Saturday, July 30, 2011
Jason bought me my first Sari on a recent shopping trip, and since then, my cook has filled me in on the important details my saleslady forgot to mention. Below is a picture of my Sari.

Also a picture of my living room furniture...I'll post pictures of the house furnishings as soon as we are finished furnishing; right now it would just make everyone feel sorry for me.

We are guessing the Sari is around 5 meters long (16ish feet) and it is more than slightly see-through. I tried to ask the salesperson what I'm supposed to wear under the sari, and she (I think) told me leggings and a tank top. As if - I only look good in leggings from the knee down. I also asked her where I purchase the small shirt that is worn under the sari draping up top. All she told me was 'take it to a tailor'

Well, my cook was nice enough to explain in a little more detail. Saris are sold with the material needed for the shirt still attached to the bolt of fabric. So - you take the entire sari to a tailor, they measure you, and then cut the needed material from the sari and sew the shirt.

As for the petticoat, they will use a separate fabric for it, but I think the extra money will be worth it. In addition to the above, the only leggings I brought with me are black. And if you ever come across a 16 foot long bolt of fabric on a Wal-Mart clearance shelf and think "this would make a great sari!" I'll leave you with some instructions on how to drape it. (Courtesy of Soch - the store where I bought the sari)

Friday, July 29, 2011
When Jason first suggested a move to India, I was understandably reluctant. Move me away (a LONG way) from my friends and family? Quit my job? Scary. But Jason said the magic words...."you could have a maid...and a cook".
Sign me up.

Well, I'm finding out that I might be a little too American for servants. At least according to our neighbor.

Before the kids and I flew over, Jason made a friend. Our next door neighbor works at HP-India, and his wife is a stay at home mother of two. In her mid-fifties or so, she was nice enough to feed Jason somewhat regular meals while he was without a wife or cook to prepare something for him. (As noted in an earlier post, it's pretty much assumed that a female will prepare meals - men over here are useless :) )

She comes over occasionally to check on the boys and I now that we are here, and yesterday we got in to a discussion about maids. She tells me I am way too easy on my help. My maid, Lakshmi, as she so graciously allows us to call her (we cannot seem to get our Oklahoma tongues around her full name), comes every day at eleven in the morning to sweep and mop our entire apartment. This is approximately 2200 square feet of tile floor, as most of the residences here do not have carpet at all. She also washes any dirty dishes we have, and takes out the trash.

I'll readily admit I am not much of a housekeeper, but I cannot imagine sweeping and mopping my entire house, every single day. Especially when this is the broom she uses.

And yes, before you ask - this broom requires you to be bent at the waist while sweeping. My back says ouch. Jason managed to find a "normal" broom for me at the "foreign store", but the above is what the people here call normal. But the house is very dusty because we leave the doors and windows open almost all the time to keep a breeze in our air-conditioner free home. The mop Lecksmi uses is a standard bucket mop. My neighbor saw the bucket and mop and told me she does not allow her maids to use a mop. Instead, she requires them to use damp towels and get down on their hands and knees, because 'they miss the corners with the big mop'. My back says double ouch.  Also, she tells me I should make Lakshmi dust my furniture.

We pay our maid approximately 50 USD (2500 INR) a month. Our neighbor says we are paying her too much. She only pays hers (she employs two) 2000 INR per person. Call me crazy, but I just can't feel comfortable making her clean with rags on her hands and knees for that price. I can't help but compare these salaries to those in the US.

We also recently hired a cook/nanny. She comes in around 11:30 every day except Monday (she is Catholic and this is the day her church has mass), fixes lunch, then watches the kids for me until around 4:00-4:30pm until it's time to prepare dinner. We pay her 6500 INR. For the meals, I give her money, she goes to the store (during the 11:30 to 4:30 time frame) to buy supplies, and brings me back the change and receipts. Very handy, except my cabinets are filled with items I have no idea how to prepare.

I found out while talking to her that she moved to this apartment complex when a son in the family she'd been working for got married. She moved here with the new couple in January, and was serving as a cook for the previous tenants in our apartment in her spare time. She is older than the twenty-something Lakshmi by about thirty or forty years, and she has definite ideas on how she wants the kitchen set up.

Since I'm pretty useless in the kitchen in general, I am more than happy to get her what she needs. She, along with my neighbor, also has firm ideas on what my maid should be doing every day. It seems there is a definite class system at work, even with the servants, and from my estimation, "cook" ranks much higher than "maid". I feel a little as if I've slipped in to one of my period romance novels, where the cook is lord over the kitchen, and the maids are treated as non-entities.

