Posts Tagged ‘help a girl out’

Since deciding to visit India after our Nepal stay is over, we’ve faced a series of challenges that lead me to believe that India may actively be trying to keep us out.

Challenge #1: The Visa Process

Getting an Indian visa is a lot like a trip to the DMV, but slightly more painful. The office for applications is open only from 9:30am to 12pm. We arrived early, but not early enough – we were still numbers 55 and 56 in line. And, although the office opens at 9:30, the ticket counter apparently doesn’t open until 9:45. Or maybe 10:00. Or, really, whenever they feel like it.

On top of that, there are four ticket counters at the visa service center, which sounds promising. And with a line of 50+, you’d expect at least two of them would be open. Even the DMV would concede that much.

But not Nepal’s Indian visa service center.

There was one ticket counter open to process applications. One counter was open to process payments. And with no visa costs posted anywhere, there was a backup in the payment line since people had to keep leaving to hit up an ATM.

Did I mention it was cash only?

This was all just step one in the visa process.

  • In step one, you pay.
  • In step two, you find out if your application was accepted, what kind of visa you get (which may or may not be what you requested), and you leave your passport with them.
  • In step three, you collect your passport and visa in utter chaos, because during the pickup hours the ticket dispenser doesn’t work.

You know what, though, India? We did it. We got your stupid visa, and paid more for it because we’re American. Fine.

But wait. There’s more.

Challenge #2: Booking a Flight

The flight from Kathmandu to Delhi should take less than two hours and be direct. We found one we liked (the only one for less than $100 per person) and proceeded to checkout. Except…the credit card was declined. So was the check card and the backup credit card, all of which have travel alerts set AND sufficient funds.

What they don’t have is membership in “visa verify,” which is apparently a very popular verification program among Indian airlines. So maybe that one’s on our banks and not India.

But that didn’t make it any more fun to find the airline office and go book our flight in person – with cash.

Challenge #3: Booking Trains in India

Before this trip I reached out to a friend who had lived in and traveled through India. She recommended using Cleartrip to book trains, and, thus far, I’ve found its listing of the train schedules super helpful. I’d even found the train to get us from Delhi to Agra and was ready to book.

Not so fast.

In order to use Cleartrip, you have to register with Indian Railways IRCTC. In order to do that, you need an Indian cell number and address.

If you don’t have those things, you need to scan and send a copy of your passport. Then you need to send another email requesting that Cleartrip email you a password instead of texting it.

After all that, you can book your train tickets online. But only if you have American Express. (We don’t.)

We will get all of this sorted out eventually. Maybe before we get there, maybe not. But either way, I’m not really feeling the love from India.

And if they keep this up, they won’t feel the love from me, either.

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Two weeks from today I’ll be starting my final year of grad school.

Among other concessions, this means that I’ll be forgoing pleasure reading in favor of things like articles on Pakistan and Islamists; political analysis regarding African issues; and reports of peacekeeping operations around the world.

Interesting stuff, to be sure, but nothing that I’d take to the beach.

And that’s where you all (i.e. whoever still reads after I’ve gone on so many unannounced hiatuses) come in.

I may not be going back to the beach this summer, but I do still have two weeks left to read for fun and I’m looking for recommendations.

There are a few things on my list right now, but I’d love your suggestions. A girl’s to-read list can never be too long.

Plus, even when classes do start up, it’ll be nice to have something on my bedside table that isn’t related to international affairs.

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There are certain skills that many women (and I’m sure men, too) have, that I often feel as though I’m lacking.

It’s really the little things. Like:

  • wearing pantyhose without squirming
  • commuting in heels instead of keeping them under your desk at the office
  • ironing out all the wrinkles (not just the easy ones)
  • caring enough to blow dry your hair (maybe the caring isn’t a skill, but the blow drying is)
  • painting your own nails
  • putting on makeup (and taking it off)

And you see, it’s this last one that I’ve been having the most trouble with recently. I’ve pretty much given up on the rest of the list (I might blow dry if I’m feeling extra ambitious), but the makeup issue remains.

