Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Moving out of my comfort zone...

Just last year , I moved to the US to begin a PhD.I was apprehensive...I had lived at home most of my life...and here I was moving all the way across many oceans to live by myself.Apprehension mixed with excitement can be quite a heady cocktail...and such was I ..when I set off ....to sail (soar) the seas...
West Lafayette is a small town..very reminiscent of home.So 'check mark' in front of place I guess!..What made me love this place..what made me cry when I left..was the friends I made there.I was quickly adopted into this family..and home seemed to have moved to West Lafayette.The things I remember now, exam stress alleviated by 4 am jaunt to I-hop!! , rainy weekends made cheery with food and drink at the best hosts I have ever known! My drinking buddy and his wife...set up an inviting living room..only to have us over- worked Grad students crash it everyday!I remember the small things..Of Nyquil being driven over to me when I went off with the Flu! Of long walks home , with a Mop -haired friend walking with me.Naturally grumbling that I walked too fast! Of exams , and my best teacher.The one guy I know who knows more than most professors...in any subject...And one I ran to whenever a presentation raised its ugly head.Of a fun loving couple ...who loved us...and never judged us.And took me to drinks my first birthday away from home.She , of above mentioned couple, taught me to make Chicken Marsala , just because I said I wanted to learn to make something with chicken and Wine!!! Ahhh demanding me..And him of said couple...Who helped sort out some confusion in my fuzzy brain.Perhaps me and the husband owe him one!! Of always having a friend to talk to...even when the chips were down.Of having the roommate from heaven!..Illness translated to hot bowls of soup...and plenty of TLC!...Having someone always ask when I would be back when I left the house..And a girl who cared for me , perhaps more than she cared for herself.Of hours spent decoding the esoteric mysteries of the world...to whipping up exotic dishes in a meager kitchen! To know that there were people who shared my life...as I lived it.And who didn't judge me..only supported me.
I write for them!
This year meant leaving that plush,cozy nook...and moving to Africa.I didn't think I would survive it...But having just gotten off the phone after a long chat with them.I smile..Nothing has changed! I will always be a part of the family....

Monday, September 29, 2008

TIA ..my friends...TIA !!

So one of the first things I learnt about being here was this phrase,"TIA".Often said with a sad shake of the head, or with an almost devil-like smile.TIA , for the un-initiated stands for This is Africa!! Haha..that is their way of explaining strange things that may happen..and a way to accept them too!...These were some of the situations under which ,..TIA became my friend!!

I applied to be endorsed on Dr.Mosi's work permit, so that I, a peace-loving virologist can stay here without having to leave the country every month.Now given our profession,money is like a vaccine.Wonderful to have,not easy to develop and needs many trials to achieve .Anyway for that reason, and also perhaps because I don't want to have to pack a ridiculously small bag every 28 days,I decided to apply for the endorsement.We met with a guy,a Timberlake-inspired sort who assured us that the job will only take 2 weeks( but thankfully he didn't do it in falsetto!)It has now been 4 times that, but he maintains that it will come ....hmmm We uneasily asked whether the lack of money changing hands was the problem.To his credit he didn't agree, but said that he wasn't the one to ask.Then who is...God ?? Anyway so here I am....on my last week that I am allowed here..blogging about it...TIA !!

Me and said Mosi went to a shawarma place with a friend this weekend.We sat ourselves down(literally!), and I smiled a beaming smile at all around.I was hungry, but being mature about it.Also, the lure of soon to be eaten hot shawarma may have done the trick.Anyway...5 minutes in and no sight of a menu.Waiter:" what menu? All the stuff we have is up on the wall",Us;" Ah yes...the normal place to have the items listed...." hmmm..Anyway I don't care , I want food!! Happy facade starting to slip just a bit.Finally we ordered and paid for our food....Twenty minutes later, our poor friend went up and stood at the chef's desk...Food?? Ahh yes..Half the order came in..the other half forgotten..Then we were told we hadn't paid for the food.Hmm...what was that money that changed hands at the start..was that the money for my endoresement..Is this guy secretly an Immigration guy?...Anyway..later fed and watered we waddled out...Does a meal really have to be this complicated....Well TIA!!

Ahh and finally..The source of greatest angst.The phone system!! Grr...I am on MTN , a provider here.Provider?? snicker snicker...This company is a stickler for privacy for sure.They ensure you are never disturbed , and never bother anyone!..Calls don't get through...and my parents have gone red in the face and fingers pressing redial!!I can't get through to the husband's phone even when he is right next to me...."Out of service area ",proclaims the lady,oh-so -officially!!! Maybe that's MTN saying serves you right for clogging up our lines...Grrrrr...TIA indeed!!!

And then...what happened yesterday...We and said Mosi sat down to watch the don of all movies..Sholay!..2 bowls of ice cream..and we got into a highly dramatic scene.Jai has been shot..but he hides the wound from Veeru.He tells Veeru to take Basanti( of extremely shy and quiet Hema Malini fame!) and return with more ammo!..He flips the coin , and elects to stay!Just as our ( mine ,for sure) hearts raced with all the action...One dirty shirt- clad ,ugly goonda( read villain!) reached for the gun, the cd clicked and whirred and stopped! What....Nooooooo! Re-loading the cd...forwarding past the said scene,playing it on a computer..nothing would work.The end ..would remain a mystery!....So TIA too? Naah..this is just us...But as long as we are complaining...............

