Wednesday, December 12, 2012
I've never particularly felt as if I needed to defend my rights as a woman. Most of this probably stems from the fact that I've been lucky to grow up and work with people who are not chauvinistic, and coupled with my own personality (I'm happy being a non-leader, and a support system for my family). I work outside of the home, and have never experienced a situation in which I felt somehow "less" because of my sex.

Frequently I will see groups fighting for increased women's rights, but I admit that while I support the great majority of these groups in concept, I've never been driven to participate. But even I, one of the more laid back and non-confrontational people you'll ever meet, had to raise my eyebrow at the sign Jason snapped a picture of near Sony World in Kormongala.


Did you see it? "Don't Talk While She Drives" Really? May I direct your attention here? Actually, this kind of stuff makes me laugh, but I am reminded of the differences between India and the US when I see this type of advertising. Marketing professionals in the US would know to expect a lot of flak from certain groups; here in India, I've never heard a complaint. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Just wanted to let everyone know that the entire Christensen family is now in the United States, visiting family for the holiday season. Jason will head back to the Garden City in a couple of weeks, while the kids and I will return shortly after Christmas.

On a completely unrelated topic, here's another Onam video. This was a martial arts demonstration of the traditional Kerala sword and shield moves, called the Ankathari.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012
I finally got around to uploading my video from Onam, so for the next few posts, I'll be sharing links. Today's link is a video of the ladies of Nagarjuna as they perform a traditional Kerala dance for our apartment's Onam celebration. I hope you enjoy!


Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Our apartment complex had another great Onam program, and this year I managed to get a few videos as well as pictures. But first, I thought I'd share a few photos of the occasion, starting with this year's pookalam competition. I am so glad I wasn't part of the judging panel this year, because I felt like all of these looked twice as good as last year.










Friday, October 12, 2012
So I'm a nerd. And a geek. And I'm really into SciFi and Fantasy stuff. Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Lord of the Rings, Buffy - you name it, and if it has robots or magic in it, I probably like it.

So I've always had a not-so-secret wish to attend one of the many ComicCon events in the US. Unfortunately, there's never been one near Tulsa, so I've never had the opportunity to go. Until now. Bangalore Hosted a ComicCon! Look! An overweight, Indian Wolverine!


While there wasn't much to see at this ComicCon - the floor space for the entire Con was about the size of a basketball court, and many of the Comics shown were from the Indian Comic Industry, which I am not familiar with at all - I was still very glad that I went, if only to see what it was like.

There were a few heroes that my boys recognized:



But the thing I thought was the coolest was a man who brought his collection of rare comics. These were not for sale, but there was a copy of the Wizard of Oz - a comic - written in Sanskrit (I don't know which Indian language). Very neat.

There were a few teenagers dressed up, and I recognized one of them as the Joker from Batman, but the others must have been Indian comic characters. All in all though, I was glad Jason stopped and let me look around. My first ComicCon!


Tuesday, October 2, 2012
I've noticed there are certain phrases that I use that aren't as familiar here in India as they are in the United States, and on many occasions garner me confused or amused looks from those I come in contact with.

This phenomenon was expected. In fact, one of my most-enjoyed twitter hashtags (the twitter trending list is based on geography, so I see India trends) was a list of Indian sayings that didn't translate properly to English. It stands to reason there are a few American sayings that, without the context of culture, probably seem downright weird.

But the word I've had the most trouble with is WHY?

"Why?" do you ask? (Sorry, the smart humor took a break today.) The answer to this question is "I'm not sure."

I'd mentioned before the issues we've had with getting a reliable internet connection. Well, when one of our lines went down and stayed down for more than a week, we took the plunge and called the DSL company. He went through the usual explanation that our wires were being crossed in the wall, and it was causing one of our lines not to work.

Before, this reason made sense to me. But since we've had an electrician replace ALL of the wires in our flat with new, AND both DSL lines were working properly - together - for over two months, I didn't understand how this wiring issue comes and goes.

Now don't get me wrong - I'm not in any sense an electrician  - I'm not questioning the fact that this may indeed be the real reason for our issues, but when I asked why this is a problem now but it wasn't two months ago, I was hoping the technician could explain the problem to me.

He couldn't. In fact, I'm not sure he understood my question. (And for the record, he spoke excellent English)

I tried to rephrase the why into a how, but that didn't help either.

The DSL company isn't the only group who I've had this problem with.

When my parents visited India, my mother and father took my children down to the swimming pool. They were dressed in the same swimwear they've always worn since our move here - swim trunks and a shirt bought in the US.

But today, the security guard decided their outfits were not proper swimming costumes. My mother asked the same question of the guard: WHY? Why were these okay for the first year and a half we've lived here, but not now? What has changed that makes these improper?

She received another blank stare and a request that my boys change their suits.

To be honest, I'm really confused by this. Is this cultural?



At the arcade we take the boys to regularly, they suddenly wanted me to sign a book every time I refilled the game card, every time I turned in tickets, and every time I exchanged tickets for prizes. Just out of curiosity, I wondered why they needed this information when it was also collected by the cash register. I asked, and I received another blank stare?

I've noticed that generally Indians do not like telling someone no, and on several occasions this has led to frustration on my part, not because I need to hear a yes, but I need to know one way or another so I can plan for it. To the taxi - "Will you be able to pick me up at X o'clock?" If the answer is no, that's perfectly fine. What time is better?

