23: Treat yourself to your favorite Indian meal

Been one of those days? Just…one of those type of days that things just keep happening and you’re not sure if it’s your mood or if this is actually a pretty sucky day? Yeah.

My favorite meal here is butter chicken (it’s actually spicy so I don’t know why it’s ‘butter’ chicken), palak paneer (mmmm, spinach!), and butter naan. And if I’m feeling really fancy, I’ll order something for my drink instead of water. As you’ve likely guessed, I’m stuffing my face (actually taking a breath) with this amazing meal. Yeah, I’m being fancy with this $5 bill ticket but that’s fine. I’m feeling good, full and happy. Yum!!

Sigh of satisfaction.

23: Treat yourself to your favorite Indian meal

Been one of those days? Just…one of those type of days that things just keep happening and you’re not sure if it’s your mood or if this is actually a pretty sucky day? Yeah.

My favorite meal here is butter chicken (it’s actually spicy so I don’t know why it’s ‘butter’ chicken), palak paneer (mmmm, spinach!), and butter naan. And if I’m feeling really fancy, I’ll order something for my drink instead of water. As you’ve likely guessed, I’m stuffing my face (actually taking a breath) with this amazing meal. Yeah, I’m being fancy with this $5 bill ticket but that’s fine. I’m feeling good, full and happy. Yum!!

Sigh of satisfaction.

#22: Receive Love from the Fam!

It’s Christmas!!! I have received my first ever care package… I’ve taken my first ever ‘look at my goodies’ pictures… I’ve tilted my head in total, consuming contentment and let out a blissful sigh. 

When my roommate gave me this big, mangled box… I didn’t do the outwardly excited gestures I’d predicted, I just stared at it like “I finally got something” hahaha. Then…I smelled it because I could tell there was something delightfully scented on the inside. I want you all to know this because it’s easy to really take simple things for granted. Something that smells good? That was beautiful…especially with the stench of burning trash crashing into my room.

Things you take for granted until your original supply starts to dwindle and you look at the local prices to replenish them: Tissue, air freshener, cereal, NAIL POLISH REMOVER! (Because it is just impossible to find it), Ritz crackers, Ramen, Popcorn, soap that wont kill your skin. (I think the voice I just wrote this in was similar to the one you use while listing people to come accept their awards lol)

Thank you fam!! Gosh, I appreciate it so, so much. Happy Holidays to me! YAY!!!

#21: Conduct a Business Development Program 

Class 8 has been participating in a Business Development Program and set up shop of their Stationary store last Saturday. This program was created to practice spoken English, critical thinking and goal setting. The students were required to start developing objectives and ideal brand identity for the business, create plans, train personnel and were only permitted to speak in English for the full program.

The class split into 3 company departments for the program: Executive, Marketing and Operations. Each department developed a separate strategy to fall in line with the company goals. We had several meetings in which I sat and listened to them brainstorm and submit themselves to the beauty of the drawing board. It’s funny because I kept offering to do things for them and they point blank would not let me do anything…not even print. A few times I got the “Madam, if we need you to do something we will ask. I promise” speech lol!! 

These last few weeks were probably my favorite ones at the school. I absolutely loved seeing them work so well together. I loved that the HR Manager was a girl and she was challenged to speak up in a room full of boys. I loved that the President was always five steps of the game—he even had me playing catch up a few times! The Vice President was amazing at working under pressure and trusting his task delegation chart (I was so surprised he even thought to create it…tear!). The Creative Director was selected perfectly: he was really great at listening to ideas and creating a product from it. And the Head Artist…I mean, I already adore this little girl, but I was so excited to see her come out of her shell and be so enthusiastic about creating the marketing materials and the details of the campaign.

GEMS Stationary turned a pretty impressive profit and attracted a nice size crowd with their promotion strategy and inventory list. For their first business, they were not playing! The next step is the debriefing presentations which they will be conducting through PowerPoint presentations using a S.W.A.T. analysis model. This component will help them with using computers, public speaking, and reassessing outcomes. 

Y’all…this was great great great! I’m so proud of them. They stuck it through the whole time, did everything themselves, and really showed a passion for their work. It was beautiful to watch, really. Really. 

#20: Say “Happy Birthday” to my baby!

Today is my niece’s 11th birthday. Sucks so much that I can’t go to her “it’s not a party per se, just a little get together” event. I’ve managed to get some people to send her birthday wishes. LOVE her!! Muah!  

