Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Adventures in Homemaking 2

I'm happy to report that all bedding seems to be doing the job. I like the fabindia enough that I'm going to head out there today and see if they have good stuff for Dara - her bed is being built today and so I'm out of time for dithering. Wish me luck.

Yesterday was get to know you day with Pushpalatha, our new maid. She goes by either Pushpa or Suma, but won't give a definitive answer which she prefers. Her other 'madam' calls her Suma. She is 18 yrs old, married and has a 3yr old son who lives in her village with her mother, not in Bangalore. She does not seem overly upset by this. She finished 10th grade at school, and I think had hopes of something more than marriage at 15. Her English is great, and she reads and writes it too, so we can leave notes for each other if I am not around.

At her other jobs she is not the ranking maid and she seems to quite like being in charge. We started out with me showing her the cleaning supplies I had and asking what else she needed. We made some lists and then did the old divide and conquer to get all we needed. I got some good compliments on my choice of lysol fragrance (rose) and a stern look for only having two loo cleaners and toilet brushes when there are three bathrooms... oops.

We're still waiting for lots of furniture and so we look pretty bare right now. Suma tried to sell me the sofa from next door (I think they are updating), but I assured her that in a few weeks more things would be in the house, and that every day she comes more will arrive... yes that includes doormats, I know, we need doormats.

A little later I got called into the bedroom to see the balcony floor: 'Madam, did you put this water down? (horrified look)'... 'no, it was raining'. We can safely assume I'll be in trouble if I get caught doing housework. I was given a, 'No, Madam' when I put groceries on an undusted shelf, and then again when I put the spare placemats and napkins on our dining room unit - they have to go in a cupboard. I am under instruction to teach her to use the washing machine and dishwasher,and as soon as we have figured out how to use them without tripping a fuse then we'll be in business. Today could be interesting as the plates in the dishwasher really need to be clean, and so I am working on them in batches, better get it done before she arrives.

The day ended well with Suma and Dara doing a get to know. Dara was swept up into her arms and within 5 minutes of getting off the bus her school bag was emptied of water bottle and snack box [both cleaned] and then neatly in her room. Then it was photo time... I'm currently the wallpaper on Suma's phone, a completely contrived pic of me holding a vase of flowers. That's another thing; we only have two vases which got a sad sort of, 'Oh, Madam'.

That's all for now. I have to see several men about plumbing, electrics and dustbins.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

In the house

Just a quick update, seeing as it's late. But we are all in the house now - it's been 30 hours or so and it's starting to feel like home. We got everything out of our air shipment boxes, and have moved the boxes out of the living room, and have only 2 or 3 cases to unpack. We're a bit low on furniture, having a table and four chairs, a sofa and two beds, but we have kitchen stuff and the kids have toys and their scooters, so we're doing pretty well. After a month in the hotel it's been great to spread out a bit, and have home-made meals! The weather is just great, and it makes me very happy to open the doors to our little garden, with palm trees, flowers and fruit trees.

Our maid starts tomorrow - she came by the house last Tuesday and seems pretty nice. My company did a background check on her, which involved an interview, checking her school certificates and other documentation, and talking with previous employers, and she seems to check out pretty well. So Emma will have the next few days learning how to ensure that the house is cleaned six days a week (with marble floors and the general dust of Bangalore you really need it cleaned that often). We also have a new driver who started on Saturday. The last one seemed like a nice enough guy, but he had such limited English that I was concerned he wouldn't be able to handle taking the kids somewhere and dealing with things if someone got sick or there was an accident or even minor change of plans. We also had a couple of incidents when I was in the car (he didn't answer his phone for half an hour a couple of nights ago while I was out with some guys from work, leaving me stranded in central Bangalore, and the next morning he side-swiped the car) so that was enough and it was time for a new driver. Mahesh seems much better so far - we'll see how things go over the next week or two. We haven't yet told the kids that he has a DVD player in his car!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Adventures in Homemaking 1

We have been a little quiet on the blog front - let's blame getting into the routine of school, work and spa...

