Monday, October 31, 2011
In Oklahoma, our friends and family are experiencing their first freeze of the winter, and the jackets are definitely out. So I felt it was appropriate to brag a little bit. While it has been a little cooler for the past couple of days, it's still warm enough here to swim. So Oklahomans (and anywhere else winter is knocking on doors), enjoy!



Sunday, October 30, 2011
Upholstery.

No, the sentence above wasn't for drama. It was to make sure I spelled it correctly. But feel free to read with drama. Here's another chance.

Upholstery.

The first week in our new apartment, we bought a sofa set. We've learned that here in India, a sofa "set" (sometimes shown as 3-1-1) means you get a couch and two single-seat chairs. The set was covered in what I like to call "pleather", a plastic material made to resemble real leather.

We thought it would be a good choice to clean, should the little guys (or me!) decide to spill something on it. What we did not count on, however, is that the pleather would become separated from its fabric backing, and peel off. Tadah! Ruined sofa. Feeling sick over the fact that we just bought it, Jason and I decided to find someone to re-upholster it, assuming it would likely be cheaper than buying another. (As a side note, we were wrong here, at 12,000 INR, we could have probably found another used set for less).

I called around for several weeks with no luck, and finally found someone willing to take on the job. We made an appointment for him to stop by the next day. He brought a helper, and by the afternoon, here's what my sofa looked like.



Since it was late, he said he'd be back the next morning to start sewing, and I gave him half the agreed upon price to purchase the material. 

Now, if you're smart, you're screaming at me through the computer over a specific phrase above: he said he'd be back. Yes. I know. I'm a very slow learner. But this time, it made sense. He needed the new fabric and a sewing machine. I agreed.

Tomorrow morning arrived - no visitor. I called his cell. Guess what? His sewing machine is broken, and he's getting it repaired. All of my US readers, I know what you're thinking. "Why didn't he call and let you know?" Well US readers, that's a stupid question. Everyone knows this action would be proactive, and I learned pretty quickly that it's a rare person here in India that's proactive.

A day later, and I'm getting a little concerned. I gave this guy quite a bit of money. Oh, and if you forgot what my couch looked like, take another look above. I sat down (on the floor since I didn't have a couch) and mounted a cell phone campaign. Every hour on the hour I called and asked for an ETA. 

And guess what? Day three he and two other guys arrived, put my couch together and made it beautiful, and even sewed my curtains! Success! (But mostly "whew"). And I know I keep promising a video tour of the apartment, but I'm not there yet. 

So - if you wanna see some pics of another B'lore apartment, you can take a look at the J and B - India blog in the "Blogs I Follow" section on the right. They did a good job with the photos, and really, I promise to get to mine someday.

Now that Amberly is four, she needs an older sister. So it's time to celebrate Bekah's Birthday! 

Happy Birthday Bekah!


Friday, October 28, 2011

We really love our patio furniture - especially when pizza's involved. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011
It's been a while since I've posted the fabulous food prepared by my cook, so I thought I'd post a favorite of mine. I love fried rice. There is nothing better than adding grease to something that used to be healthy. So, without further ado:

Step One: Chop the veggies - onion, carrot, peas, and capsicum (green bell pepper) are diced.


Step Two: Heat the oil. My cook added these tiny seeds to the oil as it started to boil, and she did her best to tell me what they were, but I will not attempt to spell it here. Instead, I will post a close up picture, and maybe someone can tell me the name of them in the comments below. (It is suggested, and likely correct, that these are fennel seeds. Thank you commenter!)

I should mention that you also begin preparing the rice at this point, in a separate container, according to the directions on the package.

The pot with oil and seeds

Close-up of the seeds - Very nice person told me these are likely fennel seeds in the comments. 

Step Three: Allow the talented cook to add the vegetables to the boiling grease. (Note: do NOT add the talented cook to the grease)

She looks scared only because of the camera. I swear.

Note the absence of cook in the mix. Veggies are done when they are soft.

Step Four: Add the rice and mix. She also added ketchup and soy sauce. I'm sorry, but I did not pay attention to how much, so I will do that very annoying "season to taste" comment.

Lakshmi told me that they use even more ketchup after the rice makes it to the table, but we liked how it was straight from the pot. Yummy!


