A Bloody Elephantastic Weekend Out

Hey Guys! ♥

Today it’s just going to be a very short and quick update on what I’ve been up to this past weekend, before we’re leaving for Goa over Easter 😉

Saturday, Marina and I decided to have a “Bloody Brit Day Out”. All dressed up and ready for Ascott, we went to High Spirits, where they had decorated the whole place to match the British theme and a Beatles cover band was playing. To complete our British style, we of course had to have a few early afternoon cocktails too 😉 I’m not sure how authentically British the Earl Grey Fizz really is, but it was definitely enjoyable. They really went all out at High Spirits with the British theme, Union Jacks everywhere, Fish ‘n’ Chips, and even a Buckingham Palace Tea Party Photo Op!

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#ReadyForAscott! (c) Marina Hahn
#ReadyForAscott! (c) Marina Hahn
Buckingham Palace is haunted! o.O
Buckingham Palace is haunted! o.O

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It's tea time!
It’s tea time!

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Cocktail fueled selfies are the best selfies (c) Marina Hahn
Cocktail fueled selfies are the best selfies (c) Marina Hahn
#Groupies #FutureRockstars
#Groupies #FutureRockstars

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#Cheers
#Cheers
How often do you see a bunch of elderly Indian gentleman play Beatles songs?
How often do you see a bunch of elderly Indian gentleman play Beatles songs?

On Sunday, one of Thomas’ colleagues agreed to give us a private tour through Pune. He even rented a bus for us for the whole day to take us through the city! Our first stop was Pune University, founded in 1948.

Pune University
Pune University

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Outdoor theater of the Center for Performing Arts at Pune University
Outdoor theater of the Center for Performing Arts at Pune University

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Pune University looks quite a bit more impressive than JGU I have to say ;)
Pune University looks quite a bit more impressive than JGU I have to say 😉
Pune University
Pune University

Afterward, we were driven to a Temple, of which I unfortunately can remember neither the name nor the location 😀 It was a a very nice and quite big Temple though, with an old stone cave with shrines on site.

Unfortunately I have to admit I have forgotten which Temple we visited here .... It was very nice though!
Unfortunately I have to admit I have forgotten which Temple we visited here …. It was very nice though!
Another Rangoli at the Temple!
Another Rangoli at the Temple!
Nandi, the bull that serves as Shiva's mount
Nandi, the bull that serves as Shiva’s mount
Footprints representing the presence of a God
Footprints representing the presence of a God

After yet another trip to Laxmi Road we had lunch, and then it was time for the biggest event of the day 😉

Laxmi Road
Laxmi Road

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Vegetable stalls at Laxmi Road
Vegetable stalls at Laxmi Road

We went to the zoo again, where we were able to adopt two of the elephants for a day, which meant that we could actually get into their compound and watch them taking a shower. We even managed to touch them, even though we officially weren’t allowed because it was “too dangerous” *rolls eyes* Unfortunately we were only allowed inside the compound for about 15-20 minutes, but as you can imagine this was still one of the greatest moments of my life 😉 Elephants are truly one of the most fascinating animals in the whole world, and being able to stand right in front of one and pet it definitely brought one or two tears into my eyes (yes, I’m like that).

Zoo selfie with friends ruined by an evil Dutch guy
Zoo selfie with friends ruined by an evil Dutch guy
Elephant selfie!
Elephant selfie! (Thanks for the pic, Marina!)

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Elephants need to brush their teeth too!
Elephants need to brush their teeth too!

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Elephant shower!
Elephant shower!

After that we went for one last stop to a Sikh Temple, but since photographs weren’t allowed there I don’t have any pictures to show, but I think Marina and I definitely want to go back there to enjoy the atmosphere.

