Sunday, June 28, 2009

Henna in the heat

My friend and former student Jessie is visiting India. One of the things she wanted to do while here was have her hand henna-ed.
The man who did her hand had some of the most detailed design work I've ever seen for "street" henna. And it didn't smudge or run either.
But all that quality work took a long time.
Poor girl had to sit out in the heat for an hour.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sparkly paint

When I first went out to look for paint (weeks ago), I was shown the shade chart and at the bottom were some sparkly swatches.
"What's this?" I asked. "Is it really shiny like this?"
Sure enough. Metallic paint colors.
Great. I took two liters.

I had to wait awhile for the specialized painter to be available to come paint the wall for me. First he wanted to come when I wasn't home. Then it was a problem with the compressor for the airbrush. Then a scheduling conflict.
But today, he finally came.

It didn't even take very long.
Now I have a pretty sparkly wall.

Can you see it sparkle?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

More paint

I've been doing some painting.
There were beds and a shelf left in the apartment for me to use but they were in very bad condition. Instead of replacing the damaged wood and vinyl, I striped it off, sanded them down and painted them all. They look much better--and cleaner--now.
And that means that my guest room is finished--so you can come and visit me.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Going backwards

Today I have none of these things:
- water--there were five drops from the faucet
- electricity
- internet
- fan to relieve me from the 110 degree heat
- pillows for the guests coming this weekend

It feels like I'm taking steps backwards from the progress made in the flat.
Very discouraging.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Gift exchange

I could have a blog just about the things that happen while riding in auto rickshaws.

I was on my way home when the oft-seen little beggar/hawker children tried to get me to buy a string of jasmine blossoms. I told them I didn't need one but they still hung around the auto asking me.
The little girl's eye was caught by my recent purchase, "What's that?" she asked. I had bought some synthetic grass with little sea shells on it to put in a vase and it was poking out of the shopping bag.
I didn't know the Hindi word so I told her in English that they were shells. It struck me that she's probably never seen a lake or the ocean, maybe never even heard of it. How do you explain, then, what a shell is?
The little boy laid a string of the jasmine blossoms over my arm. "No, I don't need it," I told him and held my arm out to him. He wouldn't take it.
Again I tried to return the blossoms but he backed out of reach. "Gift," he said. It was late in the day and the blossoms were wilting. Perhaps he knew he would be unable to sell them to anyone.
The little girl, who was still admiring the shells and longing to touch one, also laid some jasmine blossoms over my arm. "Gift," she repeated after the boy.
This was too much for me. I reached into the bag and loosened one of the pieces of shell grass and gave it to the girl. She thought it was wonderful. After she looked at it she handed it back.
"Gift," I told her.
The boy then said something I couldn't understand and tried to keep the girl from taking the shell grass. I said again that was a gift. As the light changed and the traffic began to go forward, the boy wrestled it away from the girl and threw it back into the moving auto.
My impulse was to throw it out again onto the sidewalk where hopefully the little girl could find it.
But I didn't.
Instead I straightened out the bent end and slipped it back into my bag.
Maybe the boy was protecting them from something I don't understand. Even though I cannot comprehend the world of their street-life, I still want to treat them with dignity and honor.
The smell of jasmine blossoms went with me all the way home.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


I connected my stove yesterday. So I cooked for the first time today.
Peas. I don't know why peas. I didn't even want peas. The vegetable man told me to buy them. That they were good peas.
I told him I didn't want peas, I wanted tomatoes.
He gave me the tomatoes and I gave him money, then he said he didn't have change and he'd give me peas instead.
So I took the dumb peas.
Peas are work intensive. I shelled them for an hour and then they made this tiny little pile in the pot.
So I had peas for dinner. Before they went bad in my refrigerator.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Almost on fire

I went with some friends to a recently opened restaurant. We were enjoying the ambiance, good company and classy black silverware when our food arrived. I had taken about two bites of my penne pomodoro and my friend pointed to the window where smoke was billowing into the restaurant.
Several waiters and such rushed over to the window, but it was too late to stop the acrid smoke from filling the room and making the air imbreathable.

We sat at the table, eyes closed and napkins over our faces. Do we evacuate? It doesn't seem to be a fire. Our food just got here--and it's good food.
The other patrons seemed to be leaving.

