Back in Bangalore and life proceeds.
Yesterday morning, as it was Thursday, I got up and ready and headed out with our driver Manju to go to the Leela Palace. This is where the OWC hosts their weekly coffee morning and the Leela is known as one of the world's top business hotels. It really is a gorgeous place. So, it takes about an hour to drive there during which I pull out my book and get some reading done. (Vampire adventure-romance. Gotta love it.) After tooling through the usual Bangalore back-ups and traffic, passing bull carts pulling cement mixers, groups of camels being ridden down the street and the usual mix of stray dogs and cows we finally reach the Leela. The usual entrance area is closed off and we are diverted around the corner and directed back across the front of the building so that we can go through a security check. We wait our turn and then proceed to the usual mirror under the car, check the boot (trunk) of the car thing. Then both Manju and I are asked to get out of the car, he to pass through a metal detector and I am subjected to the "ladies screening". This means that I go into a little booth, and a woman passes a wand over my body and looks through my purse. Of course, I could have left that purse in the car and no one would have known. Whatever. We are now deemed safe for entry and allowed to drive to the usual drop off area. The doors that I usually use to go to our meeting area are chained and I have to enter through another set, leading to their gorgeous lobby filled with large table displays of tubal rose flower arrangements.
The coffee morning is a strange one in a way. I am realizing that it was one year ago when I first came to the OWC coffee morning as a new member and it is my first one since we have returned from our holiday. Everyone is passing on New Years greetings and getting caught up on holiday trips. Of course it is also a time of transitions and I had to say good-bye to two people. While I hope to keep in touch, it is likely that I will not see either one of them again and this saddens me. They will be missed. This is always a hard thing to do, we know that at some point we will all have to go through this which for me, makes it a emotionally stressful situation as I am still processing my feelings from our trip back home and such. Being an expat puts you into a situation where you immediately have a connection of sorts with every other expat you encounter. That sense of feeling homeless and foreign is hard to relate to those who have not experienced it. So, a return "home" is something that makes you feel uneasy. Yes, you will be back with family and friends, but there is now a difference in you. Some part of you that you can never quite explain and they will never really understand. You are changed.
After coffee morning I call Manju, he picks me up and we head back towards home. On the way I notice lines/queues at the petrol bunks/gas stations. Manju reminds me that there is a strike going on with the workers of two of the major oil suppliers in India, Indian and Bharat oil. The rumor is that Chennai is already out of petrol and people are getting panicked and are stocking up. We filled up on Tuesday so we are still good. As we are heading home, Manju asks if I need coffee powder. This is the usual term for ground coffee which I get fresh from a supplier in Malleshwaram. Manju is pretty good at keeping track of when I am getting low and might have a sense as to how dysfunctional I am without good coffee! As we reach Malleshwaram (a really wonderful area which I have blogged about before), I notice that the streets are quite busy with both shoppers and many extra vendors along the streets. There are flowers, the usual pirated dvd sellers, impromptu vegetable stalls and all manner of bangles, bindis are earrings to tempt the meandering crowd. But we skip all of this and we reach the coffee shop where I dash out of the car, order my coffee as well as answer a call from my trainer at the gym. Yes, yes... I am coming. Once home I have a quick bite to eat (peanut butter and banana sandwich) and Ari and I leave for the gym.
Gyms in India are a bit different. First, they all seem to have trainers, and while you can pay extra to have a personal trainer, it really isn't necessary. They always have lots of available trainers on the floor and they will make sure that you follow your routine, and as evidenced above, will call you if you haven't come in for a while. They knew we were back in town and there was no skipping out on them! Well, they were at least sympathetic to the fact that we had been away for some time and so we only did a 45 minute, but much needed, post holiday cardio workout. Afterwards, we are told that it is time to have our measurements taken (they do this once a month I think) and I have to admit that I am grateful that these are done in centimeters and kilograms. I am still not overly aware of the conversion factors involved and so these "foreign" numbers have little emotional effect on me.
After we have changed and picked up needed milk from the shop downstairs, we call Manju and head back home. Several of the petrol stations that we passed on the way there, ones that had long lines as we headed to the gym, are now cordoned off and closed. No more petrol or diesel. Near our house we encounter a bit of a traffic stop up and we realize that the petrol bunk there apparently still has stock as it is one of the few companies that is not on strike.
The scene is a bit chaotic, but there is a policeman there directing traffic and keeping the calm. Cars queue up, but the two wheelers just clump and jumble together. I am very grateful that we have fuel still.
Now I am home, but my day is not over yet. Another VERY dear friend is leaving Bangalore (there really have been too many good-byes today). She and her husband come by for a quick coffee and a hug. I am determined not to break down, to not say goodbye, in an effort to help her cope with what I know is a very hard move. This particular family was supposed to be here for another year yet and due to some changes within their company they were told that the contract would be ended a year early. They are not the only ones to face this and we are all aware that this is the way that the global economic situation is impacting us here. We are both very grateful that her husband gave her a ticket to return to Bangalore as a birthday gift. So I am certain that I will at least see her again.
Everyone I have said good-bye to today is going to Australia.
After they leave, Bryan and I quickly dash off to a social get together for parents at Maya's new school. Yes, after we returned it was decided that she might be happier at a different school. We were very happy with the academics at her old school, but it was just too small of an environment for a teenage girl needing a social life in a foreign country. So, we head to yet another five star hotel, pass through the now-becoming-standard security checks, (commenting along the way that we are grateful that we have already been in Bangalore for a year- so we are not freaked out by all of this) and go meet up with parents from the school. Luckily I already know many of the parents at this school so we quickly feel comfortable and get to know people better. After a couple of hours of chit chat accompanied by a couple of glasses of surprisingly decent wine (at typical Indian high prices) and the requisite passing out of business/calling cards we head out to the car and go home.
I have managed to stay awake until a normal hour, my first time to see 11 o'clock since we have returned from the US and so I figure I am finally over my jet lag.
Yep, we are back in Bangalore and life proceeds.