Sunday, July 31, 2011

Settling in

I'm not an experienced globe trotter, but one of my favourite moments of any trip is when you transition from the inside of an airport that could be anywhere in the world, to the outside - that moment when your destination becomes real. Bangalore gives quite the welcome late at night with a warm and gentle breeze, palm trees and a quiet chaos that reminds you there are new 'rules' to learn and not follow.

Dara and I shared a car to our hotel, we liked waving to Toby & Andrew in their car as we changed places on the road. I tried to focus on Dara rather than the fact I thought we'd be squished under a truck at any minute, but there were 2 or 3 uncomfortably close calls. A day light car ride was better as it was much busier so we had to go slower. There was a political rally in the street; it seems there are elections coming up.

We have been taking it pretty easy so far, but I managed to survive my first shopping experience as the attendants flocked around. One of the nicest things about moving to the US was that I dropped a few dress sizes instantly due to different sizing from the UK; even though you know it is fake, it feels good - yeah, scratch that for India... a new opportunity to learn that it isn't about the number (or in this case letter).

Foodwise I am trying to pace myself, well trying to keep a balance of Indian/Western cuisine so that I don't shock my system. Dosa for breakfast is wonderful, but it really does not go with coffee. Interesting wine experience last night; a pleasant South African Sauvignon Blanc to go with my delicious aubergine - but each one I ordered, the glass (and pour) got bigger; and no, it didn't just seem that way.

Things will really kick off tomorrow when we leave vacation mode and start planning for our move to real life. I'm excited for that as we really have too many suitcases to be living out of them for much longer.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


On boingboing today I discovered this really cool series of pictures of differences and similarities between New York City and Mumbai. The photographer has taken shots of the same kinds of places (flower markets, beaches, subway trains) in each place so you can see the different characters of the different cities.

Friday, July 29, 2011


We arrived late last night after a long long journey. Fortunately it was very boring, which is exactly what you want from a plane ride. The kids really enjoyed business class, although Dara wasn't totally great with the food. Delta really need to think about what to put in the kids' meals and think about what a child would actually eat - lemon scented orzo is probably not it. The only real misfortune about the flight was that I left my Amazon Kindle on the plane when we arrived - I'm hoping that Air France are looking for it.

Speaking of which, we had eight checked bags altogether, and although it felt like they were all fully loaded the heaviest was only 61 pounds. Apart from the car seat bag they all made it here on time, and that bag should be delivered to the hotel tonight. No real problem - it meant that the kids got to ride on regular seats from the airport to the hotel, which I think they thought was a bit of a treat. We got to our rooms around 2am, and although it took a while to get Dara to get to sleep we totally crashed out and didn't wake up till about 9.

We're having a lazy, laying-around kind of day today. Pretty decent breakfast, then a walk around Palm Meadows so that the family could get a feel for the place. I think they liked it a lot - it's really beautiful - although the awesomeness of it doesn't really shine through unless you've left Minneapolis in the snow. We walked by the new house, and were glad to see that there were workmen painting and cleaning the place for when we move in!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


This afternoon was the first time I've been really emotional about going. We've said goodbye to a number of really good friends so far, but today was a bit more of a rite of passage. Our kids have gone to the same daycare since Toby was only seven months old - it's Noah's Ark in downtown Minneapolis. It's been a wonderful place and a big part of our lives for the last eight years. We felt a bit sad when Toby finished at his school, but it was the end of term for everyone, and he'll be going back there when we return, as he'll be entering fifth grade.

Seeing as we're leaving tomorrow, today was Dara's last day at Noah's Ark. One of the teachers had made a card, which contained pictures of all Dara's classmates, and Dara's best friend Ella had brought cupcakes for the whole class, and a special present for Dara too.

So it was just really strange saying goodbye, while at the same time seeing all the other kids going about their business. Dara's going to be going to an amazing place in Bangalore, Indus Early Learning, which actually feels very similar to what Dara is used to, but of course it will be different. The teachers at Noah's Ark have been wonderful, and although I was just as emotional when I dropped Toby off for the first time all those years ago, we knew right away that it would be such a great place for us, as indeed it has been.

Now we're home and waiting for a friend of mine to come and pick up the car, while the kids are watching TV. Emma's making dinner and trying to work out which of the few remaining utensils will help. The movers came last week and took most of our kitchen stuff, so we've been using a huge wood-saw for cutting bread and pizza.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Tying together my last two posts (health and shipping) is the fact that our shippers and Indian Customs won't let us ship booze. We have a reasonable wine collection at home, so this is causing a bit of an issue. Fortunately our neighbors here have a fantastic wine cellar in their basement, and they've offered to store a couple of cases of wine which probably needs to age a couple of years, so that actually works out pretty well.

The rest we're working through, and as there are a number of bottles we've been keeping for special occasions I'm sure you'll understand that it's been tough for us plowing through a bottle or two of fine wine each night. These are the sacrifices I make for my career. The main issue of course is that it makes it even harder to get up early the next morning to do exercise. Oh well, only fifteen bottles to go.


