Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Back to Building Houses: Habitat for Humanity

Last week I got to spend another two days helping out with Habitat for Humanity. A group of 62 people from the States, Canada and Ireland flew into Bangalore specifically to volunteer and build houses.

This build was in the same area as last time but they worked on at least 13 houses. One day I worked on house #13. It was hot and it was heavy work. A truck pulled up and dumped a pile of  "jelly stones" outside the gate of the house...so we moved them inside the gate.

Then a truck pulled up and dumped a pile of sand outside the gate...so we moved it inside the gate.

When we came back from lunch a huge truck had pulled up filled with bricks - you guessed it - we moved them inside the gate. This picture was taken after we moved half of them.

The second day I helped out on house #6. We worked on the roof.

The construction of one of the houses was complete and we had a "dedication ceremony." At the end everyone touched the house and said a prayer.

This was the last day of the build for this group so I went to the closing ceremony with all the volunteers and all the families.

The build is ongoing and so I hope I'll have an opportunity to go out and help again. The people of the village work alongside us and there is mutual respect. We learn from each other.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Beautiful India Expat Photo Contest - Second Place!

India is a pretty easy place to take great photos, whether it be people or places. I entered a few of my photos into a "Beautiful India Expat Photo Contest." I went to the award ceremony/dinner last night and found out that I won second prize in the "places" category. My photo is one that I took in the Kerala backwaters.

It is always nice to see other peoples photos and their perspective - some excellent photos of course.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Bangalore Restaurant Guide

Bangalore Restaurant Guide
Last updated 14/04/2011

For the latest Bangalore Restaurant Guide click here

100ft. Boutique Bar Retaurant (Indiranagar) - Noisy but good mediterranean food in a casual outdoor setting on 100 ft. Road. Attached boutique has some interesting artwork, clothing, footware, knick knacks.

Au Bon Pain - Bagels! Order today, pick up tomorrow. Great little cafe chain with sandwiches, wraps, soups, desserts, coffee etc. Check online for locations.

BBQ Nation (Indiranagar) - Wonderful assortment of non-stop veg and non veg kabobs, served on a grill in the middle of your table. Once you are tired of that, there is a full buffet. Reservation recommended.

Bliss - the chocolate lounge in the Forum Value Mall at Whitefield. Fabulous chocolates, desserts, cakes, shakes and snacks.

Caperberry's - Mediterranean fare - fresh salads, breads, seafood, meat - Always good!

Chez Mariannick in Whitefield behind Sorbet, the Gourmet Store - Best kept secret. French woman who delivers fresh croissants, baguettes and a few other items to your door (Palm Meadows, Prestige Ozone).
Lunch and dinner (check hours): excellent variety of quiche, crepes, homemade pizza, fresh salad and breads. Wonderful creme brulee and strawberry tarts. Reservation recommended.

Costa Coffee - A real cappuccino and they have "to go" cups! The UK's answer to Starbucks - coffee, paninis, desserts etc. Indiranagar location is just off 100 Foot Rd., just around the corner from Sunny's. Other locations too.

Fava at UB City - Mediterranean food, same owners as Caperberry's. Good and fresh.

Graze at the Taj MG Road - top notch, nice atmosphere, 5-course tasting menu with wine is worth a try.

Hard Rock Cafe - Great nachos and margarita's! Burgers, grilled seafood...the works.

Herbs and Spices at Whitefield - nice location amongst the palm trees. Indian or western food.

Hotel Empire - Across from Russel Market - simple Indian restaurant, fabulous kabobs and ice cream. Dirt cheap.

Kabob Walah, across from Springfield Apartments/Total Mall on Sarajapur Rd. - excellent wraps, whole chickens etc. Everything is good and cheap.

Olive Beach - Good variety and nice outdoor seating.

Polo Club at the Oberoi - casual eating in beautiful garden setting. Burgers, fries, sandwhiches, cocktails.

Rim Nam at the Oberoi - wonderful Thai food and nice outdoor setting.

Sake at Zuri, Whitefield - Very hip, lounge style ambiance. Huge firey cauldrons light the room. Tastey and good variety of sushi, thai and chinese food.

