Saturday, February 28, 2009

......"Up on a Roof" minus James Taylor

Yes....We "climbed way up to the top of the stairs" And "the stars last night put on a show for free".....

This time of the year, before the sweltering heat of the summer, people all over India utilize their "Terraces" as places to enjoy, entertain and escape. When I was looking for places to live, I discovered from the real estate agent that terraces are very popular with the American expatriate community......and I have a simple philosophy as to why. I will refer to it as the "James Taylor Factor". Yes, I am of the belief that JT planted this fantasy for those of us who grew up in areas of the US that simply never had the benefit of access to a rooftop or terrace......the construction of pitched roofs are so prevalent throughout the US,flat roofs simply do not exist in most non urban areas. Hence, we expats that grew up in the South or Mid-West never had the opportunity to our own "rooftop paradise" "stairs to climb" and no gazing at the "city lights below".

Terraces cane be simple and plain, or they can be transformed into beautiful gardens......yes, complete with grass and flowers,gazebos.....just like a "backyard on the roof".

Last night, Linda and I were invited to our first "Terrace Party" hosted by her friend Lynda and her husband.....who also live in our neighborhood. The food was wonderful, the "adult beverages" were served by Lynda's son, who has obviously had practice in helping out at such events in the past. Their Terrace is VERY VERY VERY nice and one of the prettiest Terraces I have seen....a true "paradise".

We have a Terrace......but it is not an oasis by any stretch of the imagination......I would describe it as a.......ummmmmm..flat roof. We have some plans.....for our own Terrace Party's...yes...plural. While it does not have gardens or fountains or a gazebo, I am looking at our terrace as a "Blank Canvas" that can be transformed into any themed event that we would like to have. How cool is that!

Linda has met some wonderful friends, who I have also had the benefit and pleasure of getting to know, as well as their husbands. It is just a matter of time.....before it is our turn to have everyone over to our place for some type of fun.

Enjoy the pictures from our first Terrace Party and I will introduce you to some of the friends that Linda and I have met while on our "adventure".

In the picture with all of the gals: from left - Kelly(who you may recognize from the function at the Australian Wine and Food event, Georgia(who is the adoptive parent of the cute puppy featured in the blog entry on the "Walk for Life"),Linda, and Roxana(who was the chairperson for the 2009 Walk for Life).


Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Last Mughal Emporer - Safdarjung

I caught a cold.......and I am not a good patient. My cold started on Friday which was a bit of a bummer because Linda and I had purchased tickets to the Aussie Wine and Food Event.....and there was no way I was going to miss it....sick or not. I had been looking forward to it all week.

Sunday, as you can tell, was my day of just relaxing, taking care of my cold and catching up on my blog entries......but boredom set in for both Preston and I. If I were back in the United States, I would have just jumped into the car and headed for a drive.....only Parker can uphold the Lauland tradition of.....driving to escape.

Ramesh had the day Preston and I grabbed a Tuk-Tuk at the end of the street and off we were to Safdarjung's Tomb.

This tomb was also fashioned after Humayun's tomb which was built some 200 years before. Safdarjung's son erected this tomb in his fathers honor in 1754.....22 years before the United States gained it's Independence from Britain. Safdarjung's son didn't realize when he commissioned the resting place for his father that he would be responsible for the last significant example of Mughal architecture in Delhi.

It is truly a beautiful building, that is currently undergoing restoration. Restoration work is revealing some beautiful hand painted design work that has been covered for sometime.

"Down Under" Fun in Delhi

G'day Mates! If you haven't figured things out as of yet, Linda is certainly in charge of our "social" calender.

Mid week, Linda gave me a choice of attending a function at the school called "Night Under the Stars" or affectionately known as "NUTS".....a function to raise money for the school. Held on the soccer field, attendees have to dress in traditional Indian clothing, ladies in sari's and men in the traditional clothing men wear......we both decided that we simply did not have the time to properly prepare. Parker, I haven't bought that nice Indian outfit that I told you I was going to buy......but it is only a matter of time!

The second choice was to attend a function that started in the afternoon, hosted by The Australian/New Zealand Business Association...a Food and Wine Festival held on the grounds of the Australian High Commission.

