our friends and family thought it was well worth the trip.

- Andrea

 

And then there were two

April 22, 2014 at 09:24

Our friends left on Saturday and Sunday, and tonight we have to say our goodbyes to our two last visitors at Chhatrapati Shivaji Airport. My mom and my little brother have stayed with us for two weeks, and before we let them go home, we have plans to spend their last day in India by the pool at Renaissance Hotel.

My mom and little brother at Sanjay Gandhi National park

My mom and little brother at Sanjay Gandhi National park

- Andrea

Waiting..

April 10, 2014 at 13:47

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Our first group of visitors are flying over Turkey now, and I wish that airplane could fly just a little bit faster, ’cause we just can’t wait to greet them at the airport. This has been the slowest day ever… Come on, come on, come on!

- Andrea

10 things I love about India

April 8, 2014 at 05:10

The other day I came across an about.com-article called 10 things I hate about Norway, and I was surprised on how irritating I found criticism about my own country and our neighboring countries by a foreigner living in Scandinavia. (So I guess she’s right about number three…) Anyways, as an expat myself, I can understand how customs, traditions and behaviors are different from each country, but then again I honestly can’t find one reason to hate India. If I did, I probably wouldn’t live here in the first place. So I decided to write my own list: 10 things I love about India. So here it goes:

1. The people! Indians are some of the most welcoming, friendly and helpful people I have ever met. The people working in shops, restaurants and hotels are extremely service-minded. Also, if you would find yourself lost in Mumbai, you’d be sure someone will stop and help you. And if this person couldn’t help you, he or she would probably stop a bunch of other people to ask them. If you’re invited home to someone you can expect to be offered plenty of amazing food and drinks and have a great time. Indians make great hosts and friends. And they smile – a alot!

Making new friends

Making new friends

2. The food! Don’t even get me started on Indian food. I can probably never get enough garlic naan. Curries, raita, biryani.. Just bring it on! The spices and herbs are like nothing else, and Indians even make European food better. Ever tried Indian french toast? If not, do it now! And if you’re a vegetarian you will be very close to heaven in India, as the veg food here is just amazing. And I haven’t even tried someone’s mother’s food yet, which I hear is the best food in India!

I love Indian food

I love Indian food

3. The nature. India being a huge country have almost every climate and landscape you can imagine. From the mountainous north to the tropical south. Beaches, jungles, mountains, oceans and deserts. There’s so much to see. Even the urban jungle of Mumbai has it’s own beaches, lakes and a national park. That’s just amazing. Also, heaven on earth is actually situated in India – in Kerala to be precise! And don’t forget about the animals who live in India’s nature. They have both tigers AND lions here! And if that wasn’t enough they have monkeys and elephants too.

Juhu beach in Mumbai

Juhu beach in Mumbai

4. The culture. Of course there isn’t one single culture in India, and as a student of anthropology I know I really shouldn’t use such a blurry term. But what I mean by culture in this list, is the varieties of religions, foods, dances, spiritual places and practices, arts, languages, music, rituals, myths and ceremonies, which all come together in an atmosphere that you can’t find anywhere else in the world. It is colorful, it is fun, it is spiritual and it’s like nothing you have ever seen before your first trip to India.

In Powai

In Powai

5. The weather. I can’t believe how we Norwegians survive our cold winters and the darkness which comes with it, and then when we think it’s all over, our summers just rain away. In Mumbai however, we have had sunny days every day since we first arrived in January. And January is actually part of India’s winter, which is like a very nice Norwegian summer. Now it’s starting to get a bit warmer, but I still enjoy it very much. I can’t believe I live in a country where my worries about the weather are centered on whether it can be too hot. In the Norwegian language that would usually translate to the weather being to good.

Sunny weather in Mumbai

Sunny weather in Mumbai

6. The society. India is known as the World’s biggest democracy. And when you think about it, it’s quite remarkable how they arrange their elections here with 814 million voters. It is a six week process which started yesterday. According to the Indian Constitution, every person in India should not have to travel more than two kilometers to vote, which means that election boots sometimes get rigged up for one person only. I love how that says that every voice counts in a country of over 1.2 billion people.

Powai

Powai

7. The history. India has such a rich history. And there’s so many historical places to visit. From ancient Buddhist caves to colonial buildings. And I think it’s safe to say India is home of one of the World’s most famous historical persons as well. How many of you have never heard or read a Gandhi quote? No? Just log on to Facebook.

