entering the land of the gods

a study abroad journey

Archive for the tag “friends”

Before & After Photo Gallery


On the train in Hyderabad – Nampally to Lingampalli, February 2013                                          Vote for my photo here!

Some things never change!

You can walk millions of miles in a single life without ever touching the surface of the places, nor learn anything from the people seen. The sense of the travel lies in stopping to listen, everyone has a story to tell. –Anonymous

2013 (on left), 2016 (on right).

Halwa cooking at A Bowl of Compassion.

There is always time for Mr. Das!


Teacher of Hindi, cooking, and life – Bhavani-ji!

Indian godparents, Raman & Tarenjeet!

Lucky to have seen the Taj twice now!

On the Ganges, Varanasi.

Reuniting of scholars!

Friendships at Charminar!

And being dressed in a saree always seems to fit it’s way in. 🙂

Stories to come this week! Stay posted!


Maria and Kathie !

Maria is back! And she got great company this time 🙂 Three years ago in 2013, Maria Niechwiadowiecz from South Dakota was visiting India to study abroad and to backpack the country. She wanted to learn as much as she could from mother India with it´s huge and colorful culture and it´s lovely people. With a wide […]


The First “Goodbyes”

I hate to say it, but the goodbyes have begun. After a week of dreading these moments, they snuck upon me so fast! Today some of my best friends departed for their final travels, and I found myself unsure about how the handle the day. With final studying and packing, where is the time to celebrate and create final memories? I found that a pit began to form in my stomach as the day progressed and gray clouds covered the sky to match my quiet mood.

I should have known that the most memorable part of the day would be at tea time.  🙂 Almost a dozen of us sat around a table of four with our chai tea and biscuits sharing usual bits of conversation and laughter. Brooke, being the amazing person that she is, began a trivia game about all of us, that brought on fits of giggles! The questions started out pretty standard, testing how well we knew each other:

  • What are the names of Emily’s sisters?
  • How many cousins does Rachel have? etc

But then they got silly, full of inside jokes and quirks:

  • How many pieces of toast does Harper eat at breakfast (when she actually makes it to breakfast)?
  • What is the rate of speed in which Gilly chews her food?

There was such bonding, such camaraderie in that moment. The trivia encapsulated our entire semester together, how well we have gotten to know each other and experiences we have shares. And that’s when it began to really sink in…gawl darn I am going to miss these people! I am going to miss their stories and laughter: I am going to miss Brooke’s words of encouragement. I am going to miss Gilly’s blunt and sometimes goofy opinions. I am going to miss Anna’s childish laughter. I am going to miss braiding Harper’s hair and her sarcastic attitude! I am going to miss Marianna’s warm words. I am going to miss Connor’s awesome personality! I am going to miss Emily’s Appalachian slang and amazing storytelling. I am going to miss Rachel’s tall hugs. I could go on and on— How I wish I could have stopped time in that moment, lingering over chai and laughter for hours more.

But goodbyes were in order. Of course, it didn’t feel real in the moment. Hours later, it still does not feel real in many aspects. I have a quiet room without Emily, and these next few days will get quieter as more and more people leave Tagore. But I am not ready to say goodbye yet. I have one more week to live life at Tagore, on the U of H campus, and in Hyderabad!

But first, one more final exam-

Hyderabadi Biriyani

My blog would be incomplete if I did not mention the famous biriyani of Hyderabad!

Biriyani is a rice dish traditionally made with meat (chicken, mutton, or lamb) and spices. The way I understand it, the meat is marinated in yogurt and spices overnight. Then the meat is layered with long-grain basmati rice and cooked in a sealed vessel.

It is a delicious concoction as saffron, cardamom, and coriander infuse their fragrances throughout the tender meat and rice.  The dish is served with a spicy gravy called mirchi ka salan, made of curried chili peppers, peanuts, ginger, garlic, and spices. Raita or yogurt sauce is served as well to add a nice cooling effect.



The final perfection, eating biriyani with raw red onion and lemon juice!


In Hyderabad there is a restaurant called “Paradise” that is known to have the best biriyani in town. Therefore, as a final hooray, I planned a dinner for all of the students of Tagore to convene at Paradise for a “final meal” before people begin heading home.


There were almost 30 of us that packed into cabs and headed to the restaurant draped in saris and bangles!

