Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Go ahead...

Before I go any further there is something that I must do.

First I need to thank all of you who have left comments. Usually I try to respond individually to each comment and I simply have not been able to keep up with that lately. Your presence here is appreciated and helps very much to keep loneliness at bay! Thank you, Thank you, thank you!

Secondly I need to thank Sarah at Bella Knitting. She gave me an award!

Sarah, you're a sweetheart and I am enjoying sharing my adventure with all of you!!!!
I am going to have to wait a bit to pass on the award to others...but I promise I won't forget!

So- where were we? I had had a lovely day last week and ever since then life has showed its mundane-everyday life-get on with it side. Well... Indian style.

We have our residential permits.
I have a sim card with an Indian number.
I got a NEW cell phone :)
We have been looking at furniture.
I bought plates and bowls.
I bought cups.
I bought silverware
I ordered curtains for our house.
Anna said she was actually craving Indian food.
We ate at the Hard Rock Cafe.

Yes. It has been quite a week filled with a lot of driving, waiting in traffic and me trying not to get stressed but check it out...

We have keys!

I have never in my life had so many keys. Each and every door has a lock. Not sure if it paranoia or necessity. But it is certainly rather ironic for someone who never carries house keys and tends to leave things unlocked.

Yes folks, the days of "shifting" (Indian English for "moving") will be upon us soon. I was at the house today and I made a list of all of things that still need to be finished but then later realized that while there a lot of things, they are all little things. Tomorrow, hopefully, we will get some furniture in the house and then the plan is to actually sleep there Friday night. We might not have gas (for cooking), we won't have an internet connection (shall have to find a Wifi spot!), but we will have a house to call ours for the next two years!

So, I shall make this a brief post as I am dog tired and got little sleep last night but I do want to share with you some of the many everyday sights I get to experience as I am driving all over this traffic filled "rash" driver city...

Bangalore wild life:
Driving along. Minding our own business and what do we see?

Yup. Camels.

Then on another excursion we were stuck in traffic (it's true- shocking- but true) and I looked over and saw a small herd of goats! They were sort of grazing in an empty area next to these shops. What is with the goats?! Traffic moves on a little and then I see...

If you look closely you will see and understand. Goats = mutton. Did I tell you it is really easy to be a vegetarian in India?

But one of my favorite sites has got to be this. Could not believe it...

That says KenTACKY Fried Chicken. We laughed and laughed so hard! Then we had to try to explain it to our driver. Made my day!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

An Artful Eventful Day

Mornings here in Bangalore have a real beauty to them. The sounds of the neighborhood and city start to creep into your consciousness as you lie in bed. The local dogs barking to defend their territory, the auto rickshaws starting to buzz down the street, it all adds up to a gentle push to awaken and join the fun and adventure that wait for you today.

And what a day it was! First, I need to tell you that I have been successfully crossing "that street" all week in order to take Anna to the school bus. I am not nearly as brave as the locals, but I manage and can even do it in the afternoon with the heavier traffic - the rickshaws, buses, scooters and cars all passing inches away from me. It is quite exciting! ;)

Now, Wednesday was a really special day. I met up with Debbie Ann and Charles (both of whom I met through blogging before I even came to Bangalore!) and had a traditional South Indian breakfast. Masala Dosa and filter coffee- yum! This is quickly becoming one of my favorite meals! Then we dropped Charles at work and headed off to a "road trip" organized by the OWC. When I saw this trip I knew I had to go since one of my personal tasks while I am here in Bangalore is to discover if I still have a passion and interest in art. (I attended- though never graduated from art school when I was younger.) We went to the studio/home of Balan Nambiar. Wow. I am so glad that I went! He is a painter, sculptor, enamel artist, photographer and researcher. He is very influenced by his upbringing in rural Kerala and was a fascinating, interesting, and kind man. I sincerely hope that I might be able to have some future interactions with him. Debbie has written a little write up of our experience there, you can go read it if you would like to know more about him.