Things are going well with the everyday, but that will all get shaken up this weekend as we leave our hotel cocoon and head out to fend for ourselves in our new house. Lots of reasons this is a good thing: more space, we have our own things around us, Andrew can be on evening calls in a more suitable environment, meals are our choice on our schedule etc.. That said, we adults like the simplicity of having no stuff. It seems that most of our possessions are either things for the kids, or related to being in the kitchen. Kindles, ipods and movie streaming mean that we don't actually miss all the books, cds and dvds (yes, we did bring them anyway, I can't get rid of books, even some of my high school text books are still in storage with my parents).

The villa is going to take a little getting used to - the layout is so different from our previous homes, and we'll be sleeping on a different floor from the kids. We're used to that since Toby got his bachelor pad in Mpls but this will be new for Dara. Also, our villa is one of the older ones in the community and the kitchen/bathrooms have not been updated. Now, any of you familiar with our Mpls house know that we're not leaving behind showroom versions of those two rooms, but the ones here just never quite look clean, even though we know they are. This is more than made up for by the balconies, lovely garden and serene feel of the marble floors. Bonus! our landlord did pay to have an oven installed. Many houses are hob only and a toaster oven if you're lucky, so, assuming we can get through a meal with no power cuts, then this is a good thing. We have all new white goods, so unless there are teething issues we should be fine for washer, drier, fridge, dishwasher and cooktop all working well.

Now, to make this house a home. There's a trick in here somewhere as we want to install curtains and get some rugs, but we don't want to be all in a rush and get things we don't want to live with for two years just because we need them now - also some of these items will ideally be on the container home. Many things in India are cheaper than UK or US, but home furnishings seem not to be. I'm finding it difficult to locate the middle ground. Easy to find over-priced not great quality items, and also easy to locate top-of-the-wallet pieces, but not much in between.

Bedding has been my Grrrrr of the week. To be more specific, kid bedding. Andrew & I are shipping ours, but Toby's somehow did not get on the truck, and Dara is moving from a double bed in Mpls to have a room with two singles (more flexible for sleepovers and other guests). When we decided what to bring I had visions of wonderful stalls with great cotton sheets for small money and intricate bedspreads. No idea if that was ever a reality here, but thanks globalization for introducing different aspirations.

I'm not in favour of character bedding, I prefer something generic and then if they like they can have a themed lamp etc., cheaper and easier to change. Toby is a nearly 9 yr old boy. He does not like flowery bedding. There are a few places I have been to look for him, but they all seem to sell the same brand, and one place will have the sheets, but not the comforter, and then I can't remember where it was the best price and then it takes 45 minutes to go anywhere, so I got a little overwhelmed and went to buy shoes... for Dara. Did I mention that plain affordable sheets and comforters don't exist? Just a lot of pattern, which I'm not against, but it takes more work to match it all up as they don't sell it together. In the end I found some really funky dotted bedding in blues/orange/beige which will work in his room here, and also in his Mpls room if they are in a condition to bring home. The comforter is OK, it doesn't match as well as I thought in the store, but then as I say, Toby is a nearly 9 yr old boy, and if he does notice, he won't care.

Dara's new beds do not arrive for another 10 days or so, and so I have some time to check out some of the leads I have from Andrew's local coworkers. Single bedding is way harder to find than double, especially if you do not want Barbie or Hot Wheels.

Our interim bedding, which will eventually be in the guest room, was a hard effort only in the sense of having so much choice :) It was really tough to come home with only one design. I was willing to push the boat out a little on it as we're less likely to change our minds about it, and as I was investing in matching curtain panels, it will all transfer back to Mpls with us. I got some plain sheets and a quilt from Fabindia which are soothing and lovely to look at. Next challenge will be lamps...

So, life is good. No major meltdowns or hurdles. Now I'm off to check that our new fridge has been installed and then as the sun is out for the first time in a couple of days, I think I deserve a bit of a rest on a lounger.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Independence Day Henna

This is the start of my second week at work in India, and rather nicely it's a long holiday weekend, as August 15th is Indian Independence day. I really enjoyed my first week last week, but it was really exhausting getting used to longer work hours (more evening calls and later meetings) and new culture, policies and accents. So it's been great to have a really refreshing weekend. Today was just great - we had a nice breakfast, then had a couple of hours in the pool. Yesterday Dara worked out how to swim by herself, and she still remembered how to do it today - she's really pleased with herself.

