Sunday, December 26, 2010

How do you fit a turkey into a toaster oven?

You don't!!
So, we went to the Leela Palace (nearest hotel to us - so easiest for Simon to drive!) - for the ultimate gastronomic experience and also some family time.
Certainly a very different Christmas this year. Hard being away from family/friends and traditions. In fact we were so off balance, Rudolph and his buddies did not get any snacks left out for them. Santa still did his stuff but Wills is worried that he'll be passed over next year!!
After a heavily veggie biased diet for the last few weeks Wills was desperate for a meat fix - eating beef with his bare hands! Adam who tried everything he could see, finally arrived at the molten chocolate fountain in a "food daze".
For all of you in colder climes this winter, the nearest we got a white Christmas was Simon's choice of deserts!
After 3 1/2 hours of indulgence we staggered homeward for some badminton. Santa bought the boys rackets! This was a different Christmas in some unexpected ways - Adam, who has the downstairs bedroom was woken at 6.40 am by Pranav (who was apparently 2 hours 40 mins late from the pre-planned prescribed time!) knocking on his window. Pranav then came in for a while and then returned back home across the street. Adam was very impressed he got a play date on Christmas morning! I was just surprised I didn't hear any of this......
Having spent so long at lunch, playing badminton, board games etc.etc. there was no TV, and no computer switched on at all, all day which is unusual for us. Though maybe, Simon snook a peak at his blackberry when I wasn't looking! However, over the Christmas period, we have been very thankful for the wonders of modern technology to keep in touch with all our family and friends - be it telephone, skype, email, facebook,'s made the miles seem less - Thanks guys!
Sadly, Simon is back at work tomorrow - so it was a very short Christmas. In the 20 years that I have known him - this is the first year he will have worked between Christmas and New Years - hopefully not a new tradition!!

I don't think the kids need any Christmas presents!!

Yes - our stuff arrived late afternoon on December 22nd. Unloaded that night and then unpacked the 23rd. The unpackers (not my kids, who, having retrieved a bike and a soccer ball, disappeared) did a great job. Our now "internationally very well travelled furniture" survived being put back together on its 3rd continent. The unpacking gang were here all day - punctuated by tea breaks (they all sit down at this point), lunch and a few light-saber fights with Wills. Even when the screws couldn't be located to reassemble all our stuff, with true Indian philosophy - "they'll turn up somewhere - no point getting worried madam" - they carried on smiling and yes, of course the rogue box labelled "parts" was unearthed.
The house became one big trash bin or playground - which ever way you want to look at it! - but we are now relatively sorted out (yes - they are and will be for a while boxes around until I manage to hide them away (not going to unpack them all!))
It does now feel a bit more homely - our home away from home!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Size isn't everything..........

This is the size of the best cuppa chai. Totally unhealthy - tea, sugar and lots of milk and some yummy spices but it is sooooo small it can't do too much harm, or at least that's what I'm thinking/hoping. A fraction of the size of my tall, skinny starbucks but so much more flavor.
After the excessive size of so much in the US a lot of things here are striking me as being on the petite side.....
This is the size of the largest cartons of milk and juice I've found to date. The milk doesn't last a day - but our one indulgence and escape to the larger side of life is my US sized fridge - which is full of small cartons and packages of food - maybe small but taste good.
My trash bin - so tiny - but it is emptied every day (no charge - service provided by the neighborhood) which is probably a good thing when it gets hot!!
Then there's my washing machine.....
Hard to see how small it is but it needs to run at least once a day, maybe takes 10 items of dryer...we are very environmentally sound on this one, obviously helped by the weather!! Living out our suitcase worth of clothes each is pretty easy as no sooner is anything in the laundry basket than it is back in the closet - or with the ironing guy!
Talking of environmentally sound take a look a the size of some of the cars...
When I get round to blogging about the crazy, hairy, nightmare of driving in Bangalore you'll see these cars are the perfect size to actually dodge around pedestrians, auto ricks, cows and all the other traffic on the roads.              
So for now we are embracing the philosophy that small is beautiful, good things come in little packages and of course size is not everything!!!!!!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The month in review!