I’m not one to wear a lot of it. In fact, I’m not one to wear any, unless it’s a special occasion. And while most mothers seem to think that their daughters wear too much makeup, and so would be pleased at my minimalism, mine has been begging me wear more. (In a nice way, Mama, I know.) She’s been subtly and not-so-subtly hinting at it for years, but after this most recent wedding, when I had my makeup professionally done, it came up again.

I asked her what she thought about it, and took her silence to mean she didn’t like it. “No,” she told me, “I just wish you did it more often! It makes your eyes pop!

So, even though the wedding was weeks ago, I finally took her advice. It seems ridiculous to say, but at the ripe old age of 25, I’ve finally started wearing mascara and eye liner on a regular basis – as in every day this week.

This is groundbreaking stuff, I know.

And she’s right. My eyes do pop. I actually feel just a teensy bit more confident when I leave the apartment in the morning. It’s the same kind of confidence as when I manage to walk a block in my heels without tripping.

The thing is, now that I’ve got the makeup on, I can’t take it off! Apparently straight soap and water are no match for MAC, Maybelline, and Ulta. Who knew?

So I basically end up scrubbing, still waking up with raccoon eyes, and just reapplying on top of the leftovers. I realize this is not a good thing, but I can only grow up one step at a time.

Last time I was home, Mama did my makeup for me. Maybe this weekend, she can teach me how to take it off without ripping out my eyelashes.

Though, if any of you have any tricks or favorite removal products, I’ll gladly take your input.

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The other week, Cla made this offer: “I was thinking that maybe I could come over and help you pack – and help you throw things out.

I absolutely appreciated the offer. She knows me. She knows I hoard. She also knows that I come by it honestly.

(Sorry, Mama. Would you like a Cla for Christmas?)

So last night was our “let’s toss it” date. I felt like I was on a combination episode of “What Not to Wear” and “How Do I Look?” And Cla, with BnB’s help, was the host.

I had to justify nearly every piece of clothing I wanted to save, and Cla informed me that there was no need to keep more than 10 t-shirts – even if [insert every excuse I came up with]. There were some tops that I just hadn’t worn in forever, even though I still thought they were super cute, one of which was an argyle halter top.

Liebchen,” BnB informed me, “I think you’re mature enough to actually have an argyle sweater with arms.” So away went the halter. Along with four bags/boxes worth of other clothing.

At one point, I made the mistake of admitting that I was glad I’d already taken some things over to the boyfriend’s, so Cla couldn’t throw them out.

So you’re hiding things! Maybe we should go over there next!

She was entirely too excited about continuing the purge. The possibility of her sneaking into the new apartment just to weed out more clothes was also broached.

And then came the moment of the night.

You see, I have an entire package of knee high stockings. At one point, I thought they were really practical to wear with pants. And that logic may still hold true, but I never wear them. And that’s what prompted this conversation:

BnB: “Why do you have so many knee highs?

Cla: “You could wear them to rob a bank! I’m going to take some for when I sneak into your apartment. (beat) Maybe I should try one on now.

BnB tried to help, but it was really hard for any of us to stop laughing.

Eventually, though, Cla was successful.

"It's hurting my eyebrows!"

And a little scary.

All in all, I would say that the night was productive. The company was fantastic. The truth wasn’t even close to sugar-coated. The closets were purged.

And I got the go-ahead to replace a few items that I ended up throwing out.

But, I also made a deal on a number of articles that if I don’t wear them by the end of this season, they’ll have to go.

And I have no doubt that Cla will hold me to that. With or without the stocking mask.

*A little Cla commentary on one of my running shirts. So now some lucky donation center is getting a chipmunk running suit.

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In packing up my apartment and throwing things out, I’ve come across papers and notes and memories that I hadn’t thought about in ages. One such note came from Cla, right before we graduated from college. We didn’t yet know that we’d both end up in DC, so she decided to leave me with a few words of wisdom.

You see, I’m not a particularly fashion savvy person. I can pull an outfit together, but I’m not always up on the current trends. And I’ve been known to keep an item of clothing for far too long, just because it kind of fits, or doesn’t have too many holes.

During school, I would often consult Clara on outfit choice, color schemes, and all around flattering-ness. So when her words of wisdom turned out to be sage fashion advice, I wasn’t at all surprised, and was honestly a little grateful.