Kanheri Caves

Kanheri Caves

8. The diversity. In everything. From food, to language, to religion, to culture to landscape. India is truly a land of many colors, and the various regions of the huge country are all very different from each other in these ways and truly unique. And of course the different places within the regions differ greatly too. In fact, a total of 1600 different languages were detected in India in 1961, and more than 30 languages are spoken by at least a million people.

In Jaipur

In Jaipur

9. The colors. The clothes, the dancing, the festivals, the movies are all just so colorful. Indians are known to be a colorful people, and it’s for a good reason. Just after I moved here I realized how boring my clothes are. Black, blue and white. Where did my pink, orange, purple, red, yellow and green clothes go? Also, the festival of colors is just an amazing experience. I think I will have to bring some of these colors back to Norway and throw them in the faces of my friends next year. Happy holi! 

The festival of colors

The festival of colors

10. Incredible India! All the points in this list combined makes India one of the greatest countries to visit as a tourist. The country has something to offer for every taste. You can go on a luxurious city shopping trip to Mumbai, travel from Vuitton to Gucci to Louboutin to Choo, while eating at some of the World’s best restaurants and have your cocktails with a view of the Mumbai skyline. You can go skiing in the mountains or climb the Himalayas in the north. Or how about a relaxing beach holiday in Goa, spotting for dolphins while doing your morning yoga by the ocean? You can also have your honeymoon on a river boat in Kerala, surrounded by peace and quiet or go on a romantic wine tasting trip to Nashik’s beautiful vineyards. If the urban jungle is more your taste, you can go museum and sightseeing hopping in the World’s second largest city. Or why won´t you just go find yourself on a spiritual trip to an ashram, getting advice from gurus and holy babas or go for a pilgrimage to a holy place. Maybe it’s one of your dreams to visit one of the Seven Wonders of the World: the beautiful Taj Mahal, or travel to Varanasi and experience the holy river Ganges with all it’s rituals and ceremonies. You can even go on lion and tiger safaris in the jungle, visit ancient caves and spot monkeys, snakes and crocodiles from an elephants back.  The list goes on and on and on. Best thing about India? It has got it all!

- Andrea

Oh no!

April 6, 2014 at 18:40

India lost against Sri Lanka! That’s such a shame. I am just starting to learn the basic rules of cricket, and I must say I enjoy the matches on TV these days quite a lot. But not tonight, though. I am of course a fan of the Indian team!

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Cricket on screen

We watched the game at Café Mangii, where we also enjoyed mezze and some really tasty iced tea.

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Mezze platter at Cafe Mangii

Now, we’re back home watching The Nanny from our sofa, giving each other foot massages. Haha. There’s nothing like Fran Fine’s voice on a Sunday. Let’s hope the next three days will go past really quick, ’cause we can’t wait until Thursday and Friday!

- Andrea

Great week

April 5, 2014 at 13:28

We have had such an amazing week with our visitors, my father and Marianne, here in Mumbai. In a relatively short time we saw, heard, smelled, tasted and experienced a great deal of this city of contrast. In Mumbai you have everything a tourist could wish for from luxurious hotels, restaurants and shopping malls, to temples, mosques and other spiritual places, to extreme poverty and slums, to beaches, oceans and jungles. Maximum City has got it all. And our visitors had an eye opening experience in many ways during their week here.

Luxury at Renaissance Hotel

Luxury at Renaissance Hotel

At Suvarna Temple in Powai

At Suvarna Temple in Powai

In Powai

In Powai

When we asked them what was the best part of their vacation, they hesitated before they both answered ‘Dharavi’. Coming from a small place in little Norway, they were of course blown away by the massive global city of Mumbai with all it’s luxury and modernity, but the one experience they will remember forever was to get a look inside the place known as Asias biggest slum. Like Marius wrote about in the last post, Dharavi has got some negative associations to it’s name, and it was really great to see Dharavi for what it really is and get our preconceptions challenged. Again, a big thanks to the wonderful guides of Be The Local.

My dad, me and Marius

My dad, me and Marius

Now that our visitors are safe and sound back in Norway it’s really quiet and lonely here in our apartment, and we miss them already. Luckily, however, it won’t be quiet for too long, as we’re picking up a total of five new guest at Chhatrapati Shivaji already next week! We can’t wait!

- Andrea