Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Things They Don't Tell You About: India

India is an incredible place, but there is a steep, steep learning curve that comes along with it! I have never been the type to go anywhere unprepared,  no matter the destination.

Everywhere I've ever traveled as an adult has been accompanied by a guide-book of some kind, often a phrase-book too, which I feel allows me to be as prepared as I can be, while online research helps me to assimilate the cultural differences more easily as I know what to expect from the get-go. If you've read this post, you'll know that I was pretty thrown by everything India.

So, what have I learned?

1. People Will Stare At You (At Least)

Just accept this and move on. You will be stared at, you might be approached by people who want to talk to you, or take a selfie with you. If you're a pale and pasty person, it's one thing, but if you're blonde, red, or any "unnatural" hair color, you're going to get more looks than if you're a pale brunette.

Other things you may experience is shouting. It's not meant maliciously, as in my experience Indians are warm, welcoming and so friendly. They're just curious about you. You are different after all. I've had people pull in off the road to talk to me, but I usually try to politely say no and keep walking.

I've also had people hang out of their car or busses to stare as they pass by. It's fine. It's just curiosity, and that's okay.

2. The Poverty Will Shock (And Probably Upset) You

It's not uncommon in India to see a big glass shopping mall full of high-end brands beset by shanty-villages full of huts and makeshift houses. It's also pretty common to see people washing on the side of the road in broad daylight. It's pretty upsetting to see. There are kids running barefoot, street-dogs roaming around and other sights that you won't see in the west. It's tough to take, and it is deeply upsetting, but in most cases, people are seen smiling and happy no matter their situation. I guess the thought is that it can always be worse.

3. They Will Do Some Things Better And Some Things WAY Worse

Things India does better than Ireland: Ice-cream, microwave popcorn, customer service (even if it is annoying), affordable technology, jewelry (specifically gold and diamonds), cheap taxis (Uber and OLA - represent!), bar culture, colorful everything.

Things India absolutely does not do better than Ireland: Burgers, Mexican food, kitchens (don't even get me started!), time-keeping, leaving you to browse in shops (the culture is to be helpful to the point of annoying), grocery stores.

I find almost all of the pros outweigh the cons of this country. The food is all incredible, and so so cheap! Even when we go for a fine-dining meal, it's still very cost-effective. Transport is so affordable it's actually causing me anxiety about going back to Dublin prices!!

4. It's So Much Bigger Than You Can Imagine

The city we live in, Hyderabad, is huge. Honestly, it's on a scale I really could not come to terms with until we got here. I had thought to myself that I would go and visit this place and that place until I wrapped my head around the sheer scale of the place!

For context, Hyderabad city is AS BIG as Dublin COUNTY. The center of the city, the Old City around Charminar and Chowmalla Palace is equal to the "Dublin City Centre" area in terms of size. It's pretty hard to walk anywhere unless it's under 15 minutes away.

5. Despite Everything You Will Be Warned About, India Has An Irresistible Charm

You will see trash on the side of the road, but you'll also see the most colorful lorries around. People will stop you for selfies, but they will be so lovely to you, that you won't even mind. You will be seen as "wealthy" by street bazaar vendors and they will try to double the regular price, but if you haggle, they will smile at you and see you as one of their own. Your Indian friends that you make might underestimate your ability to assimilate, but when you do, they will be so proud and dub thee "Part-Indian".

Remember, when you come here, it's a learning curve that you need to give some time to in order to surmount it. With that said, it's a wonderful country, you're going to love it here.


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Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Our Engagement Story #IProposedToHim

We're engaged!!!

Today I wanted to tell the story of how we got engaged.

I had been thinking about getting engaged for a long time. I mean, a long time. Honestly, this idea was floating around my head for months. However, one day a few weeks back, I couldn't move beyond the idea anymore, and I had to vent. I had been sitting on this for so long, it was time to air it to another person. We had talked about this before and had always said marriage was where we were headed, but it was abstract. I needed to get the thoughts and ideas out to someone who knew us both well enough to be informed, but who I knew would be honest no matter what.

The watch was much too big, despite my swiping a watch he already had to match the sizing!

I texted my friend Stephanie, who is Dex's best friend, as well as an amazing friend to me, and swore her to secrecy before divulging. She immediately texted back "I knew this was coming!!!" and we had a long chat, which the shortened version comes down to her saying "Fucking do it, and when he says yes, text me first!!". She even sent a video message for him to watch after the proposal.

I ran the idea by my mam, who was chill, and my sister, who by the way, didn't help with the nerves, texting me asking "Well??? Have you done it yet?"

