Pickin’ Fights and Takin’ Names

When I first sat down to write this post, I thought that I only had one fight to describe, but the city of Jodhpur, in all its dubious benevolence, has just delivered a second sparring partner to me. I’ll share the deets, but first, a bit of goodness. Jodhpur has an epic fort – Mehrangarh – and some truly nice people.

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A really bad photo of the fort, taken from our guesthouse roof.

Unfortunately, Jodhpur also contains an obnoxious selection of touts, liars, and jerks. I won’t even go into the schemes we’ve been sucked into (it makes me look dumb, plus I am typing with one thumb), but I will share two battles. I would generally class myself as a conflict avoider, but I can rise to the occasion when pushed.

The first fight, which has mercifully concluded, occurred last night in a restaurant. Todd and I tried to branch out by not choosing a Lonely Planet recommendation, and discovered that guidebooks are there for a reason. We were craving naan, Indian bread that is cooked in a tandoor. Some restaurants will try to pass other flat breads off as naan if they don’t have a tandoor, and we wanted to avoid this, so we asked the proprietor before being seated whether he did, in fact, have one. He assured us that he did, so we ordered two dishes from the tandoor – chicken tikka (bite-sized pieces of boneless barbecued chicken) and naan – and two other dishes. The other dishes arrived first, and they looked, to put it mildly, unappetizing. Then the tandoor dishes arrived. Instead of naan, limp, pan-fried dough. Instead of chicken tikka, pan-fried balls of dough containing chicken bits and other items of unknown origin. For those who haven’t tried these dishes, this was the equivalent of ordering steak (and being charged steak prices) and fresh bread, and receiving chicken McNuggets and Wonder Bread. I had been lied to and harassed all day, and wasn’t having it. This was my sword to die on. I called the manager over, and politely informed him that the dishes in front of me were not, in fact, chicken tikka and naan. I won’t relay our entire argument, but his part went something like this:

“Yes, this is naan and chicken tikka. What to you mean? Look, this is the garlic naan that you ordered. No, it is not chapati. Ok, fine, I concede that this is not naan. But yes, this is chicken tikka. What do you mean? All chicken tikka is like this. Ok, fine, this is special Jodhpur recipe chicken tikka. All Jodhpur chicken tikka is like this. What is your problem!!!”

I do not know a lot, but I do know chicken tikka, and this was not it. I steadfastly refused to pay for it, and he finally gave in. In the meantime, the customers at the table next to us got up and left when they heard the manager’s rant. When the waiter brought me the bill, they still tried to charge me for the non-naan, but capitulated easily when I refused. There was still one line of defense left, though. Before we could get out the door, the owner and his cousin cornered me and demanded to know where I had previously eaten chicken tikka. I began listing places all over India, but they just couldn’t let it go that easily. I finally acknowledged that maybe this was special Jodhpur chicken tikka, and escaped. The next night, we ate chicken tikka in a nearby restaurant, and strangely enough, it was the same as chicken tikka all over India, not special Jodhpur tikka.

I will abbreviate the second fight. We spent one night in the additional apartment of a large, popular Jodhpur guesthouse, because the regular guesthouse was full. The room was strangely decorated and overpriced. The next day, we asked for a cheaper room in the normal guesthouse. The owner told us it was still full, tried to pressure us into taking the weird apartment for another night, and refused to store our bags while we looked at other guesthouses (this is a standard service at basically all guesthouses). He was generally rude and unhelpful. Joke is on him though, because now there is a little site called “trip advisor” where you can rate your guesthouse experience. I did so, and I think that my review, while negative, was fair, and avoided insulting the place. Unfortunately, the owner wasn’t content to leave it at that. He sent me a message through trip advisor. I assumed that it was an apology, but in fact, it contained a string of insults, and finished by stating that he hoped never to see me again. Not a problem. He won’t see me again. But if he thinks for a moment that he won’t be seeing a second review on trip advisor, he has another think coming. I think I’ll wait until we leave town, though, so he or his cousin don’t murder me while I saunter down the street.

*** update: I decided not to post a second review on trip advisor. Not worth it. Besides, if I lived in Jodhpur, I’d probably be an angry jerk, too. ***

Wow. So much rage! Needless to say, we’re leaving town early. Let’s end this rant with a few fun pictures from our guesthouse, the Hare Krishna (sorry mom, but everywhere else was full).

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This was on a wall detailing trips that the guesthouse offered. I have never seen anyone commit a massacre so happily.

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Todd enjoys some peaceful reading time under a painting of a random god and his voluptuous lady friend.