Very disconcerting.

I'm often uncomfortable when the servants are here, mostly because I feel terrible sitting here on the couch, typing away at my computer while someone scrubs the floor beneath me. I'm hoping I'll be able to get over this, since I once tried to pick up a plastic cup one of the kids left on the floor so Lakshmi could sweep, and it totally freaked her out that I was "helping".

The cook is also very deferential, to the point of making me squirm. She refers to Jason as "bossman" and to me as "Madam", despite my repeated attempts to teach her how to pronounce Lorenda. And when she first came over, I asked her to help me stock the kitchen. Without thinking, I sat down on the couch to use the coffee table as a writing table. She also sat down--in the floor directly beside an empty chair. I quickly assured her that I prefer my guests to sit in the chairs where it is comfortable, but I'm afraid while I eased my discomfort, I increased hers.

Jason continues to assure me that they are being paid well for their services, but I still can't help but feel like I've stepped back in America's pre-Civil War era and I'm basically a slave owner. I guess my Christmas gifts to them will need to be awesome.

Thursday, July 28, 2011
For those of you curious folks, below are some photos of recent shopping receipts, to give you an idea of the prices on groceries over here. All amounts are in Indian Rupees, and at the time of this posting, 1 INR is Equal to .023 USD

And as a random note, we've noticed that people are not at all shy about asking us how much we make, how much our apartment rent is, or how much we pay our maid (this coming from another maid).

I'm willing to divulge some personal information for the sake of research and curiosity....I make around 0 USD a year...I quit my job.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Yesterday we went shopping again. It seems like this is our new pastime. Conceptually, I understood that we would have to buy everything except clothes once we got here, but it's only now sinking in just how much stuff that amounts to.

Since Jason had beds here when we arrived, my first priority is the kitchen. In my previous post, I mentioned what our kitchen looked like upon move-in. Empty. Very, very empty. A few days before, we picked up a stove top, and a set of pots and pans, but we were still missing important things like mixing bowls, mixing spoons, and the ever-important food required to make a meal.

So yesterday we bought a dish drying rack (that's right Americans, dishwashers are rare here), a super large toaster oven since they don't have a lot of actual ovens here, a few microwave and refrigerator-safe containers, a vegetable peeler, mixing bowls, spatulas, and some Ragu spaghetti sauce (we had to buy this at the "foreign" store).

So my kitchen looks almost like an actual kitchen now.

About the shopping in Bangalore is quite a bit different than in the States. At home, if I needed lots of stuff, my first choice would have been a superstore such as Target or Wal-Mart. Those types of stores don't really exist over here - at least in terms of the vast array of items to choose from.

Here, it's much more likely you go to an appliance store for appliances, then a home furnishing store for pots and pans, then a grocery store for food. Which of course makes the excursion quite a bit longer. Oh, and I bet you've never seen one of these at Reasors -

Not sure whether the gift vouchers are for the frisking or not. Security is very strict here, and it's completely normal to walk through metal detectors for every store. Also, my purse has been searched so many times I finally cleaned it out, just so I would stop holding up the lines. In some of the mall-like buildings, you are not allowed to bring purchases from other stores into another. Instead, they have a "baggage check" where you leave your things and are given a card with a number on it to retrieve it later.

And everything comes in odd containers. Here's what our milk looks like:

And as far as we can tell, the milk is not homogenized, and it tastes quite a bit like it came straight from the cow. Since I generally bought 2% in the States, this is a little much for me, so we've started buying the "Slim" version shown above, which is still too rich for 2%, but at least it tastes like whole milk.

Another thing that has caught my eye lately....there is no such thing as being PC (politically correct) in advertisements. I noticed that almost every television commercial for home cleaners, laundry detergent, food, etc has a woman handing this "new improved" product off to a maid to use. They don't even pretend to do their own cleaning. And advertisements like the below are everywhere.

Notice the words "...a woman's true friend" imprinted on a dishwashing sponge.

So, in summary...lots of things are the same, but nothing is quite like home. Still, it's fun to experience everything firsthand.
Saturday, July 23, 2011
Here in Bangalore, the kitchens are quite a bit different from what I am used to at home. Here the kitchen is essentially a bunch of cabinets and a sink. No stove, no oven, no dishwasher, no hot water faucet, and no clean water (water filters or delivered water is a must here).
Today we did our best to make the kitchen functional. Jason had already purchased a refrigerator and microwave from the previous tenants, so that was definitely a good start. But we were still missing quite a few things, like - well everything.

Our first large purchase was a standard cooking stove for Bangalorians. Here's a photo below.