It was time to start getting serious about things. Research time! There was only one thing, and that was the paranoia that Dex would hear my thoughts or see what I was searching for on Google. Honestly, it was hard to fall asleep and stay asleep for two or three days. My ads changed on every single platform I was on. Instagram? Watches. Twitter? Watches!! I was a woman possessed.

Indian Champagne and a bubble bath in our 5* suite!

Once I found the place I was going to buy the watch, I went straight into the nearest branch, and started the looking process. Initially, I had narrowed my search to a couple of brands, but of course, true to my nature, I was thrown by the sheer amount of watches and assistance I was given in store. I ended up throwing the budget out the window and going with an incredible watch that, had it not been on sale, I never would have been able to afford, but I knew in my heart, this was THE watch. Professional looking but super luxe too. I asked the team to keep the watch for me, left the Hublot one I swiped from his bedside table for sizing, and I sat down to do a day of work in the Starbucks around the corner.

In between working on my files for the day, I pinged Dex's mum on Facebook Messenger and asked her to drop me a line when she had a few free minutes. Honestly, I was shit scared, to put it bluntly, and it was the most stressful wait of my life for her to come online, even with the time difference from India to Ireland. When she came online, I just asked her out flat, if I could have her blessing to ask him to be mine forever, and nearly burst into tears in the middle of Starbucks when she said yes, and was so incredibly kind and supportive of my asking. Now there was nothing stopping me. I had the go-ahead from the most important voice in the whole shebang!

Once I finished up for the day, I went back to the store, bought the watch, and set about putting a plan in motion to pop the question. Initially, the plan was to wait until we went to Goa for a relaxing mini-break, but I knew that was not going to be possible. Where would I hide the watch? What if he found it? Jesus, would I sleep again? I'd be skeletal from stress. That plan was out the window. So I went and picked up a bottle of aftershave I had seen him admiring in The Body Shop the weekend beforehand, and made up a sort-of plan in my mind.

Right after he put a ring on it! (feat. A watch that actually fits!)

I decided to just ask. At home, in the privacy of our apartment, with no crowds or stress. Just the two of us. So I went home, cleaned the apartment to within an inch of its life, and sat there, stressing. Waiting. Watching the clock, and not watching the many, many things I had playing on Netflix. I put on my favorite yellow dress, did my hair, put a little makeup on, quickly cobbled together a cute Spotify playlist of romantic songs, paired my Bluetooth speaker to my phone. And then finally, he came home.

He came in the door, popped his bag in the chair and as he visibly relaxed, I told him there was a gift on his bedside table. While he went to retrieve it, I pressed play so Ellie Goulding's cover of Your Song was playing, grabbed the watch box, and stood in the doorway of the room, just out of sight. I could hear scuffling, sighing, and a muffled expletive. Calling out to him, as nonchalantly as I could, I asked what he was doing. He was changing into his pajama shorts. Then I didn't ask.

"I was going to get down on one knee, but I think this makes the same point.", tears in my eyes, wobbly voice, barely standing before the man of my dreams. (I will never ever make light of anyone proposing, it's scary as all hell.)

He looked at the watch, then he looked at me as the penny dropped. I was barely keeping it together, as he asked "Are you serious?" or something of that ilk. I nodded, and then I asked, "Will you marry me?" and a little sob escaped me as he said yes. I have never hugged someone so tightly as I did at that moment, and when the shaking subsided, I kissed him and I actually said: "Thank god for that, I was so scared you might say no,".

We let it settle in for a few minutes, and then I knew I had to text Steph to let her know the plan went..... to plan, I guess! And then it was time to text my best friend, my mam and sister, other friends, and for Dex to do the same. He rang his mum, and his brother and sister, and we sent a cute selfie to them to have as well.

We had a couple of mini celebrations, the first was in a private suite in a 5* hotel, where we were treated like royalty, and a couple of weeks later we had a bit of a do with friends in a great little outdoor bar. Once we get home to Ireland, we will be having an almighty party, that's a fact!

A close up of the ring for those of you who might be nosy!

Dex wanted to pick out the ring I would wear with me, so we went to a few jewelers and I was torn between two rings I adored, but eventually went for the smaller one because I'm not really a flashy person, and I didn't fancy a big massive sparkly thing. So we went for a nice little sparkle instead.

Honestly, getting engaged is such a wild ride, and all I can say is even though everything has changed, everything has stayed the same. It's been incredible, and now we get to embark on this new adventure into the rest of our lives together, together!

Girls, you don't have to wait for him. If marriage is something you've been talking about in the affirmative, then go for it. Screw tradition.

September 25th, 2018 changed my life for better and forever, and honestly, the 25th of September 2020 cannot get here quick enough so I can be Mrs. Dexter Whelan forevermore.