Saturday, April 25, 2009

Saturday, April 4, 2009

London Trip

In February our destination of choice was the UK.  Unusual, I know to decide to visit at such a cold time of year, but with the imminent arrival of our new niece it seemed like a good choice. We decided to spend a night in London which we never ever do, and the kids have never been.   I had booked a beautiful hotel and  booked up to see a show (disaster!  booked the tickets for the wrong night) and we gave the kids a brief tour of the London highlights by tube and bus which was a first for them.

So, the London trip turned out to be an expensive night in London for no reason.  We then proceeded to Birmingham for the weekend before making our way to Swansea for the week. And who could have predicted that we would not have a drop of rain in the whole ten days! Plus the bonus was, baby Lowri Beau arrived early (30th Jan) and was ready to receive lots of hugs and kisses from The Webbs.  

Billy, Lawrence & Bethan

Big Billy & Big Ben

Tired and jet lagged

The wedding of my neighbors brother's son.....

Living on a small community as we do, and most of the houses being occupied by Indian families, we are privileged to be invited to join in many events such as weddings that we may otherwise not witness.

Indian families save all their lives to pay for their daughters weddings, and the process usually takes place over a number of days.  There may be an evening for the men, an event for the ladies and then the finale being where all and sundry are invited.

On this occasion we were invited to the wedding of our neighbor's brother's son, in other words our neighbors nephew.

At the bus stop on the morning of the wedding, we were gently reminded that the wedding was taking place that morning, and those of us who were going assured him of our presence.  

The timing of the wedding is dictated by the readings of those in the know (!!).  Today it was 11:00, a civilised time.  (This morning there was a wedding at 6:30am)  A few of us decided to go together otherwise it can be a little overwhelming.  We were greeted by our neighbor who was pleased that we had shown up.  Entering into the wedding venue, the guests are divided into males on one side and females on the other.  We duly proceed to our seats.  Being the only 3 westerners at the event our attendance does not go unnoticed.  We are smiled at in a welcoming manner, children feel comfortable to come to chat with us whereas the parents just look on.

The wedding party are on the stage, a throng of extended family, a group of men banging drums loundly.  Not quite sure of the signifigance of the whole set up.  The bride and groom come onto the stage and at a certain point the guests begin to line up to congratulate the newly weds.  The men lead the way.  A handful of rice is taken from a large bowl and when it is your turn to congratulate the couple, you sprinkle the rice over the heads of the newly weds, who are probably wondering who I am.  They are welcoming, and receive the best wishes gracefully. From this point we are guided to the food hall.  Many faces watch to see if we can stomach the indian spices.  The food is delicious.  I keep a glass of water at hand, as the food is prepared for local tastes and is a tad too spicy for me.  It almost seems we eat and leave, but that is done by many.  We thank our host, and the actual father of the groom before taking our leave.  Another experience of the welcoming culture in which we currently live.

Children love to have their photo taken even though they will never see the photos itself.

A handful of rice, this time with pearls mixed in with it

The Bride and Groom

The chairs for the Bride and Groom

The entourage on the stage

Friday, April 3, 2009

local Indian school at Ellora Caves

Beth & Lawrence taking the easy option 



The little luxuries of life in India

Train Trip

A few weeks ago we went on our second Indian train trip.  This time to Aurangabad from where we visited the heritage sites of Ajanta and Ellora Caves.  Having participated in last year's trip to Hampi, organised by our local expat group we were pretty well versed in what to expect on the journey, the train ride in particular.  We left Hyderabad at 1:30 on the Friday afternoon and arrived at our destination at midnight.  Not being the novices anymore we were well prepared; scrabble board, wine, food and books soon whiled away the 10 hours or so.

Sugar intake during the sight seeing

Inside the train carriage

The carriage, or bogey as they are know by here,  was booked for us (65 members of the TEA group) alone and was a second class, 3 tier AC carriage.  This means that there is AC (thank god!) and that there are 3 levels of bunks on each side of the compartment and 2 bunks on the narrow side of the aisle.  No doors separate the compartments so much better to do this trip when you are friendly with the other travelers.

There were about 20 kids on the trip and they all behaved exceptionally well.  For  the most part of the journey they swing from the upper most bunks having fun, and only  occasionally need reminding to avoid heads below.