And that was it for the week! As I’ve already mentioned, next week were going to Goa, so you can probably look forward to some sunny beach pictures 😉

See you! ✿✿✿

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From Dublin to Berlin to Pune

Hey Guys! ♥

The last one and a half weeks were full of contrasts and opposites for me. Last week practically started in the most un-Indian way possible, with me and some friends celebrating St. Patrick’s Day at the Irish Village in Koregaon Park. The place is absolutely lovely, outside you can sit in cozy little huts and the beer was good enough that even I liked it! And you should definitely try their “It’s got to be Irish”-Cocktail, made of Bailey’s Vodka, Gin and Triple Sec. Yeah, I definitely had to stop myself from drinking more than one, it was so good.

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"Caution! Leprechauns Crossing!"
“Caution! Leprechauns Crossing!”

The following Friday, we were invited to the launch of a new restaurant here in Pune called “Mahlzeit”. You probably guessed it, it’s not exactly traditional Indian cuisine 😉 Instead, it’s a Berlin Street Food vendor, owned by a German-Indian guy from Neuss. I have to admit, I’m quite relieved to know that I can still get my healthy dose of Currywurst almost 7.000 km away from home 😉

mahlzeit at Koregaon Park
mahlzeit at Koregaon Park
Now that's a menu to my taste
Now that’s a menu to my taste
As good as any Currywurst I've ever had
As good as any Currywurst I’ve ever had

So, after spending the last week reminiscing about my old homes in Germany and Dublin, this week I needed to get back to my new home in India. So on Saturday, Marina, Steffi and I decided to go Sari shopping at Laxmi Road. And what an experience it was! After entering the shop, we had to take off our shoes and sat on the cushioned floor. Then the salesperson just started throwing tons of fabric at us, which we could examine, touch, and discuss excessively. After we finally had decided on one fabric each, it was time to get wrapped up 😉 The salesperson expertly draped us in our chosen fabrics, and I think I speak for the three of us when I say we felt a little bit like princesses in our new clothes 🙂

Kolam in front of flower shop at Laxmi Road
Rangoli in front of a small shrine at Laxmi Road
Kolam at Laxmi Road
Rangoli at Laxmi Road
Post-shopping selfie!
Post-shopping selfie! (c) Marina Hahn
Sari sneak peek :)
Sari sneak peek 🙂

The following Sunday, Marina and I decided to defy our weariness and go to the temples on top of Parvati Hill. At 5.45 in the morning. By rickshaw. That was probably the first (and only!) time I was actually really freezing cold here in India 🙂 The largest of the temples, Parvati Temple, is dedicated to Parvati, the mother Goddess, wife of Shiva and mother of Ganesha. All in all there are five different temples on Parvati Hill, but at least in the morning the temples did not seem to be the main attraction for many visitors. There are several common areas on the temple grounds, were we could see all kinds of people jogging or doing yoga or push-ups while blasting hip-hop out of their cell phones. So our intuition was once again right, and bringing my yoga mat that morning definitely paid of 🙂

View over Pune from Pravati Hill
View over Pune from Parvati Hill
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Sunrise over Pune

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Shrine at one of the temples
Shrine at one of the temples
Parvati Temple
Parvati Temple
Apparently, not every temple is as holy as the others ....
Apparently, not every temple is as holy as the others ….
Yoga-Selfie!
Yoga-Selfie!

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Goodbye-committee downstairs of Parvati Hill
Goodbye-committee downstairs of Parvati Hill

The next Monday, our big time had finally come. To celebrate Gudi Padwa, the Hindu New Years’s celebration, Crest decided to have a so called “Traditional Day”, where all the employees were expected to come to work in traditional Indian clothes. And yes, that meant us interns, too! Before that, us Sari-Girls however were still faced with the almost insurmountable task of wrapping ourselves into our Saris! Countless YouTube videos were watched, but the right Sari wrapping technique still seemed elusive to me. In the end, we had no need to worry though, since a whole bunch of our colleagues practically dragged us into the washroom to re-drape our Saris in a more expertly fashion 😉 By then, I was definitely feeling like a real Disney Princess 🙂

All of Batch 18 in our best traditional clothes
All of Batch 18 in our best traditional clothes
Sari-Girls!
Sari-Girls!