We have now been here 4 weeks - in some ways it seems shorter and some ways seems longer.

But how is it different from what I expected?
Some of things I thought I'd miss I do and some I don't.

I miss my dear friends as expected but also my immediate family - not anticipated. The boys  leave on the school bus early, even get breakfast at school, and return on the bus (they really don't need me to meet them at the bus stop as I can see it from the house), drop their bags, rush through any homework, grab a snack and take off to the club house to hang until it's dark.

I thought I'd miss my shower and my kitchen but not so much. The shower here is better than anticipated and I've got used to my low tech kitchen. Also, truth be told, Sweetie does some of the cooking -she makes the most amazing salads, not too mention the Indian food! Sunday is her day off and I really miss my cups of chai!!

The main thing I do miss is being useful (or kidding myself I'm being useful - maybe I was just busy!!). The kids need much less back up here - no school runs, no soccer runs (they do most of their sport at school), less volunteering at school, no play dates (walk to the club house). The boys both want to start badminton and Wills karate - but they'll just walk to the club house. I do walk the kids to the bus stop and meet them in the afternoon but that is so I can chat to the other moms not because I'm needed!

I thought I'd really miss the independence of driving myself about but I quite like being a passenger. Indian life is out there on the street and I don't know if I'll ever get tired of looking out of the window - the vibrance of India, the colors, the contrasts, its a moving, ever changing diorama. I do spend a long time in the car - not doing much - whereas in the US I'd be driving, the phone ringing, emails pinging. Will I become more thoughtful or just lazy? My productivity, real or perceived, has definitely dropped.

However, the most amazing thing is how so many things are not different at all (we all get up, kids go to school, Simon to work, etc.etc.) When push comes to shove the differences are only in the details. Also, how quickly the unusual becomes the usual.......

Friday, December 17, 2010

Indus School Attention, Indus School Quick March!!

The "march past" at Indus Senior Sports Day was really impressive. I have to confess, I had thought this was all a lot of fuss about nothing, but changed my mind. They had practised all week for over an hour a day. The kids from 6th to 12th grade are split into 4 houses and compete and march in their houses. The discipline of the younger grades and leadership exhibited by the senior kids, house captains and school counsel really made it quite an event. 

The kids all got behind their houses and there was quite a lot of war paint around!

Adam is in Orion house whose motto is "Nulli Secondus", which means second to none.....and wait for it....
Boys under 12, 4 by 100m......Adam ran 4th leg and "Nulli Secondus" and the gold medal it was!! 
The speeches were short and to the point, sports will give you skills in discipline, teamwork and leadership -yeah we've all heard that before but the punch line was this'll give you attitude which in turn will give you altitude in life. I like that - "GOT ATTITUDE AND YOU"LL GET ALTITUDE!"

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

And what did I learn today?

I've decided that for me, at the moment, every day brings at least one lesson as to how to get the business of the day done here in India. So what did I learn today?

Firstly how to post a letter, a seemingly simple process? well yes and no. I go to my source of information and consult with Karthik, our driver. Wills asked me the other day - "how come Karthik knows everything?" and I must admit at this point I agree with Wills, it does seem as if Karthik knows everything and I know, well I feel as if you could write what I know on the back of a postage stamp (OK, not funny!)

Karthik pulls up at the post office  - no visible sign but apparently it is the Post Office. I take my letter and walk inside feeling as if I have just walked out of Dr Who's time machine, having travelled 50 years back in time. There is a table with a big jar of glue and a brush (no self adhesive stamps here or any adhesive on the stamps at all for that matter!) On the far side of the counter are piles of dusty handwritten ledgers, looking so antiquated I wonder if they are here for show but no, there is a post office official writing in one and no, he doesn't have a quill and ink bottle.

I stand in line, not getting too close to the person in front of me in line at the counter, don't want to appear rude and overhear their business. Big mistake - leaving any body room between me and the person in front is an invitation for anyone to move ahead of me. Got to push up tight.