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Attack of the killer flies!!!

So back to a routine day at the office....Our wonderful tin roofed,thin -walled building appears to have been taken over by flies."Swat!"..."swish!"...our morning tunes seem to have been hijacked too.!
We have a resident expert here...he is here to advise on Business matters.But seeing the locust like invasion ,he has in fact taken matters into his own hands..and how.He has perfected the skill of killing flies with rolled up magazines.Quite a skill set this man can now boast of! We miss him however..he is away for a few days...hmmm...what will become of this Musca mayhem? "Wheee"...an annoying buzz near my ear..what is the point of their existence , I ask myself,while waving arms frantically in the air.I must appear to either have no control of said arms..or be trying desperately to master some exotic dance form.Either way, everyone who approaches the office , always gives me a wary look.Maybe they fear I will trip over and land on them, or perhaps enthrall them with prior mentioned exotic dance.Maybe thats scarier?
Anyway...one of my other friends in office now has taken over the noble task of swatting these devilish winged beasts.Wild swish..and a miss!! Hmmm she still has a way to go!!
What are all these flies doing here ?? Is it the new paint? perhaps the cheerful yellow reminds them of a happy day!...Is it me...Good grief...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Of Spinning classes and Chocolate Sundaes!

So I recently got a hookah as a gift.In keeping with the whole atmosphere , a friend suggested that I learn how to belly dance.That might seem like a normal suggestion..but in my land of plenty ( read GluteasCopious - from Asterix and Co.) ,it was horrifying!
Can you imagine me doing a belly dance..good lord...all seductive images of such activity must immediately be replaced with scene of fat girl jiggling generous belly at curious music( remember Maiya Maiya from Guru ???) haha.!! Perhaps the scene would be more suitable as an advert for a local Gym, promising to reduce aforementioned belly
Speaking of gym however..My new husband and I have joined gym, rather ambitiously for three months.We have been going two days and enjoy it so far lets see how long the cheer continues.The thought being that each of us can motivate the other...of course neither of us have gotten to what will happen in a month.Long day...Who me? I have to do the cooking? Maybe we don't have the time for Gym anymore, or better yet, if I don't cook, and we don't eat anymore, we don't need gym ! What say hubby dear? ...Are you there??
Let me introduce more complications ..since of course we are appallingly low on those. Apparently he is some Schwarzzanger clone who builds muscle in two weeks.This will of course promise to irk me no end,as no matter how many torturous hours I spend at gym,sweating nobody's business loads,and cursing and swearing at all the fries that I have recently consumed;none of that wants to budge.I must therefore assume that I am an extremely good host , capable of making all feel at home.And never to be threatened by the fear of being lost by hours spent on a treadmill!
Yesterday was spinning class..which meant that we sat ourselves down on a cycle...comfortable because of ample rear padding,and cycle for 45 minutes.Now don't be fooled into thinking that is an easy task and I'm a wimp.While the latter might be true yet,there is this terrible moment when the instructor yells "Up!!!""...now I thought ( with a sigh of relief ) that he meant we were to go off scampering on our lil way..And here i was all smug ,"See, I can handle any class they throw at me !!! "I looked around the class , with grand visuals of the whole class applauding my supreme fitness , on my first day!What I saw instead, all my co-sufferers , standing up on the pedals, and cycling furiously.Since Mr Fat-Buster at the front was making no motion to correct them, was I to assume that this was part of the torture routine?
So up I stood.Pray, Id be willing to stand a thousand hours on plane ground, having been through that!Grrr....Since I had been bad," One large plate of fries please, extra crisp!! " , I deserved what came next.Fat-Buster clad in impossibly tight lycra thundered,"Sprint!"..Hmm isn't that something you do off a bicycle, me wonders ?Nonetheless,spurred on by my brave classmates, I sprinted!! And how! Now all manner of language that they definitely don't endorse in Disney films ensued, and after much groaning the clock finally ticked to the end of class..
I hobbled out on weary legs to be met by the man I married,lifting weights with a smile...Hmm who does that? As we walked out, me drenched in sweat, and cherry pink to boot, accompanied by aforementioned smiling guy,humming a tune for effect, the receptionist gave me a pity head-shake! "Yeah, I'll show you...I will be back..But not anytime soon!"
Anyway....I congratulated myself on making it through two whole days.1/3.5 of a week!! Well done!How did I seal my dedication to the whole fitness jamboree ? Well I blogged about it of course..and dug into a Triple Chocolate Sundae...( psst only to keep my resolve to work out strong! ) Oh well...I'm in a good mood!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


So I now live in Lusaka....Its a quiet place with a relaxed pace to life.The president passed away ( of Zambia, not Zimbabwe! ) So there was a long period of mourning...that ended to coincide with my returning to here!

We spend our time every day at CIDRZ( Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia).Just behind our office is a morgue.As should be the case with every office!..This morning there were a group of ladies singing loudly and all together , standing in the courtyard of the morgue.I spent ten minutes quizzically looking around for the source of the sound, and a friend here in lab was convinced it was the radio.However, once we looked beyond the windows of the office, there they were ,colour co-ordinated and everything.

So maybe they are here to celebrate death ? To remind us that it is in everyone's future...and is freedom of an ultimate kind.Not that different from some customs that exist in India.There is a lot to experience here,culturally. All you need do, is keep your eyes..and perhaps your ears open too.