Tags: birthday india

#19: Try To Catch The Monkey

One morning my apartment mate and I were both awakened by what sounded like monkeys. They were running through the balconies and having a good ol time. Later in the day she found out that the people right above us own 3 monkeys…hmmmm. Okay, cool. So for a month now these monkeys wake me up every single day thumping their tail against my window. 

Today, as I’m sitting peacefully trying to get some stuff done…the thumping starts again and I see the tail all curled and moving around. So I guess they visit in the afternoon too! This is the video of me trying to catch a peek of the monkey. Yall I am not crazy! This monkey is tryna play me lol. One day Mr. Monkey!! One day!

Tags: monkey india

#18: Awwwww DIWALI

Diwali! Puts Fourth of July and any act of even turning on the light to your room to shame. Diwali is the Festival of Lights and includes several days and nights of fireworks. You know how for Independence Day the fireworks are an event and you go to a specific place to watch em for about an hour? Welp…during Diwali everyone,everywhere is popping them non stop for a week. In between fearing the state of my eardrums and wondering if my hair products are flammable I was able to have truly an extraordinary experience.

Imagine being able to go to your rooftop and just watch fireworks go on for miles. Or watching the kids get so excited about it all. There were so many different kinds and it was a great opportunity to interact with the community outside of answering the standard “Where are you from, What is your job, When will you leave, Why is your hair doing that?” questions. 

I can’t even imagine how it was in other cities of India. If Hyderabad wasn’t really poppin for Diwali (no pun)…wow! Because I was certainly wide eyed and giddy lol. 

Tags: diwali lights

#17: Enjoy the Nightlife

I’m not a club person…it’s a pretty awkward situation if you ask me. But I like to have fun. Here is my idea of a fun weekend…

1st! I, of course, went to see something creative and informative. There was this Spanish and French documentary festival some people in my housing group jumped in an auto and tracked down. There was even a movie named after me “Malika is Gone”. Okay! I’m big time y’all!

2nd! My beautiful Anita and I went to track down a hookah bar. The one I’d been eyeing was a hookah and ice cream bar…sounds decadent huh?? …And messy. We found it but soon also found that the sign is inaccurate and they only have ice cream. Not ready to give up, Anna (Anita) and I asked around for a bar. After a few tries, we found one and reeelllaaxxxxeddd! It was so funny because I’m such a bad smoker so I looked crazy in there choking on hookah lol. But it was great and I’ll definitely go back.

Skkkkrrrrr! Before hookah my chick, Tice, and I went to a nightclub for Ladies’ Night called “Bottles and Chimneys”, which was also hip hop night. Okay then! Free drinks, and the least conservative atmosphere I’ve been in in India so far. Crazy how I absolutely hated “Racks on Racks” in the States but hearing it here will make me act a fool lol. Note, I do not know the girl in the photo.  

#16: Let People Feed You!

Oh because people will feed you until you run and hide! My neighbors literally brought us full meals for about 2 weeks…with each meal being large enough to last AT LEAST a few days. Everyday at least 15 people will ask you “Had your lunch?”. I’ve learned to just say “Yes, thank you”. It dawned on me when one of the teachers became frustrated with me that I hadn’t had my lunch that day yet saying, “Why do you do that?? Why do you starve yourself?”. I literally burst out laughing…I couldn’t help it…and reassured him that I certainly do enjoy food! 

Twice in the same day last week I was scolded for not knowing how to cook Indian food lol. The first was during an errand I was running for Madam. I was going to ask a teacher a quick question about her progress in implementing the new spoken English exercise Madam is creating…but it was lunchtime…and I wasn’t eating…instead I was the crazy American trying to work through lunch! lol. That was not going to fly. She sat me right down and didn’t answer my questions until I ate what she sat in front of me lol. I took a “snap” of my hearty and delicious lunch that day.

Later that day I went walking with my homie. We were both dirt tired from our days and wanting to get our blood moving to create a more plausible space for productivity later. She and I were talking about life in Hyderabad, as usual, and when she found out that I only cook American food she was like “Oh no, our exercise session ends right now!” She took me to a stand and bought me Aloo Toast, walked me back to my apartment and upstairs and didn’t leave until I’d gotten started good on my “sweet”. There’s a picture above of her too buying it. 

The point of it all is…eat! Make sure people see you eat. When you say you’ve had your lunch be prepared to say what you ate, who cooked it and what you’ll be having for dinner. A num tea-nara? (That is DEFINITELY not the spelling, but it’s how to say “Had your lunch in Telegu)

#15: Get Lectures From Daddy

Really…if I had a dollar for every lecture I’ve received and will receive from my Daddy student loans would NOT be a problem. He is always somewhere learning something and dropping knowledge on the wrong place, wrong time offspring.