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Shweta, Swati and me! :)
Shweta, Swati and me! 🙂
bad quality selfie just to show you my bindi and earrings
bad quality selfie just to show you my bindi and earrings

We really do look quite lovely, don’t we? 😉

This weekend, we’ll be getting a private tour through Pune arranged by one of the colleagues, and if everything pans out the way it is supposed to be, I might get some truly amazing pictures 🙂 I don’t want to tell too much though, or might just jinx it 🙂

See you! ✿✿✿

Selfies, Snakes and Sunday Strolls

Hey Guys! ♥

This was my third week in Pune, and slowly but steadily our workload has been picking up. We’ve all been getting really intensive training sessions, and at least for my team (which is Project Management Journals) they’ll probably keep running for a few more weeks. Since my shift is from 10:30 AM to 7:15 PM, I also don’t have much time to really explore the city during the week, so for now all of the adventuring through Pune is limited to the weekends for me. Last Saturday, Shweta and Sunayana, two of our Indian co-workers, invited us for lunch at Ferguson College Road (FC Road). We ate at Vaishali, which is apparently one of the most famous restaurants in Pune, and since you can’t book tables there in advance you usually have to wait for quite some time before you are seated. We were really lucky though and got a table right away, but let me tell you, after having eaten there I’d happily wait for a table, too 🙂 Our colleagues picked out some dishes for us to try, like Iglis (small puffy rice dough things) with Sambal, coconut Chutney, Vadas (fried vegetable donut-like things) and my favorite of them all, the Masala Dosa. Afterwards, we walked through FC Road together, passing the typically Indian street vendors and having some Paan for dessert. Paan is made out of betel leaves filled with fruits and spices, and because of those betel leaves it does have some minor side effects like having a numb tongue 😉 Our colleagues also told us that they eat it very rarely since it’s very addictive, which probably means I’ll come back to Germany an addict 😀

Selfie Time!
Selfie Time! (c) Thomas Pöttgen
Hongkong Lane at FC Road
Hongkong Lane at FC Road

The next day, me and two of my flatmates decided to go to the Snake Park Zoo. It’s called Snake Park because – surprise! – they have a lot of snakes there. Unfortunately I couldn’t get any good pictures of those, so I’ll leave you with some of the pics I took of the other animals there. Luckily for the animals but unfortunately for us, the individual compounds were really big, with lots of trees and bushes providing shade during the hottest hours of the day, but that also made it really difficult to snap good pictures.

cuddling crocodiles!
cuddling crocodiles!
More Selfie Time!
More Selfie Time!
Extinction Graveyard
Extinction Graveyard
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Elephant! ❤
You can see a tiger if you squint!
You can see a tiger if you squint!

This Saturday, we decided to explore the famous Aga Khan Palace in Kalyani Nagar. Originally built by Sultan Muhammed Shah Aga Khan in 1892, mostly to create jobs for the many unemployed people living in Pune, it became one of the most significant monuments in recent Indian history when Mahatma Ghandi, his wife, and his secretary were interned there from August 1942 to May 1944. Both Ghandi’s wife and his secretary also died there during that time, which is why the Palace grounds also includes their samadhis, or graves. A part of Ghandis ashes are also buried there. The surrounding Palace gardens are a popular picnic spot, frequented by many Indian couples and families. We even ran into a family trying to have professional photos of their toddler taken there, but as soon as he spotted us goras, his attention was solely directed at us rather than the camera 😉
We were also lucky that apparently one of Ghandi’s great-nieces was visiting the Memorial Society located at the Aga Khan Palace, and we accidentally stumbled into a bharatanatyam performance given for that occasion. If we’re lucky and everything pans out, we might be able to do a bharatanatyam course too, and get some first hand insights into this fascinating dance style.

