Friday, September 30, 2011
Can you guess which country this picture was taken in?



If you guessed India....you'd be wrong. It appears India isn't as foreign as I had first assumed. The traffic in Oklahoma looks strangely similar.  (Photo courtesy of my friend Paul Keller)
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
I'm not sure Tyler's quite ready to get himself ready for school. I'm almost positive this wouldn't meet any of the dress code requirements. Next lesson: learning our right from our left shoe!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011
I'd mentioned in an earlier post that the power systems here are not as reliable as we are used to in the United States - loss of electricity is common here, and all of the apartment complexes we looked at while shopping supplied some sort of generator power. (For those of you who are potential future Bangalorians, make sure you ask whether the generator powers only the common areas or the apartment complexes as well - if it doesn't, you'll need to buy your own personal generator.)

Our power goes off at least once a day, and we've all mostly adapted to waiting about 5 seconds in a dark room before the generators kick in and turn our lights back on. We had to buy a backup battery for the internet modems, sometimes the power would go off so often it was almost impossible to surf the net. (GASP!) The modem would take 2 minutes to reconnect, the power would be going off every 3 minutes, so you'd spend the entire day watching the little blinking modem lights change from green to red and back again.



But yesterday was particularly bad. It would have been better had the power just stayed off and let the generators do their work, but yesterday it seemed the electricity "flickered" on and off in quick succession for at least three hours yesterday. I started to worry about my laundry - the big appliances (refrigerator, washer, dryer, etc) aren't on generator power, so the load of wet (and soapy) clothes sat in a hot washer for far too long.

Today Jason tells me there's a reason for this. The state of Karnataka (Bangalore's state) generates electricity by burning coal in several power stations throughout the city. But the coal is transported in from another state, and there have been political issues that have caused the regular deliveries to massively downgrade. There has been a strike in the coal mines as part of a Telangana (a region in the Andhra Pradesh state) bid to be removed from Andhra Pradesh and set up as their own state.

Some of the trains that run coal to Karnataka have been blockaded, and the Bangalore power plants are very short on coal as a result. This has caused the plants to practice "load shedding" or scheduled blackouts throughout the day. Here's hoping a solution is found before we're down to no power at all.

More details here and here.


Sunday, September 25, 2011
As promised, here is a video of some pros - ladies who have worn a sari their entire lives - showing me how to wear my new sari. Much easier than the brochure shown here. (Just an FYI, at the time of the old post, I had a different cook.) Enjoy!

Saturday, September 24, 2011
Now we're to the good part. Remember when I told you about the traditional Onam lunch my neighbor invited me to? We got to eat it again! And it was just as good as before. Well, at least Jason and I thought so - Tyler was asleep and Timothy was completely grossed out that he wasn't given silverware.

Friday, September 23, 2011

More dancing! I was exhausted just watching.


In this dance, a form of Pinnal Kolattam (I might be wrong on this), each woman grabbed a scarf hanging from the center, then wove it with others as they danced, making really pretty braids. Then - and here's the kicker - they reversed the steps exactly to unwind the scarves. Pretty awesome. The crowd really enjoyed this one (of course), and the poor ladies were forced to do an encore after the Pookalam winners were announced. (I'll let you know who won the Pookalam contest later - in the meantime, feel free to vote for your favorite, I've added the pictures as a poll on the left <---------- side of the blog screen. If you're getting this in email, you'll have to visit the blog site)

Thursday, September 22, 2011
Today's photos are of the play the children put on to tell the story of the Oman festival. I really wanted to film this, but it was just so loud I was afraid the audio would sound like a car crash. Their costumes were fantastic, from the colors, to the wigs, and even a couple of drawn-on mustaches. By this point Tyler had fallen asleep, but Timothy enjoyed watching some of the kids he knew as they performed the reenactment.

The story (from prokerala.com) -

"The legend goes this way; King Mahabali ruled the southern dynasty those days and was very famous for his wise, just and benevolent nature. He was egoistic and proud of his popularity and richness. At the same time, Lord Vishnu is perturbed due to Mahabali's fame. Thus, to deplete him off this popularity and to teach him a lesson, Vamana, the fifth avatar (incarnation) of Lord Vishnu, disguised as a Brahmin, and requested him three steps of land. Two steps of Him covered whole earth and patal (lower world). King Mahabali offered his head for the third step to be placed and thus King Mahabali was pushed down to 'patalam'.
Lord Vishnu was very pleased with the determination with which King Mahabali tried to fulfill his promise and allowed him to visit his country and people once in a year. Thus on the day of 'Onam' it is believed that the King Mahabali visits his country to see its prosperity and share the joy and spirit with the inhabitants. "

Wednesday, September 21, 2011
So far, we've been called to the celebration by drummers, and dressed appropriately for the occasion. It's time to hit the party. We weren't fast enough to get a front seat, so most of these photo's you'll want to click and open in a new window to make them bigger.