Brooke, Anna, and I decided to split the Chicken Biriyani, and I am glad we did. We each received portions of this size:


We spooned mirchi ka salan and raita over the steaming rice and dug in, hands first of course. Wow- that is good biriyani folks, however, I must stay that our hostel has a recipe that is just as good.


This recipe looks pretty authentic if you want to try it out at home: http://www.sailusfood.com/2010/02/14/hyderabadi-chicken-dum-biryani/

The heart was filled with joy as I enjoyed an fantastic meal with the people that have made this semester worthwhile! Yet, I could not help but feel a touch of sadness that these meals and times of laughter are coming to a close. Regardless, our memories will live on!



Harper and I


Harper, Maria, Emily, Brooke

IMG_2872Roomies: Emily and I


Me and the boys: Julian & Connor


Brooke, Maria, Rachel B


With Brooke…what babes 🙂


Rachel B & I

DSC_0740Think fast!



Indian Godparents

After meeting Taranjeet and Raman Samra for the third time, I have decided that I need a “title” for them! When people ask where I have been or who they are there is no easy way to explain our connection (the brother of the owner of the Indian restaurant in Oregon that my aunt and uncle go to and his wife). Usually I just say “my friends in Hyderabad” even though they have become to feel like family. But after today, I have come to the conclusion that they have become sort of like godparents in India. You have heard me rant and rave about their hospitality over and over and you are going to hear it one more time! They have made me feel welcome in their home to share wonderful conversation and food. Is this not what good friends and family represent?

Emily joined me today. We were amazed to find the morning cool and breezy, a nice break from the heat. Catching an early train, we practiced our Kuchipudi hand gestures on the hour long ride into the city. From there the Samra’s picked us up and took us to their humble abode at the Public School. Breakfast consisted of paratha, scrambled eggs, curd, mango pickle, and chai—a traditional north Indian breakfast. Since Emily had never been to the campus, we took a short walk around the grounds, again, relieved that the sun was holding some of the heat back today.


For lunch, Raman taught us how to cook some Punjabi fare. Our main dish was kadhi—a gravy, of sorts, with pakora. The gravy is started with hot oil, garlic, and onions (of course!), along with curry leaves, fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds, and cumin seeds.


In another bowl, curd (or yogurt) is blended with besan (graham) flour and turmeric. This liquid mixture is then added to the pot with water. The mixture must simmer on the stove for around an hour. I was very curious about this process because normally you wouldn’t cook yogurt on the stove with other ingredients!

Then we made the pakoras. As I have mentioned before, pakoras can be made hundreds of ways, but the one aspect that stays consistent is the batter made of chickpea flour. Our mixture consisted of chickpea flour, finely chopped onions, garlic, cilantro, turmeric, chili powder, salt, and water. Then we dropped spoonfuls of the batter into the oil to create small, fried dumplings.


In serving, the pakoras are added to the gravy and served over rice. Upon completion of the dish, I realized that we have eaten something similar at Tagore, but this version was amazing!! The gravy had a light, richness. You could pick out the tang of the yogurt yet it balances well with the spices. Yum! Tarangeet mentioned that there are not many times of the year when fresh vegetables are not available, but during that short time, this is a common dish that they make.



For dessert, Raman showed us how to make basic northern halwa. The halwa that we have eaten at Tagore is like a sweet relish, made with shredded carrots or bottle gourd, but this version was simply ghee, flour, and sugar. Raman cooked the flour and ghee like a rue until it was light brown in color. In another pot she simmered sugar, water, and cardamom. Upon adding the sugar syrup to the rue the mixture thickened up and Raman stirred hard. Finally she took it off the stove and we ate some right then and there! It was warm and caramely, a perfect amount of sweet. We ate some more later as well. The mixture hardened up just slightly to the consistency of a soft caramel. Needless to say, I left very full, once again!


I felt a little sad leaving Taranjeet and Raman, knowing that I may not ever see them again. However, I do trust that our paths will cross again someday. Currently their son is in Canada, their daughter is in New Jersey, and Taranjeet’s brother is in Oregon! There could definitely be an opportunity. Plus, who knows how soon I could be back in India 🙂

Until then, their warming hospitality and knowledge will live in my heart!


Sunday Hospitality

Remember Taranjeet and Raman who took Emily and I out to dinner a few weeks ago (As recorded in this blog)?