At the station we (the group) are looked upon in a strange, though not unfriendly fashion.  It is not that often that such a large group of foreigners are seen hanging around the platform.

Here is a pic of Bethan hauling her luggage up the steps of the station.  Bless her, she is so good for a 7 year old!

The following morning, we took a 2 hour bus ride from Aurangabad to Ajenta where some of the caves dated back to 6th century BC.  These cave were hidden for hundreds of years and were rediscovered by some member of the British military in 1839.  They are what is known as dug in caves, meaning they have been carved in through a rock face.  The intricate detail within is pretty amazing and some are decorated with beautiful paintings.  Having visited Petra in Jordan the month before I was slightly 'caved out', but could not help marvel at the skill and determination of how these magnificent caves were made.

The same day we also visited Daulatabad Fort, which was like visiting the place where all the designers of computer games must go for their ideas.  Moats, bridges, secret passages, hide outs, places from which boiling oil was poured (or so we were told!) lol.   The rule was at every junction you came to, to reach the top of the hill, you had to turn right, turning left would lead you to a dead end (maybe in more ways than one....)

Had a problem with loading some photos (or rather, in the order they have loaded) so will post some extra photos in the next post.

The Sunday saw us climbing on board the bus again, and this time visiting the site of Ellora Caves.  These caves were equally as amazing as the Ajanta Caves, but some of them were different in the fact that they were 'dug out' caves, meaning they started from above and dug down into the rock.  In the picture below you can see how they dug down in a big square shape, leaving a block in the centre which was then carved in intricate detail.

Lawrence and Nikhil enjoying all the sites had to offer

Fresh Juice Indian style

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Spar comes to town (along with a ticketing system)!

A few months ago, the Spar arrived in Hyderabad.  Good competition for Q-Mart (the other supermarket that stocks overseas products).  The strange thing in Hyderabad is that it is pretty common for supermarkets to be placed on the top floor of a shopping outlet, whereas most other places they would be place on the ground floor for ease of popping in and out.

The Spar decided to base itself on the 4th floor (maybe this is because of a rodent problem???), anyway, after you navigate the funny moving escalator walkways you arrive, slightly dizzy from the zig zagging, at The Spar.

The management have had the foresight to include a butchery and fishmonger department which seem to be well stocked on most occasions.  Obviously, they were well received and the queues at the fishmongers must have been becoming quite an issue, so a ticketing system was installed (can remember when these were first installed in Tesco in the UK, about 30 years ago).  Well, the ticketing system is not in the most obviously visible place, and who would need a ticket if there is no queue??

My friend Tara, who I have mentioned before (I think?), happened to call into the Spar the other morning and made her way to the fish counter to place her order.  There was no queue, not even another customer,  and it didn't even cross her mind to take a ticket.  The assistant took her order and began to prepare the fish as requested.  Suddenly, the assistant stops and tells Tara that he has forgotten a step in the procedure and tells her she must take a ticket.  So, having learnt that it is often easier to just go along with the system rather than fight it, she takes a ticket.  Number 70.  She returns to the counter where on seeing her the assistant presses the 'special button' which calls customer 70 forward to be served.  Tara hands him her ticket, he checks it is the special 70,  he says "Thank you Ma'am, how can I help you"  She says, you can finish gutting my fish, and can't quite believe what has just happened and can't retain her laughter anymore.  You can either laugh or cry.

Made me laugh.

Re-entry to India

Having recently spent a week in the UK, where the weather was crisp and cold, but wonderfully dry the children and I returned to Hyderabad whilst John went elsewhere for a conference. Now, arriving in Hyderabad is a much improved experience compared to two years ago.  The airport is brand spanking new but the experience continues to be a frustrating one on times. 

On this occasion there were queues at each of the counters, but in India you will rarely find that people observer the red, wait here until called, lines.  Instead, there are weary travelers crowding around each counter thrusting passports forward.  You will then often be greeted at immigration by an immigration officer who looks bewilderingly at your passport and spends five minutes on each individual passport.  The fact that the original visa has been extended (has to be done on an annual renewal basis), and the original and extension stamps are on separate pages confuses matters even further.  For this reason little sticky post its are affixed to the original visa page and extension of visa page.  All temporary residents in India for longer than a year are faced with a similar problem, and this makes me wonder why such a situation encounters such a 'haven't experienced this before' look. 