Most of the friends we have met have been through the school, but Linda has also met some friends from the Delhi Network meetings that do not have children at the American Embassy School. One such couple, Kelly and Jim, are also here on their first overseas assignment.....and they moved to India from Montgomery, Alabama of all places.

The afternoon was beautiful, the grounds were immaculate, the food was awesome.......and the wine.....magnificent, especially compared to the wines made in India!

Jim and I enjoyed many glasses of wine while discussing our jobs, India, fishing and a host of other such things guys talk about.

Linda and Kelly sipped wine and beer.....and seemed to enjoy the food and chatting about girl stuff.

Oh......I almost forgot about the food.....Grilled Lamb Chops, Grilled Prawns, Grilled Beef Tenderloin Burgers, Grilled Chicken Sausage with Cajun Seasoning.......not sure how that was Aussie in any case, was delicious...a huge selection of salads....and deserts....all very yummy!

When I stepped on the grounds of the Australian High Commission, I thought of my very good friend Robert Hosking, whom I met while working in Houston.....Robert, if you ever read this blog.....this entry is dedicated to the way, the beer was fantastic! There is a new microbrewery that opened in Melbourne and they flew in several cases of their beer for this event. It was probably the most expensive beer of its kind......called Cricketer Arms Lager. Here is the link to their website:

Robert you would have had a ball.......not quite as fun as an Ice House in Texas.......but still great fun!

Here are some photos of the event and one of a beautiful little Australian girl in a colorful hat who sat at our table.


Discovering Delhi: Humayun's Tomb

A few weeks ago, Preston and I discovered Hauz Khas....and we both thought it was time that Linda joined us for the fun of discovering the "Incredible India" that exists all around us in Delhi.

After the "Walk for Life" we returned home, only to realize that we still had a huge part of our day it gave us the opportunity to explore.....Humayun's Tomb.....and you get another history lesson!

Before we arrived, we learned a great deal from Ramesh on the ride over. In his previous job, he would take tourists visiting Delhi to sites like this all the time....he shared with us that Humayun's Tomb is sometimes referred to as the "Mini Taj Mahal" was built before the Taj and there are many similarities between the two.
Humayun's Tomb was commissioned by his widow.....the Taj by a grieving husband for his wife whom he loved dearly. The design used in Humayun's Tomb is considered to be the first example of proper Mughal Style which was inspired by Persian Architecture, and it is clear that the Taj borrowed some of the same elements.

The name Begum and the number 14 also pose some unique similarities between the two buildings. Humayun's widow,Hamida Banu Begum, commissioned the tomb to be built for her husband 14 years after his the case of the Taj, it was the wife of the Emperor who died while giving birth to their 14th child, a son named Gauhara Begum.

Construction of the tomb began in 1562 and took a total of eight years to complete....including the gardens and water features that surround the tomb. There are several other tombs that are part of this complex that sits on approximately 20 acres on the East side of Delhi.

The buildings are magnificent and it is very difficult to believe that they were built 4.5 centuries ago......they are in such great physical shape....truly built to stand the test of time.

A visit to Humayun's Tomb will certainly be on our list of sites to take visitors......enjoy the photo's.

Character's,Critter's and the Walk for Life

As with any public event, I knew to bring the camera along as I was confident that it would provide the opportunity to snap a few pictures of some interesting sites or people.

There was an Indian version of Charlie Chaplin......and a clown that was at the end of the race greeting the walkers as they were nearing the finish line.

The puppy.....which I asked to be kept away from Linda, provided some entertainment while the walk was taking place.....he wasn't as cute as Murphy!

While Linda was distributing drinks at the end of the walk, she fell in love with a young boy who was with a school group. He had approached her at the table....and took several drinks.....and kept coming back for more. Linda loved his smile....and of course she obliged him by letting him take more drinks......but his teacher must have discovered his gluttony, and asked him to return some......but Linda thought he was so cute.....I snapped some candid pictures of him.

He was a stunning little boy........who has no idea that he is being made "famous" by being featured in this blog!

Walk for Life - Our First Volunteer Project as a Family

Last Sunday was an early Sunday began at 6:30 to get ready for our first volunteer project as a family.....the "Walk for Life". I just know that if Parker was with us in India, he would have been along side of us...pitching in with all of his heart.

