Friday, December 20, 2013

Things I Miss

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, mostly because I’ve been both very busy and sick.  However, I’ve been keeping a little list and now it’s time to share it.  It’s titled “Things I Miss”, and I’ll dispense with the usually people categories; everyone misses their family and friends, so nothing blog-worthy in that.  However, I have a few items that are perhaps particular to living in India; let’s see!
1.     Fresh herbs, other than cilantro.  If you like cilantro, you’re in good shape.  If you are used to cooking and tasting fresh herbs in your food other than cilantro, India is not the place for you.  Very seldom I see a sad looking bunch of parsley, which I grab and take home to try to resuscitate into something I can use.  While in Chennai during Thanksgiving, I went to the “foreigner’s store”, a place where you can find a few cheeses, and other non-Indian prepared foods at non-Indian prices.  I was elated to find some quality Grana-Padana and Parmegiano cheeses, but I was shocked to find a head of my old friend rosemary in a cold case.  I grabbed it immediately and took it to the counter, where I refused to let the sacker have it (needed an inservice on handling precious cargo) and rushed it to my hotel room to keep it for a week before I left.  Many chicken paillards and other mediterrarean delights later, I said good bye to the rosemary, but visions of thyme dance in my head for when I return in February to Chennai.
2.    SECOND:   Service people who show up and with whom I can communicate.  We have an electrician that our super calls when things are beyond him whom S and I have dubbed him “Monday Max”.  Our 1-year-old RO (reverse osmosis) water cleansing machine went on the blink about 2 weeks ago, and Monday Max was called in to “do the needful”.  He looked at the machine, took out a part that looked rather important, and turned to leave.  I beat him to the door and asked when he would be returning, hopefully with a new part.  This was on Friday, and I suggested perhaps next Wed or Thursday?  No, ma’m, not that long, Monday Max. [translation: Monday is the maximum amount of time that will be required before I return with the new part.]
We blew by one Monday, then a second, before Monday Max appeared again.  We called and we visited our super about every 3 days, but Monday Max had run into some “Irregularities”.  Whether it was with the RO part, his bowels, or legal issues surrounding servicing RO machines, we were clueless.  It took about 2 weeks, but we now have a working RO machine.
3.     THIRD:  Using a credit card over the phone.  This past week I have visited two banks to make deposits in other people’s accounts, and taken cash bundles like I’m paying off a kidnapper to various businesses, all because almost no one will take credit card information over the phone.  I believe there is actually a federal law against it, a law the Indian people have decided to obey.  Yesterday I spent over an hour on the phone with my least favorite airline consolidator changing the date of a ticket, because I’m not allowed to tell them to charge it to the account.  They have to bill me in live time while I wait on the phone, then pay the bill by ME putting in the credit card information, and then them waiting for it to be verified, and only then will they issue a new ticket.  I may have whined about this before, but I called Iowa City to transact some business twice in the last week and each time people couldn’t wait to take my credit card info, and then be done with me, and sent me an email receipt within the hour.  It took me back to a gentler time in my financial life, certainly.
4.     FOURTH:  A final thing I miss is being able to go into a restaurant, study the menu, make a choice, order it, and then wait for it to appear.  There are many potential break downs in this process in India, but here are a few.  First, you need to know when to go to the restaurant.  Its ‘timings’ are quite important, and not only to know when you can order, but WHAT you can order.  In the south, one doesn’t order appam for the mid-day meal, only for breakfast, or for dinner.  If you want pappad, some establishments only serve those at lunch time. And the famous South Indian dosa is served as a breakfast staple, or for an evening snack, but never at lunch time, I think….  If you’ve gone to a restaurant when orders are being taken, the next step is to see what the food possibilities REALLY are, not what the menu says.  Menus in many places we’ve frequented in the south are exercises in writing descriptions, and making lengthly lists, but when you order something, many times you will be told by the waiter one of four things:  (a) not available, (b) evening time, not now, (c) complete (translation: we’ve run out, there is no more for you, choose again.), or (d) NO, reason is undecipherable, or none is given at all.  Many times you will get one of these replies after the waiter has spent considerable time describing the dish to you, and telling you how first rate it is.  Hmmmmm. The trick is not to get bogged down, but keep your palate flexible, and have many options at the ready.  Sometimes I’ve had to regroup after 2 or 3 get the “no-go” response, but you gotta give it to me, I always find something to eat.
There are several things I DON’T miss about living in Iowa, many which revolve around the weather this time of year, combined with the 8:00 report-to-work time.  It’s always a trade-off living in a different place than you’re most comfortable in, but we’re still believe we have a good list of things we like about living here.  Sometimes, I’d just like a salad with fresh parsley while I use my credit card online to order exactly what I want to eat and have it arrive at my door.  It’s a lot to ask, I realize now.

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