I am beginning to believe that whilst undergoing training to be on the front line of immigration for their country, as opposed to the Americans "How dare you attempt to enter my country" attitude, the Indian authorities suggest an "act confused" front whilst sussing out each and every visitor for as long as possible.

Finally, get through and take advantage of the duty free shop for wine purchases (previously unavailable in the old airport), and by the time we get to the baggage hall our bags are arriving, which makes me think that the immigration officer has merely known how long the bags will take and has timed the process perfectly for my benefit!

We make our way through the throng of people outside, it seems that 20 -30 people is the average number of family of friends waiting to greet each returning  Hyderabadi.  It is 5:00 in the morning, a quick phone call to say we are on our way out.  Our car arrives and we are met by the ever smiling Shivar.   Home we go.

Monday, February 9, 2009

January 2009

It has been many weeks since I last updated the blog.  It is not that we have not been up to much, just been busy.  January saw the arrival of Billy and Doreen (my Mum and Dad) to Hyderabad.  This was their first ever visit to India and they seemed to absorb all that they saw and experienced during their stay.

My parents had come over to look after the kids whilst John and I made a visit to Jordan. Petra has been on our list of things to do for a number of years and having heard so many good reports from friends who had visited there previously we were very much looking forward to our trip.

The children were so happy to have their grandparents looking after them, that our absence went pretty much unnoticed I would say.  More about visit to Petra in the next post.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Christmas Day 2008

South Africa Dec 08

A few photos from the SA Christmas trip.  Lovely to be back there.  

Ostrich Farm, Outdshoorn

Beautiful scenery

Lawrence, Will & Andrew

Andrew,Will, Ruby & Lisa New Year's Eve

Lawrence, Bethan, Nia, John & William 
Indian Ocean in the background

Lawrence turns 9

Lawrence turned 9 on the 6th January.  

Having only got back from South Africa on the 4th, it was a bit too hectic to have the party on the 6th so we had a small family celebration on the day and the party was on Friday.  He wanted a treasure hunt, as Billy and Bethan had had for their last birthdays.  Having to devise a 3rd treasure hunt in the same area, with no repeat of clues meant some brain work from me. Thankfully it all went well, and they seemed to enjoy it.  

The treasure hunt in progress.

All tasks completed!

John. Billy, Lawrence & Bethan

Lawrence is 9

Friday, December 12, 2008

Rock Walk cont.

We drove a short distance from the house, parked the car and clambered up the first of many huge boulders.  At the top were a few houses, obviously no running water, or electricity but good brick built houses.  

As we walked down and around, we came to this old temple that has been built under one of the boulders, it was so well hidden and protected from the elements.  As we stood on top of the boulders if we looked one way we could see the ever expanding 'modern' Hyderabad, if we turned and to the other side of the boulder we caught a glimpse of what Hyderabad used to look like, rice paddy fields, men herding their goats and a sense of serenity.  Of course, these boulders will probably soon be blasted and developers will encroach even more upon the little greenery there is left.

I love this photo, and shows you how amazing they look, and how finely balanced they are.

At the top of the hill where the houses were, we witnessed the slaughter of two sheep (or maybe goats?).  It was the evening before Eid started and Muslims were in preparation for their main religious festival.  Pete was with us straining at the leash to get closer to what would have been heaven for him.  LOL

Hyderabad's Boulders

One of the unique features of Hyderabad is the huge boulders that dot the landscape.  I have never seen anything like it before.  You have huge boulders precariously balanced on top of other huge boulders.  Unfortunately, they are now becoming quite rare given the development of the area.  Whereas they were previously built around or on top of, they are now blasted to smithereens to make way for new buildings.  Apparently, I am told, they stem from the jurassic period!!  We joined some friends on Sunday for a 'rock walk'.  

A tight channel, have to be careful who is invited on this trail as the path through was rather tight.

Sports Day

It was school sports day last Friday.  The kids were very excited by it, more so William and Bethan.  Lawrence had a slightly different approach, odd given that he is the one who is the sportiest.  I think this is because he hates to lose, and whereas last year he swept up all the medals this year there was an added element of competition since a new boy has joined the school in Lawrence's year group.  For the first time Lawrence has some competition, and he doesn't like it!  Anyway, here they are in action...

William competing in a twist on the egg and spoon race

Egg sandwiches and a flask of coffee

Lawrence in the shot putt

Bethan trying so hard in the sack race