I'm not sure if you can tell by the above, but the stove is basically a set of four hotplates. The unit sits on the cabinet, and is powered by a gas canister, similar to the tanks connected to outside barbecue grills in the States, only about twice the height. We apply for a gas account with a private company here and exchange the tank when it is empty for a new one.  I've heard from our neighbor that Indian nationals can apply for a subsidized account with the local government, and one of our taxi drivers said that petrol (automobile gasoline) is also subsidized and much cheaper than the $3.75ish a gallon we shell out in the States.
But I digress.
Since we got one of the fancier cooking units (they come in smaller sizes and you can get single burner, double, etc) we got a free set of pots and pans thrown in. I was excited about this, because we plan on hiring a cook I'm really not sure what she needs to make a meal. We plan on making our experience here genuine, and asking her to prepare some local favorites before insisting she learns to cook "American style". I'm hoping we like the food well enough that I don't have to teach her any new dishes, because frankly, I'm pretty clueless about cooking on a gas grill, and my recipe repertoire is already dented when I can't use beef. We're a pretty bland, meat and potatoes kind of family, but my hope is that we can all learn to love fruits and vegetables while here.

Anyway, from what I can tell, Thanksgiving turkey sized ovens are almost non-existent here, and the only chance we have for baked goods is through a small, toaster-sized version. That eliminates one of the two things I know how to cook - frozen pizza. The other -  spaghetti  - was already out because of the no beef thing. I guess I can make it with tomato sauce only. Or substitute chicken or pork and see if Jason notices. :)

As for the water filter, Jason got a pretty fancy one of these too. Reverse osmosis, UV bacteria killing, lots of other things I don't know what are...the works. I'm assuming the water is good to go after all of this.

We also bought a 6 person set of dishes so we can finally stop using all of Jason's paper plates. (Yes 6 place settings, this means anyone is allowed to visit....we'll be able to feed you at the same time!) I'd complain about not having a dishwasher too, but I gotta say, I am really enjoying having a maid that takes care of the the dishes every morning. I try not to think about the fact that since we haven't yet been approved for a gas account, all of our dishes are being washed in cold water only. Wish us luck on that process, the gas rep is supposed to stop by tomorrow.
Friday, July 22, 2011
When I first booked our tickets to India, I made certain I had at least two hours between each connecting flight. We flew from Tulsa to Chicago, Chicago to Frankfurt, Germany, and Frankfurt to Bangalore.

The Tulsa to Chicago went well. The kids were happy, the plane was on schedule, and our six large suitcases were checked with no issues (they didn't even weigh them!) When we landed in Chicago, I took the boys and their super heavy backpacks to a McDonalds near our next flight's gate. We got our nuggets and settled in for our flight.

Our flight was delayed. And this is where my plans started to unravel. The delayed flight was supposed to leave @ 6:36pm from Chicago, and be in the air for 8 hours. So, I had decided to have Tyler skip his nap, so he'd have a better chance of sleeping through the entire plane ride. Well, 6:36 was manageable, but the 7:45 takeoff was about an hour and fifteen minutes too long for the napless wonder.

He was unhappy. And very very tired. So tired in fact that it took a good 20-30 minutes of all-out sobbing on the plane before he crumpled into an exhausted lump. When he finally did fall asleep, it was at an awkward angle across both mine and his seats, leaving me perched precariously on the edge of a cushion for the three hours he slept (yes, only three hours out of eight)

We landed in Frankfurt an hour late, but since I'd originally given us an hour cushion, we still had a good chance of making the next flight. I was not too happy about the immediate departure, since it basically caused us to sit in plane seats for a virtually uninterrupted 16 hours. But, we take what we can get.

What I did not expect was to have to go through security again at the Frankfurt airport. Our Bangalore flight was in a different Terminal than our arriving flight, and in Frankfurt, that means a security checkpoint. Enter Buzz Lightyear....

We'd packed Buzz and Woody in Timothy's backpack for fun on the plane, but apparently Buzz looks a lot like a bomb in the X-ray machines. Timothy's backpack was flagged for hands on inspection. When they confirmed that Buzz was in fact a Space Ranger and not a Space Invader, the security people decided to apologize for the trouble by allowing Timothy to stand by the X-ray screen while they re-ran Buzz. It was very nice of them, and Timothy had been doing so well all day, I hated to turn down their offer. I ignored the ticking clock in my head and smiled while they chatted with me in German. (I would have chatted back, but the only German I know is from the movies, and it's mostly a dictionary of curse words)

So, LONG story short, we made it to our connecting flight, grabbed our boarding passes, and were hustled immediately on to the plane for takeoff. Good thing, because Jason would have been pretty upset if I'd had to call and tell him he was staying up in the middle of the night for nothing.

