Monday, March 30, 2009

Home Sweet Home

Is home where you hang your laundry? Someone lives here in a small village just outside of Bangalore. It's a pretty simple life. Looking for fresh produce? It's right across the street. Temple? Just at the end of the road. Fresh water? Two doors down at the communal pump. Spice shop? Right next door. Family and friends? Always close at hand.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Buying a Salwar Kameez

Michael worked yesterday. The kids and I went to Naina Saree's which is just across the street. Crossing the street is a feat in itself - we have devised a plan to get across, waiting for traffic to stop at the light and pile up down the street. Then we run for it, weaving in and out between buses, trucks, motorbikes, cars and auto rickshaws. Once we get to the midway point we wait for a local person to cross and follow them through the oncoming traffic. Then, once we get to the other side we high five, happy to have made it across alive.
Talk about service! We walked into the saree shop and were greeted by at least twenty five girls in sarees. First we were whisked to the girls section and offered a seat on a sofa and "welcome drinks." Refused the drinks of course as we didn't know what was in it, but sat on the sofa. The girls proceeded to show us a huge selection of salwar kameez (traditional long top and trouser with a scarf). They laid them all out on a table and then Alanna tried on a few. She chose a pretty cream and orange one and left wearing it. Then I tried on a few different styles and chose one as well. Even Craig got in on it and chose a beautiful long sleeved cotton top.
The salwar kameez that we chose are casual and we will blend in more when walking down the street. Would have loved to have bought one of the beautiful silk ones with gorgeous designs and detailing but not so good for walking around town which is what we wanted it for.
Most Indian women wear sarees or salwar kameez. We've seen very few in western clothes so we will feel comfortable wearing these. Mind you the trousers that came with mine are hilarious - Michael had a good laugh. They are tight from the knee down, but what you don't see is how they balloon out at the top - they are massive through the upper leg and waist. Luckily there is a drawstring to tighten it up. Very comfy but not so attractive, luckily the top covers it up!

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Michael, Craig and I went for a very interesting walk this morning. First we have our big hotel full of wealthy foreigners. Next block over we find a fairly modern mall with stores like Guess and a cinema. Next block is where the locals live. Narrow little alleyways with a Hindu temple and a Muslim mosque within a short walk. Women wearing saris and others wearing the full muslim black dress, completely covered.
Craig was overwhelmed with the heat and quite a few flies in one area. At one point he came close to a stray dog so he stepped away from it , only to look up and come face to face with a cow which startled him.
There was a communal water pump in that area. A few people smile and say hello, but not many. Some young children did and occassionally if I said "Namaste" or Hello they would smile. I was wearing capri's and a black tshirt and felt a bit self conscious and definitely did not walk down the muslim area.
Hopefully we will go back there again but must do these things in small doses so that the kids can get used to it all. Also, even in the small alleys there are cars, motorbikes and rickshaws whipping around the corners so have to watch the kids all the time and keep them close by.
More contradictions this afternoon - met some people from Michael's work at a restaurant called Sunny's. Filled mostly with Indians but all types of excellent pastas, seafood, and delicious desserts. Good to talk to them about living in Bangalore, the highs and lows. Ultimately they agree the experience is worth it but trying at times. With the wealthy comes the poverty. With the beautiful scenery comes the garbage and smells...constant contradictions.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Dazed and Confused

Hardly slept at all last night. Woke at 3:30am and couldn't get back to sleep - jet lag.
Had another great breakfast at the hotel. Craig and Alanna love the dosa's now. Craig tops it off with a bowl of rice and chicken curry. Alanna has tea with flavored honey.

Went out for a walk around the area for about an hour early in the morning. Not much open but a few little breakfast places and people setting up their fruit stands. People hustling here and there, guys playing cricket in an alley.

Today was all about looking at houses to rent. Garish picked us up at 10:30 along with a Real Estate agent named Shankar. First went to an area closer to one of the schools but could tell right away it was not a good area for us. Row houses with no yard at all and small. So only looked at two places there and then decided to go back to the areas that are closer to Michael's work. It was a long drive so there's no way the children will go to school at either schools farther away - would be a 1 1/2hr bus ride for them.

Saw a few houses in one of the complexes. They are closer together and again, no yard. But I must admit the clubhouse is amazing - big pool with a slide and waterfall etc. Pretty nice. But in the end we like the houses in another area better, mostly because they have a nice little garden area to sit outside, and good sized homes. The grounds are nice with lots of palm trees and grassy areas to play and the pool is very nice.

Shankar recommended an Indian Buffet for lunch - excellent and we were the only foreigners. Ate only the cooked items and naan - all really good, hopefully clean. This little restaurant was just across from these housing complexes so we'll at least know one good place to eat. The whole meal for six of us cost 1200Rp.

Back to the hotel now at 4:30, exhausted, dazed and confused. Where to live? Where to send the kids to school? So many things to decide. But it's all good, it will all work out, we all like it here and that is the main thing.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

First Days in Bangalore

We are in Bangalore. Arrived at 1:30am after being in transit almost 24hrs. Got picked up at the airport by our driver, Garish. It was so quiet at that time, no people on the streets, no traffic. Got to the hotel and to bed by 3:30.