Today I joined them at their home for what I thought was going to be a simple morning of breakfast and a tour of their home. But India does not disappoint, the day turned out to be more wonderful than I imagined!

Upon arriving at their humble abode, I was immediately ushered into the kitchen to meet their cook, Bahadhur. I pulled up a stool and sipped a cup of chai as I watched him prepare the filling for gobi paratha (cauliflower stuffed bread).

First he grated a raw head of cauliflower and then squeezed out all of the juices. If there is too much moisture, the bread will get soggy. To the cauliflower he added finely minced onions, garlic, and chopped cilantro. Next we began rolling out the dough. Raman was quick take my camera and get my hands working! Bahandhur showed me the right technique:

  1. Roll out a lime-sized ball of dough just slightly.
  2. Put the gobi mixture in the middle of the round of dough
  3. Cup the edges and press sides together (so it looks like a momo dumpling!)
  4. Pat it down.
  5. Roll the stuffed dough into a 6in circle







Now the paratha is ready for the a hot pan. Brown each side so that small spots form, then spread ghee on each side, and cook until even more brown and delicious!


Our warm parathas were brought outside for a picnic breakfast under the shade of flowering trees. Tarangeet immediately scooped a huge lump of ghee onto my paratha and we dug in with our fingers! Oh my- were they amazing. The addition of cilantro in the filling was heavenly. They are also delicious along with curd and mint/cilantro chutney! We also dined on fresh papaya (from their own trees) and more chai infused with cardamom.



With full bellies, Tarangeet and Raman gave me a tour of their house and the campus in which they live on. 

As I mentioned before, Raman is the principle of a Public School here in Hyderabad so their home is on the campus. They have a good sized three bedroom flat furnished with beautiful Rajesthani carved furniture from back home. But it was their yard that took my breath away. Their property is covered in fruit trees, flowers, and a small garden! Just to name a few:


Mango tree

Lemons waiting to ripen






Can you see the papaya’s hanging from the tree? Ya, we ate those for breakfast 🙂



So just for clarification. The term “Public School” in India is really a private school according to American terminology. The true public schools here are called Government Schools.

Raman informed me that 1,700 students grades 1-12 attend the school on a daily basis and about 150 boys actually live on the campus. They gave me a tour of the campus and I was quite impressed. First of all, it is probably the cleanest campus I have seen in India. There is virtually no garbage and flowers and trees are abundant!

Here is building for the upper classes:


A basic classroom (equipped with a smartboard projector):


Cricket field! The school also had basketball courts, a futball field, and they are building tennis courts.


Raman’s office as Principle:




But my favorite part was seeing the kitchen that prepares the food for the mess hall on campus! Check this out:


Preparation tables


Vats used to steam milk and rice.


A HUGE ladle!


Mega grinder




Stovetop burners as large as a car tire!


Ginormous pots and pans


The chef who runs it all!


And here is the mess hall which seats 700 students at a time!

We returned back to their house for more chai and conversation. I was able to learn a little more about their family and their religion, Sikkism. Though my stomach was still full from breakfast, I soon found myself back in the kitchen preparing lunch. On the menu: aloo curry (potato curry), chana masala (chickpea marsala) and puri (fried puffy bread).

Bahadhar started with the potato curry. He started with oil and coarsely chopped onion and green chile in a pan. To that he added spices: cumin seed, turmeric, chili powder, and ground coriander. Then the potatoes were added (which had already been cubed and boiled until tender). Garam masala was added along with salt and fresh cilantro leaves.


The chana was started similarly- hot oil with finely chopped onion and green chili. Add the same spices along with cinnamon bark and a few scoops of ginger garlic paste. Then the chickpeas are added (which have been soak and pressure cooked until tender) along with water to create a stew. Simmer until delicious!


Finally, I found myself rolling more dough for the puris. The dough is the same as a roti. The difference is instead of cooking it on a pan, you fry it in oil so it puffs up!



Another feast fit for kings! Indian families do not let you go hungry. Despite turning down second portions, they always seem to end up on your plate anyway. 🙂


I was so grateful of Bahadhar- I later found out that Sunday is usually his day off but they asked him to come in to show me how to cooked! He didn’t speak much English but we were still able to interact as he was so willing to show me his techniques!

How am I so lucky to have met such amazing people who are so willing to share their culture?!

All my thanks to you, Taranjeet and Raman! I look forward to more conversation and cooking!

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