Wednesday, October 26, 2011
No post for this one - we're too busy enjoying the fireworks, but here's the Wikipedia link.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diwali

Edit 10/30 - I wanted to add to this post, for anyone thinking of moving here, that Diwali is loud, and it's very neat to see all the fireworks right in the middle of the city. The laws in the US vary, but around the Tulsa area, it's illegal to set off fireworks within city limits without a permit, so fireworks in the middle of downtown (at least by individuals) is rare.

Also, Diwali is a time for celebration and gift-giving, and I would say it most resembles Christmas in the size and "feel" of the fun. We learned it was customary for houses to be cleaned out, and many new items be bought around this time; furniture, pots and pans, clothing, etc. The old items, if they were still in pretty good shape, were offered to your domestic help, along with a monetary bonus. I had a hard time discovering how much the bonus should be, but since we didn't really have any old things to give to our maid and cook, we decided to give them a bonus equal to one month's salary (3000 INR for each). I can't tell you whether that is too much, too little, or just right, but I thought I would mention it so you will at least know to ask around for an appropriate amount.
The kids and I met Jason for lunch at Taco Bell near Sony World, and I got a kick out of the below sign. So all you kids in the US, if they don't offer Hindi as a foreign language, Spanish will work just as well. 


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Happy Birthday Amberly!





Timothy and Tyler sang for you. Hopefully we can catch you on Skype.

Monday, October 24, 2011
Another of those crazy, non-related posts, but I'm tickled, er, orange that the Oklahoma State Cowboys are doing so well for their football season. It's always nice to see the Alma Mater win a few games.


Ok, I'll be honest. One of my majors in college may have been marketing, but I've never actually used the degree. But I must say, I have been the victim of marketing ever since I moved here. Yes, I said victim, not consumer.

It is amazing how many sales calls I get on my cell-phone on a daily basis. Here in India, spamming is a valid business practice. Now, I'm not saying I didn't get my fair share of calls in the United States, but after adding our numbers to the federal DNC (Do Not Call) sheet, the numbers went significantly down.

(For those of you unfamiliar, in the United States, companies are not allowed to call people on this list unless they have (or had) a prior business relationship with the consumer, and the consumer has the option to "opt out" at any time)

In Bangalore, the first thing I did when I started receiving calls was to add a "blacklist" app to my cell phone, and block the numbers I didn't want to hear from. Unfortunately, this didn't work for two reasons. Number one: the people calling have hundreds of numbers to use, and I can only block them one at a time. Number two:  many of the numbers were not actually numbers at all - I receive texts (called SMS in India) from phone "numbers" starting with letters, which my app cannot block.

Jason and I have different cell providers - I have Tata Docomo, and he uses Airtel (I got the hand-me-down SIM from his first weeks here). Airtel offered Jason an option to be added to a DNC list, and he opted in, but as of yet he hasn't seen this make a difference. I haven't been offered the same option, but my guess is - it wouldn't help. The large majority of sales calls or texts I receive are actually direct from my provider.
In my opinion, this fact makes the below less reassuring that it would be otherwise.





Friday, October 21, 2011
Hold your ears children, because this isn't a fairy tale.

Last night, Jason and I went outside and watched a movie in our Terrace Tropical Paradise. It was a good movie, rented from iTunes, but I had a little trouble concentrating. You see, there was a small flesh-colored lizard hanging from the ceiling...watching us. For the entire movie, it ran along the ceiling as if it were searching for a good lookout point.

I was creeped. Next to snakes, lizards are the most terrifying animals ever created.

Today was a little toasty. I stripped the boys down to underwear only for their nap, and came up to my bedroom to do some writing. But despite the fans, I was sweating in no time. Earlier, I'd left the door to our outside patio open to coax in a breeze, but after a half hour I gave up and decided to turn on the air conditioner.

Since the only air conditioner in our house is a window unit in our bedroom, I started closing all the doors.

And then it happened.

The tiny lizard ran past the closing door and jumped on my bed! It burrowed under the blankets and then lay still. Of course Jason is never home to deal with emergencies such as this (why oh why can this not happen on a Saturday?)

After several minutes of garbled whining, I mustered my courage and found a broom. Using the handle , I removed the covers from the bed.

No lizard.

More garbled whining.

Just when I had almost touched the blanket with my bare hand, the lizard ran at me like it was demon-possessed! I, of course, screeched and swung the broom, knocking it across the room several feet.