We had booked a table for lunch at our local mall, and because we'd given the driver the day off we decided to walk over. It's a very pleasant 20 minute stroll and really nice not to be driven around for a change. Some parts of town can feel a bit intimidating when you're about as a family, especially with fair-haired kids who get a lot of attention - yesterday we went to a park in the middle of town and were asked for money several times, and a couple of people took pictures of Dara because they were fascinated by her blonde hair. It didn't feel threatening at all, but it's nice to be left just to get on by yourself. Whitefield, where we live, is much more relaxed and there are a lot more expats, so we were totally left alone today.

Once we got to the mall we had a bit of time before the reservation, so we asked Dara if she'd like to get henna hand tattoos, which is something she'd been asking about for a few days. It was only Rs100 per hand (I would guess cheaper for locals), so I said that she should have both done. She sat really still while the guy did the patterns:

Basically they put henna paste on, then let it dry for about half an hour while the henna dyes your skin. This meant Dara wasn't allowed to touch anything for 30 whole minutes:

By this time it was time to go to the restaurant - Toscano - which is a really good Italian place. As soon as you walk in you can smell the pizza ovens working their magic, and there's loads of space around the tables. Very nice. We had a fine meal - the kids had pasta, and they were thrilled to get pesto which they hadn't eaten since we got here. I had a great chicken and mushroom pizza and Emma was overjoyed to have tuna pizza. It's really common in the UK and Europe but for some reason has never caught on in America, even though every American we know who has tried it has loved it. We also had a tasty bottle of wine, because why not. For the first few minutes Dara still wasn't able to use her hands, so she got a straw for her water, and Emma fed her, which I think Dara secretly enjoyed. Then it was time for her to wash the paste off her hands, and behold:

The guy had done a really nice job of choosing a pattern which complemented her shirt, and she's really happy with it. She's really looking forward to showing off her patterns and her swimming at school tomorrow!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

August Paintball

I wanted the India experience to be reasonably full of things I've never done before. One thing I didn't expect was that this would include going paintballing for the first time. One of my friends here is really into paintball, and there's a place not too far away which has a paintball field, plus a big climbing wall and a skate park (which Toby will really enjoy). As you'll see from the album the other guys were all quite a bit bigger than me - some of them are IT guys, but a couple looked pretty serious about sport and stuff. (click on the picture below to get to the album)

August Paintball

So I was sure I wouldn't be nervous. Getting ready was kind of fun, although the borrowed masks were pretty stinky. Fortunately one of the guys had brought some disinfecting wipes, which helped. The games were a lot more enjoyable than I expected - I got really into it, and it was a lot of fun hiding behind the barriers, and reaching out to take a shot. I had been warned that it hurts when a ball hits you, and it's really true - I got a few on my thighs, and a bunch on my upper arms, which have left some great bruises. The only one I was worried about was getting hit on the hand, but after it going really dark purple right away, it seems to be just fine now.

Anyway, it was a ton of fun and a good way to meet a bunch of the other guys here. I'm reasonably sure I won't be a fanatic, but might give it another go once or twice.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

My first solo outing

No sun, pool and lounging today. Oh no. Have driver, will travel.

First item was to get the family admin out the way:
Laundry - check
Kids to school buses - check
Toby's Tae Kwon Do form filled in/out/up (delete as local sensibility requires) - check
Purchase Tennis racket for Toby - check
Purchase snack boxes to prevent banana mush in school bags - check

Prepare for unknown length of car ride; biscuits, water, mints - check
Ensure available head covering in unlikely event I need one - check
Explain destination to our driver.

I had decided to head to St. Mark's the Anglican/Church of South India Cathedral. Any readers who were present for some of my first lectures at St Andrews will recall the Church of India being held up as a poster child for Protestant Ecumenism.

Quick side note: I have been surprised by the very visible Christian presence here. Lots of evangelical/non-denomination missions around. Today I saw a sign for the 'Reapers of Christ'. Will not be joining their Bible Study next Wednesday - partly as it is in Tamil, but mostly just... well...