The Onam celebration opened with a song. Our neighbor Deepta (Girija's daughter) was one of the performers. (Hi Deepta!) She is dressed in orange above.


Then the women, dressed in the traditional Kerala sari, also sang. My neighbor Girija is fourth from the right.




Then the dancing began! The above is a photo of the women performing a traditional Kerala group dance, the Thiruvathirakali, or Kaikottikkali. (You'll have to find someone smarter than me to pronounce this stuff) It's performed by women to achieve marital bliss. Jason amused himself by asking why I wasn't interested in performing. I told him to shut up I'm watching the dancing. :)



Tuesday, September 20, 2011
The state of Kerala is on the South-West coast of India, and my neighbor, Girija, and her family are originally from here (thus the wealth of information!). She tells me that Kerala is usually very hot, so the sarees (or saris) they wear there are generally of a lighter colored  material, and made of cotton to keep you cool. Many of the attendees of the celebration wore the traditional colors of Kerala, and Girija was nice enough to loan me a sari! And since I've only worn a sari once before (stay tuned for a post on that experience), she also graciously offered to dress me.

As she was due to perform IN the celebration, she made quick work of getting me wrapped properly. Jason and I were amazed at the speed - it took us a good 30 minutes of wrestling with the cloth before all the important parts were covered. Girija came in, unwrapped me from my mistake, and had me fully decked out (bindi and shoes included) in less than 10. Impressive!

My new goal is to leave India able to tie on a sari in less than 10. Wish me luck. :)

Anyway, here are the pics.

This was my and Jason's attempt.

And this was the 10 minute makeover. As wearing jewelry is a must for this occasion (gold is preferrable), I grabbed a necklace from my sad costume collection - I left almost everything in the States - and Girija loaned me several pieces of her own; earrings, a gold necklace, and armfulls of bangle bracelets. Sorry, but I don't think I got a picture of it.

My other goal - managing to wear a sari without looking like I'm draped in a bedsheet (for reference - see the first photo above)
Monday, September 19, 2011
You might remember this post or this post, where I talked about the Kerala Onam festival and all the fun events (and food!) involved. Well, this weekend our apartment complex had an Onam celebration. It was huge, so we have tons of pictures. Though our complex had a one day celebration, the Onam festival is generally celebrated over a 10 day period. I don't have THAT many pics, so I doubt you'll see 10 days here on the blog either. I'll just post a few every day until I run out (and hopefully a video - if I can figure out how to get it off my camera and on the computer) with a description or two.

This festival was great, because it was one that is not generally celebrated in Bangalore, so many of the residents were as unfamiliar as we were about the traditions. Which means the narrators would regularly provide a brief description of what was happening and why. Very good for a family totally unfamiliar with Indian festivals in general.


Sunday morning (festival day) we were greeted by a group of drummers just outside our window. They signalled that the festival was about to begin.


They also performed during the celebration. If you look closely (double click to open the picture larger in a new window), you may notice that the drumsticks are curved. Jason (a drummer himself) was intrigued by this. The drums were LOUD!

Sunday, September 18, 2011
This post is for all my Hillcrest friends (*waves wildly). I have been saving some of these pictures for weeks, trying to add a photo of an Ambulance to the mix, but I'm just not fast enough to whip out my phone and get it to the camera setting before they pass us (or we pass them). You'll just have to take my word for it - the ambulances here look like an odd hybrid between a US ambulance and a US news van.



From everything that I've been told, medical tourism is huge business over here especially procedures very costly in the US (and European countries) or not covered by medical insurance. The hospitals here are touted to be just as good or better than their western counterparts, and there are several national medical colleges in India.

For a mother with two children, this was good to hear. Of course, you never WANT to be in the position to need a hospital, but it's always best to prepare for the worst. This is one of the things we researched before deciding to move to Bangalore.

Now - what we didn't think to research.

I'm still hoping we never have to visit a hospital here, but it seems a little far fetched to hope my kids (3 and 5) never end up with an ear infection, flu, or other fever, vomit, or diarrhea inducing illness. With an adult, this isn't such a huge thing...you suffer, you whine to your significant other, and you lay on the couch (or bathroom floor) until you feel better. But with kids, especially younger ones, it's dangerous to do this in some cases. So - I've been keeping my eyes open for a doctor's office near our apartment.