I mean, this man grew up with revolutionary parents (big ups Grandma and Grandpa!), went to the war, was a Black Panther and has had a bunch of other stuff shape the never ending amount of knowledge he likes to spew at my sisters and I. And although the lectures drive me crazy and I wish he’d just stop pausing the movie to give me a history lesson about the pianist playing in the background track…my Daddy’s lectures have shaped who I am and who I strive to be in a major way.

As you can guess, being in Hyderabad is a career all on its own. I do believe if I can push past all of the bull crap I will find great rewards. (This would be the time my Daddy would say “See, I always knew you were full of shit, lil’ nigga!” lol). He and I are a lot alike in that we don’t give up easily, we wont speak just to fill the air, we are eternal learners, and we will not accept disrespect. 

I’m sure that in many households the topic of “respect” was a very serious one. My Daddy has been lecturing about this since I was rocking bright pink jogging suits. The concept of self respect and extending respect to others was probably the undertone of most of the things we spoke about until…well, he still is speaking lol. 

Being in a country in which the culture is so incredibly different than what you’re used to is quite a feat. The concept of respect is a subjective one and you find yourself trying to figure out what is culture and what is just ridiculous. This is particularly difficult when people from your same culture are not extending the respect you feel you are due. 

As I was having a “Okay now…don’t let the nickname fool you, boo” moment a few weeks ago, my Daddy just happened to call and leave me a message. It went pretty much like, “Don’t let those people play you, baby girl, and don’t come back over here looking for something different…people will try to stifle you no matter where you are in the world. Don’t let anyone take this opportunity from you. In the same sense though, we’re not in the business of disrespecting people to get respect. You lead by example and if those folks don’t learn anything else while they’re there…they will learn how to show some respect.”

Boom! Don’t you love my Daddy?? I LOVE my friggin Daddy! He is the absolute shit. 

According to some Muslim custom, your name is a goal to live up to. My sister’s name relates to patience and spirituality. ALL of mine relate to royalty lol…and my Daddy says he did that so that I can always remember to hold myself a step above the rest. …Yup! Malika’s got this! Living up to it.

Tags: respect

#14: Have a Great Boss

This is a BIG one. Fortunately, I’ve only had a few ridiculous bosses…but I think it’s safe to say that I have had phenomenal bosses for the most part. This, I feel, is a huge part of your experience with a job. The boss I am referring to in this post is not my supervisors in the program, but my school owner who I call Madam…the best school owner in the whole doggone program.  

Madam and I have a great relationship and are very compatible as consultant and client. She is very open to constructive criticism, makes herself available, gives me suggestions and makes sure I’m comfortable in this environment. I get a kick out of this little Indian woman calling the shots and going from the sweet lady feeding me guava fruit and chai tea to this fierce lady in a sari bussin’ heads and takin’ names if the teachers are slacking off. I am the type of person to give someone my full respect and attention if I can see that they are committed, passionate and ambitious about what they’re doing. Plus, she is in a love marriage and absolutely holds her husband down, who is the owner of the school. I may do a separate post on how cute of a team they are lol.

Another thing you need to know about Madam is that she is the Convenor of the Telangana Jagruthi strikes. These strikes have shut the city down for over a month from the buses to the auto rickshaws to the shops and larger businesses to the schools. I have been very vocal with my management both on the school side and my fellowship about my discomfort with traveling during these strikes since there has been fatalities within my route to the school. Madam has been exceedingly supportive about my stance on it all and has really been flexible.

Today I went up to the school and found out that the school is actually closed today for the bundts (strikes). I had a good laugh when I realized how silly I looked walking in there. But I have SO much respect for Madam being out in the city somewhere standing up for what she believes in. A mutually supportive relationship makes for a great working team any day…even on bundt days. 

Oh yeah! This is a video of her singing on Independence Day in August. She loves to tell people “I sing very well, I can sing over 3,000 songs” as she takes out her list of songs lol. Gotta love her!  

#13: Go to plays!

I love this one!! I love theatre! So much so that I went to Oxford one summer to study it. Now…don’t get me wrong: I do NOT act, but this is just like my passion for the Arts as a whole, I love it but I can’t do it.

This weekend I went to three plays at one of my favorite spots here in Hyderabad: Lamakaan. It’s a social concept cafe which features several events including a film festival this week. Unfortunately, I have a pretty little list of meetings clouding my preset schedule of cool things. Grrr.