I arrive at the counter and my envelope is reviewed and deemed correctly sealed (person before me nearly got rejected as their envelope was stapled shut, apparently a security risk) and addressed. The post office official decided the envelope needed to be sent registered - didn't find it necessary to confer with me on this point - typed in all the details into his computer/printer and gave me a receipt. Then I moved on to the glue pot!

Next time I think I'll just send Karthik by himself, and if you don't get any mail from me in the next couple of years you know why!

My Big Fantastic India Wedding!

On Saturday we attended our first Indian Wedding, thanks to our dear friends Anu & Dhiraj.
Both the bride and groom, (Anu's brother) live in the US but had come back to India for a traditional Indian Hindu wedding.
We should have learned by now but turning up at the prescribed time for an Indian event is only a good idea if you want some time to yourselves to take some pictures, making the most of the boys being even remotely smart!
 But not as smart as their Indian counterparts (Wills and his bud from San Jose, Karan)
The bride and groom entered from different doors in the hall, both hidden behind veils carried by their respective families, not visible to each other. When the parties meet together there is some fun as to whether the right bride and groom are going to be wed.  The grooms shoes are also stolen at this point by the brides family and are only returned when a ransome has been negotiated and paid.

The ceremony then takes place on a beautiful platform, decorated with garlands of fresh flowers. The bride, groom, parents and priest are seated and the prayers and blessings are performed. Meanwhile everyone else mills around, chatting, visiting, drinking, snacking until the couple are wed. High on tradition, low on formalities - good combination!
Then, this is India after all, let the eating and dancing commence! We, lacking fortitude, (and the boys having school the next day) couldn't stand the pace and bailed early. An awesome day - thanks to our hosts!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas won't be Christmas without.................

Adam is reading Little Women as his current school English Lit. book. I read it over and over as a kid and can still remember the first line. "Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents" grumbled Jo......... I was beginning to feel "Christmas won't be Christmas without a tree", but no longer!
There are now Christmas trees and decorations appearing in the shops, just appearing later (mid December not November) and in less abundance. Neither of which in hindsight is a bad thing but I was getting a little worried. We went to the Overseas Women's Group Christmas Bazaar last weekend where the kids could have had their picture taken with Santa and made Christmas decorations.

Now, lets put the tree in context and you'll see we're not quite there yet!
There's still "Christmas won't be Christmas without any Baileys", but I still have 2 weeks.......

Everyone's a winner! - Primary Sports Day at Indus

This was our first parental event at Indus and quite an event it was! Wills is in Prep 2, which is upper kinder. He is in a class of 24 kids with 2 teachers and an aid which is way noisier and less under control than his class in the US but academically way ahead!
The  morning started with the Prep 2 kids (2 classes) doing a drill accompanied by the school band - this is Wills running off afterwards.

The rest of the primary classes then did various drills and a parade - you can see the school buildings in the background which are rather impressive -Wills gets to wear a uniform next year.
 The Prep 2 classes had races depicting the 3 (yes 3) seasons, Winter, Summer and Monsoon. This being winter.
 No prizes for guessing which this one is! -you got it Monsoon!!
 Then, of course the medal ceremony -where everyone's a winner! Wills was on the orange team. The two ladies on the left, Miss Anu and Miss Shariou are two of his teachers. Next week we have the Middle/Senior years sports day, where everyone will not be a winner!!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Taking a walk on the wildside, or stepping out of Adarsh Vista!

Not really - it feels very safe outside of the neighborhood but it is like entering another world as you pass through security. Take a walk with us!
Approaching security gate - manned by several uniformed guys. There's a big team, some of which are scattered throughout the neighborhood sitting and watching the world go by. So, about to leave the 'hood.
This is the first view of the real world. The shop on the RHS, where the bikes are is where I get my drinking water (delivered) and buy bread (which the boys love) 

This little shop is why after aerobics, badminton and tennis at the clubhouse and a healthy diet, high in veggies - I am not going to return as a slimmer version of myself - this is the fresh chip (crisp) man. He fries chips (crisps) on the spot - unhealthy but sooooooo yummy!