Upon re-reading the list, I realized that many of the tips are common sense, and many I already knew, but that doesn’t make them any less true.

Sorry guys...

A sampling:

1) Denim and denim is NEVER acceptable.

3) An expensive pair of shades or a handbag is an excellent accent to any outfit.

4) Note: Target is a good source for basics.

5) A pair of jeans that look fabulous on YOU will never go out of style.

10) Jewelry – often less is more, unless you’re going to an 80s themed party.

11) Fancy flip-flops are a must for summer.

15) The distance is never too far for shopping at outlet stores.

17) Wear polos sparingly and be careful of their fit; they can make one’s torso look shorter.

18) Certain t-shirts should really only be worn to the gym.

19) Just because it’s in style doesn’t mean it works for you.

20) Be wary of princess waist shirts – if they’re cheaply made the way they fall can make anyone look preggers.

Like I said, a lot of common sense, but also good advice. And a pretty good litmus test for whether or not I should actually keep some of the things currently populating my wardrobe.

Plus, the more I throw out, the more I can justify a trip to the outlets, right? Isn’t that how this works?

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Outside of my family, I’ve only ever lived with two people.

Jus was my freshman year roommate, and we ended up living together for the next four years.

When I moved down to the DC area, Cla and I spent our first year living in Ballston.

Since 2008, I’ve lived in my own lovely little studio in the District.

But that’s all about to change.

At the end of this month, not only will I be moving to a new apartment, but it will be the first time I’ve lived with someone in two years. And it will be the first time ever that I’ll be living with a boyfriend.

More than anything, I’m excited. Scratch that. Ridiculously excited – like I get that stupid grin on my face when I think about it.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit nervous. My studio has accumulated a fair amount of stuff and as I’ve (only briefly, so far) started to pack, I find myself wondering how everything will fit in our place. And if it won’t, what do I have to get rid of? I’m my mother’s daughter in that sense; I don’t like throwing things out.

There’s also the matter chore splitting. Neither of us are what you’d call “cleaners.” I despise dusting, and gag when I have to clean the bathroom. I don’t fold my laundry immediately, and end up pulling outfits out of the basket. (Wrinkles add character.) So far our compromised is that I’ll do the dishes if he cleans the bathroom. So that’s one thing we can check off.

But those issues, while still important, aren’t half as much on my mind as the fact that I’ll get to come home every day to him. We’ll be sharing all these aspects of our lives – the fun, the serious, and the quirks – even more than we already do. And I just can’t wait.

When I told my parents, I asked my mom if she had any advice on living with a boy. She, being of a similar mindset when it comes to chores, told me that she hired someone to come once a month or so, especially while both she and my dad were working. Wonderful idea, and duly noted.

And now I’m asking you: for anyone that’s ever lived with a significant other, what words of wisdom do you have for a first timer?

I know that compromise will be the name of the game, and that we’ll figure things out as we go along, but I’m just looking for a little heads up.

And while we’re at it, any cleaning service recommendations?

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I had an unwelcome realization this morning that caused me to mutter my first, “Oh, fuck,” of the day before even getting out of bed.

While I was mentally reviewing the day’s schedule – work, history reading, econ class, French oral (go ahead), more history reading – I realized that midterms are coming up. More specifically, my econ midterm is coming up in two weeks.

I know that sounds like a lot of time, but considering I still feel like I’ve just started classes and we’re already four weeks in, I have a feeling that the next 14 days will go by faster than I’d like.

And even though those refresher courses were helpful for the basics, I can’t help but think of the last time I was tested in economics – and just barely eked by with a passing grade (or rather, what seemed acceptable to me). As a perfectionist, my pride was wounded.

I had studied like crazy, spending hours in the library with those who had a better grasp on the subject than I did. I’d been poring over the text, my notes, and other readings, in addition to attending review sessions. (I recognize only now all the extra time I had during undergrad.) By the time the exam came, I was ready. I knew my International Monetary Economics inside and out.

Except that I didn’t.

And now I’m having flashbacks. Because we’ve been told that in order to stay in this particular grad school program, a certain GPA must be maintained. And econ is my academic Everest.