So we're in the car heading for MG Road. Our driver is Roman Catholic and so he seemed pretty relieved that one of us was finally requesting a Church destination. He still had no idea exactly where it was we were going, and the fact it is right by the cricket stadium was helpful, but not interesting to him - turns out he really likes soccer and is highly amused that I like cricket.

We eventually arrived and after some negotiating with the security guard we were allowed into the grounds, and I was given the OK to look around the Cathedral itself. Not much in the way of literature, but I did pick up a copy of the 'Central Diocese of Karnataka Nurture and Witness Committee Mission and Evangelism' pamphlet. I'm guessing the former Congregationalists named that :)

It is by no means a perfectly kempt building, but the light in there is quite wonderful. White walls, judicious staining of windows - what a treat. And CHAIRS! A Cathedral with chairs, as I believe they all should be. I may not always get inspired by what gets offered, but I do think all Churches should have flexible worship spaces and Cathedrals have an obligation to lead the way.

They also have what appears to be a modern sound system and some strategically placed flat screen TVs for the folks that maybe need to see around corners. Anyway, I took a few pictures and you can see them here. I did not get one of the kids playground or the Rectory/Manse/Parsonage or whatever they call it. If you're visiting, then leave time to get to the loo - it is far off in the corner of the admin block... reminded me a bit of the time Toby had I found locked toilets during a Bermuda Church service and he had to pee under a tree in a thunderstorm. Happy Days.

A good first day out. I counted at least 6 very appealing shoe shops from the car, and many more silk emporia.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Today I was unfaithful...

11 years; 4 children; brown, red & blonde; super short to mid-length; the pain of growing it out; the joy of thinking maybe I don't hate my hair after all.

Tami: 2 years is too long to wait, and today I tried out someone new.

The hotel has an attached spa - not super fancy, but it has a pleasant atmosphere and lots of smiley assistants all eager to upgrade me from trailing spouse to trophy wife. After a successful back-to-school cut for Toby I decided to give it a go myself. It has been a while since my mop was cut - the lovely Tami recently welcomed her second baby girl, and so unlike Tami, my haircut was overdue.

A promising start: lemon tea, magazines, calm music. Phase 2, great hairwash. I especially like that they have a separate assistant to clean the sink out after you're done. The arrival of the cutter, Dolma. Her English is pretty good, so we had a chat about my hair. I'm always up for trying something new as it grows back, and, many of you may have noticed, it actually doesn't matter how it gets cut because within about 8 weeks all the kinks have worked their magic and I look exactly like I did before the cut. Also, now I have been without glasses for a couple of months I figured it was a good time to experiment.

So - I gave her the guidelines:
Husband likes it off my face, and he likes to see my neck
Not too short, as even though I like it at the time, I always change my mind and the pain of growing it out makes me vow never to do it again. I stood strong today.
Watch the crazy double widow's peak in front - it can destroy any style you think looks good.
I don't spend hours blowdrying

After that I said she could do whatever she thought would look good.
I liked what she described to me - not hugely different from how it has been for a while, and while I'm open for new, safe seems to be a good option too - for a first time out.

So... the result? Well, probably no pictures for now.

There seems to be a worldwide hairdresser conspiracy that results in variations of the bob being the only cut people are willing to give me (Tami, you are the exception to the rule, and I love you for it).

I don't look good in a sleek bob, even one with a layered back. Remember the crazy widow peak? Yeah, NOT bob material. Those minutes you spent with a paddle brush and blowdryer? Never going to be in my life. I could find the time, but I do not have the skill. Also, I love my mother - she's a beautiful woman - but I don't really want her [circa 1988] looking back at me from the mirror.

I do love the feel of all my silky hair, and I will appreciate that for the rest of the day, it will be gone tomorrow. The back looks nice, too. We'll see how it all shakes out in a couple of days. I think the thing is, that it doesn't complement my personality. I can be a little uptight, and so maybe the sleek thing over-emphasises that in my mind. I like to think you can look put together and still let a bit of the off-beat and disorganised parts of your character shine through.