Well, after we were done Debbie suggested that we head over to Chitrakala Parishath. It is a local art school and has a museum that exhibits traditional and modern Indian art. They wouldn't let me take my camera inside, but I can tell you that I was very impressed with much that I saw and also enjoyed the student exhibit and the exhibit from Kolkata by the Spectrum Artists' Circle.

Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath

After we were done in the museum we wandered around the campus a bit and saw some fun sites:

A pillar with decoration

A student(?) sculpture

Dog resting outside and open air classroom
And then we saw......


This one is for you Margit!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Monkeys and Malleswaram

Hello again! So, there are lots of cool little things about India and Bangalore. Like these. These are little bananas. I know that they have a variety name but I can't remember it and I didn't write it down. They are very tasty and just really cute!

So, as you know we are not allowed to drive here. Company policy. Fine by me. Driving here is best left to professionals. Or so we thought. Last week our new car arrived on Friday morning. It had a new stereo and had newly tinted windows (mostly to offer Anna a non fishbowl experience while driving around). With our new car came our new driver, Manju. Friday was fine and our new car was decked out with garlands and a new little statue of Gansha or Vinayaka. (sorry the pic didn't come out better) But, more on Manju later...

After we dropped off Bryan and took Anna to school I decided that I wanted to explore the Malleswaram area. We are not going to be living there, but it isn't too far from our area. As we were driving into the area we passed by a temple that looked as if it was dedicated to Hanuman, more widely known as the monkey god. This is a very cool looking temple and as I was checking it out I noticed that there were monkeys crawling over the face of the temple! Unfortunately I did not get any pictures since we were just driving by and I had no idea it was there. I will try to go back another time though. It is a very interesting temple and the monkeys make it a must see!

Once we reached the market area I got out at 8th cross and Sampige Road and just started walking around and exploring. It was still early and many of the stores and carts were just starting to open up- but it was really nice to just wander around and look at everyday life here. I did see this temple and later heard the priest chanting over the neighborhood loudspeakers...

If you look at the above picture you can see Hanuman (the monkey god) and Vishnu (the blue one with four arms). Sorry that I can't tell you more about the Hindu gods at this time! But I can share this detail of the temple. I just really love all of the designs and decorations!

You also see the modern world coming into this area. As I walked down Sampige Road I came across this. This is where the metro is going to be coming into the area. If I remember correctly this is the line that will go down to MG Road, where Bryan works. (By the way, I think every city in India has an "MG", Mahatma Gandhi, Road.) Watching these types of construction sites, that are everywhere in this city!, is really fascinating.
In the west these types of sites would be filled with many large, loud heavy machines as well as a good amount of large, loud heavy men! Here it is so, so different! Much of the work, for good or bad, is done by hand. There are many more people than machines and there are also many women. At this site there were women who were wearing "hard hats" although the hats had a flat top with a little rim. This is because they were there to carry dirt and such that was being excavated from one place to another. They would line up, receive their bit to carry- loaded onto a cloth or flat surface on their head, and then they would carry it off and come back and wait their turn again. There was one woman in particular who kept looking at me as I was looking at their whole system of working. She was incredibly striking. She was small, but stood tall. She had a very strong and proud face and I would have loved to have sit down and talk with her. If she would have been willing. She in no way flinched from my gaze. She was beautiful.

I later wandered back up Sampige to the market area. Here there are many fruit and vegetable vendors, as well as the flowers you see here. A little ways up the street there was an elderly woman who was making up the little white flowered garlands (Jasmine?) like the one that was in a car in the earlier picture. I stood there and watched her work, her fingers moving so quickly and nimbly as she grabbed two flowers, wrapped the thread around one and then made a loop and slipped it over the second flower. You see these women, and occasionally men, on streets everywhere making these and selling them. It seems that vehicles are very commonly garlanded in some way. Small ones for smaller cars and really large ones for trucks and buses!

I also had a real "not in Kansas anymore" experience while sitting down and drinking a bottle of water. I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye and looked up to see

a donkey

walking down the sidewalk.

No owner. No harness or rope of any kind. Just a donkey walking down the sidewalk.

