18th July 2014
Dear family and friends 🙂
How are you? I’ve been happy to hear from more of you recently. Life has taken on more of a normal rhythm now that it’s been ~a month since I landed. The last two weeks have been filled with quite a few activities.
4th July weekend:
On the Thursday before the long weekend, Santosh and I visited his cousin’s cousin who also lives in Sunnyvale. We took a potted plant for them as we did for my cousin’s house. I think it’s a great gift because unlike flowers in a bouquet, a plant grows, lives and blooms again. But it only works for people you know care about plants. We started with Kuzhipaniyaram as an appetiser but I was full with just that. As we played with their two sons on their PS3, we also got bowl fulls of salad. A little after that we were invited for the dinner – Bisibelabath, stuffed kathrikka and rasam, thayir… I really couldn’t eat much though. And after some more conversation and playing Carrom (how is it that so many people have Carrom here!) we got Paal Payasam! I felt seriously overloaded by this time and the hostess packed some for us to take home. That wasn’t all. As we were leaving, they gave us a big gift too! This wasn’t a casual evening; they had planned the traditional dinner which families invite newly weds to. I think I didn’t eat breakfast the next day.
The next afternoon, Santosh’s long time friend (I could say bestfriend) and colleague was expected for lunch with his wife and child. The second child was too young to bring along. While I cleaned, Santosh made Pav Bhaji! After they arrived we had a lovely time discussing travel, culture in different parts of the world, how they are raising kids here keeping their culture alive at the same time. The toddler got comfortable within the first ten minutes and played freely much to our amusement and the distress of her parents. We’ve been seeing a lot of cute children actually! They brought us a Chinese Dragon-Phoenix symbol that is given as a wedding gift in their culture. We plan to hang it in our bedroom. It was pleasant and comfortable having them over and Santosh said they feel like family to him.
In the evening, we left to San Francisco main city. We drove to Fremont and took the BART (train) from there, changed at Bay Fair and got off at Embarcadero. Several other people were heading in the same direction for the Independence Day Fireworks. From there we walked to Pier 39. On the way Santosh suggested we visit the loo further from the final destination where the lines won’t be so bad. SF was much colder than Sunnyvale so it was a very wise move! We made one more stop as we walked to sit on a bench next to the water to eat the Pav Bhaji we packed from home. That was a very gratifying meal, so tasty. There was something special about having your own food, not waiting in line, and just sitting near the sea gulls in the darkening dusk eating buttered soft Pav bread with bhaji with lemon squeezed onto it freshly. We weaved quickly through the crowd and reached the Pier and took our positions exactly two minutes before the fireworks started. The crowd was excited and consisted of people of all ages and races. There was a lot of cheering in the beginning and one (I assume drunk) enthusiastic young person yelled out ‘God Bless America’ every once in a while much to everyone else’s amusement. There was a thick fog in the sky which dispersed the light of the fireworks in unique mysterious ways. At times, it looked like the whole sky was alight. The fog also made the fireworks that burst in the lower heights look ultra sharp in contrast. Nothing says welcome to the USA like these fireworks and these people. I was kept warm with Santosh behind me. After half an hour of the fireworks – that played identically at our Pier and further ahead like a mirror image – we walked back in an alternate route to avoid the crowd, through Lombard street. The trains back were also of perfect timing and we optimised seat space. The feeling was perfect, the day had been perfect.
On Saturday we drove to Mount Madonna to visit a Hanuman temple there. The mountain road was winding and the trees offered relaxing shade from the ever-bright sun. After the temple, we went to the cafe area to enjoy the view. We couldn’t see the coast that day because of the fog. It would’ve been visible on other days from that height. After some hot chocolate and mango lassi there, we went to the nearby Buddhist Monastery run by the Vietnamese. The Buddha statues were so beautiful and large. Here are some pictures from that day which I took on my phone. We had our fortunes read (shaking a can of sticks with numbers on it until one falls out and getting the corresponding sheet of poetry out) and looked around their campus. They had open lunch for vistors, no charge! So we donated to their building project and took a walk. We saw a turtle pond, a garden where they grow their own vegetables, a shy deer among the trees and woodpeckers on trees with relatively softer bark where they pecked so many holes later filled by acorns, perhaps by squirrels. We bought a plain white ceramic meditating Buddha and a shiny golden laughing Buddha.
We stopped for the view on our way and got lost on our way back. We ended up at a farm which sells fresh farm grown berries, apples, pies and juices. We stopped for a ‘verry-berry’ pie and were introduced to a new type of berry we had never heard of called Olallie. We went shopping and had some sweet potato and garlic fries on the way home.
6th July onward
We decided to take it easy on Sunday and do some things around the house and shop for groceries – shops are open on Sundays here – yay!! We also activated my phone number.
On Friday (the 11th) I took a walk to the Library! 🙂 It was pretty exciting, putting on my headphones and new shoes and heading out in the sweet sunshine. It was the first time I ventured out by myself and suddenly, maybe because I was alone or because I was walking, I felt a different connection to this place. I noticed pedestrian traffic was nil apart from me. I walked in rhythm of the music I listened to. The Library was a single floor building (they avoid high rises because of the frequency of earthquakes). I picked up the my library membership card I had registered for online and browsed. I came home happy with two fiction and two nonfiction books.
Sunday – the world cup finals. I hadn’t watched a full match of the world cup until this point, only made sure that Germany was consistently winning and catching the highlights when Santosh checked them. It was such a close match and I was flooded with the same joy that every Germany supporter felt when in the last few minutes, they scored! 🙂 I was too far away to hear the cheering of all my friends, flatmates and neighbours in Germany. But the win totally made my day 🙂
I’ve been looking for musical groups to join, exploring possible courses, talking to contacts I was put in touch with about possibilities in counseling. On Tuesday I felt stuck/bored, friendless and homesick for both India AND Germany, for about a day. Then on Wednesday I started working on my writing. Then yesterday, I went to a cafe for a writers meet up where the procedure is to do a round of introductions and chat for fifteen minutes then work on our writing projects separately for an hour without talking then talk a bit more about how it went, what we are stuck with etc. And then go our separate ways. As writing can be an isolating activity, these meet ups are great at introducing a social element to it. I plan to go next week too. I also think I made a friend.. She is an American who can speak German 🙂 and wants to practice with me. Mein liebe Deutsche freuden muss nicht lachen. Maybe I’ll finally speak now that I’m far away and miss the Fatherland so much. For this meet up I took the bus to Mountain View and back. $2 fare each ride. The buses aren’t bad at all but I notice they are used mainly by those who can’t afford cars or are too young to drive. The ‘Merricans really need to fix their attitude to public transport (and walking).
Today I’m at Santosh’s office again as we have plans this evening and we’ll go straight from here. This weekend is my nephew’s birthday party and I’m looking forward to seeing him and his parents again. I’m hoping to gain more momentum with my writing projects in the coming weeks.
That’s all from here for now.
I look forward to hearing from more of you 🙂 Be well, enjoy the sun 🙂