Anyway, the plays were “Colors of Love”, “Last Wish Baby”, and “The Island”. I’d say “Last Wish Baby” was my favorite. It was hilarious, the cast had great energy, the audience was engaged… even the parts in different languages were engaging.

"The Island" was a play about two black men imprisoned in South Africa during the Apartheid era. I was definitely anticipating this show and even went by myself because I wanted to see it so bad.

So…let me paint you a picture. I sit in the front row of the outdoor set with my primary colors and big hair as the only black woman, that I know of, there. Heck, I don’t know that I’ve seen other black women here other than the ones in the program at all! Anyway, everyone starts staring at me and I assume it’s the hair…then I get the “So do you have family who went through Apartheid?” questions. After about three of them I realized the same thing was going on that happened in South Africa…my cheeks were throwing people off game!

The play starts and it’s definitely a dramatic interpretive piece. Halfway through I noticed people staring at me
so I think they’re wondering how the “South African girl” is receiving the plot. I figure, ‘lemme just focus’. Play ends and someone comes up to me and asks me if I found the play boring. I say “No. Why’d you ask?”…she says, “Well because you were sleeping.”

I tell her, “No. No, you’ve got it all wrong. My eyes are just small!”

Gotta love Hyderabad (sometimes). I guess I didn’t talk too much about the actual plays. Ehhh…well I never could stay on subject.

#12: Chill With The Neighborhood Kids

…These aren’t my neighborhood’s kids, I was just waiting for someone when they approached me signaling at my hair lol. Kids will make you forget about the craziness here because they don’t know yet to disrespect you. They’re just these energy oozing, clingy, curious little people who want to crawl up under you.

The kids at my school are rambunctious and crazy to the point where I can’t even actually do any planning or work on site because someone is constantly having off of a leg or arm. The thing is, some people here will make you forget all of your dignity and home training dealing with them…so it’s really refreshing to be around this group of people constantly happy to see you. Aw…I feel special!

The kids in the picture were in Banjara Hills, a wealthier part of Hyderabad. I have no idea where their parents are and when I asked where they lived and no one answered I just dropped it. But they were SO excited to play with the lady with the big hair and camera. And check out these cute Target ad campaign ready smiles! Gosh! :) Love em.

#11: Go to a Hindu Wedding

Last night I went to a Hindu wedding! This was one of my goals for my time here. AND I’m going to a Indian Muslim one in December. Yeaaahh. I’m thinking because it was the last day of the ceremony there wasn’t as much going on. The bride and groom came out and there was this confetti gun they would shoot when they were presented with the floral necklaces. Then you had the blessing…in which people go up and give them money. During the entire event there was a dj playing music and if you’d closed your eyes, you would’ve thought you were in a club lol.

My friend said at a Punjabi wedding she attended recently and said the blessing consisted of people dancing around the bride and groom and throwing money for hours. She said everyone stood in line to feed them a piece of wedding cake…one by one……resulting in them eating most of a three tier cake. I’m not sure if the marriage last night had similar activities during the earlier days or not. Imagine how annoyed someone from either culture may be with all of the stringency of an American wedding and people smashing cake into each other’s face! lol. 

Now the meal…the meal was amazing lol. Absolutely a-friggin-mazing. A banquet hall full of food stations. Huge dinner plates packed to the max. standing on your feet, fingers mixing up the flavors, wrapping things in naan, trying to breathe through the spiciness…and pigging out. Yes. Amazing. I love it lol. Gearing up for December! This one will be a love marriage, (not sure if the one last night was one or not) and the first love marriage in my friend’s family so it’s a pretty big deal. yup, I’m excited!

Tags: hindu wedding

#10: Get Sari Wrapping Lessons!

…Even if the person really isn’t trying to teach you, just pay attention. Anna and I went to a Hindu wedding tonight! It was the last day (Day 5) so it wasn’t as festive as the days before. But it was still a really cool experience and I got a HUGE meal for free. This is not like American wedding meals, the food IS the event. 

Above is a video of Anna getting her sari tied. Excuse my music…I couldn’t move to go turn it off lol. I’ll upload photos of the wedding tomorrow…I’m exhausted!

#9: Make a Music Video

So my friend and former classmate at OU, Alex, made a video. This is one of several he’s made since we’ve been here. He’s everywhere from the bakery up the street to a party Saturday night. 

I think I should do something like this. It’s gotta be hella fun to perform in front of people who are going to laugh at you anyway. hmmm… :)