But did the lizard go politely outside? No sir. It took two more runs at me before I managed to herd it back to the wild. Now, it sits on the wall, watching me. I'd take a picture but my hands are still shaking. And to be honest, the picture isn't worth death by lizard.

I called Jason and babbled my hysterical story about the cannibal lizard. His only response? (other than rudely laughing) "It's not a cannibal if it's trying to eat you."

Thank you Captain Nerves of Steel. I grumbled something about it being easy to think clearly when you're safe behind a desk at work and hung up.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011
In the United States, we have basically two types of "plug-ins" or wall outlets. Normal size for lamps, televisions, vacuums, toaster ovens, etc and Utility size for Refrigerators, Washers, Dryers, and large Power tools. That's it. Two.

Here in India, we are learning this is not the case. The first thing Jason bought was the below, a mini, single plug converter for our American devices.

This plugs into the below, the "standard" outlet size in our apartment. The switch is currently in the off position, and you flip it down to get any power. I learned this the hard way by waking up one morning with a dead iPhone.

We then bought several power strips to convert lots of the electronics that we brought from home, along with the Indian television we bought here in Bangalore. These units accept both Indian and American devices, which is very handy.

Indian plug for my new laptop.
"universal" Indian and American power strip

On to the kitchen! Here, we have what I've been calling the "mid-sized" outlet, which is what my toaster and microwave use. It uses the same on off switch as the "normal", and I haven't tried it, but it might also work for some smaller things as well. It DOES NOT work for our food processor, which we bought here in India.  The food processor is three pronged, but the width between the prongs is different, so we have to plug it into a "normal" plug in our washroom.


Several weeks ago, we asked the electrician to install another outlet in our washroom, so I could keep both my washer and dryer plugged in instead of switching with each load. Well, after repeated attempts to contact him, Jason managed to corner him in the basement, and he completed the job day before yesterday. 

And I almost cried when I saw what he did. you probably can't tell by the picture, but he installed the wrong size!!!! And this is after Jason walked him through what we wanted done. Grr! So now we have to find a converter for this as well. (I told the electrician to find one for us, since he's the one who did it wrong, and he promised me "tomorrow", but his record is holding, and he took off with our money and we haven't heard from him since.) 


So if you're moving to India, make sure you find a good electrician (or a store that sells converters)!






Tuesday, October 18, 2011
On Sunday of this week I, finally falling into some sort of routine, got out of bed and flipped the switch to turn on the water heater (did I mention that houses and apartments here do not have a single water heater left on and used for the entire house? If you've seen the new Karate Kid movie, you'll know what I mean). Anyway, I did this, then piddled around on my computer for a while.

Then I heard Tyler scream. We're still in the middle of a particularly long potty training phase (and by "phase" I mean that Jason and I insist while Tyler ignores and uses his diaper instead - don't get me started) and based on the noises from downstairs, I assumed he was just upset about the cleaning process. (In an effort to make him want to use a toilet, we've insisted that he clean his own bottom off. All our toilets here are equipped with a bidet/hand sprayer, and he uses this in lieu of wipes.

But the whining was especially intense today, so I reluctantly went down to asess. Imagine my surprise when I encountered a wet baby and a black substance that completely covered my blue bathroom floor. To say I was shocked was an understatement.

We found out later that the water system here at our apartment was being cleaned out, and that this is a normal process. The black stuff was all the yuck they cleaned from the pipes. Yum.

I gotta admit, I ran my shower for a long time before deciding the pipes were clean.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
In the United States, we have nine time zones (yes, nine), though the continental US has four - Eastern, Central, Mountain, and Pacific.

We are from Tulsa, Oklahoma, which sits snuggled in the Central Standard Time (UTC-6:00). Most of the United States (Arizona is the only exception I can think of offhand) also observes Daylight Savings Time, so for part of the year we adjust our clocks forward so as to enjoy the afternoon sunshine for a little longer after work.

India on the other hand has only one time zone, called India Standard Time (UTC+5:30). They do not observe DST, which is kind of nice because you don't have to worry about resetting your clock. India used to have a few other time zones (Bombay, Calcutta, Madras, and Port Blair), but after declaring independence, they decided to have only one time zone. Basically, they found a city (Allahabad) that was in the dead center of the country, and used its time for all of India.





And this is how the thirty minute difference was "created".

As a random side note, IST was set up in 1947, but Calcutta and Bombay time was still used for a few more years.