Sunny's - Downtown and Indiranagar locations. Excellent variety of food items: pasta, seafood, soup, salad, beef, lamb, pizza and on and on. Indiranagar location is better - downtown staff never seem friendly.

Terracotta at Taj Whitefield - Very good Indian food.

Toscano's at Whitefield or UB City - can't go wrong with this Italian restaurant. Excellent variety of pasta, salads, pizza, steak, fish, desserts, mocktails. Buffet on special occassions is fabulous. Always fresh, always good. Deli Shop now open within the restaurant for fresh takeaway deli items such as:  marinated sundried tomatoes and artichokes, marinated olives, fresh pasta, breads, pizza crust, and more.

Woody's on Commercial St. - consistantly good Indian food and great masala chai. The South Indian Thali (mini meal) and dosa's are particularly good.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Update on Life in India

Where to start? The Olympics are over so I have a lot more time...to sleep. I fell down the marble stairs just before the GOLD medal hockey game. It was 1:45a.m. our time. I dropped the laptop and fell back right onto my elbows. Although I am bruised and sore, the laptop is fine and I did make it to the couch in time for the opening face off.

I started doing yoga and I really like it. It is excellent for balance and toning up the muscles. My instructor is Israeli - which is kind of weird since I'm in India - but she is good and tough. Never say "I can't" and don't admit that you do other sports or go to the gym - she only believes in yoga. Only four to a class and it's in her home, which is close to mine so it is convenient - especially since class starts at 8:00am!

I continue to write articles for the OWC Rangoli magazine every month. Usually I write one travel article and one article on a OWC social event and provide photos as well.

OWC Charity work has kept me busy since the new year. We have been accepting grant applications from our 28 charities. The committe reviews each application and decides if we can fund everything they have asked for, or a portion. We are very thorough and make sure all money given out is for legitimate needs. Next week we go before the OWC Executive Committee with our recommendations and hopefully everything is approved. Then, by the end of the month we will deliver cheques to each charity.

My brother Steve visited India for three weeks. It is sure nice to have people visit us. Bangalore is not the most eventful place for visitors but I think he got a taste of India and liked it. We walked around our neighbourhood and came upon a wedding at the local temple one night. He and Michael went for bike rides through the villages and out to the farm land. We went down to Commercial Street of course. We went to an area that I hadn't been to before - very Muslim where there were not only sari bazaars but Burka bazaars.

Steve and I went to Sai Babas ashram just to look around. Baba was not there, he was still at his main ashram in Brindavana. There was a man in the book store who was so adamant that Steve go visit Sai Baba in Brindavana, even though Steve was leaving India the next night. The guy kept saying, "Go now, get a taxi, you'll be there in six hours. You'll see Sai Baba in the morning and come back in time for your flight." He was serious. I think if I was Steve I would have gone, it was like he had some inner knowledge.

Steve and I went to Nrityagram dance village and even to an OWC cooking class at an Italian restaurant. Please, please if you see Steve ask him to make Hot Chocolate Souffle - he's got the recipe and he even took notes during the class. I'm sure he can't wait to make it!

The kids are doing well at school. Alanna has been horseback riding at school three times a week since Jan. and she loves it. Her school had an evening of music and dance and she performed with her ballet group. She is working on a play and she's made some good friends. Alanna seems to be adjusting better - although she won't admit it. She still misses her friends back home of course but she is doing well at school and keeping her marks up.

Craig is still enjoying going out to play with his friends. They like to bike or play tag or basketball. He is enjoying basketball at school as well as karate and other sports. Craig went on a two night/three day leadership camp with school and Alanna goes next week - Sunday to Saturday. She says she's not looking forward to it, but she's already packing.

Michael is busy at work, and enjoys biking around the area. He'll be travelling a bit more before we head to the Andaman Islands for spring break. We all enjoy the pool, especially now that summer is here and it is so hot. Fans and A/C are getting used a lot more nowadays.

So, everyone is busy in their own way and always a little more settled and feeling a little more normal here in India. The traffic doesn't seem as bad, the grocery shopping easier, the food is good and weather - couldn't be better!