Turns out it's not hard at all to find one. They are everywhere! It seems like there's an office on every street corner. But here's the kicker: How in the heck do we tell the difference between a "good" doctor's office and a "bad" one?



My solution? Ask the neighbors! Turns out, we have at least three docs who live right here in our complex, one of which runs a small clinic right outside our complex gates. Pretty nice to know if Tyler ever decides to throw up six times like he did yesterday. (We think he drank a little too much of his bathwater - mom wasn't paying enough attention. Whoops.)



Friday, September 16, 2011
This is of absolutely no interest to anyone except those who may be thinking of moving to Bangalore. However, I remember before our move trying to figure out what the cost of living would be, and I found casual mentions of prices very helpful.

So - because of the bedbug incident - I needed to get ALL of my large blankets and comforters washed, since we had them sprayed with pesticides. My washer is not big enough to handle these items. I walked down to a small dry cleaning shop just across the street from my apartment, grabbed a guy to come up and help me carry, and gathered everything into a large heap.

Final tally:

3 Double Comforters (U.S. residents, read this as "King Size")
2 Single Comforters ("Double", slightly smaller than "Queen")
3 Double Mattress Protectors
1 Single Mattress Protector
1 Bedsheet Double (I considered this a "light throw" instead of a bedsheet)

Total Cost for Items to be cleaned and delivered to my door by 9/19 (Monday morning) - 1170 INR ($25 dollars)
We saw this massive beauty while at the mall during the bedbug spraying timeframe.


Yes - those are all flowers - in the middle of the mall.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Since the exterminators were here to spray, the kids and I had to leave the apartment for a good chunk of the afternoon, and with no real plans on where to go, I took them to the Forum Mall. They had a fantastic time, we ate pizza at Pizza Hut, went up to the kids arcade on the next floor, and stopped at McDonalds for an ice cream cone before heading back.

On the way, Timothy asked "when do the bug guys come again and let us play?"

Pics of the experience: Tim eating his ice cream happily, and Tyler somewhat happily - I had to tell him the ice cream had to be eaten BEFORE the cone - he'd already taken two bites before I caught him, so we were a mess. Luckily it started raining (like it does every evening in monsoon season), and I had them "dance" in the rain. Also Known As "taking a shower". I'm sneaky that way.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011
I've been searching for laundry detergent similar to the "Free and Clear" brands in the US - those without the chemicals and smells that make my youngest son itchy, and was happy to find some at the Total Mall this past weekend.

Unfortunately, that's not the only thing making us itchy. I've been getting out of bed the past few weeks with unexplained bites on my arms, back, and legs. Well, I finally discovered what the culprit was.

Bed Bugs. I am so disgusted and creeped I cannot even begin to tell you.

I've put in a call to an exterminator today to have them come out an do something - but based on what I've heard about bedbugs, it's likely we will have to toss all of our matresses. So it's a good thing I don't work full-time, because I'm going to need the time to wash and dry all of our things on the highest heat imaginable.

I was aware that bedbugs were a growing problem in the United States, but it honestly never occurred to me that they would be here. But from a quick Google search, it appears they are a big deal in Bangalore as well. Stupid not to think of this, I know. But all the floors are tile here - no carpet to hide in. I'm hoping that with the exterminator's help we'll be able to get rid of them soon!

I'm still completely confused about how they came to live here - we bought our furniture and matresses new, but I've heard they can live up to a year without eating, so it's obviously possible they hung around after the old tenants left. Thank goodness for Discovery Channel specials, or I wouldn't have been able to identify them.

We actually got lucky with the kids' beds - the youngest is still potty training, so both of them have a plastic liner on their matresses. I should just be able to wash the bedding, rug, and curtains in their room and be good to go.

But for all of you potential tourists I've offered a bed to - it's best if you wait until we get you a new bed.

And no pictures today - I'll spare you the crawly skin.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011
I just realized I'd never taken a picture of the currency used here in India. So, without delay, here they are. As far as we can tell, the largest bill is the 1000 rupee one, as this is what we were given when we first exchanged our US dollars. The other denominations are the 500, 100, 50 (not pictured - didn't have one), 20, 10, and 5 (also not pictured - I only have the coin version). As for coins, I've only seen 1, 2, and 5 rupee denominations.