And there you have it - why India's time zone is at a mid-hour.

You're welcome Janet Long. :)
Friday, October 14, 2011
The Pookalam Competition here at our apartment complex gave first prize to block H.



But everyone here at the blog thought Block G should have won first prize.


Personally, all of them were far beyond my skill level. Thanks for participating!
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Until I can convince my body (and my youngest son's body) that it does not want to be sick, I'll be taking a brief break from posting. On the bright side, if Tyler runs fever for much longer, I'll be sure to take pictures when I visit an Indian doctor's office.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
I won't go into it here, because I'm self-aware enough to know that this post will turn into an enormous rant-fest, but I've had pretty bad luck with the United States Post Office. From lost packages to screwed up mail forwarding, I've experienced it all.

Well, I've decided: It's not them, it's me. My mom told me she'd mailed me a package. So the day I received a package slip stuffed in my front door, I wasn't surprised. After a brief discussion with neighbors, we found out the post office was located nearby in the nearest BDA complex (Bangalore Development Authority - I think. Each "suburb" has it's own BDA complex, I'm referring to the one @ HSR Layout). We piled in an auto and picked it up. Unfortunately, it was not the package from my mother. Rather it was a package of school supplies  I'd expected over three months ago and never received. Bummer - now I have to mail it back, since I already had a chargeback credit on my card.

Anyway, the same day, we came back to the apartment and found another slip. We assumed it was for this same package, and we just managed to miss the mailman in route. I found out four days later that the second slip was for something else. At 1pm on the fourth day, the mailman informed me the package must be picked up by 2pm or it would be sent back to the US. Seriously? I tried to ask why this is the first we'd been told of this, and the mailman miraculously forgot how to speak English (as an aside, this happens VERY often here).



So, I raced to the post office. I made it there by 1:30 and was rather pleased to see there were only three people in "line" in front of me. After several people shoved themselves in front of me, I pulled out the elbows and proceeded to do the same. "When in Rome" and all that. By 2:15, I'd successfully maneuvered to the front, only to be told "lunch break is from 2 - 2:30pm". Seriously?

Luckily for me, I very nice man who knew how this system worked and who also had more height and reach than I, took my package slip and waved it under enough noses to irritate the right person. They fished out my battered package and I went home happy. It was not a fun trip, but it felt surprisingly normal, except for the lack of lines. In the US, you get the pleasure of waiting in a line only to have your hopes of a streamlined, easy process dashed. :)
Sunday, October 9, 2011
Since we've moved into our two-story apartment here in Bangalore, the boys have taken great pleasure in helping mommy get all the dirty clothes from upstairs to down. This is because I allow them to toss the clothes from the upstairs railing to the dining room below. (It's a little harder to motivate them from this point.)

Well, I messed up. This morning, my youngest was acting especially bored, and I remembered his clothes were still in my bathroom floor from his bath yesterday, so I sent him up to "get your clothes and throw them off the balcony so mommy can wash them"

Excited, he hustled up the stairs. Imagine my surprise when I heard my oldest screaming "don't do that, you'll get a big spanking. Mom! Tyler is throwing his clothes!"

I came upstairs to tell my oldest that I had in fact asked the younger to do so. But they weren't in the apartment. That's right, Tyler had stepped outside to the terrace and proceeded to toss his clothes "off the balcony."

I forgot to specify which one.

So this morning I got to change out of pajamas and take a ride on the elevator to big Tyler's clothes off the concrete below. Yeah!

On the bright side, I met a new neighbor, and we had a nice chat.
Saturday, October 8, 2011
Just a few links to update you on the coal shortage. None of our neighbors seem particularly concerned about the issue, and Bangalore has a history of power shortages, but Jason and I keep a close eye on the headlines.

Update 1

Update 2

With the power outages and my busy schedule (yes, I do get off the couch every once in a while), I'm a little behind with the posting. October is a big month for festivals here, and the one just celebrated on Wednesday and Thursday of this week was Dasara (or Dussehra). You can read about it here.

Most of the decorations seemed to be centered around floral and greenery arrangements, but here is my favorite.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Many of you know that I was (and am) a huge fan of The West Wing. And while I don't have every episode memorized (there were 7 seasons people!) I do remember one of the later ones - the former president is leaving office after two terms, and his former White House staff are in the process of deciding "what's next" for their careers.