The waiters came to our table and asked us to please move to another table. They had opened a window on the opposite side of the building and there was a table just beside it for us. They moved all our plates over and we continued eating.
Nothing was really on fire, it seemed, just some short circuit in the signboard outside the window.

One thing that didn't get moved to the new table was my friend's mocha smoothie. She was sad about this. And she asked the waiter about it. They thought it was gone and had removed it, but when she was sad, they brought her a new full one. Very nice.

We were now the only people left in the restaurant (After the man who threw a tantrum over his "long awaited" coffee left--I mean, really, didn't he notice the smoke emergency? Can't he practice a little patience?) and one of the waitresses came over to chat. She wanted to know our names and how our food was and after that she brought another friend over to meet us.

Then we sat there for awhile waiting until finally I asked for the bill, and we were told, there is no bill. Complimentary because of the minor disaster and inconvenience. Even that extra mocha smoothie. Wow.
And then they gave us each a 15% off discount coupon for our next visit. Wow. It wasn't even that much smoke, really.

We left a nice tip.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Thirteen hours later

Now there is shine. Now there is sparkle.
After seven and a half hours of cleaning yesterday and another five and half today, the kitchen is now clean. It has cupboards; it has all the necessary walls and gaps sealed up; and it is clean.

Particularly beautiful to me (now) is this power outlet. Before I started on it it was brown with years of baked on grease from those who previously lived and cooked here. Disgusting.
It's still not perfect, but so much better.

And a good thing the kitchen is clean, because I got ahead of myself and unpacked dishes the other day. Now I have somewhere to put them.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Enjoy the curtains

The curtains are fixed now. It took me two days to beat the dust out of them and thoroughly clean the windows--it's hard to clean with your arms so high above your head.
They're pretty. Now I can enjoy them.
And now I wouldn't mind if the curtain man came back. :)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Assembling a bed

Today I put together the bed.
I thought it would be harder than it was. I am relieved that it was not.
Now I have a place to sleep.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sparkling clean

I spent six hours cleaning the bathroom today. I even got the corroded metal faucets to shine once more.
I don't know if my fingers have ever been this pruney.
It is finally a room clean enough that I give it a mark of satisfaction. That means: one down, six rooms to go.
If you can't really see the sparkle, humor me and pretend you can.

The painter is gone

It has been twenty-four days since he first showed up and said painting the apartment would take ten days.
Four rooms and five colors later, he cleaned his last paint brush and said goodbye.
He's been a helpful person to have around. Beyond his painter duties, he's made the carpenter not take too many naps, found a glass guy to fix things, made sure the trash collector didn't ask for too much money, gone to find a locksmith when I was locked out, and bought wire for the electrician.
When he finished, he only asked for $20 above his original estimate. I didn't mind that at all.
As helpful as he's been, though, I'm so glad he's gone and I'm that much closer to having things finished around here.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

New cupboards

The cupboards were another thing in very bad shape when I first arrived. Warped from weather and years of being unused, termite eaten. The formica was peeling off the cupboard doors and they were a mess.
I had the doors removed, thinking maybe new doors with new formica--known here as shamica--would do the trick and be enough. But two carpenters came to give me estimates on the work and both said the whole thing needed to go because it was in such bad shape.
All right then. Give me something new and pretty.
Six days later I had new cupboards with nice, green shamica. They just needed painting, and no problem there because the painter was still hanging around painting things.
Behold the transformation. I have kitchen cupboards. And when the paint dries, I'll put something in them.

Washing machine: check

It may not seem like a big deal. But the washing machine is now connected and I can wash my clothes and the tons of other dusty things around the apartment.
The washing machine service guy came, looked over the machine, brought the new pipes I needed--after a week of waiting for them to be delivered, that is. Then he connected it all for me, too. And that was good, because even though I can probably do that, what took him twenty minutes would take me an hour and a half.
I do a load of wash now just about every day because it's so nice knowing I can clean something.
Now I just need a drying rack for those three sheets I'm currently washing...

The gaping hole

One of the worst things about the apartment when I first moved in was the fiberglass covering the pipe shaft in the kitchen. It was dirty, old, and warped. All the dust and pigeon dirt could float right in. And it's next to the sink where it all gathers on the dishes.
The fiberglass had to go.