Linda was the first to volunteer for the event, and I decided at the last minute to tag along....guessing that I would be able to be put to work in some capacity. So Linda and I left a note for Preston who was still asleep, and headed off in the early morning hours to help the organizer's set up. Ramesh dropped us off and headed back to the house to wait for Preston to wake up.....and bring him to the event later that morning.

When we arrived, Linda went to her post working the Registration Desk and sure enough, I was quickly put to work as a "Security" guard at the gate. Apparantly the two ladies that were to be at the post had not arrived at their scheduled I went to work.

This is only the second year that "The Walk" has taken place and from what we were told, it is growing in participation.....and the need for raising funds is growing as well.......each year there are more documented cases of people with cancer here in India. Some attribute it to the change in lifestyle as well as diet.

Estimates of participation in this years event was approximated at 5,000 walkers......and hopefully next year it will be even larger.

I am sure that Preston and I will be involved in more of these activities through Linda's participation in various organizations.

It was a great day......and it felt good, even though we played a very small role, to give back to the community. Preston was able to help out quite a bit, distributing drinks to the walkers at the conclusion of the event.

I am not only looking forward to next years "Walk for Life" but I am looking forward to the next community service event that comes our way. Parker, we miss you...and love you......and wish you were here with us to help out!

I snapped some pictures of the event.....


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Fine Dining - Roadside at the "Chicken and Fish Corner"

Since I arrived in India I have been sharing my experiences with the wonderful food I have been eating......and about how careful I have been to eat at places that have been recommended by Ramesh or other trustworthy sources.

India is a culinary smorgasbord......from a Five Star fine dining experience,International Chain Restaurants like TGI Fridays, McDonald's and KFC, local restaurants serving great Indian home style cooking (where we typically eat)..... roadside eateries called "Dhabas", or simply an entrepreneur who finds a place on a sidewalk to set up shop and cook and serve hot food.

If you ever pick up a book or visit a website on the topic of traveling in India, all of them will stress that it is best to "always drink Bottled Water" and try and stay away from eating food served by "street vendors". The food may look wonderful, but unfortunately, food sanitation practices are not stringently followed by street vendors.

Last week I traveled to a city named Amritsar.....the home of the very famous Golden Temple......and only 30 kilometers from the border of Pakistan.

We met with two potential clients; one hotel that is well under construction and another client who has a vacant piece of land that he is interested in developing a hotel on.

Our meetings were back to back .....and combined with our flight that was delayed by 5 hours due to fog in the morning, there was simply no time for visiting any of the interesting sites in and around Amritsar.

One benefit of traveling with colleagues is that they are "in the know" or know whom and what to ask those who are "in the know".

Amritsar is known for many things, but one thing in particular is their food....or the technique of how it is prepared.

As it was nearing time for dinner, some inquiries were made on a great place to get some "Amritsari Fish".....the information was delivered in Hindi....directions exchanges.....all I was asked is "if I wanted to try some fish"?

Not knowing where we would be eating, we said goodbye to our clients and the driver whisked us away to what is considered the best place in Amritsar for fish......the "Chicken and Fish Corner".

The name says it fancy brainstorming sessions, no marketing agency hired to create the perfect name or brand for him.....he set up shop on a corner in Amritsar to cook Chicken and it what it confusion....."Makhan Chicken and Fish Corner"......

I don't know what kind of fish it was, other than "river fish".....don't know what spices/seasonings he used.....didn't see a Certificate from the Health, rickshaws, tuk-tuks, dogs, cows and whatever else was on the streets replaced the waiters and other diners one would find in a restaurant.....the background music was not piped in and was horns and barking and the sound of engines....and more horns.......after the first bite....I didn't care......

It was incredibly some of the best fish I have ever had in my entire life.

It was also the first time I had eaten street food.....the risk was known to me ....I didn't get sick...... the reward was delicious and priceless.....

I wondered how successful we could be at a hotel.....with this team from the "corner" in a well lighted kitchen, surrounded by Stainless Steel, chef's hats and handling training, guidelines, procedures, time clocks, and on and on.

Then I remembered......the following sayings....."don't mess with success" and "keep it simple".

When I am back in you have any idea where I will be dining and what I will be eating?

Bon Apetit!