Time is really flying by. It's already February , can you believe it!? This is our fourth month in India which means we have less than three months left here. A bit sad perhaps, but we have planned for many weekends away from Chennai, to try to explore as many places in India as possible. India is a beautiful country and we've agreed we want to see as many places as we can while we are here. So exciting!

Last weekend we visited Munnar, which is a city located in Kerala. Munnar is mostly known for its tea plantations as well as spice plantations. It's up in the hills and the views are just magnificently beautiful. We went to Munnar by bus, which departed just outside of our office last Thursday evening. Thereafter, it was a 14 hour journey among India highways and steep and narrow roads in the hills when we came closer to our destination. The bus trip went okay actually, we got some sleep and we got to see amazing views on our way to the city. When we finally arrived in Munnar, we met up with our Bangalore friends who had arrived a few hours before us. After some lunch, we went to our hotel and spent the rest of the day in the nearby area. On our afternoon exploration walk, we met a girl a few years younger than us who invited us to for coffee in her home. The most surprising aspect of this random coffee break was that the girl and her family had a really beautiful garden with lots of different spices, fruits and vegetables that they grew themselves. She offered to show us around which made us all very excited. She was very knowledgeable due to her studying agriculture in college, and she described the different plants in a detailed and interesting matter. The family grew pepper, cardamom, nutmeg, coffee beans, cacao and loads of other spices. It was so cool to see this and we were so grateful for this family's hospitality. These memories are the ones you never forget! We never imagined an experience like this when we accepted the invitation for coffee.

The day after we arrived in Munnar, we went on a full day trekking among the tea and spice plantations. We started early in the morning and finished by late afternoon. We saw so many beautiful views on the trek, and at the most we were at 1800m above sea level. Apart from beautiful views, we also saw many kinds of different spices growing almost freely among the plantations. As a Swede, it really is fascinating to walk past a tree where peppers or cardamom are growing. We had a great guide on this trek, who told us a lot about Munnar, the tea plantations in general and the people working in the plantations. Apparently the average weight of tea leaves a person has to pick everyday is 27 kilos. That's a lot of tea leaves...


Here's the trek team! It's so nice we get to experience these things together as often as we have up until now. We love it!

We went past many houses on our trek which grew their own spices and fruits. Often, we walked past these views where they dried things like pepper and cacao beans. We also saw a lot of coffee beans which were so cool!

There were also many spices, tea and everything in between which you could buy in the town of Munnar. That's basically what you could do in the city. There were some restaurants, some hotels and then there was a lot of small shops selling what they produce in Munnar. Something we were surprised to discover were all the home-made chocolate shops in Munnar, which were everywhere. All of us bought so many spices to bring home to Sweden)!


All in all, we had a great weekend at perhaps the most beautiful place India has offered to us so far. But we have many more weekends planned, so lets see what we will discover in the future... Until the next adventure! /Malin

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During the past weeks there have been some celebrations of the Indian holiday Pongal. As far as we understand, Pongal is a harvesting festival which is celebrated during three days in the middle of January. For us, the celebrations started with an ethnic day at work. Everybody in the project wore their nicest traditional Indian attire and the two of us wore our sarees for the first time. There was no chance that we would have been able to put them on ourselves, so we got help from two of the other girls in the project. It was so nice finally having an occasion to wear them and we felt so pretty.

Due to the pongal celebrations, special food was also served in the cafeteria, which included pongal (some kind of rice pudding which is served both in a sweet and a savoury version) and sugar cane, which is what Sud is chewing on in the picture below.

The main pongal celerations took place over the weekend, and we were invited to our colleague Nivedha's house to celebrate with her family. It was really great with one more occasion to wear a saree, to experience the traditional worships, to meet her family and to eat all the good food.

Since last time we have also "celebrated" tjugondag knut at the office with some Swedish christmas candy. It seemed to be very appreciated by everybody in the project, since it was gone even before the two of us had the chance to try everything.

Last but not least, we went out to drink some cocktails and have a nice Saturday night in the city, which led to photos of us in the local Chennai newspaper. We were very surprised when a photo of the paper was sent to us the day after. Turning into celebrities over here!