So, a B- for haircut. I'll also be grading manicures, pedicures, massages, facials and assorted other delights as the weeks go on.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Alien Leg Forms

Toby and I share an affliction in that we both react really strongly to mosquito bites. In Minneapolis they seem to prefer Toby to me as a meal; here? well I'm being eaten alive regardless of spray, coils, plug-ins and all the other protection devices; everyone else is bug bite free.

I managed to get over the fact that my feet/ankles/calves looked like props for Dr. Who and was soldiering on with my copious supply of topical remedies. After yet another night of interrupted sleep and 3am cold compresses I decided it was time to go systemic.

Unable to locate anti-histamines in my luggage (I know they're in there, I packed them) I walked into a pharmacy to explain what I needed. Key words: allergy & tablet along with some universal actions for taking same. I ended up with 20 small white pills encased in foil with an active ingredient and strength printed on, in date, and manufactured by Glaxo. Being a product of the advertising age, my knowledge of pharmaceuticals is limited to brand names. Quick check online before taking them and hurrah! got the right thing first time. The internet even tells you standard dosing for such things.

Within an hour I no longer had a mood as ugly as my ankles and although I'm still too blotchy to wear anything but long trousers, I feel like we really achieved something. Roll on shorter clothes and a leg tan.

- quick school update: both kids love to be on the bus, and while they are sketchy on the names of their new friends, they are clearly bonding with some of their classmates and busmates. Tonight I take Toby to check out the Tae Kwon Do training that they host in the Palm Meadows club. It will be great if he can back into it quickly, he has not been to class in 3 weeks and I think he misses it.

Monday, August 8, 2011

First school day

The kids had their first days at school today. It was a bit of a long morning in the car for Dara - it was about 30-40 minutes each way to drop Toby off at his school till we got her to her place, but she did really well. With all the bumping and weaving of traffic we had been expecting them both to be a bit carsick but they've had no probs so far. Toby couldn't wait to get to school, and within a minute of getting to his classroom he sent us away because he was all set. He rode the bus home, and told us that his whole day was totally great, making new friends, doing new classes like drama, eating Indian food for lunch and generally having an awesome time. He looked great in his new uniform:

He's in the sports uniform for the next couple of days till he gets his "formals", and I'll post a picture once he has them sorted. He's never worn a tie in his life, so it'll be interesting to see how he does. He already had to get his hair cut yesterday to comply with school standards! 

Dara did well too - when she arrived at school there was already an activity going on, and she didn't really want to join in halfway through, but once they started doing painting she got right into things and Emma and I felt fine leaving her to it. She rode the bus home too, and apart from one of the boys trying to take a toy from her it sounds like she did great too and she's looking forward to going back tomorrow. Here she is before we left for school:

Although it's been great to have so much family time over the last week and a half, Emma and I enjoyed having a bit of space from the kids. We celebrated by taking loads of time in the local supermarket, investigating what kinds of food are available and taking our time doing things without anyone whining at us! Most things in the store seemed pretty familiar - it has a Waitrose department so there are tons of British foods. The meat and fish counter was interesting - lots of good-looking fresh fish we've never heard of before; the meat looked pretty good but we are likely to give the goat brains a miss. After coffee and samosas for lunch we had a couple of hours just lounging in the sun, reading books and drinking tea, which was just what we needed, nice and relaxing before I go back to work in the morning.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Know your audience

Somewhere between a Minneapolis school assignment letter and a 6 hour death by powerpoint, you'll find the ideal school welcome / parent orientation. We'll let you know if we ever attend one. Actually, that is a little unfair, Dara's school did a good job.

Toby's new school, Indus, has many great qualities, they really love their IB focus and do a good job of explaining the philosophy of this program to families experiencing it for the first time. In fact it was reassuringly similar to the way we heard it in Mpls. I was also pleasantly surprised to know that even though classes are limited to max 25 students there are two full teachers in each room. Not teaching assistants, but two teachers. The food is good, buildings are light and airy, the extra-curriculars are varied, specialist staff are numerous and and the uniform is rather smart.

