Thursday, September 24, 2009

SO not a typical American Christmas!

***This is one of several posts about our amazing Christmas vacation to visit my parents in South Asia. It was our first time over there and it was suuuuuch a cross-cultural experience. So far I have posted about
what it was like to walk the streets and sight-see,
- our
harrowing adventures on an overnight train trip,
an incredible village wedding, staying in a crumbling beach shack,
thoughts and reactions to being in a conservative Muslim country.
Visiting a gorgeous ancient Moghul Palace***
And today.... Final photos from our Christmas trip to see my family in South Asia.

Isn't the photo below gorgeous? It's from a little ribbon shop that my mom and I went into to find trim for the shalwar kameez that we were having made for each of us. It was quite an adventure - picking out material and ribbon from such a vast array of colors and patterns and then taking them to a tailor (who would only take measurements if my Dad was there to supervise).
These are the last of the photos and videos. On Christmas Eve we went up to the mountains near my sisters' boarding school and stayed in my parent's old house. The living room looks like this:
Isn't it so Laura Ingalls Wilder? There was no heating other than this little wood stove, which means we all stayed in the living room at nearly all times!
It was fun being up in the mountains surrounded by pine trees. The view was stunning - in the distance you could see snowcapped mountains, which we were told were really just the foothills to the real Himalayas. At night the hills around us looked like Christmas trees themselves, strung with the lights of the houses that were scattered all up and down their steep sides. It really was beautiful.
All of us "kids" (there are six of us, plus two married in now) slept together around the Christmas tree in the living room on Christmas Eve - partly to be near the heater and partly just because it's tradition. We are scattered all over the world, so we just soaked up the the chance to be all snuggled up in sleeping bags like sardines. I drank it in.

The video above is from Christmas morning, when my brother Matt directed and narrarated a Christmas play. To my mom's chagrin, it quickly dissolved into hilarity, mostly because Matt and my dad both love attention and took full advantage of having an audience.

If you can make it out in the midst of the insanity, you'll hear Matt reading about how Joseph "took Mary home to be his wife", and then interjecting his thoughts on that, "ew, that's SICK." At that point the camera-woman and the siblings around me begin to giggle madly. You might also catch my Dad laying on the ground pretending to be a sleeping Joseph and snoring loudly and making comments like, "Look at my eyes, this is REM."

I think my mom would have preferred a more sacred moment, but I figure having a loving family laughing is pretty sacred as well. :)



Another highlight of Christmas was the dinner, which I did not get a photo of. It was supposed to be a roast chicken, but it was purple. No joke. My dad had gone down to town and ordered a chicken, a large one. The guy had picked up a chicken and slaughtered it in front of dad, so dad swears up and down that IT WAS a chicken that we tried eating. However, none of us has ever seen a chicken like this before. The meat was really red before cooking - I mean as red as beef. After cooking it was blue and purple. Seriously. Blue and purple. And TOUGH. So tough that half of it couldn't even be cut with a knife.
So, dad was horrified and all the rest of consoled him and it proceeded to be a joke the rest of the trip.

There's always something memorable every Christmas! Sometime I should tell you about the Christmas in a village in Papua that a naked man came in and sat on our kitchen table. I don't mean a man wearing a gourd, I really mean a naked man. Anyways, that's another day.
Speaking of strange men, check out the local Santa Claus! This is the video of kids from the local International school caroling at the nicest local hotel. On the far right you can see (and hear) Matt hamming it up for the crowd, and then you catch a glimpse of the most bored and sort of terrifying Santa ever - and his shoes!

We also went into town to explore, and it's such a cool little mountain town with winding roads and hidden corners.
This is on the way up into the mountains, when we stopped at a beautiful nice restaurant with a stunning view!


The little mountain town was fantastic. It catered to tourists (generally tourists from Asia - we didn't see a white tourist the entire three week trip).


Below is a chips man - he's selling fresh french fries. They are awesome both because they are fresh but also because they are spiced with garam masala. Yum. You'll notice we are also holding cups of freshly steamed coffee and chai.

These stands (below) were on every corner, sorta like Starbucks in Chicago, I guess. You pick your drink and they steam it up for you. SO GOOD. And cheap. I'm jealous. I wish we had these stands here in the US!


This is the covered market, which winds through a building and out into tiny winding alleys filled with vendors selling shoes, nuts, clothes, jewelry, and curios. It was SUCH a cool atmosphere. See the guys sitting on the roofs and just watching the world go by? love it. I took this photo while we were trying fresh naan and pakoras, which were amazing. A moment later when my parents went into a store to check out something, they were invited to sit and chat over green tea. They accepted, and had a fun 20 minute chat with the owner.


Here's the naan-making in process. IT WAS INDESCRIBABLY AWESOME:

There are just piles and piles of cashews, almonds, peanuts, apricots, seasame seed and honey candy, and much more. It was amazing.

This is a different market, but it gives you a glimpse of the piles of clothes, and some of the local dress:

And finally, just because it has to be thrown in somewhere, this is a glimpse of a bus we took for one of our trips. They are amazing - decorated inside and out, blaring funky music, and packed to the gills. Our driver blared on his horn constantly just to let everyone know he was coming and he wasn't stopping for anyone, but his horn was... a song. Sorta like a cell phone ring, except 50 times as loud. It was so obnoxious and made it impossible to sleep!

All in all, it was a great, unique, and totally cross-cultural experience



Amy said...

I have really been enjoying your picutres! And those clothes - what did you call that style of dress, salwar kameez? I WANT. Seriously, for the most part I can't stand western fashion. I would dress like that in a heartbeat, if I wouldn't feel so out of place as a white girl in the midwest. *sigh* Anyway, thanks for sharing! :)

Bethany said...

Loving the stories and pictures- what an amazing adventure!!

Erin said...

I've been loving these posts - I've always wanted to visit that part of the world one day and this has only strengthened the desire. Such beautiful pictures (especially around the wedding) - and the clothes, they look great!

trainstutusandtwizzlers said...

What an amazing experience. I came here from The Saturday Evening Post, and will have to meander around your blog :)