/Ebba

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Last weekend we visited Mahabalipuram, which is a historical city an hour south from Chennai. This city is mostly known for its old monument and temples from the 7th and 8th century. We went by cab in the early morning and we spent the whole day there before going back home.

Mahabalipuram was a really interesting place and there were so many old and beautiful monuments and temples. Many of the temples and monuments were very well preserved, and it was difficult to imagine that those buildings were as old as they actually are.


We were stopped once in a while by people who wanted to take selfies with us. We are kind of used to that by now, which is a bit weird when you actually think of it. Apart from the usual selfies though, we were stopped by three people who want us to be part of a yoga photo session. This was so random and we didn’t understand what they wanted at first. But we agreed to the photo shoot and it was definitely fun!

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Merry Christmas and a happy new year! We hope that you all had great holidays and that you had a nice start of the new year.

We celebrated Christmas and New Years apart, Ebba went to visit her family in cold Sweden while Malin went to Goa to meet up with the rest of the swedes who are also here on the IEP program. So it's easy to say that the celebrations were quite different!

When the long flight was finally over (after cancelled flights, many hours delay and missing baggage) Ebba's vacation consisted of a lot of family time. She went to Copenhagen with her siblings to see the Christmas market at Tivoli, played a lot of games back home and even had a barbecue outside the day before Christmas in the freezing cold. New Years eve was also celebrated with the family, before having to go to the airport for the flight back early in the morning.


Malin spent her Christmas and New Years in Goa, which is a state in the Western part of India. Goa is a state with many white, long beaches and it’s viewed as a vacation paradise. It’s becoming more and more popular to spend vacations in Goa. Our friends from Sweden Niko, Anthon, Sara, Joel and his girlfriend were also in Goa during Christmas and New Years. All in all, this was a calm vacation with lots of sun and different beaches. The cows were present at all the different beaches of course! Some fun activities also happened in Goa, such as visiting a spice village, going kayaking in the mangrove forest and attending a big music festival.

Unfortunately some people fell sick during the vacation. Both Malin, Sara and Niko got the famous Indian stomach sickness. So right now, there are only two people who’s managed to stay away from that sickness - Ebba and Joel. Let’s see who wins the competition!


/Ebba and Malin

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So - it’s been a few days since our last blog post and we apologize for that. Where should we start, it feels like so much have happened since last time! Okay, let’s start with one important thing... We’ve survived street food, twice! One time we had some weird refresher after a dinner with some colleagues which was supposed to help you digestion and the second time we had some cold samosas which an old lady sold on the street. We are really getting used to the bacteria here I think.


Last weekend, we’re were in George Town, an older part of Chennai where the famous Fort St George among other historical buildings are located. We went to the museum within the fort which was really interesting, a lot of history regarding the East India Company were presented there. After the museum, we strolled the many streets of George Town with little street markets. There were a lot of people this day, but when isn’t it in India?


We continued the day by attending a Christmas concert which was fantastic! We’re were actually a bit surprised by the concert, we really hadn’t expected it to be so good. The concert were held outdoors and there were lots of different choirs and even a symphony orchestra. Just wow! We finished of the evening by watching a late showing of the new Star Wars with the guys from our hotel. All in all, a great day!


On Sunday, we had a brunch at Leela’s palace. Yes, we have it in Chennai also! We were so happy when we found this out. We also spent some time (3 hours) at Saravana Stores, a large retail company in India. It was totally worth it even if it took a long time, because we’ve finally bought sarees!! You’ll get to see images of us and the sarees in January next year, because we’re gonna have an ethnic day at work then. We’ll have to buy some more accessories before that, and maybe some new shoes. We really look forward to that day!


So what happened this week? Well, we were nicely forced to be part of a fashion show at work. It was an end of the year celebration, with lots of performances from dancers and singers - and a fashion show. We didn’t really think it was gonna be fun but we really had a good time and all the others were such nice people!
Unfortunately we have no images of the catwalk, at least for now. But if we receive them, we’ll put them on the blog of course. We walked to a Hollywood theme and Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You, while the others had different regions of India as themes. Such a fun event!