A few highlights from the group session in the Sports Hall:
- 20 slides on school safety policies. I had not been concerned about Toby's safety, and the longer it went on the less confident I felt. I think I peaked about slide 12.
- Show & Tell of nearly every member of the Parent Advisory Council, several repetitions of how to get involved, raise issues and clarification that they are not the school governors.
- About 8 esoteric references to the OLPC policy before it was revealed that this stands for One Laptop Per Child [grades 5 + up]. I'll let you figure out OLPT yourselves.
- 10 minute apology for the brand of laptop they had picked with reassurances that it really is powerful enough for what the kids need and no need to worry, and sorry they don't support mac platforms and... do you think they get feedback from all the IT parents???

I felt a bit sorry for the IT Director. Actually his presentation had some fine moments. His first slide was a 10 digit number, no text, and it flashed for 3 seconds. After it had gone, he informed us that we should all make a note of that number... it flashed back at various intervals and I managed to get it all down - we are assuming it is his phone number, but this was not confirmed, could be a nuclear code, so I'm not sharing. Then, there was a powercut; not unusual in these parts, so we all sat patiently. Then the power came back and we watched IT guy reactivate the projector and reload his presentation, just so he could say. "and this is my final slide, thank you" before handing over to a group that did not have tech needs.

The repetition and reading of ppt slides was a good display of differentiation. I found it excessive, but as the majority of the audience was not listening in their first language, it was actually a useful tactic.

Final result, I am super excited for Toby to start school, and it has taken me less than a week to identify a useful volunteer task for July next year :) I'm a proud Indus parent.

Getting to know you

As I said in my last post, the kids have been doing really well in wanting to make friends, and just getting on with it. They start school tomorrow, so that should really help too.

As for us grown-ups, we're doing reasonably well too. We knew a couple of people from my company, but have started being introduced to other people through those friends, and are also starting to meet other people too. One of the nice things about being in the hotel is that the club is a social hub for the Palm Meadows community. With the pools, play areas and restaurants a lot of people hang out here. This morning while the kids were playing a lady we've seen in the hotel and at some school events came over to talk to us and we swapped phone numbers. Also with the Sunday Brunch at the hotel, loads of families hang out here for ages - two or more hours - while they eat and the kids play in the pool. It's really relaxed and a great way to get talking to other people. At the moment a lot of the conversation is along the same lines: how long have you been here, who do you work for, how old are the kids, where do they go to school; but as we're getting to know each other a bit more we're talking about more meaningful stuff too.

Also the brunch food is really decent - a great buffet of Indian, "continental" (= western) and Chinese foods, including the chefs hard at work at the outdoor tandoor. This is the guys making chicken tikka and garlic naan for me:

The brunch comes with beer or champagne. I wasn't going to have anything to drink seeing as a few of us went out (without the kids!) last night to a phenomenal local place called Chez Mariannick. It's a little French bakery/creperie owned by a really nice couple, and has tons of charm. It's probably about a 20 minute walk from here along the main road, then down a side street to the edge of a field:

It's pretty much a hut which the guy built, and contains the crepe making stove, plus giant brick ovens where they bake French breads and phenomenal pizzas. Inside are wooden tables; outside are granite tables (less likely to be stolen). The co-owner, Shashi, is a great host, really chatty and he looked after us very well. All meals come with giant bowls of salad (made nice and crunchy with the addition of baby corn slices), delicious simple vinaigrette, and yummy French bread. Loads of different savory and sweet pancakes to choose from, as well as pizzas. They only serve wine, and only one type of red, white or rose. I was a tad suspicious of the Indian red, but it was very drinkable - slightly too much so, as our friend Jay and I polished off two bottles between us. So this morning I wasn't feeling on top form, but the magic of coffee, dosa, fresh garlic naan and a beer set me right pretty quickly.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


I posted on Facebook yesterday that I'm totally in awe of how the kids are doing so far. They're really getting on well - eating lots of new food (Toby especially is enjoying the spicy food and garlic naan bread, and last night ate loads of veggie dim sums at the buffet) and not being freaked out by the views through the car windows as we drive through semi-rural parts of town to and from Toby's school. They seem to be just accepting things pretty well. They've also been working on making friends at the hotel's playground and swimming pool - even Dara was very definite yesterday that she needed to make friends by herself and didn't need help from us.