Christmas Dinner(s)

It seems necessary to update you all on what we ate for our actual Christmas dinner. The pictures won’t do it justice, but if you really want to experience it with us, rub a mixture of oil, dirt, and curry powder on your hands, scent the air with a mixture of camel and kerosene, play a recording of cows grunting and digesting, and hunker down for a feed. Anyway, let’s start with breakfast:

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Toast, masala omlettes, and endless cups of chai on the roof of our ancient guesthouse.

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Lunch: Paneer tikka, Chicken tikka, and naan. It wasn’t turkey, but it was a smoky slice of paradise. It haunts my dreams.

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And finally, dinner. Malai kofta, aloo gobhi, and more naan. My face expresses exactly what I was feeling at this moment. The meal may have been followed with an Indian sweet – the perfect sugar bomb chaser.

Food wise, the day was a winner. On another note, it was actually really neat to experience Christmas in the dessert – the ancient buildings, dusty streets, and livestock made it easier to picture what it must have been like for Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem. I cannot imagine giving birth to anything in Jaisalmer, let alone Jesus. A fresh perspective, in between all the naan.

Frigid Travels in the Curry Mothership

Well, T-bone and I made it to India. The trip has already been wonderful, horrible, and everything in between – par for the course in India. Anything other than dramatic extremes would be a disappointment. It had also been surprisingly frigid. After dusk, the temps hover at around 5-10 degrees Celsius, and we were not exactly well prepared.
Blog posts will be short’n’random for the next two weeks. Best Christmas wishes to you all!

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Todd exploring the Red Fort in Delhi

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Freezing my buns off/drinking chai on a frigid train ride.

Happy Ho-Ho-Ho-Holidays!

Last week, I was having a pity party because we won’t be home for the holidays. This week, I decided to do something about the melancholia: in fine North American style, I said to T-bone, “Schnookums, let’s celebrate Christmas early by opening the mountain of gifts that our families sent to us, and eating copious amounts of food.”* We are spending Christmas in India, so it seemed  necessary to open our gifts at least a week in advance – this way we have time to fully appreciate their wonderfulness. Basically, I couldn’t wait any longer and T-bone knows how to pick his battles. We started off with Christmas dinner.

I slaved all day in the kitchen to produce this.

We shut our blinds, lit candles, and put on Christmas music. Ahhh. Nothing like a little King’s College Choir and the cheapest bottle of red wine we could find. Thailand has introduced me to the concept of the “red blend.” We could almost pretend that we were in our drafty, aging house in our Canadian ‘hood. Minus the mice and the superfluous coal cellar. Just crank the AC and you have yourself a frosty Christmas.

Our meal concluded with a bowl of Christmas pudding that my mother made (and canned) in 1994. Wonder if my mother suspected that her daughter would be consuming that particular batch with her husband in Thailand in 2012. Maybe. Sometimes mothers just know.

18-years-old pudding covered in 5-minute-old bechamel/white sauce. Don’t ask me for my sauce recipe, because it was a little wonky.

Our families were simultaneously very generous and slightly bizarre. Here are a few of the gems that they sent us:

It just isn’t Christmas for a Dutch person without a chocolate letter and double salted (Dubbel Zout) black licorice. If you live in Big Tree and want to taste a strange and wondrous delicacy, drop by our room.

Feeling a spiritual connection to all my Dutch ancestors.

The best letter in the alphabet made from the best food in the world watches the sunrise from our balcony.

Apparently, this blog has reinforced the idea that Todd loves his birds, and both sides of la familia added to his swag:

Todd, your bird friends will always be there for you. No matter what.

Our mothers must have a psychic connection, because they were really on the same page this year. They decided that they would help us follow the romantic Asian trend of couples wearing matching clothes, and sent us not one but TWO sets of matching t-shirts.

Our matching lululemon running shirts made T-bone tear up. He is relieved that he will finally learn why so many females mortgage their lives to buy this gear.

Reading the inside of his new shirt “Drink fresh water and as much water as possible.” “Dang,” says Todd. “I was about to drink out of the canal, but now I will have to find a fresh water source because lululemon ordered me to.”

And one half of our second shirt duo, from International Justice Mission (IJM), one of our favourite NGOs.

And this wee gem. Now I can be a proper housewife and bake pies all day or whatever it is that good wives supposedly do.

Wow. What is it?

We ended up having a great evening with multiple sugar hits and our multiple matching shirts. Thanks very much to our generous families. Just a warning to all my blog world friends, though: don’t think that just because I’ve done a “Christmas dinner post” you will be spared the massive, massive curry-laden Christmas dinner that we will consume in India. It’s gonna happen. Just sayin’.

*Wow. That sounds pretty frivolous. Let me assure you all that we have not forgotten the “reason for the season,” and that our celebrating will be spiritual as well as materialistic.