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Indian schoolchildren learning Hindi just like we do!
Indian schoolchildren learning Hindi just like we do!

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This really was a very selfie-heavy week I guess
This really was a very selfie-heavy week I guess
Kolam, a traditional Indian chalk painting, at the Aga Khan Palace
Rangoli, a traditional Indian chalk painting, at the Aga Khan Palace
This is the last selfie for today I swear
This is the last selfie for today I swear
Mahatma Ghandi's Memorial
Mahatma Ghandi’s Memorial

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On Sunday, we finally had our long-awaited brunch with Win Sutanto and some German colleagues from Springer at the Novotel. Win is the global director of typesetting at Springer, but even more importantly (at least for us interns), he is also the official mentor of the CCI program and was involved in the selection process in Berlin, were we all fell a little bit in love with him ;D So we were all very eager to meet him again, but it was also really interesting to get to know some more colleagues from the German Springer offices and get to hear their perspective on the German-Indian workflow and cooperation. And last but not least, the food was absolutely amazing, ranging from Indian and Chinese to European, and it was really, really nice to finally have some good blue cheese again 😀

And that’s it for this week!

See you! ✿✿✿

Holi hä!* ♥

Ha, mä Hindi bolti hu!** Well, not really, but this weekend we had our first Hindi classes!

Thursday, Friday and Saturday we had our first set of Hindi classes for three hours each. Before the classes started, we were all a bit worried about the three hour classes, but our teacher was so engaged and structured the lessons in such a way that they were always entertaining and exciting. Right at the beginning, she told us that the classroom language would be Hindi, but all our worries about not being able to follow the lessons were gone once she started. Right from the beginning, the classes were really interactive and everyone was encouraged to try out all the new phrases, questions and answers for themselves right away. The focus of the class will obviously be speaking the language, but we also got some short introduction into writing and reading the Hindi script. Doesn’t it look just beautiful?

My first attempts at writing in Devnagri!
My first attempts at writing in Devnagri!

Even though questions about the language structure and grammar were strictly forbidden, we all managed to catch the important structures and forms. Our course is only going to last for 30 hours, but I really hope I’ll be able to keep studying the language someway or another after that!
I found it very interesting how so many Hindi and German words seem to have a common root. For example, the German word Punsch is apparently derived from the Hindi word panč (five), because originally Punsch was made from 5 ingredients. The Hindi word kamra for room also seems to come from the same root as the German Kammer (chamber). But what I love most about learning a new language is what you can learn about the culture way of thinking of the people who speak it. For example, all the names of the weekdays are derived from the names of planets such as Mars, Jupiter, Mercury, etc! This shows how scientifically advanced ancient Hindu culture was, how much they already knew about our solar system and how important is apparently was to their everyday life!. Now the science nerd in me definitely wants to know more about ancient Indian astronomy 😉 Another fascinating fact about Hindi is that there’s no word for to have, if you want to express that you own something you merely say XYZ is with me. The reason for that is that everything is temporary, and what might be yours today can be gone tomorrow. Now those few hours of Hindi classes we had last weekend have already brought me so much closer to understanding India and Indian culture, but the real culture shock was yet to come. On Friday, it was time to celebrate Holi, also called the Festival of Colors!