And while the kids and I were all very very ready to be off the plane in those last few minutes (hours), we made it to Bangalore unscathed. Now, since it's 12:45am here in Bangalore, I'm going to attempt to sleep and reverse some of this jet lag.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011
On our way from Tulsa to Chicago, the pilot pointed out Joplin, Missouri as we flew over. The recent tornado path was blatantly obvious. It looked just like a huge eraser on a map.

Ih oh, this just in, our flight to Frankfurt has been delayed until 7:15 (from 6:36). They're really cutting in to my layover time!
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Flight @ 2:10.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
So the boys and I are officially in our last week in the States, so of course we need a few emergencies to make our memories fond. Yesterday I was helping Tyler brush his teeth, and what do I see?

Yes. A large black cavity. So, preferring to get this fixed by a doctor I know rather than a trying to find one in a foreign country, I call the dentist and set up an appointment for the next day (today). We get to the office at 2pm (without a nap) and surprise, surprise Tyler refuses treatment.

He screams about x-rays. He screems about sitting in the chair. And he screams as the doctor and I pry open his mouth for a visual exam. The diagnosis is confirmed....tooth decay.

So, since the odds are bad that he will sit quietly in a chair as we clean, fill a cavity, or install a crown, the doctor and I decided that general anesthesia is the only way to go. So wish us luck as we go in tomorrow around noon and get whatever needs fixed fixed.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
So I had a cab for 4 hours today and went on a shopping spree. I'm a guy so this isn't exactly what I like to do, but I am tired of sleeping on a mattress on the floor. Plus one of the things on my list was a new TV so thats always exciting. And while I accomplished what I set out to today, which should probably justify its own blog post, the most exciting thing was finding the City Market.

I have heard tales of the fabled "market". Q: Hey where did you get that? A: The market. So today I asked my driver, where is "The Market"? He replied "which market?" and I thought, "Great, I'll never understand this town." However, after a few more moments of broken conversation he decided that I meant the "City Market". It probably took us 30 mins of driving to get there from HSR Layout, but I saw a lot of the city on the way. However, when we arrived I was less than impressed. We pulled into what looks like a standard BDA Complex style mall and pretty small at that. I asked the driver, "Is this it?". He replied, "No, there is no parking at the City Market" and that we had to go the last little bit on foot. So you walk down very normal looking streets lined with normal looking shops and then you turn onto a seemingly nondescript street.

Wow! I have never seen anything like this in real life before. I have seen pictures and video and really populated markets and streets, but never imagined it would feel so overwhelming. I assume that if I stayed longer and was more comfortable with this environment it would be fine, but I was definitely the crazy tourist, just trying to look around as much as possible and take in everything I could. I did not have a camera with me to take pictures, but even if I did I don't think it would describe the scene. Tiny little shops, bursting onto the street outside. Hundreds of people trying hurriedly to get where they are going, or standing waiting on the service of the shop they are at. Cars, bikes, tempos, scooters all try to push there way through the mass of people in narrow streets. Blocks and blocks of electronics stores, all right next to each other. A block of stores for your favorite category. If you can't find it here, it may not exist in Bangalore.

I felt sure that my wallet would be gone by the time I made it out, but it didn't seem like anyone paid me any mind. I bought what I needed and got out, but for a country boy this experience was quite an adventure!

Monday, July 11, 2011
From your monstrously awesome sister! (Note the cute tie-in with the monster marketing degree at work)

You'll get your present Wednesday. I'm going to clean your house by removing all my mail.

Saturday, July 9, 2011
Now do you see why I'm worried about becoming a stay-at-home mom? My resume isn't looking so good. We thought they were watching a movie; the youngest was drawing himself a mustache....with permanent marker!
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
The boys and I just got back from a great long weekend down at "The River", the location of the Crutchfield family's annual reunion. It was great visiting with everyone, and the food and swimming were fantastic as always. Even though it's a little sad to know we won't be seeing everyone next year, I'm glad we got a chance to catch up. See you in 2 years!

As of today, I have officially moved back in with my parents (for about a week and a half), and we'll be squeezing in the last days of extended family time before our move on the 19th. Don't expect to hear much from us, we'll be too busy napping, eating, and downloading Disney storybooks (thanks Caleb!) to spend any time posting mostly boring updates.

Maybe Jason will jump in here and give you some exciting news from the Indian nation (hint hint Jason)
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