One of the things which has been a bit of a challenge lately has been staying healthy, or at least fit. When I was in Bangalore a couple of weeks ago I did make it to the hotel's sumptuously appointed gym a couple of times but since I got back it's been a bit more sporadic. Jetlag didn't help with getting up early for a run but I've been trying really hard to get back into my routine (5 or so runs a week).

On Wednesday morning the weather was absolutely beautiful so I ran round Lake of the Isles - a wonderful location and something I'm going to miss a ton. And this morning I had a good workout at the YMCA. It's been strange how tired I was feeling on the days I wasn't exercising and how much more energy I have even when I get up early to run. So I should keep it going as it also really helps with stress reduction.

Food is also a bit of a challenge - with only 12 days to go things feel very temporary so it doesn't feel worth doing decent grocery shopping. Unfortunately this makes it all too easy to eat junk food or go out for meals. Again Emma and I are trying to make a real effort to keep things healthy and we are mostly overcoming junk temptation.

Friday, July 15, 2011


We had visits from reps from two shipping companies today, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. It was a bit strange to show them round our house, especially as a couple of the rooms are bombsites (the guest room because it's being used as a staging area for stuff to move; Toby's room because it houses an eight year old boy). But we were reassured that our place is actually in really good shape, and we're well on top of what we need to be  doing. And when I say "we" I mean Emma because she's been doing the bulk of the organizing, packing, moving and clearing. I have a fair bit of paperwork to clear this weekend, which should be fun.

The strange thing is that the movers will do all the packing for us, probably at the end of next week, including packing all our clothes and kitchen stuff. So apart from tagging our stuff for going with us in the flight, or in the air or sea shipments there's really no packing we can do, and that makes us feel a bit like we're not doing a whole lot. It's a strange feeling of limbo. The good thing is it's making us look forward even more to getting going, to get into the new house and be in our new normal.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Cultural training

On Monday Emma and I had a full day with a cultural trainer, learning about the overall culture of India, and the more subtle, under-the-tip-of-the-iceberg things. Plus we were taken for a delicious North Indian lunch at Namaste Cafe in Uptown - highly recommended. Some of the things we were told weren't a giant surprise, like take off your shoes when you go to someone's house, and some were just good advice, like be OK if you or the kids feel like you just want to be home, or just want to watch a familiar TV show or have familiar food. Especially the kids will probably need the support of mac and cheese, or Spongebob, and we need to accept that, at least to some extent.

Also helpful was learning about the different levels of acceptance of being in a new culture, and how you work through impressions of a new place and new ways of doing things. There will likely be the sense of amazement, then often a sense that our own ways are so much better and why is everything so much worse in a different place, then getting used to it (the training was better worded of course). The general message was that we should reconcile ourselves with not finding everything easy, or exciting or fun.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Street Scene

As everything's coming together here in Minneapolis I thought you might like to see this street scene from Bangalore. I took the picture while I was waiting outside the Foreign Resident Registration office, where I needed to tell multiple government officials that I'll be living in India. I didn't notice the vehicle driving past, or at least didn't realize the branding on it until I uploaded the picture later in the day. Anyway I really like the combinations (it sounds too arty to say juxtapositions) of everything in the photo - the old and new etc.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Shopping and prepping

Right now we are going slightly crazy with preparing the house for our renters and getting things to take to India. It's hard to reconcile the two activities - on one hand we're working on cleaning, binning and donating stuff we don't need (actually Emma is doing the bulk of this) and on the other we're acquiring stuff - mostly storage solutions, packaged food like mac and cheese, and paper goods. We're trying to keep the two activities as separate as possible, so the basement and the guest room are both full of things to take. The movers are coming over on Thursday to give us an idea of what can go in our air shipment (1,000 pounds of stuff) vs. our sea shipment (a 20-foot container), and I'm hoping they will give us some packing boxes so that we can start putting clothes away and getting things ready for hauling. Tonight the renters are coming over so that we can do more to decide what they'd like us to leave in the house for them and what they don't want.

We're also trying to balance how the kids are doing - Toby has had a couple of uncharacteristic moments where he's been a bit overwhelmed with not knowing where everything is, but I think he's fine. We're trying to keep him busy - he has some summer camp stuff next week, and the week after he has a five night overnight camp with the YMCA which he loves doing, so that should keep his mind and body busy.

It's coming together pretty well, but it won't feel under control till everything is in a container.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

All set to go

On Wednesday afternoon I got back from a week in Banglore, which was filled with organizing a house, getting school finalized for the kids, meeting my teams in the office, and generally getting excited about our upcoming move. Yesterday I booked the flights - we're all leaving for Bangalore on the 27th - less than three weeks away! I'm about 87% excited, with the rest nervous about it. But mostly excited. Emma's been doing a phenomenal job on the house, and we're pretty much organized and ready.