There's a mall about 20 minutes' walk from where we're staying, and we went for the first time on Saturday. Dara was fascinated by the colors of the clothes the women were wearing, and when I asked if she wanted to go into a store she said "No, I want to stay out here and look at the ladies' beautiful saris." It reminded me that the very first thing she said when we told her we were moving here was "Can I wear jewels on my forth-head?" and she's been really interested in the clothing. Today after spending the morning at Toby's school we went to the mall for lunch (KFC) and to look for an Indian dress for Dara.

As an aside, the KFC was surprisingly great - we got a very friendly welcome from the staff, and the food was really good. I wondered if the Indian people dropping in thought that it must be authentic because there were Western people there, the same way as we would do if we see "real Chinese" people in an Asian restaurant.

Anyway, we looked at a few stores, then found one called Favorite Shop which had a big selection of girls' and women's Indian and western clothes. The assistant was great in finding an outfit for Dara, but really the second pink dress she saw was apparently the one, so that had to be tried on. It fit really well, apart from the leggings which the store people shortened in about 10 minutes. Dara knew exactly how the different pieces went together, including how to wear the scarf piece (the Dupatta) in different ways. She's clearly been watching. She wore it for dinner tonight, and while in general she seems to get a lot of attention from the waiters, they were even smilier than usual to her:

I should point out that even though she thought she was an Indian princess, it didn't stop her jumping in all the muddy rain puddles after a quick downpour this afternoon.

As for Toby, fashion isn't really his thing, but he did get a lot of his school uniform today. Several sets of sports/non-formal clothes (green t-shirts, shorts and tracksuits), a school cap, two school ties, two v-neck sweaters, one sleeved and one sleeveless, a brown leather belt and brown leather shoes, which Dara said made him look like he had old man's feet. He was also measured by the tailor, so that he'll be getting his "formal" school clothes on Monday.

It makes the world go around

I have always liked the idea of the Euro, but it did take away one of the most magical things about going on Holiday to Europe - different money, lots of different kinds of money. Whenever we were heading abroad Dad would prep us on how to convert. Obviously we only ever needed sterling to host nation, but I come from a family where we were also taught less practical things like how many Austrian Shillings to a German Mark (about 7).

When I moved to the US it took about 8 months before I stopped converting every transaction back into pounds, and even now I do it for large purchases. When we travel back to the UK the prices are so high that I generally try not to think about it until after the Visa bill.

And so we arrive at Rupees. Hmm. I get that we're about 45 to the dollar - I'm getting old, my capacity for mental arithmetic is diminishing and I am still without a phone/calcuator. At this point I am taking a tip from Roman Numerals, if I learn the equivalents for $1, $5, $10, $50, $100, $500 & $1,000 then I should be close enough on most things. The issue is that I'm not yet comfy with the Indian numbering system with Lakh and Crore, so with larger numbers I'm navigating differently placed commas. I am confident that given some focus this will all click into place, but at this point I'm just going to go with the learning by osmosis plan.

Disclaimer: I am not currently making any purchases that require me to handle Lakhs.

One thing I do like is that the 1 & 2 Rupee coins show a hand indicating the amount with number of fingers (thumb and then add forefinger for the two if you had other images...). Not sure how far this continues...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Running Errands

What a day. My first experience with our relocation consultant and being out and about to get things done. She is wonderful - and very patient with bored children; so understanding in fact that we are leaving the serious shopping orientation until after Andrew is regularly in the office and the kids are both at school... bring it, Malini, I can take it!

So, what we did do was a first trip to Hypercity, the local supermarket. Who knew that a shop in Bangalore could make me feel more at home than some in the US? We had Waitrose packaged goods and Digestives and Tetley (albeit a bit on the weak side) and Toby purchased his first roll of Polos for 10 rupees - anyone else recall them being 10p? Obviously we also found US brands and some fabulous looking Indian fare as well. Feeding the family will be no problem at all as long as we don't plan to use too much cheese. Ended up chatting with a woman from Chester, her husband is here with Tesco. She seemed a little apologetic it was her first 'posting', but I pointed out that my 11 yrs in the US were not on assignment, but a deliberate emigration. My accent clearly continues all over the place as she mentioned I didn't sound like I was from Kent. Maybe next time I see her I'll do my best radio-call-in Mandy from West Malling voice?