So I'll finish with the bad news about our driver. On Saturday Manju arrived and our new car was a bit worse for wear. He had apparently gotten into an accident on the way to get us. Okay. Great. Well, these things happen. Then we went about our errands and were headed back to the apartment and he got into another accident! It was totally his fault too. sigh. So, now he is no longer our driver. I feel a little bad as yesterday he was telling me about his wife and how they have been married for one year and such. But we just felt like we couldn't trust his driving. I think he just wasn't used to driving a car like ours. I do wish him well and hope that he can find good work with someone else. I also hope that we can find a good driver without too much trouble.

Well, I will leave you with another shot from the Malleswaram area for now I am off to meet Anna at her school bus stop! Till next time!

Some of the many "two-wheelers" of Bangalore

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Q and A (क्यू ऎंड अ)

Yes, that's right I now have a "type in Hindi" tab at the top of my posting box. Someone needs to let me know if it is correct though!

So, I received so many interesting replies to my last post and a lot of them asked questions, so I thought that a Q and A post would be in order. So, here goes:

Mrs. Fife asks: "what sort of protection will your cats have if they venture out?"
We are actually planning on having the cats stay indoors here. We passed up one house that we looked at solely on this decision. There just would have been no way to keep the cats indoors in that particular house. For one of the cats, Ashley, this is not a problem- she prefers to stay indoors. For Benny it will likely be a bit more of a challenge, but we figure the house we are getting is just like one giant kitty condo anyway!

She also asks: "how's the weather? Do you find it cool at all?"
Compared to California it is not cool, but it is not unbearably hot either. We have noticed that it is getting warmer though and have heard that it quickly starts to warm up this time of year! I was talking with a store owner the other day about how Bangalore used to be referred to as the A/C city because it was naturally cool and people would (gasp!) actually need sweaters in December and January. But apparently, due to all of the building, cutting down of trees, and increased traffic, they have seen a real change in the climate here in the last ten years. Very interesting. And now Tata wants all of those on motorbikes to get a car?! Not so sure this is a good idea...

Linnakat asks: "are your switches the opposite way from in the States?"
Yes! The light and electrical switches are the opposite and there seem to be twice as many! This is because many of the electrical outlets have switches that turn them on and off. If you ask me, this is absolutely brilliant! Although when recharging a cell phone or laptop it helps to remember this and turn ON the switch before going to bed and needing the phone in the morning... :)

Spinalcat asks: OMG, Lush! But how do you use it with crummy showers and no tub?
Actually, I am quite surprised as to how quickly I have adapted and figured this all out! You just get your washcloth and sink it into the water, get your face (or other body part) good and wet, Lushly lather up, and then rinse using the same procedure! I have learned that it is wise to fill up the smaller bucket with water for this purpose- otherwise when you are rinsing out your wash cloth you get the rest of the water a bit yucky. Coolio!

Cookie asks: I'm sure you'll start missing "good old American something" sooner or later. Perhaps yarn? :-)
Just have to say "yes!" to that one. I am very much looking forward to our shipment arriving so that I have my yarn again!!!! I need soft squishy things to fondle!

Well, I guess that is about it for the Q and A. Next time I will tell you about exploring Malleswaram, the wildlife I encountered there, and our new (little too wild) driver.

Oh! And thank you SO much for all of the comments!!! It helps me to feel connected to all of you and to feel less lonely here. Very important ;)

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Hello! Or should I say Namaskaar?

Greetings from beautiful Bangalore! Now that everyone at home is heading off to sleep and they are no longer calling me via Skype I have a chance to sit down and tell you all how we have been!

Flame tree (?) outside our flat

It has been a very busy first few days and we are adjusting to everything fairly well. There is so much that I want to share with you that I hardly know where to start! I think I should start with a shower though. Yes, you heard right, a shower. See, at home this is a fairly simple process. Strip, turn on the water and get in and do your business. Well, our first morning here I headed to the bathroom with the intention of doing just that. I stripped, turned on the water and got in. Holy mofo-bejeezus. COLD! Turn right, turn left, still freakin' cold!!!! So I took a very refreshing and quick shower and got out. Well, turns out that there is a water heater that you have to turn on for the shower. That was one of the many, many light switch looking things on the wall. Well, this make sense, India does all that it can- out of necessity- to conserve energy and power in all forms. So usually in each area where hot water would be had will be an individual water heater. Smart.