So studying begins tonight. (Freaking out began this morning.) I can guarantee that it won’t be pretty, and that there may be tears. It won’t be the first time, and it certainly won’t be the last.

I’m asking you all, since you’ve been so good with the advice, what are/were your tried and true studying techniques? I clearly don’t have a method, yet, that works for this subject, so I’m open to just about anything.

I just refuse to let econ win again.

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The transition into working part time and being a full time student has been, well, tricky at best and overwhelming at worst. I’m now fully in the swing of things and I’ve already managed to a) fall behind in my class readings, b) stay later at work than I’m supposed to, resulting in even less time for said readings, and c) cancel fun plans in favor of studying.

Wish you were me yet?

I’ve also just gotten my first part-time paycheck. Ouch.

I knew that I would have to revamp my budget a bit once school started. I was prepared for that. For the most part. But it still sucks to see your income drop so significantly – particularly when all other costs are going up.

So I’ve crafted a new money plan (with much help from the boyfriend), in an effort to still be able to afford this city. And I think it’ll be okay, but I’m still looking for ways to cut corners, which is where you all come in.

I’m going to assume that we’ve all been in the scrimping and saving position at one point or another – so what’s worked for you?

Do you save a certain way on groceries? Transportation? Some other creative means to keep your budget in check?

Please share. Every little bit helps.

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My car is dying.

That may be a slight exaggeration, but it does have a couple broken bones.

My parents brought it down a couple weeks ago, so that I could drive it up to camp. “And oh, by the way,” my mom said, “it’s making a little bit of a funny sound, and one of your brake lights is out. I tried to replace it, but I think something’s wrong with the wiring now, because even with the new bulb, the light didn’t go on.

Okay, no big deal.

Also, the insulation around your back windshield seems to be melting a little bit, so just push it back into place, periodically. Especially if it looks like it’s going to rain.

Got it.

Plus, the piece around your windows seems to pop out sometimes, so just make sure you’re aware of it.

Great, anything else?

Thankfully no, not from them. But as I left for camp I noticed that the “door open” light was on, despite all four of my doors being shut and locked – leaving only the trunk. Which now refuses to latch.

Since I was already late leaving, I drove the four hours to camp just waiting for my trunk to fly up on the highway and scare the shit out of me. In fact, I probably could have made the trip in 3.5 hours, if I hadn’t been so worried about the effect speed would have. Once at camp, I didn’t think about it too much, as I wasn’t driving much of anywhere.

But now, now I’m back in DC (have been for over a week) and I still haven’t gotten the trunk fixed.

Nor have I fixed the brake light. Nor the other brake light, which, while stopped at a light this weekend, a friendly DC driver informed me is also broken. Fantastic.

I’ve been toying with the idea of trying to keep my car down here, registering it, and finally paying my own insurance. But if I can’t take the time to get these things fixed, am I really responsible enough to have the car in the first place?

It’s all up for debate, but in the mean time, if you have a car in the DC area – where would you go to get the aforementioned things taken care of? And how much should I expect to shell out?

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I’ve always been curious – why do we refer to most modes of transportation as “she?” Cars, boats, bikes, etc in and of themselves aren’t feminine, but if you’re prone to naming them, it’s almost always a female name. Why?

I’m thinking about this again now, for a couple reasons.

1) The madre just got a new car – a Subaru Forrester – and suggested the name Sabrina for the car. Maybe it’s just me, but does this look like a Sabrina to you?

2) I finally got my bike! And now I want to name it.

Isn’t she (see? I just did it, too, without even thinking) beautiful? I’m not quite ready to check the bike riding item off my 25 list, because I’m still not comfortable riding around the DC streets. When I rode my bike home from the shop over the weekend, I came down one particularly busy road to get to my apartment and legitimately thought I’d get hit. I don’t know how commuters do every day – and in the morning, especially.

But, regardless, even if I’m not ready to ride, I am ready to name my ride. I’m just not feeling anything yet.

When I got my Garmin, he was named Guillermo within a matter of hours, if I recall correctly. And see? He just looks like a Guillermo:

It fits.

So here are my questions for you, in order to start the naming process:

1) Do we think the bike has to be a girl?

2) Have you ever named a mode of transportation, and, if so, what did you come up with?

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