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War of the zits (Beginning)

India,zit,spot,skin,acne,pollution,weather,hone remedies,turmeric,lemonMid-January, I started getting pimples on the face. I chose not to panic: one or two spots when you get your period is quite normal. Except that the bastards multiplied really fast and soon it (I) became quite ugly. Not knowing what to do, I continued washing my skin thoroughly and applying a bit of Kailash Jeevan (a magic Ayurvedic cream one can found in Mumbai and which heals any kind of injury; you can even eat it to cure indigestion!). But it just got worse. So when my nanny told me about her magical cure for the third time, I finally paid attention. According to her, I just need to use a home-made scrub: coarse sugar, salt and lemon juice. Not convinced and anyway enjoying a respite of the blooming, I let go, until new pustules appeared and she puts the ingredients in my hands, hereby stopping any kind of discussion. After all, I thought, maybe I should listen to the good old ‘folk wisdom’ (or knowledge? belief? common sense?) that has (almost) been lost in Western societies? So, I applied the scrub two to three days in a row, feeling my skin getting clearer. But a trip to Mumbai forced me to interrupt my ‘treatment’ for 3 days.

I enjoyed this short stay to go and say hello to my old nanny I had not seen for a year. She greeted me without any preamble:

- But Madam, what is this on your face? But it’s ugly, you must do something!

- Hello to you too! Yes, I know, I'm trying a scrub with sugar, salt, lemon.

- Lemon? Are you mad? No No, you must make a paste with turmeric and Chickpea flour and it will dry the infected parts very fast. Saffran is known for its antiseptic properties: when we get an injury we immediately put saffron, even you know it. But do it, huh, because this is really awful.

All that in front of her new employer, a girl I was meeting for the first time. Fortunately I’ve not been ashamed of anything in a very long time! Which comes handy when you are in your thirties and have the face of an adolescent with unleashed raging hormones.

I used my time in the taxi driving me to the airport to ‘check’ on the Internet what ‘science’ has to say about mIndia,zit,spot,skin,acne,pollution,weather,hone remedies,turmeric,lemony nanny’s popular wisdom. Nothing about her scrub in particular but a clear message: ‘avoid scrubs’ because they attack the skin which is already traumatized enough (more precisely, when the skin is attacked it produces sebum as protection, and sebum is already produced in excess which is what clogs the pores, leading to infections). I could have checked earlier... What my nanny had also conveniently avoided to tell me it is that when this happened to her, the calci face, she scrubbed it with so much energy – what am I saying? With so much violence – that she is ripped half of her skin off. So of course the pimples left as well. Sometimes, I think she gets me concerned.

And then, at the airport, the army lady who checked me spurted a “but what do have you on the face? Is it chicken pox?? ”. But what is wrong with Indians that they always comment on your physical looks like that?

On that note, I tested the second recipe. ‘Improving it’ by adding lemon juice to bind the turmeric and the flour – upon the insistence of my nanny who really wants me to put lemon on my face (about this I read an interesting article with varied opinions on the use of lemon on the skin, which apparently, science rejects). What I can say for sure is that it had a great impact. On the bedsheets at least. When Baby Samourai grabbed the cup and spilled the powder all over: saffron is magic, you can hardly remove it. Other than that, I continued to apply the paste every night, for three days, until I forgot.

I had already tried an Ayurvedic medicine which had had terrific results, working as a blood purifier or something like that. But this doctor, just like all the dermatologists I’ve met before, treated the symptoms without trying to understand where the problem comes from. Food and digestion? Lack of sleep with baby Samurai waking up two or three times every night? Hormonal imbalance? Pollution? Weather? Dust? Stress? Anything else?

(To be continued)



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Under the Tuscan sun

I have often heard that travelers form their first impression of the visiting country by her airport. I personally form it from her taxi drivers. For instance, you quickly get that Germans and Swiss Germans are a little tight-ass, that you don’t get to mess around with the baby seat – the rule is the rule and they don’t care that the little one cries to death after traveling for 15 hours. In this spirit, Italy felt just like home: not only did the airport taxi driver did not even mention the baby car seat (just like all the other drivers by the way) but also he shoved all the bags in the car, and the five adults including Papi at the back with Baby Samurai on his lap and the stroller falling on his head. And then he drove just like an Indian, the phone in one hand, taking tight turns. It was such a soft landing for us!

In many aspects, Italians are the ‘Indians of Europe’ or ‘white Indians’. The way they are attached to their mother and family – even though here I am just talking about their reputation, I didn’t experience it myself – seems quite similar. Quite easy going, warm and relaxed with the rules people. And the crowd in the streets of Florence, it was as bad as Old Delhi, simply suffocating! I don’t have any other generality to share about Italians, except that (almost) all we met were very friendly!

We just had one incident: as I was parking, my neighbour thought I scratched his car while I just left some dust and possibly slightly scratched the varnish but really I don't see how I was very careful and my favorite Indian was watching from outside). He was yelling “va fan culo” and other insults, becoming red-faced. My favorite Indian was remaining very calm (luckily he didn't understand Italian) and if I had not been so worried watching the reactions of my husband, I would have gone and slapped this angry fellow myself! When we left, leaving him disappointed by our very calm attitude, what do you think he did? Bah he scratched our vehicle. Brrrravo!

I loved the landscapes of Tuscany, and its steaks and ice-creams and pasta. I loved the Chianti, Montepulciano and Brunello (local wines) and hated its bread which is made without salt (an aberration).

We had decided to take it easy and spend the week moving only in Tuscany. We visited a few medieval villages that abound in the region – and they are either dead (nobody except one or two oldies on a bench) or packed with tourists – but especially at night, when we had to go hunt for food. This will definitely leave a special taste to the memory of our holidays! And then we mostly got lost on dirt roads.

India,Italy,Tuscany,AgriturismoWe would decide at the last minute about where to sleep (which would not have worked well in full season I think) and would usually end up in an Agriturismo. Beware, an Agriturismo it is not as romantic as it may sound, unlike what I had imagined. I had indeed a very picturesque view of this form of accommodation, with beautifully renovated farm buildings and where the guests can milk the cows and pick tomatoes. Well it is nothing like that! If the buildings are generally quite charming, all these are working farms. The owners are very busy during the day, and not necessarily inclined to entertain the city dweller who wants to play farmer for a day. And if it is one of these farms who use tractors, well there will be noise – you can bid farewell to the nap under the olive trees to the sound of silence! And in those where they keep animals (and we’ve not seen many in Tuscany where they are more about wine and olive oil production), well you’re not in the zoo. So better be aware.

We first spent a few days in the vineyards where my favorite Agriturismo was the 7 Camici, where you can watch the sunset over the vineyards from your natural hot pool):


India,Italy,Tuscany,AgriturismoWe then landed in the South, near Grosseto, in a farmhouse with a huge plot (Tenuta San Carlo) where we could see cows, ducks and rabbits, climb discreetly on the parked tractors and ride a bike to the beach, play with the dog and our Baby Samurai was happy. So we stayed there for three nights.

India,Italy,Tuscany,AgriturismoAnd to end our trip on a high note, I booked (at the last minute and it was Easter weekend) in a Florence hotel near the airport, which seduced me with his baroque style – I found it sad to spend the last night in Italy in a Novotel or an Airbnb: the Villa Villoresi. It takes some time to get used to the very ancient house, its heavy paintings, its 80-year-old owner-manager from another time, and the ‘Butler’ who carries the suitcases in a blue jacket and serves dinner in a gray one. Our room was a tiny not-so-comfortable closet but we had been warned. In short this place is a little creepy but you can start warming up to it after 2 glasses of Chianti!