Children after playing Holi ©Pixabay
Children after playing Holi ©Pixabay

Holi is a traditional Indian holiday, celebrated every year in early March or sometimes late February. Originally, the word Holi comes from Holika, the evil sister of demon king Hiranyakashipu. Hiranyakashipu demanded that everyone only worship him instead of the old Hindu gods, but his own son Prahlada remained faithful to Vishnu and therefore angered Hiranyakashipu. Holika, Hiranyakashipus sister, tricked Prahlada into sitting on a pyre with him and lit the pyre up. Holika was wearing a cloak that would protect her from the fire, but the wind blew it off her and onto Prahlada, protecting him and burning Holika. This is why every year in the evening before Holi, bonfires are lit all over India. The next day, people start playing with colors in the early morning, throwing colorful powder or water balloons at each other. Everyone, poor and rich, old and young, men and women, is fair game. Culturally, Holi also stands for new beginnings, where people bury past rivalries, pay or forgive debts, and renew and revive old relationships.
We were lucky enough to all get tickets to play Holi at a very nice club in Pune, where they did not only have free, organic colors (many colleagues warned us about the colors used in the streets, for many of them are very toxic), they also offered delicious foods, chilling drinks, and a rain dance. Holi in India truly is a one of a kind experience! It is impossible to describe, so I’ll just leave you with some pictures!

All of Batch 18 plus some old interns and Indian colleauges! Happy Holi!
All of Batch 18 plus some old interns and Indian colleagues! Happy Holi!
Close up of my purple colored contact lenses (DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!)
Close up of my purple colored contact lenses (DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!)
After two days in their peroxide solution, my contact lenses remain purple. Time to find good optician in Pune! ;)
After two days in their peroxide solution, my contact lenses remain purple. Time to find good optician in Pune! 😉
How to turn a Primark outfit into a unique, haute-couture designer ensemble
How to turn a Primark outfit into a unique, haute-couture designer ensemble

Bye Guys! ✿✿✿
*It’s Holi!
** Yes, I speak Hindi! (Or rather, an IPA version of Hindi ;))

Book Review: Cracking the Egyptian Code

Hey Guys ♥

I’ve already threatened in my About Me that I won’t be able to stick solely to writing about my time in India, and here you already have my first non-Indian post 😉 By now you’re probably sick of me bragging about my stay already, so this might actually be a welcome change for you 😉 As some of you already know, I’m a giant bookworm and history nerd, and ancient civilizations especially have always fascinated me (when I was younger I was set on becoming an archaeologist and follow in the footsteps of Sydney Fox). I still get shivers down my spine when I visit the British Museum and get to take a look at the fragments of ancient temples, statues, or even just pottery. That we are able to reconstruct the lives of people who’ve lived hundreds or even thousands of years before our time using only the artifacts they left behind will never cease to amaze me. That their lives were both so very different from ours today and at the same time not-so-different at all never fails to impress me. And since I can’t always visit one museum after the other or travel around the world, I have to make do with the second best thing: reading about history and archeology. As much as I love reading about history, sometimes I love reading about how historians, archeologists, and scientists discovered the things we nowadays know about history even more. One such book is Andrew Robinson’s Cracking the Egyptian Code, a biography of Jean-François Champollion, the man who deciphered the Egyptian hieroglyphs.

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About the Book*:
Cracking the Egyptian Code – The Revolutionary Life of Jean-François Champollion was first published in 2012 by Thames and Hudson Ltd. in London. The author, Andrew Robinson, studied Oriental and African Studies in London and Oxford, and has already written several books about ancient languages and their deciphering (plus a book on the history of India, so maybe may next book review will be more aligned with the actual topic of this blog). The book consists of 16 chronological chapters, an afterword and is 328 pages long. Its subject matter is, of course, Jean-François Champollion, born in 1790 in Figeac, as the youngest of 7 children, and the first person to decipher and read the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. It follows Champollion’s life chronologically, focusing on his impressive academic career and his obsession with ancient Egypt which started when he was still a young boy. The book also covers his strained relationship with his father, which would at times hinder his work immensely, his sometimes questioned heritage (because of his dark skin it is often assumed that his birth-mother was not his father’s wife, but an unknown gypsy woman), his controversial social and political ideas and opinions (both he and his brother were Republicans with strong sympathies for Napoleon Bonaparte), and his close relationship with his older Brother Jacques-Joseph Champollion-Figeac, whose intellect, diplomacy and influence on French academia would be highly beneficial for him personally and professionally. Without his brother’s help, Champollion, who never shied away from making his sometimes harsh and controversial opinions on the social and political discourse of the time and the works of his fellow scholars public, would never have gotten the support necessary to continue his studies and fulfill his life-long dream of leading an expedition to Egypt.

