Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Week in India

It's hard to believe we've been here just over one week. Have we found chaos or serenity in our new world? Both of course - it is India, after all! The chaos is mostly in the form of traffic. The serenity comes in many forms: the culture, the colors, the tastes and even a soothing spa.
Our mornings start off relaxing. Breakfast is included, so we start each day with a nice big plate of fresh fruit - papaya, mango, banana - and usually an Indian breakfast of dosa's or potato paratha and sometime omeletes. Right after breakfast the kids and I play tennis or badminton for an hour. We are all improving.
On Monday we all had to go to the FRO office to apply for Residential Permits. It was a typical drab government office requiring you to line up to show ID, get something signed and then go to another office and do the same thing over and over. Luckily we had someone from Michael's office come with us who stood in line and got all the paperwork done for us. He told us where to sign and where to go next. Made things alot easier.
Wed. Michael went back to the FRO office to pick up the permits. He got there at noon, only to find out that they were closed for lunch until 2:30. When he got home I noticed that his permit is good for as long as our visas (April 2010), but mine and the kids are only good til Dec. 2009. We'll have to get someone to look into it.
The kids and I went out looking for furniture on Tuesday. Four places were recommended all in different areas of the city. Valu, our driver is pretty fast and knows all the back roads. He is able to skirt around the heavy traffic at times which can be good. But on Tues. he seemed to take the bumpiest, little windy roads and the kids and I ended up quite nauseated and frazzled.
Not much luck with the furniture. I was really excited to decorate an entire house with a bit of Indian flare but most of the furniture is "big box store stuff" at western prices. First we went to At Home which has four floors of furniture, kitchenware etc. Next we went to Modern World for electronics where I did purchase some small appliances at the same price as in Canada.
Five minutes after leaving Modern World I got a phone call that I had left my receipt there, so I asked Valu to go back. We turned around but after about ten minutes I asked if we were going back and he said we would go to the next furniture store first and then go back. By this time I'd given both kids some gravol and was feeling nauseated myself. He took narrow, bumpy streets at a fast pace and seemed to take forever to get there.
Lifestyle International is four stories with the first three being clothing and cosmetics. Lots of namebrands and trendy items. The furniture was cheaper in quality and price. Nothing really caught my eye. Relaxed in the food court until we felt better and then off again.
We stopped by the electronics store to get the receipt at 3:30 and the store was closed. Then we were off to the back roads, dodging cows and tuk tuks again. Glad to be home after that busy day.
As far as food goes, breakfast is included as I mentioned and then we make grilled cheese or go out for lunch. Food is so cheap in restaurants that I don't think we would ever make Indian food at home ourselves. We had a delicious meal across the street at a little restaurant for only $6 for the four of us. There is a Coffee Day chain that has good coffee, samosas, desserts, and milkshakes all at reasonable prices.
Last night I made "tacos" with fresh roti. I guess it was more like a wrap. But when I think about the time it took to go to the store, buy everything, wash the vegetables in filtered water, dry them well, make dinner and then clean up - it's not really worth it considering we can eat a whole meal for $6 across the street. The worst is we don't have a dishwasher and we have to clean up right away (don't want to attract bugs). The fridges are small so there isn't much room for groceries or leftovers. And there is no oven (common not to have one) so cooking is limited to stove top or microwave.
Another great find on one of the side streets across from our apartment was a Balinese Spa - "Ahvataras, The Spa." We found it on Father's Day. From the outside it looked like any other run down building but when we went up to the third floor past statues of Ganesh with offerings of flower petals and garlands we found a little oasis. Incense and soothing gamelan music immediately calmed our senses and we knew we didn't want to leave.
Since it was Father's Day, Michael got a treat with a Balinese head and shoulder massage with all sorts of nice creams and oils. Craig decided he should get a hair cut and so the two of them enjoyed their 45 minutes of relaxation while Alanna and I watched and sipped green tea.
Turns out the owner is from Singapore and moved here a year ago to open the spa. The decor and treatments are Balinese but the staff is Indian. Excellent people. The total bill? $7 with tip. Don't worry, Alanna and I will plan to get in on the fun tomorrow, my birthday. We are both going for a manicure and pedicure. Cost? No more than $15 each!

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