And now - it’s almost Christmas. It’s a bit hard to believe we’ve already been here for almost two months and that we’ve already been here for one third of the program. Time really passes by so quickly when you move abroad like this. We are both gonna have some well deserved Christmas vacation, and we’ll actually have a small break with the blog as well. But don’t worry, we’ll be back the first week of January. Until then, merry Christmas and happy New Years!

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Last weekend, we spent time in Chennai and tried to "tick off" the main must-sees in the city. To get there, we went by train for the first time since we had heard it was a faster way to travel there due to the traffic. It sure was, and this will probably be our way of getting to the city center from now on. And we also got to see some adorable puppies on our way to the train station!

We chose to stay at a hotel Saturday to Sunday, just to not have to worry about getting back at night and spending less time just travelling back and forth. A touristy weekend in our own city!

Our first stop after checking in at the hotel was the Kapaleeswarar temple, which is a large Shiva temple in Chennai. The temples are very beautiful, and it was interesting to watch all the people being there to worship, even if we had a hard time understanding anything since all information was in Tamil.

After the temple, we went to st Thome Basilica, which is a big church in Chennai where st Thomas (one of Jesus apostles) is buried. Apparently, this is one of three churches in the world with an apostle's tomb.


At night, we went to our favourite bar in town: Radio Room! We had some dinner and drinks before we met up with a few new-found friends from the hotel with whom we went to a few other bars in town as well before going back to the hotel.

Hope you are all having a nice weekend and advent!

//Ebba

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This week has been quite hectic. We’ve had a lot to do at work and there have been a few late evenings at the office.

The news for this week is that we moved out of our apartment this Monday! We had problems with the apartment which were not resolved, so with the help of our coordinators from work, we moved into a new place instead. It’s a hotel which is closer to the office. It takes around 10-15 minutes to get there by cab, much faster than before. The rooms are good, but there is not much storage for our clothes and things. This is the only negative aspect though, otherwise it feels like a great place to stay at. The service is great and we have a gym and a restaurant at the hotel. The breakfast buffet is delicious and is included in our stay. All in all, this feels much better than the apartment!

When we packed all our things Monday evening after work, it felt like we had so much more stuff compared to when we moved! We must have shopped more than we thought haha.


When we finally had moved into the hotel, we had a toast to celebrate!


Hopefully we will have a pleasant stay here at the hotel for the remaining five months here in India!

/Malin

  • Malin, Daily life, Chennai

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Our updates have not been very frequent recently since we have been up to quite a lot of things. Last weekend, we went to Pondicherry, which is an old french colony south of Chennai. We went there by bus, which departed from central Chennai early Friday morning. We left home at 5 am and the rain was pouring down. Unfortunately, there was a cyclone coming in, and it was raining so heavily that we were soaked even after just spending a few seconds outside. We went with a cab to the bus station and after driving around in circles for a while and passing around my phone to a number of locals, the driver dropped us of besides the road where he assured us that the bus would pick us up. We were a bit unsure about that but eventually the bus did show up and soaked from the rain we entered the bus. The bus ride was nicer than we had expected and approximately three hours later we arrived in Pondicherry.

Pondicherry is a very cute village by the sea. There were houses in different colors, lots of trees and people biking around. We enjoyed being able to walk around in the small streets with almost no traffic. A very different experience from Chennai! We were also very lucky with the weather, after Friday the rain was replaced by sun again.

On Saturday, we started the day by going to a big temple located in the center of White town (which is one of the names of the formerly french part of the city). When we were leaving the temple we were suddenly surrounded by a lot of people who all wanted to take selfies with us. So we stayed there for a 10-15 minute photo shoot and I also managed to get a selfie with a few of them.

After a while everybody seemed happy with their photos and we moved on to meet up with Sara and Joel who had arrived from Bangalore, yay! Only a few days after we met them last but it was very nice to see them again. We walked around and explored the town, taking a lot of touristy pictures as usual.