Life on the street - the grocery shop in the distance, I walk to for amongst other stuff the kids fix of real cadburys!
The fruit and veg stall, I can either carry produce back or just get it delivered - no extra charge.

Home again - back to the relative calm of the 'hood!

Labour intensive or what?

Labour here is cheap and there is what we in the US/UK would consider mass inefficiency of labour. However, it keeps India turning. Look at these pictures of the Adarsh Vista gardening team:
There are approximately (hard to tell if some of them are gardeners or just stopping to shoot the breeze) maybe 12 of them. They have very few tools, they pull weeds with their fingers and have one mechanical mower which doesn't come out very often, otherwise the grass is cut with shears. They move slowly from garden to garden (only do the small front lawns), chat, smile and seem to be enjoying life and are all fully employed, albeit on a pittance but it buys rice and some sort of roof over their heads.

Do I need a maid, despite the fact I have no vacuum cleaner (Sweetie uses a broom and a mop), no kettle (she boils water to make tea), no dryer (she hangs out the washing from my baby washing machine  - one days washing fills it), no dish washer (she does the washing up)? Maybe not and definately not full time - but this way she is employed and has a 4 year old daughter to support who she wants the best for.

Do we need a driver?  To get around in Bangalore, that is a resounding yes!!  More on driving here another time!!

Oh, and there's also the ironing guy (I have no iron) who picks up our ironing twice a week and brings it back beautifully ironed and folded later that day - for 3 rupees an item. He has a room at the back of the clubhouse where he employs 3 or so ladies to do the ironing while he picks up and drops off great bundles of clothes balanced high on his push-bike along with his 2 year old daughter. Again, if we all had irons we wouldn't need him - but he and his staff would be out of a job!

The indian economy keeps turning - how this will adapt, in the future as technology moves in - only time will tell!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

And this is our temporary abode - visitors welcome!

Lets see if I can upload some pics - tech guru, aka Ads is close at hand - so we should be able to manage!
Front of our house - also see speed bump in process!

House from side - we are on the corner.

Looking up the street

Very bare looking front room! - all rooms are similar - marble floors, lots of windows

Stair case and upstairs landing - very spacious

View from our bedroom balcony
Hope that gives you a taster of where we are living.

Bureaucracy Rules!!!

We have spent a day of waiting for the wheels of bureaucracy to slowly wind their way forwards!!

Started off at the FRO - Foreign Registration Office with a pile of papers and photos for each of us (suspiciously similar to the pile of papers we had to put together to apply for our Indian visas). We met with the Infosys immigration expert who looked through our papers (of multiple photocopies in duplicate and triplicate) and immediately disappeared out of the door. Was later found in a store a couple of doors down the street trying to photocopy bits and pieces to effectively make a new document in duplicate or maybe triplicate. Over an hour later he eventually re-appeared and we got started on the real business of the day.

We had to either stand in line or be summoned by our token number to 5 different counters where our papers were checked and rechecked and various checks and crosses put in various places.

After 4 hours we left the place having traded our huge folders for 4 permits enabling us to stay in Bangalore for 12 months. How this is different from the Visa we already have in our passports I have no idea but it is the law!

So now, armed with all these invaluable permits Simon is all set to see his new BFF the bank account guru to open our Indian bank account. I had to sit down with Simon last night to autograph multiple copies of all the correct documents, so we should be all set here. But go......I signed everything with a blue pen instead of a black all the documents have to be filled in again from scratch and brought home for me to sign again, then Simon has another date with the bank account guru tomorrow. As we also want a credit card we have to complete all the same forms and provide all the same documents and photocopies a second time. Bank account guru, asked if we wanted a savings account, but wait , yes you got it, all the same procedure again, Simon wearily said no!

And last but not least, I will get meet new BFF bank account guru as he has to come visit us to verify our address!!