Woke at 7:00am and had an excellent breakfast buffet. Craig went straight for the samosas and Alanna went for the curried chicken. I tried a dosa which is curried potato in something like a crepe with four different sauces - mint, coconut, tomato and masala. Excellent!

Spent much of the day at the pool and then later in the day went out for a walk. Quickly found out that it's a really busy street with no sidewalks so hopped in an auto rickshaw. The kids thought that was pretty fun at first but after a while the heat and pollution changed their minds. I loved it though, weaving in and out of traffic, the horns, the sites and sounds.

We weren't really sure where we were going as we don't have a good map. Wanted to go to MG Road where there are supposed to be a lot of little shops. Got out and didn't look like much. Craig was hot and exhausted so we went into one air conditioned shop. Had to go through a security scanner and when we came out Alanna beeped. They took everything out of her pockets and couldn't figure out why she beeped so they wanted her to go somewhere with this lady. We didn't like that so suggested they scan her shoes. She took them off and handed them to the woman who then looked disgusted and waved us off. Alanna was a bit upset with that. So we just hopped into another rickshaw and back to the hotel.

Yesterday, got picked up at 9:00a.m. by Garish to go to visit a school that the kids might go to. Had a good talk and a tour of the school. Nice facilities. Then went to one of the expat housing areas to check out a house of someone who works at Michael's company. It was nice, big rooms and a nice little garden area. It has a lovely clubhouse with a pool, workout room etc.

Today went to two other schools, both quite acceptable but further away from Michael's work and the areas that we were planning to live. So may have to rethink location of housing and check out different areas to live.

Lots of interesting sights as we are driving around - cows with colored horns, people carrying enormous loads on their heads, palm trees, lovely blooming trees - purples and reds, and so much more!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Last Minute Ups and Downs

We leave in a few days and I've been busy starting to pack and reading up on Bangalore this week. A few ups and downs as Michael's work meetings have been cancelled and we weren't sure if the length of our trip (or the whole trip)would be affected. Normally the previsits are only one week but we booked two because Michael had to work the second week. But it looks like we are good to go for both weeks and he will arrange some meetings on his own.

Last night I realized that I had booked school appointments but left out the top school. So spent the evening arranging a meeting with them and today trying to switch the other. Logistics - once we got out the map and saw the distances and where each is I think we also picked the hotel furthest from them all.

Our hotel looks gorgeous, lots of character etc. But the rooms are so small - I think 350 sq. ft. - and only one bed! They will provide 2 cots which I guess will take up the rest of the room. Two weeks...

Reading up on Bangalore also made me wonder if this is the place to go for a cultural experience. The guide book describes the city as trendy, with boutiques, coffee shops and 200 pubs! Of course it is the IT hub so I guess with that comes western ways. I guess we may be happy to have a "fine balance" - cows in the streets, poverty, autorickshaws, traffic and noise mixed with the new. I can't wait to see it all for myself!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Interview With the Kids

We leave for Bangalore in less than two weeks for our previsit. I thought it would be interesting to ask the kids a few questions now and then again after our trip to compare the answers. Plus, our most asked question is, "What do the kids think about moving to India?"

What do you think the people wear?

Craig (10 years): Poor people will wear ripped up clothes. In Bollywood dancing they have colourful and light baggy pants. And also to dress up for their dancing they might put a colourful dot on their mid forehead.

Alanna (11 years): The ladies wear sari’s and the boys wear the trousers and the long jacket and of course the turban.

What will the food be like? Do you think you will like it?

C: From my experience all the Indian food that I’ve had is spicy and tasty. Some Indian food I eat would be samosas, butter chicken and curries.

A: I think that the food will be spicy and tasty and I will like it. I will eat all the butter chicken there is.

How do you feel about going there to live?

C: The reason I don’t want to go is because I have to leave all my friends and I’ll have to make new friends there. And the positives are the food, maybe the sports and the whole culture.

A: That would be fine with me except I will miss everybody.

What do you think most people’s home will be like?

C: I think most people’s home will probably be not as nice as other people's in the world. Most parts of India are poor. Their homes might be made out of straw and inside would be maybe a log for a seat and a few shelves and a bed.

A: I think that a lot of people will have tiny homes and that richer people will have northern sized homes. I think the tiny homes will be one room little huts made of clay.

Are you worried about anything?

C: Leaving my friends and making new friends and we might get a disease even though we got shots.

A: Bugs, I hate bugs.

What are you looking forward to?

C: The food, the sports, the culture.

A: Cheap books, clothes and good food.

What do you think your school will be like?

C: My school will probably give me a good education but I’m not sure what it will look like.

A: Different but they will speak English.

What do you think Bangalore will look like?

C: I think that my house will look very nice and Bangalore might look something like China, such as lots of smoking and bike riding and tons of traffic.

A: the way I imagine it there are buildings on either side of the road but on the sidewalk there are palm trees, people and little shops.