So, day 2 I turned on the important light switch looking thing, waited about 5-10 minutes and then proceeded with the shower sequence. Ahhh, nice warm water.....wait, it's getting colder... cold again!!! Yikes- that warm water does NOT last very long! Turns out the tank for said water heater is not so large.

Day 3: necessity being the mother of adaptation, we have all switched to taking showers Indian style. This means we turn on the water heater, wait the needed amount of time, and then we fill up a large bucket with the now highly valued warm water. We then use a small bucket/scoop to shower ourselves by hand. Quite effective actually! It sure uses a LOT less water too. I can usually get by with one large bucket full, but need a bit more when I need to wash my hair. Wow. The daily adventures of India!

So, we are currently staying in a flat in the Southern part of Bangalore, Koramangala. It is a very busy area and getting anywhere is quite a challenge. For example, we are very close to one of the larger, nicer malls in Bangalore- it would be a short walk from here. Except that we would have to cross this very busy street. Now doing this in a safe way takes a bit of practice I think, and I don't feel like I am quite up to it yet! So we haven't been there, even though there is supposed to be a good coffee place there (and a Lush, and a movie theater...). I am going to have to brave it one of these day though. In the meantime I am enjoying the view from our balcony as Bryan has the car/driver today...

Here is one of the neighborhood strays...

And here is our flat!
This is actually the second flat we have been in. When we first arrived we were in another, far less pleasant- alright, downright dingy - apartment that smelled rather bad. Then on Sunday they came in and announced that we had to move to another flat. "Why!?" we asked, as we had just unpacked things, and the cats were finally starting to relax a little... Well, we never did find out why, but we suspect that they may have made a mistake and put us in the wrong flat in the first place. Anyway, we are much happier here and the cats are as well (no unpleasant cleaner smells for one thing). Although Benny would sort of like to go outside...

The funny part about being in a "Serviced Apartment" is that I chose this option so that we could feel more independent, make our own meals, etc... Well, it turns out that a serviced apartment comes with service. Who knew? So, every morning there is a "boy" (their term, not mine) who comes to make us breakfast and then clean up the flat. He will even do laundry and iron. The ironing is necessary because there are no power clothes dryers here. Again- lower energy usage- we from the states could learn a lot from the Indians!!!!! So we are getting used to the idea of having someone work for us in this way. Weird.

So, we are here for two more weeks. We got the house we wanted and it is in a good location for Anna's school (she starts tomorrow)- also not too bad for Bryan's work. If you go to Bryan's blog you can see some pictures of the house. It is quite large and is a very modern and newly built house. For you Bay Area natives out there, I think I would describe it as a modern, 3-level Eichler. Very nice design. It is big enough to have guests, but now we have to get some furniture... (hey didn't we just get rid of all our stuff?! yikes.)

My daughter would also like you all to know that she has started a blog as well. She is telling about her experiences here in India. Her blog is called "Curry Pizza".

A glimpse of sunset through the buildings...

I am looking forward to getting all of our tasks and errands straightened out so that we can get out and see the city a bit more. Most that I have seen thus far has been through the car window. But frankly that is pretty typical Bangalore!

Till next time!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Here in Bangalore

Well, we made it. We arrived in Bangalore... well don't ask me when. It is still a bit fuzzy. Those 20+ hour flights can really mess with your thinking! But I can tell you that we have had almost two days here and we have spent a lot of our time looking at housing possibilities. We have looked at eight different houses/units and think we have chose one. Monday will be the day to start working on getting our residency permits as everything depends on that. Lease a house? Need your permit. Open a bank account? Need your permit. So the permit needs to be gotten.

Today is our day to sort of take it easy a little. We are feeling the effects of jetlag a bit more and right now I would really like to just crawl into bed and sleep. So with that- I will offer you a more complete post at a later time.

Oh yeah- my husband is watching Cricket. My husband the sports hater. What's up with that?!