Friday, January 30, 2009

Hi! So I guess it's been a while. I'm trying to think, what have I done that I could write about?

Last Saturday I went to the old city of Hyderabad with a friend (Laura). I'd been there before when CIEE took us during orientation but it was very rushed and overwhelming. I felt a lot more confident this time, which was nice.

The old city of Hyderabad, which is home to the Chowmahalla palace, Charminar, Mecca Masjid, and Lad bazaar, is largely Muslim which really shows. Many people speak Urdu rather than Telegu, and there is a very different atmosphere. The old city is a lot more like most Westerner's vision of India (at least Muslim India) than other parts of Hyderabad: there are few western chains, and very few people wearing western clothes. Naturally my friend and I stuck out, and attracted a lot of unwanted attention from some starstruck girl scouts, but we managed to escape. (I'm quite pleased though; I really think I'm getting less and less exciting as I get tanner!)

The first thing Laura and I did was to go up into Charminar something we had not done with CIEE. Sorry I can't upload pictures! Just google Charminar and you'll be able to see what it looks like. Anyway char minar means "four minarets" in Hindi, and that's basically what it is. It's beautiful to look at from the outside, but the real attraction is within. After paying the 100 rupee "foreigner price" (Indians pay 5 rupees) we climbed up the narrow spiral stone stairs to the top. The architecture at the top is really interesting; there are a lot of little nooks and passages which are fun to find (and good for avoiding people who want to have their pictures taken with white people). What was really amazing was the view though. By slowly walking around the top, you can really see the old city. Again, really sorry about the pictures!

After coming down we went to Lad Bazaar, the market in Hyderabad famous for its bangles. We both bought some; those vendors are incredibly persistent. At one point, Laura had an entire counterful of bangles that she was deciding between. She eventually narrowed it down to four. I guess the vendors didn't realize that she meant to narrow it down further, because he wrapped them up for her. She promptly unwrapped them and explained that she wasn't done deciding, but they just rewrapped them again. She tried the old "this is all the money I have on me" trick, but even that didn't work. She really had not meant to buy four bangle sets in one go, but somehow it happened (she's very happy with them though). I bought two sets, which I'm also happy with. I think I'm getting better at bargaining! It's actually kind of fun now, though I'm sure I'm still getting ripped off.

The next day (Sunday) I went out with a CIEE friend and some Indian friends. First we went to lunch at Hyderabad house, a quite nice, but not outrageously nice Indian chain that started in (guess where) Hyderabad. I think I wrote about biryani before. Well. That was at the Hotel Kamat, and was NOT real biryani, according to the Indians we were with. This biryani was truly amazing. We got a "family plate" for four people. It turned out to be absolutely enormous. Seriously the size of a typical dining hall tray, holding a mountain of biryani. Fortunately it was REALLY good. We almost finished it. So apparently, in addition to all the layering that goes on during the biryani making process, REAL biryani also has to be made over a wood fire. Wow.

After lunch, we went to one of the old palaces of the 6th nizam, which has been turned into a high school/museum. The 6th Nizam, like all the others, was insanely rich. The museum showed off the things that he used this money for. For example, his wardrobe. From his birth to his death, this man never wore the same outfit twice. Every single day he wore something new; tailors were constantly working. The wardrobe itself was about the size of a ballroom. Other things the 6th nizam decided to use his money for were pure gold perfume bottles, ivory and silver letter holders (which he would use rather than envelopes to deliver letters), gold bound Korans, silver pan boxes, emerald capped walking sticks, silver replicas of charminar, nampally train station, the Hyderabad market place, etc. You know, all the basic necessities of life. Oh and he used diamonds for paper weights. The funny thing is though, that his son, the 7th nizam was a total miser. He ate off of rusty tin plates and never bought new clothes unless he had too. Rebellion? Must have been.

Today CIEE took us to visit the CII Shorabji Godrej Green business center in hitech city. It was pretty interesting. Apparently it's the 3rd greenest building in the world, by LEED standards. I've visited several "green" buildings in the US, but somehow hadn't thought that it would be something that people would find important in India (I have NEVER seen a recycling bin, and even trash cans are rare. Most people just throw their garbage on the street.) I'm really glad people are getting conscious about that here though. India is developing so rapidly, I'm sure the amount of waste generated must be enormous.

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