#1: Going to the dentist in a foreign land, even when they speak English, is a scary affair. I am very cognizant that I’ve received world-class dental care at the U of Iowa Dental Clinic, so I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to have a parallel situation in Jaipur last year, and I was right. She was NOT the best dentist I’ve ever been to, and she DID dare to ask if I knew how to brush my teeth correctly (met with silence) but she does hold the record for most appointments for one tooth. I’m happy to report that my dental experience here in the south is in another sphere altogether. Trivandrum is known for, among other things, its medical tourism, including dentistry. When my second gold crown fell out of my mouth (This is what getting old is like, I guess), I got a name from a colleague and took low expectations with me to my appointment. The dentist was in the top 3 of best dentists I’ve ever gone to, and he’s climbing with each appointment. He gives the best shot I’ve ever gotten, period. The man works 7 days a week, and you make appointments online, his office then sends an SMS (they LOVE those here) and an email reminder, and calls on the day of the appointment. I was impressed before he even started, and it got better with his wowza skills. He is unfailingly polite and greets me with the Indian “Mam”, which I hope is polite for older ladies. Today during my appointment, he told me “You are going to smell some fumes soon, don’t worry, mam.” YEE GAWDS. He was right, it smelled like they had started a small fire in my mouth. That was a new one. About 20 minutes later, the electricity went out, and it was pitch dark in the room. He calmly said, “Don’t freak out, please, mam.” Ok, since you have 2 or 3 instruments in my mouth along with your fingers, I guess I won’t freak out.
Piece #2: Last Sunday when I was taking an early morning walk in the park, I came up upon a group of people staring at something in a tree and taking pictures of it. I stopped and asked them what they saw, and they pointed out a black monkey with a grey face. Creepy. Then then turned and looked at me, and starting taking pictures of me!
#3: A huge book fair (think Scholastic x 10,000) just set up at the bottom of the hill, and there is a big sign advertising it that says, ‘More than 10 crore books.” A crore is a quantity Indians use, (not sure where it came from, but I choose to blame the Brits), but I can’t seem to remember exactly how much it is, and how many lakh (another quantity) make a crore. I asked my very educated colleague who was in the car with me how many lakhs in a crore and she admitted she had to look up how many was in a crore herself the other day, so she was no help……and, she’s grown up with these measurements. I added it to the list of reasons I really enjoy my new friend/colleague.
#4: The rain here is impressive for many reasons, but one of my favorites is its stealth. I have no idea it’s going to rain and it just starts. No thunder, no lightning to scare the pants off anyone (or man skirt), just rain. Sometimes it’s intense, sometimes it’s very light, sometimes it comes with a wind that slants it, but it’s all pretty now, probably because it’s pretty new and not flooding the streets…..yet. Call me an optimist, I think the rain will be interesting. I was wondering if the locals have names for different kinds of rain the way the Inuit do for snow. The sun breaks through most of the time before and after the rain, and sometimes during, so it’s not that oppressive Seattle weather that makes you want to pack your bags. (sorry T and A, it has to be said!)
#5: PB And ????? What’s the best accompaniment for peanut butter you’ve ever devised? See the photo above for my best improvisation to date: A PB and P (pomegranate). It’s pretty much a genius snack: you’ve got protein, vitamin C, a little fat, but good fat, and best of all the P sticks to the PB, so it serves as an excellent pomegranate-carrying-device. No waste, and it keeps the kernels in place while you are eating them. And with each bite you get the creamy PB, the crunchy sweet P, and the chew of the toasted bread. I’m thinking of trying the banana and PB combination everyone’s always talking about. I’m blossoming into quite the adventurer in my kitchen.
#6: Speaking of kitchens, it’s always interesting to go into a food store (not exactly grocery store size) and see what they have on their shelves that might take your taste buds down memory lane. I was shocked to find my own brand of peanut butter AND the particular “1/3 less fat” variety at the equivalent of K–Mart here. And they had St. Dalfours jams; those are hard to find in the U.S. and pricey. Best of all, I was elated to find a couple of zucchini on a shelf in the same K-Mart. Unheard of! I couldn’t get home fast enough to make a big pot of ratatouille. If I can find 12 very hungry people, I’ll be able to use the pan again.
However, I still have yet to purchase a tortilla chip that tastes anything like it should, but I did find Old El Paso salsa the other day and it will be decorating my morning eggs sometime soon. Without putting too fine a point on it, it’s also interesting to see how far out of your comfort zone you will go when you are hungry. I’ve taken the leap into not caring if my milk has separated and the cream is all gooey on the top of the plastic bag; I need it for my oatmeal, so I get over it. I’m starting to entertain the idea of using cold water to do my dishes, because I have to boil any water on the stove top I want to use, and it’s a bit of a pain. Not there yet, though. There are other things as well, but perhaps it’s best not to over-share my new low standards.