After that it was my turn to tour the furniture store. Andrew had been and selected some items for our house when he was here in June. Now I have seen the house I wanted to put it all in context. We ended up making a few changes based on budget, what we have shipped, and scale for the living room, but essentially all his choices stand. I seem to be the only one not surprised that my husband can choose suitable, no, desirable furniture and pick good fabric.

We dropped in at Dara's new school, but they were out of session today. She got to look round the grounds and see the play areas, so that should help on day 1. There seems to be a huge market in English speaking pre-schools. No idea how many of them are quality operations, but I was really surprised. Dara's is the only IB early centre in town, but I'm sure others will follow. It is especially funny given that most of the ex-pat families will have one parent at home and the option of a Nanny; just goes to show how important it is for kids to have some classroom experience before that first day of school, whether or not it is full day/week... and how important it is to placate trailing spouses with the promise of a quiet life at home.

The kids are wiped out again and so I'm just relaxing while Andrew is out at a leaving party for one of his team members. Don't think Andrew's arrival is related to the departure, but it is great that he was invited along, and it is a good chance to put names and faces together before he gets into the office next week.

Monday, August 1, 2011


Lots of organizing going on today. We had a few key things planned, and I think I'd assumed by this point in the day (just after 6pm) we would have a lot completed. We're partially there.

One thing I was really happy about was that my Amazon Kindle, which I had left on the plane when we landed at Bangalore, had been found and handed into Air France's baggage services. I was really impressed that they would email me to let me know. It made up a bit for the fact that one of our cases didn't arrive with us (although they brought it to our hotel the next day) and another case - brand new and fairly expensive - gained a large tear in the side during transit. My plan was to send our driver out to the airport to pick it up for us this afternoon. I'll be returning to this plan.

We didn't particularly do much yesterday, so we didn't use a driver, but I called the car firm yesterday to ask for our car at 9am, as we were planning to take Toby to his school  to get him all signed up, get his uniform, and most importantly for him find out which house he would be in. By 9:30 no driver, so I called the car company. Lots of back and forth and finally a car at 11:20. This was the rest of the family's first daytime drive around Bangalore - it's a semi-rural road from where we are staying and just under a half hour, so not too bad and plenty to see. Toby doesn't like all the speed bumps, but we all did fine. Unfortunately some admin hadn't been completed between my company and the school, so we didn't get everything completed so we don't yet know his house, but it was good to get there and let him see around the amazing campus a bit.

Once we got back to the hotel for lunch I asked the driver to go out to the airport, and gave him a letter confirming that he was authorized to collect the Kindle. His English isn't that great, but he seemed to get the gist of it, so off he went. We were set to meet our relocation folks at our house, and we had a good look around. It's looking great now it's all being painted, and I think Emma and the kids liked it a lot. The living room was smaller than I remembered, so we will probably cut back on furniture a bit, but overall it seems pretty decent. Can't wait to be having gins and tonic on the balcony, with fresh limes from our lime tree!

After that we came back to the hotel and met some friends - the kids swam like crazy with the other kids, while the grown-ups had a beer. When Emma and I got back to the room we got a call from reception telling us that there was a delivery from Air France. I answered the door in excitement, expecting the Kindle, but it was our giant suitcase! It had been fixed really well - I can't even see where the tear was - but no sign of the Kindle. Hmmm. I need to find out if it was our driver who delivered it and was given the wrong thing at the airport, or if Air France themselves delivered it. I don't yet have a phone so it's a bit hard to navigate things, but we'll see how this all works out.

UPDATE: The driver just got back to the hotel with my Kindle! Hooray. It must have been quite a trek - he left the hotel at about 1:30pm, and it's now seven hours later. I hope the whole time wasn't doing this, but I was very grateful.