And now to why I enjoyed this book so immensely:

First of all, it is incredibly well written. Robinson manages to bring Champollion’s character to life in a way which is more reminiscent of fiction than non-fiction. Champollion, who was an intellectual genius but far less talented at handling social and political situations (his blunt and harsh criticism of fellow scholars and his arrogance earned him many enemies in French academic and political circles) is certainly not an easily likeable protagonist, but Robinson effortlessly manages to sketch a complex and compelling picture of Champollion’s “all-or-nothing” personality. As passionate as he was about his love for Egypt and his studies, he was also capable of contempt for anything and anyone he considered unworthy of his time. Robinson is obviously full of admiration for Champollion’s genius, but never falls into the trap of glossing over his personal and even academic faults and mistakes. Furthermore, his portrayal of Champollion’s fascination with the ancient Egyptian civilization is immediately transferred to the reader. After reading this book, it is easy to understand why Champollion would dedicate his whole life to that one specific topic.

Unlike most other biographers of Champollion, Robinson, who has previously written a biography about Thomas Young, Champollion’s rival during the race to decipher the hieroglyphs, manages to celebrate Champollion’s achievements without taking away credit from Young and the other way around. Instead, he shows how Young laid the foundation for Champollion’s future work, and contrasts both their approaches to their studies (Champollion as the savant and Young as the allround scholar who dabbled in almost every discipline) and their personalities (the quick-tempered Champollion v the moderate, laid back Young).

Another great thing about the book is that he actually includes images of hieroglyphs, hieratic and demotic scripture in his text, which makes Champollion’s process of deciphering the hieroglyphs and how these scripts relate to each other and to the modern Coptic language, which Champollion used for his work so much easier to understand for someone who has no previous knowledge of the topic. Robinson outlines how Champollion’s knowledge of Coptic, Young’s previous work, the Rosetta Stone and other vital papyri and inscriptions aided Champollion in achieving his goal of reading and understanding the ancient Egyptian language.

The book then ends with an outline of how the discipline of Egyptology evolved after Champollion’s early death, clarifies some of his mistakes and false assumptions about the Egyptian language and the hieroglyphs and how his successors rectified those, and brings up some of the struggles modern Egyptologists face today.

In conclusion, this book absolutely captured me and reminded me of why I am so obsessed with history. The many illustrations of Egyptian temples and pyramids, the fascinating and manifold Egyptian language, and the original excerpts from Champollion’s travel diary during his expedition in 1828 transport the reader back to early 19th century Egypt. If I could have, I probably would have signed up for Egyptology classes right away after finishing the book, and Egypt has definitely moved up a few spots on my to-travel list 😉 Even if you are not yet interested in Egyptian history, I would strongly recommend this book to you if you have any interest in history or languages at all. Robinson not only delivers an incredibly well-written biography of an extraordinary genius and his many personal, academic, and political adversaries, through the many illustrations of the hieroglyphs themselves and his explanations even those who have no previous knowledge of hieroglyphs can begin to understand how they work, how they relate to other languages (hieratic, demotic, Coptic) and therefor how they could finally be deciphered. And now I really want to learn to read hieroglyphs myself 😉

Cracking the Egyptian Code:
The Revolutionary Life of Jean-François Champollion

Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press (June 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-0199914999
~26 $

Wie der Hieroglyphen-Code geknackt wurde:
Das revolutionäre Leben des Jean-François Champollion

Gebundene Ausgabe: 328 Seiten
Verlag: Verlag Philipp von Zabern in Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft (1. März 2014)
Sprache: Deutsch
ISBN-13: 978-3805347624
24,95 €

If you decide to read the book, let me know what you think!

See you guys after Holi 😉 ✿✿✿

* I own the translated, German version of the book