C.J. Craig (Allison Janney) - the former press secretary then chief of staff, is approached by a bazillionaire and asked to lead a charity project he's funding somewhere in Africa. When asked what she believed the biggest need was, she replied "infrastructure".

After a couple of months here, I tend to agree. As mentioned before, the power regularly goes off here, and I've become more or less used to it.

Obviously, I'm a little too used to it.

The power went off today, and the generator never kicked in. This is a bit odd, but with all the power issues we've been having, I assumed the generator had just run out of fuel. Unfortunately, this power outage coincided with a visit from the Airtel guy - our DSL provider. Since we've installed the service (we have two separate lines as Jason sometimes brings work home and must connect to a VPN, killing all our bandwidth), we have had nothing but trouble with it.

Line 1 works most of the time....until it doesn't. It flashes on and off. Line 2 either works or doesn't. Once it hits the "doesn't", it never comes back on. Frustrating. Anyway, the Airtel came for a visit - his fourth visit. Yes, they have sent a technician 4 times and our issue has still not been fixed. Jason came home from work for this one, as the technicians have a bad tendency of disappearing to "check the wires in the basement" and never coming back. We figured Jason had a better chance of physically restraining the guy. *As a side note, Jason is still skinny, but he's generally taller than most over here. Also, skinny is the "normal" here

Anyway - the Airtel guy shows up...just as our battery backup gives up the ghost.

Sigh.

Jason, being at work for most of the hours our power is off, assumed something was wrong with the generator and called maintenance - something I probably should have done, had I not assumed it was "normal". He forced the Airtel guy to stick around for 10 minutes until the power was back on, and viola! our internet (both lines) is working now. I'll let you know how long that lasts.

Infrastructure!

I'll leave you with a picture of us having fun while the power's out.
Monday, October 3, 2011
I'd love to tie this in somehow to our stay in India - but I'm at a loss.

But it's funny enough to me that I'm posting it anyway.

For dinner, I gave the boys one Oreo cookie each and left the opened bag on the kitchen counter. My youngest comes upstairs, and in an effort to shoo him back downstairs (I work online in the evenings), I said, "I'll make you a deal. There are cookies on the counter. Bring them up and I'll get you one to eat while you watch your movie."

All smiles, he races down the stairs. Several minutes later he's back with an explanation. "Well, looks like you can't give me a cookie tonight. We ate them all."

Ah well.
Saturday, October 1, 2011
While in college, I spent a couple of years working as a server for the Applebee's restaurant chain. During that time, I worked at least one shift at every non-cooking position. Hostess, server, prep-cook, and even once as bartender when the one scheduled was running late from class. But one of my favorite postions was expo. When we weren't incredibly busy, it was a very easy job - I simply stood in front of the cooks grabbed an order ticket, and gathered all the food for a specific table, added any dressings, sauces, or garnishes, then  called for a server or two to run the food out to the appropriate table. When the restaurant was busy, the expo was usually the person screaming the loudest, "encouraging" the cooks to hurry up with the steak that needed to be sent to the same table as the quick to cook chicken salad.

It's good that Jason has a full-time job here, because I'm pretty sure the expo position doesn't exist in India.

The process is much the same here in India - except for one small difference. Today we went on a brief shopping trip, and took the kids to their favorite restaurant (McDonalds). The boys and Jason ordered chicken nuggets, I got a fish sandwich, and we all ordered the meal, so we were expecting four orders of fries in addition to our drinks. Here is what we received.


Yes - we received one (1) order of french fries. Five to ten minutes later, the guys got their nuggets, and about five minutes after that, they got to watch as I finished my fish sandwich, which was the last to arrive. This happens all the time here - even at the nicer "sit-down" restaurants. Your food is delivered when it is finished cooking, regardless of what other food is on the same ticket.

I tend to waffle back and forth on whether I like this. On the one hand, when the kids' food comes out first, it's handy, especially if they're really hungry. It gives them something to do. But when daddy's coke float arrives before we have something to distract them with, tears and sad faces ensue. The thing that tips the scale into the "don't like" category is the fact that sometimes your food never arrives, and you're forced to ask your server for it multiple times, or in fast food restaurants, you have to fight your way to the front of the crowd with your receipt. Not fun when you have two kids to watch at the same time. On the other hand, the Indian people are always very gracious about this, and don't even blink an eye when you bother them multiple times. 

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