Finding someone to fix this was not easy. The carpenter said he would do it, but as noted, the carpenter did not finish all he said he would.
He did remove the old fiberglass pieces, though. Leaving a gaping hole into disgusting-ness right there in the kitchen.
Old pipes going up into the dust.
And down into a mess of pigeon droppings.
Ew gross, I do not want to stare at that all the time.
Or give the pigeons such easy access into my home.

Well the carpenter wasn't going to come back and fix it. So a sheesha wallah, a glass guy, was called in.

The glass guy arrived and said he'd charge $20 to fix the shaft and the two other broken windows in the flat--that included glass, cutting, and labor. Nice.
He was done in forty minutes. After waiting almost three weeks to have this ghastly ugliness removed from my sight.
Hooray it's gone.

Friday, June 5, 2009

That's not my work

I'm so tired of the phrase, "it's not my work".
A/c installers wont do anything that might resemble electric work.
Plumbers won't do anything that might resemble carpenter work.
Carpenters won't do anything that might resemble glass work.
Painters won't do anything that might resemble carpenter work.
Yet I have to dabble in it all as I go behind each different worker to make sure their job is done correctly and thoroughly.
What am I paying them for?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Carpenter trouble

I made a mistake. I paid the carpenter.
Now he won't return to finish his job.
I didn't think I'd paid the whole amount. It was the landlord who did the negotiating and I thought there was still a little more before it was the total price.
He finished the kitchen cupboards and asked for money. Then he took all those bills with a hungry look in his eye and slept late the next day (so I assume) knowing he wouldn't come back to finish the other little odd jobs around the place.
Why do I have to be so constantly on guard for everything? Can't I trust that when I hire (and pay) a person to do a job, he will then do it?
And to do it well. That would be another nice idea.
Every time I look at those kitchen cupboards I see another small thing that wasn't done right. As if doing the job right wasn't important because I would never notice anyway. But I do. And it makes me sick because those cupboards weren't cheap and apparently now it's my fault they aren't nice because I paid him.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Fusebox fight

There are three little birds fighting over who gets to use the fuse box space as a nest. I keep telling them that no one gets to live there, but they don't listen and keep coming right back.
They are not afraid of me, they are not afraid of the shiny stuff I put up to keep them away. And they yell at me.
They've already used the fuse box from the floor above and made a mess there.
I've now tied the fuse box shut and taped over any gaps. They just won't take no for an answer and they've been diligently filling my fuse box with grass and feathers.
I've thought about singing like Snow White or Giselle (from Enchanted) to get them to do some work for me.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The curtain man was appalled

The curtains he had made were beautiful, and he'd taken all that time to hang and arrange them just so before he left. Thus I didn't want the curtain man to return.
I'd done things kind of backwards and invited the dust creating, mess-making sort of workers after the curtains were hung instead of before. The best I could do was to tie them up to keep them out of the dust--they were just too difficult to get down.

So there was one last small curtain being made for a different room. I hadn't called him about it because I hadn't wanted him to come and see what had become of his beautiful work in the living room.

But this evening he brought over the last small curtain and there he stood at the door and his face said it all. He was very distressed.
He started scolding the painter and the carpenter for letting this happen, "Oh they'll get bad. They're getting dirty. This is very very bad."
I agree, but what to do?

The painter piped up that it was the a/c installer and what can you do about those messy, troublesome a/c installers?
That was inventive.

So the curtain man straightened things as best he could, but then had to turn his back on the rest, knowing there was nothing more to be done right now while the carpenters were still at work and the dust still flying.
Ah, poor, sad curtain man.

Wire is not a mobile

The a/c installer had finally come to finish his job--after 2 weeks of being MIA--and he was again refusing to finish the work because he didn't have enough wire. Not only that, but he was also insisting that it wasn't his work, but an electrician's.
I knew, though, that I had the wire he needed. Somewhere. It's hard to keep track of things when so many other people move them around.
Anyhow, I asked where the wire was. The carpenter--who can't seem to understand a word I say, no matter what language--believed I was looking for my mobile phone. So he had the other six men in the house at that time scrambling all over in search of "madame ji's" mobile. Until finally one of them understood I was looking for the wire for the a/c.
Then it was funny. "Mobile," they all laughed.
No: wire.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Pretty lights

I got new light fixtures for the apartment. The old ones, even if they weren't broken, were hideous.
The new ones make the light pretty.