Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Mission: Bangalore

Oh the adventures I have had!
Normally I try to avoid merely giving a day by day accounting of what I have been doing but I think in this case it might be needed. So here goes, a report:

Monday we were finally able to meet with the company representative who is going to be assisting us with everything we need to do to get ourselves here. We sat through a presentation on all that he does and does not do and we were supposed to ask any questions that we might have. Of course, I was feeling like I hadn't gotten quite enough sleep at that point, so thinking of questions was difficult at best. But, we did our best and then were met by a Real Estate agent who showed us some homes in a popular expat area of town. Now. Bryan and I are not necessarily ones who are impressed by "prestige" or bells and whistles. These communities were nothing but prestige, bells and whistles. I know, some people like that. That is fine, but me? It makes me feel uncomfortable. It does seem that many of the people we have met assume that we want to live in a gated community surrounded by other expats. Well, we would like to experience India. So these places we saw were not for us. Oh yeah, given driving times, there are also approximately 1 hour away from any of the schools that Anna would be attending. No thanks.

Now I did have a little adventure Monday afternoon though! We had some US dollars that we wanted to exchange and since Bryan had a meeting, I was on my own to take care of this. I have to admit to feeling a little uncomfortable going out on my own, but like Bryan said, if we are going to live here I am going to have to get used to this. Okay. I can do this. I grabbed our cash, my passport, my cell phone and my courage. I headed down stairs and hailed the driver. I told him, "I need to go to Thomas Cooke, on MG Road. Do you know where it is?" He shakes his head from side to side and says, "yes, okay". Then he just looks at me. So I repeat, "Thomas Cooke on MG road? Do you know it?" "Okay", he says, still nodding his head from side to side. Hmmm. Let's try a different way, "You don't know where Thomas Cooke is?" "No" he says. Aha. Okay. So, I grabbed the lobby manager from the hotel and had him explain how to get there and we were off.

Now, this driver who we spent most of the day with (he was new to us this morning) was almost silent for the entire day. Occasional comments and responses to questions but that was it. Well, he was an absolute chatterbox with me! He went on and on about everything we were passing by and asked me questions. It was really something. I am thinking that perhaps there is a bit of an intimidation factor with Bryan but I am more approachable? Not sure. So, we get to MG Road and find a sign that says "Thomas Cooke" So I hopped out of the car and was to call the driver once I was done so that he could pick me up again, since there was no parking on MG Road. I walked up to the building, feeling very, well WHITE. It has to be said. We stick out. A lot. There is no blending in here. So, they were doing construction on the building and the elevator/lift was non existent, so I walked up the stairs, gingerly avoiding the wet spots from the rain on the marble steps and the disaster that could come from that, while the jackhammer from above was ringing in my ears. Two flights up and there is is Thomas Cooke! I open the door and everyone stops and stares at me, but no one moves to offer me any help. I don't see any signs anywhere that say "Foreign Exchange" so I just stand there. Alone. White. Finally one of the courageous employees approaches me and asks, "May I help you madam?" They are very polite here. Archaically so. ("What is you good name?" being a common phrase) So anyway, when I said that I was looking for the foreign exchange he informed me that I was in the wrong building- turns out the building I was looking for was two doors down. Well, sort of. It was two buildings down, through a passageway, behind the building and up the stairs. But is was there. Money was exchanged. Time to call the driver cause I am suddenly feeling very nervous carrying this wad of Rupees in my purse and being all alone and WHITE. Dang! (Actually I think I said out loud something less polite) What is the frickin' country code again? I tried and tried but I could not figure out how to make that phone call on my phone! So I walked out to the street and tried to figure out what to do. Did I know how to walk back to the Hotel from where I was? Maybe, but streets around here are a little disorienting and there are very few street signs. I wasn't panicking but I was feeling at least a tad nervous, and then- in the distance I spotted OUR CAR!!!! I was so happy! I did a little hop and scurried down there feeling incredibly grateful and lucky. I came back to the hotel and felt like I had just accomplished Mission Impossible.

Tuesday was less adventurous but we did visit one school, The Canadian International School, and we then had the opportunity to look at more housing possibilities. The first place we looked at was an "Independent Bungalow". This was actually a lovely house that we would be absolutely thrilled to have. Of course we wont be here for a little over two months yet, but "they" are going to see if it is possible. I get the impression that this particular house is well below our allotment, but was quite nice! Anna likes this room:

Split level room with view of front garden

Our Real Estate agent seemed very concerned that we find a house that was appropriate to "our status". I hope that I don't have to tell all of of you how strange this feels to me. Whatever. I do admit to wanting to find a house that I will feel comfortable in for the next two years. This is a big change. But all that said, I love Bangalore. This city's energy and friendliness are amazing. Yes, it is crazy and chaotic, but somehow people take it all with grace and a sense of humor. You get the sense they feel that we are all in this together.

I am going to leave you for now since I am having problems uploading pictures. More next time!


seltsame said...

That house is "below" your allotment!?! Wow! They really do want you to live in the lap of luxury, don't they?

Glad you're out having adventures. I think in India, people will always notice you, just because you're white and an attractive woman, more out of curiosity than anything else. However, if you felt comfortable wearing Indian clothes (salwar kameez), you might feel like you stuck out less, because then at least you would seem like a long term expat with some understanding of the culture, instead of a random tourist. I have some non Indian friends who said it helped when they went there.

Maya said...

I'm glad (though not surprised) to hear that your first choice is not some gated community with a bunch of expats. That's like folks who go on vacation to exotic places, only to stay in a Club Med where they're insulated from ever meeting the locals or seeing the local culture...

What does Anna think of it all? The photos of the CIS looked really nice - were those kids in uniform? It seems like a huge (though not bad) change for her.

I'm also glad to hear you like Bangalore. I'm jealous - I'd love to pull up stakes and move somewhere totally different for a few years. Maybe when the kids get a little older, eh?

Your description of the crowds in the mall sounds like what my friends Greg & Sandra said when they traveled there a few years ago - huge crowds, but not aggressive, and somehow okay in a way that they wouldn't be, here.

Keep writing! I check your blog (& Bryan's & Giselle's) obsessively!


Bogie said...

I too am enjoying your updates. The place looks quite nice and I hope "they" can make it happen. Looking forward to your next post!

Abigail said...

That house does look lovely! I'm glad to hear you are liking the feel of Bangalore.

linnakat said...

Love to read your updates! And totally gotcha on the feeling very white thing. :)

Helen Bratko said...

Thanks for sharing your adventures, it is all very fascinating!!

Denise said...

Cindy, I'm so enjoying reading about your adventures in Bangalore!

The bungalow looks and sounds really charming. I wouldn't want to live in a gated community of ex-pats either.

Anonymous said...

Bengaluru is a capital city in Karnataka. Karnataka is an enchanting land abounding in scenic beauty and rich in flora and fauna. Bangalore is called the "Garden City of India" with its many gardens and boulevards. Its pleasant climate and laid-back charm attracted many senior citizens and thus later on came to be called as "the retired man's paradise”. But today it is a thriving business center, focusing on information technology (IT). Bangalore is considered the IT capital of India. It is also called the "Silicon Valley of India", and has concentration of software technology related activity, which is similar to that of the Silicon Valley in California. Business travelers and leisure travelers, both can enjoy staying at budget hotels in Bengaluru. This hotels in Bengaluru have rooms which are spacious, contemporary, smart and best in class in the region. This hotel accommodation in Bengaluru has all the modern amenities. You can recreate yourself by visiting places like Lalbagh Gardens, Cubbon Park, Venkatapp Art Gallery, Musical Fountain, etc.