The bills' sizes correspond to their denomination, with 1000 being the largest bill, and the 5 being the smallest. Makes sense. But when you get to coins, things get a little wild. As far as I can tell, there are no standard coins - they seem to change depending on the year. And I'm sorry I didn't have one to show you, but I've seen 1 rupee coins that are the same size as a 2 rupee. And as you can (hopefully) see in the pictures, the 5 rupee coin is available in gold, silver, fat, or skinny sizes. This has got to be a pain for the vending busines.


Front (above) and back (below) of the bills and coins.



Close-up of bill face


Coin closeup - US Quarter included for size comparison.


Other side of coins (also a closeup of the 10 rupee bill). Note the 5 rupee gold coin in the middle is thinner than the two surrounding it.



Sunday, September 11, 2011
Because this is the most comfortable pair of sandals I've ever worn.



Today Jason offered to watch the kids so I could make a quick run back to the mall we'd shopped at yesterday. It's called Total Mall and it's as close to a WalMart or Target I've seen since moving here. The first floor is filled with bedding, curtains, pots and pans, etc on one side and clothing on the other. The second floor houses the large appliances (washers, refrigerators) and furniture, while the third floor is a grocery (with the best selection of produce I've seen - IMO). We went yesterday as a family, but this kids aren't really fans of shopping, so we were forced to head back for a nap.


The shop I bought the shoes from is on the ground floor (which is NOT the first floor in India - floor levels here begin with 0), and is surrounded by some familiar brands from the US. Including a McDonalds. By the time we move back, I'll likely have visited every one of them in Bangalore.

Unfortunately I'd already bought my produce for the next few days, because right down the street from Total Mall is the biggest Farmer's Market EVER! It's huge and spans the entire road for at least a mile. I'm itching to stroll through the shops and get ripped off for being foreign like I did with the shoes. (They were 300 rupees ($6.50ish) and based on the saleslady's smug expression, she expected me to haggle a little)
Friday, September 9, 2011

Today's picture is a photo of my neighbor's fantastic flower carpet, part of the Onam celebration. Yes - the entire design below (except the candles) was created with flower petals. She was also kind enough to invite me and the kids over for the celebration lunch. The food was great, and plentiful, and I got to meet several of my neighbors. The kids played hide and seek while I stuffed my face with great food (also pictured below). Happy Onam! 



The girls were dressed in pretty white/tan costumes with gold embroidery, and lunch was served on banana leaves (with no silverware - you only eat the good stuff with your hands). The food was fantastic, and I've been told we'll get to experience it again next weekend, during the celebration for yet another festival.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
 While we're here in India, I've decided to homeschool my children. Not because the schools are of bad quality here - in fact, they are probably better than many in the United States. But my kiddos are young, and Timothy had already finished a year of pre-school in the wonderful Berryhill school system. Tim loves school. Everything about school.

Random photo of Tim after he completed all his lessons with no mistakes.


So why did I decide to homeschool? Mostly because I wanted to KNOW what they were learning. There are several different syllabuses followed here in India, and none of them exactly match up with the US grade levels. Plus, it's scary enough to send your child down the street to a teacher you know is fully credentialed and experienced. I've found it's much worse to think about sending them to a school I'm not even familiar with. Somehow the words "don't worry, you'll be fine" as he's scared about being shoved in a classroom with a bunch of strangers just don't sound truthful anymore.

Because yes, most people speak English here. But it's not the English we're used to. There have been many times I've run across the hall for my neighbor when I'm having trouble understanding a serviceman. She helps translate the English to English I'll understand.

And I hated to put my kids in this position. Timothy is at an important age - when he takes all those letters he's been singing about all summer (thank you Mrs. Cannon - I hear Apple Annie in my sleep!) and learns to form words with them. Can you imagine learning Phonics in a classroom where no one pronounces the finished words like you do? I can't. I have a new empathy for ESL kids.

Anyway, the obvious downside to homeschooling is the lack of social interaction. And for Tyler, he's missing his Preschool year, which is when, along with letters, you also learn the important art of listening and sitting still (oh my!). I worried that I'd brought them to India to experience a different culture, only to closet them away in an apartment building.

But Tyler made me feel better, when today he answered a question "yes", not with the American nod, but the Indian head bobble! Turns out we'll learn something here after all.

So - I still get worried I'm messing up their education for life, but the worry happens less and less often.

I might miss a few things here and there, but one this is certain - my kids will be one of the few Americans who can say "yes" with two different body languages!

And another random photo of Timothy's handwriting and vocabulary practice. He'll be a reader before we know it.


"Upgraded" to the new Blogger, and now there are pizzas - will have to research what in the heck I did.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
This past Saturday, Jason took us to the dreaded City Market - the one he mentions here. Based on his description, I was not sure I really wanted to go - not with two children to keep up with. But in the interest of tourism (and the fact that I rarely get out of the house during the week) I agreed to take a look.

