It has been such a blessing that a bunch of families from hubby's work moved here at the same time. We started gathering together in Austin last year to get acquainted with each other. Our households were packed and shipped at the same time, so when I was missing all my Stuff with a capital S, they were literally in the same boat. We met for playdates when we arrived here in Penang, and the kids already had friends when school started. Best of all, it's taken away my angst over, "Who will I hang out with when I move?"
That's how a group of former Austinites ended up exploring Little India one September day. The Bollywood music still blasted from the stores, but many of the tourists were gone now that summer break was over. Jenn was familiar with the area and acted as our guide. Plus, she had no fear of parallel parking against a left curb in a teeny tiny spot.
We returned to the same store where I had bought Brad's blanket-sari a few weeks earlier. Upstairs, there were racks and racks of clothing that required much less instruction than donning a sari. After trying on a few shirts, the incomparable Senora Tania performed such awe-inspiring haggling that I am now less amazed by the bargain price on the sari I had previously purchased.
Store: We cannot go any lower. This is already on sale. We have already cut the price.
Tania: I will pay your price, but you will never see this face again.
Store: We bow humbly to you, and you may pay whatever you wish. (Okay, they didn't actually say that verbatim, but that's pretty much the gist of it.)
Next, Jenn led us to a wonderful spice shop. Barrels of whole spices sat on the floor while bins of ground up spices lined the walls. The air was filled with the aroma of pepper, cumin, coriander, and a host of other scents I couldn't identify. Unlike the musty smelling bottles of McCormick spices at the expat-friendly grocery store, these seemed like they could actually flavor my food. Jean Marie suggested, "Just dump out the bottles and put this in it." I came away with little baggies of the good stuff. Alas, they don't sell Vanilla Extract here either.
We wandered the streets for a bit looking for the beauty salon that some local Penang women introduced Jenn to. I was the third one up to have my eyebrows threaded. The specialist held one end of a cotton thread with her hand and gripped the other end in her teeth. With her free hand, she looped the thread around some eyebrow hairs and quickly ripped them out. Rip, rip, rip...
Then on to the other side. Rip, rip, rip... A few minutes later, I had beautifully shaped brows plus a few tears in my eyes. Total expenditure for this service was US$1.70. If you want to try it out in Austin, Jenn recommends Hair It Is.
We wrapped up our excursion with lunch at Woodlands Vegetarian Restaurant. What a difference this place was compared to my first lunch in Little India. The previous meal was in the open air with a front row seat to the hustle and bustle that is George Town. This restaurant was quiet, dark, and best of all, air-conditioned. I indulged in my love of samosas. (I think the term "Indian empanadas" came up during my attempt to explain them.) We each ordered the Mini Meal which came with a piece of warm chapathi and cups of curd rice (looks amazingly like arroz con leche but has the tangy, sour taste of yogurt), dhall, potato masala, raitha and the deliciously sweet mysore pak.
Laden with spices, stuffed with food, and graced with beautifully shaped brows, we blew off paying for parking (more on that in some future post) and made our way home.