When we were walking towards the restaurant that evening, we noticed that something was going on outside the temple. They were celebrating a holiday and there were a lot of people gathering and a lot of music and fire shows. There was also an elephant standing outside giving blessings to people who donated money. We were impressed how well trained the elephant was, but also a bit worried about the elephant's living conditions. We watched the celebrations for a while and talked to the little girl in the yellow dress in the photo, who explained the celebrations to us before we met up with Sara and Joel again and went to the restaurant. Unfortunately it was a dry day in India this day because of the holiday, which means that some places were closed and no alcohol was served. But we had a nice dinner before we went back to our hotels again to get some rest.

On Sunday we first walked around in the city, bought some (a lot of) souvenirs and silk shawls and went to a sunday market. Me and Malin also bought some wine to bring back to Chennai.

Since Pondicherry is a former french colony, there were a lot of churches to see and the architecture was different to what we have seen in other parts of India. But is was clear that it was also influenced by Indian culture and Hinduism with a lot of colors and flowers everywhere.

We ended the trip with some time by the pool at Sara and Joel's hotel before it was time for me and Malin to leave again. Thank you Pondicherry for this great weekend getaway!

And of course, we wish you all a happy Indian advent with some santa's playing the sax!

//Ebba

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Ebba and I travelled to Bangalore this weekend to visit two friends who are participating in the same program as us. It was really nice to see them again, as we haven’t seen them since before we left Sweden. We stayed at their apartment and it was interesting to compare differences between the cities and what we’ve experienced so far. Bangalore is really nice city, with some more western influences compared to Chennai which is more traditional and conservative. Some of the differences are:

- More western styles clothes, not many sarees and Indian styled tunics. In Chennai, almost all women wear sarees.
- Comfortable climate, not that hot and humid in Chennai. Funny enough, our first thought when we got out of the airplane was “it’s almost cold outside”.
- Lindt was available at the airport!!! We would never find this in Chennai, haha
- Bars are normal and common and they were everywhere! In Chennai, we have to really look to be able to find one.
- The radio channel was in English. That would never happen in Chennai, many people barely speak English here.
- Not as many cows as in Chennai
- There were other kinds of religions present and visible. For instance, we saw quite a lot of people dressed in Muslim clothes
- The food was a bit different and we got other kinds of stuff to the table. For instance, some kind of pickles chutney which we don’t get in Chennai.


On Saturday, we went to an older part of Bangalore with lots of little stores selling everything and nothing. There were a lot of people selling earrings which excited Ebba and I, we really love the style of the earrings here! Weirdly enough we didn’t buy any though. We spent a few hours in this area just walking around and experiencing the chaos of normal Indian streets. We also went to a really cozy park, which was really nice!


In the evening, we went to this really cool restaurant/bar! It is hard to describe how nice this place actually was, and unfortunately it was really difficult to catch in a photograph as well. We spent the rest the evening here, eating good food, drinking even better drinks, dancing and just having a really good time. (Yes, it’s a really small pond in the middle of the restaurant)


On Sunday, we went to the best brunch I’ve ever experienced before, and we’ll probably never have a better brunch again either. There was so much tart food, the place (a newly renovated palace) was impressive, there was live music with really good singers and it really was a kind of a oasis in the middle of the chaos of Bangalore. If we ever go to Bangalore again, we must visit this place again.

All in all, we had a really great weekend and I’m really happy we went to visit Sara and Joel. Hopefully they’ll visit us in Chennai sometime too! /Malin

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Another weekend has past, and Sud has left us for cold Sweden. His last day here he came by with is bike to say bye (nothing more said regarding that, "säger inget så har jag ingenting sagt").

Last Friday, we went on an event in the city center organized by an Internations group, to gather international expats in Chennai. So straight from work Friday afternoon we went to the bar 10 Downing Street to have some drinks and catch up with people in the same situation as us. We had a good night, even though it was a bit of a struggle to get a cab to drive us all the way back home in the middle of the night...

We have also had some work to do this weekend, so apart from that we have only been on short trips in the surroundings. We walked around a bit in the village located closest to us, went to an Indian mall with SO many beautiful saris and jewellery and we also went to the spa for some pedicure, manicure, facials and massage.

Walking around in the villages around us, we for the first time noticed that people were noticing us and looking at us. We said hi to several cute kids who were very curious and also took a few selfies with random people in the mall and an officer at the street.

Ending this post with some words of wisdom.


//Ebba

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