Turns out, when you go early, there's not nearly the amount of people Jason experienced. (As a side note, there is rarely a large store open before 11am - all the chain stores here operate on the mall schedule.) Jason was terribly disappointed at the turnout, as he was really looking forward to my nervous breakdown. I don't handle crowds well at all - I wouldn't quite call it a phobia, but the idea of being at WalMart on the Friday after Thanksgiving literally gives me chills.

But I was pleasantly surprised at the City Market. We got there around 10:30AM, before most of the shops were open.

Pretty empty, huh?

This entire market focuses on Electronics, Machinery, and tools. (For all ye Home Improvement fans, insert Tim Allen grunting here)  Jason has been told there are other City Markets specializing in other types of products, but we were buying a power drill, so this is the one we wanted to visit. (I'll convince him to find a clothing and shoe store later.)

The amount of shops is outrageous - there are streets upon streets of buildings like the below, with shops on every floor.


By 11:30 AM, business was picking up, though Jason tells me this is still about a fourth of the people that he saw last time. This was plenty for me, as I expected to be hit by one of the zooming motorcycles weaving in and out of traffic.



And of course, we had to stop at one of the fresh fruit juice stands. We bought two glasses of pineapple juice, and watched as they tossed the pineapple into a blender to puree, then ran it through a screen strainer to remove all the pulp. Yum. The boys thought so too!





Tuesday, September 6, 2011
If you're expecting a long lecture about the high fat, sodium, or sugar content of restaurants versus farm fresh, organic, healthy choices at home, you're on the wrong blog.

This post is actually not about food at all. It's about the ambiance here in India. Specifically, the




played in the family restaurants. In the United States, most mid range "Bar and Grill" type restaurants have background music playing at all times, usually hits from the current Rock/Pop top forty or older "always gonna be good" hits from the 60's-70's.

It's the same here in India. . . but different. Here, I wouldn't consider the music "background". In fact, during a recent family meal at the Pizza Hut, Jason and I found ourselves practically shouting at each other to be heard (for those of you who know me, you understand just how loud this music must have been - my default volume has never been described as reserved). They pump the music from the speakers like we're in a dance club, not a restaurant.

Which, no problem for me, this just means if our kids are getting particularly loud, we won't be bothering anyone. Except. . .

There is apparently no such thing as explicit versus clean music here. Tommy mentioned this on his blog about living in China, and it's the same way here. In the midst of potty-training, I took the boys to McDonalds as a reward for no messes one day for lunch. We ate to the sound of Gwen Stefani singing "The S--- is Bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S" over and over again. In McDonalds!

I did my best to keep the kids too busy to listen, and we left soon after.

On the bright side, many of the (clean) "hits" played here are not what the US would consider new - many of them are from the 90's. For the first time in a while, I feel cool again. I know the words to the popular songs again!

That is, when the speakers aren't screaming curse words at me.
Monday, September 5, 2011
Today is Labor Day for all my US friends, but here in Bangalore, they are celebrating Teacher's Day. I have no pictures, as this holiday is celebrated almost exclusively in the schools, but here is a link to some brief information on this Indian Holiday. (As a side note, this website has become a lifesaver for me, as the Indian people have too many holidays to keep up with! It's like a constant party here!)

http://www.festivalsofindia.in/td/
Saturday, September 3, 2011
about moving to India. NFL Gamepass is available via the magical internet.

Friday, September 2, 2011
Not a happy thing when you live on the 7th Floor. I guess it could be worse.


A translation board for Spanish...it never occurred to me "quesadilla" would be weird over here.


I couldn't decide whether this was a mispelling or not. Is it supposed to be "feel"? Do we suffer the same differences in spelling as we do British English vs American (i.e. cheque vs check), or is this a joke I'm not getting?


My theme for this Friday was signs, so I'll bet you're wondering why I added this random picture of a guy, with no signs around. Well - that's easy, I'm showing you that you (at least guys) are allowed to pee pretty much anywhere, so long is there is not a sign posted to the contrary. This is a normal sight on our trips outside the apartment complex. And yes, I realize I took a picture of a guy peeing. I'm strange, I know.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Sorry all! I've been super lazy this week, and I've run out of blog entries to auto post. So for today's exciting topic, all you get to hear about is the fact that I have a new webcam! My old internal cam on my laptop broke shortly after arriving in Bangalore, so the Skype calls have been a little one-sided. But never fear, you can see my ugly mug again! If you can catch me online that is.

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