Is the "why?" question another form of this? Are the people I'm speaking with afraid that an explanation of the reasons behind a decision will make me angry?

My answer to this is "no". The great majority of the time, I'm simply trying to gather information so I can decide what needs to be done.

My only theory on this is how primary and secondary schools are run in the US. In the younger grades, there are a lot of things that simply must be learned by rote: the alphabet, multiplication tables, etc. But even from an early age, children are taught to problem solve: "Uh oh, Mr. Bear is stuck. What should he do?"

Maybe Indian schools are not formatted this way. I of course do not know this for sure, as we are homeschooling our children. Jason has mentioned this is one thing he has really started focusing on in his job interviews with new employees, and he'll readily admit that the ability to problem solve is second in importance only to the potential hire's English language skills.

So what is it we are doing wrong? Why do people here avoid answering this question? Is it because they don't know the answer? Or because my tone suggests I'm angry? I'd love to hear your thoughts, because I feel as if I am insulting them by asking this question, and it is the last thing I want to do.
Friday, September 21, 2012
Eating Time!

"Lady's Finger" (Okra for all you Oklahomans)

Comfy Rugs

Monday, September 3, 2012
When trying to make my decision to move to Bangalore, I wondered a lot about the food and grocery experience, and whether, if I didn't like Indian food (I'd never tried it before the move), I would starve for lack of other options.

First of all, this ended up not being a large concern. While there are dishes I'll never be a fan of, I've certainly found some favorite Indian meals as well. So I thought I'd share a link to an online grocery store here in Bangalore. We haven't used this service (it's delivery to your flat or house), based on a quick look they stock the same things I find in physical grocery stores here, so it will at least give you an idea of whether you can get [food item] in India.

http://bigbasket.com

And, thank you to mergingtwoworlds, who in the comments recommended another online grocery that serves South and East Bangalore.

http://www.zopnow.com/
Thursday, August 30, 2012
Since Monday, I've been limping around the apartment due to an unfortunate misstep while going down the stairs. I basically slid down three of them on my left heel. I barely had enough time to congratulate myself on staying upright when the pain started.

Ever since then, I've had no trouble using the foot, but I'm unable to put any weight on my heel at all. (knifing pain = bad). So long as I walk on the ball of my foot only, there's no pain. Today, I got out of bed, and having forgotten about my injury, I started walking as I normally do.

OUCH! It hadn't seemed to heal at all.

I decided to have a doctor take a look, just to make sure half of my heel bone wasn't floating around unattached down there.

So here's story of my very first India Dr. appointment. I called a medical center we drive by almost every day, and told the lady about my ankle, and asked whether they had anyone who could look at it. She set up an appointment at 1:30 pm. A photo of the waiting room. Don't we all look so happy? (It's just like home :) )


Forty five minutes after my 1:30 appointment time, I was still sitting here. (Also just like home. ) But when the doctor was finally free, he poked around on my heel, I yelped in pain, and he sent me downstairs to x-ray. 

The cool part in India? You get to keep your x-rays. They took one from the top (not sure why), and from the side. Behold, my bones.

And with my superior Paint skills, I've highlighted the ouchie.


The doctor looked at the x-rays, and pronounced me a bad candidate for amputation, and recommended I take some anti-inflammatory and pain meds and shut up. I thought that sounded like a pretty good idea. All in all this was a good experience, but I must admit -- the very best part of being in India was the bill. 

We carry what we consider 'emergency insurance' here in India, which means we purchased a plan that will cover hospital stays only. The rest of our medical expenses are 100% out of pocket. In the United States, this would be a very bad thing, as x-rays can run $250 and up.

My total bill for today's visit? (Two x-rays and consultation charge) - 700 rupees (about $14). I thought about asking them to go ahead and x-ray everything, so I could build a cool paper skeleton from the scans.






Wednesday, August 29, 2012
I had a GOOD lunch today! Served on the traditional banana leaf...
My neighbor once again hosted an Onam lunch, and was nice enough to invite me and the kids. (Poor Jason had to work.) The food was delicious, and I was happy to note that my palate has adjusted somewhat to life in India, because I remember all of this being VERY spicy. (To be fair, the ginger/chili curry still brought tears to my eyes - but everything else was bearable.)


















Monday, August 20, 2012
A calmer video from the zoo trip. The tigers on the Grand Safari.


Sunday, August 19, 2012
We went back to the Bannerghatta Zoo this weekend just to get out of the house. The weather was perfect, nice and cool, and we had a good time. We stopped by the area where the monkeys hung out, and were enjoying ourselves immensely. That is, until the larger, meaner, male monkeys took exception to me filming them. We got into a small scuffle, and I'm sad to admit, I was out-intimidated and allowed Jason's Coke to be stolen once again.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Today is India's Independence Day.



We chose to celebrate with ice cream.


Monday, August 13, 2012
For the past week or so, I've been in a bit of a funk. For no single reason, I'm irritable, non-social, and listless. And so what I'm about to say is probably not accurate, and odds are, not even true in most cases.

People are selfish.

And lately, this pervasive attitude has really started to bother me.

Do I think people are selfish only in India? No. But with all the social norms I've grown up with, and am now living apart from, I think this truth is easier for me to see here.

When people choose to lie to me instead of give me bad news.
When people push my children on the ground because they're in a hurry to leave an elevator.
When people stare at me blankly and suddenly forget the English they were just using when I ask about things I'm missing in a food order, or when I ask for change from an auto driver.

A few years ago, I struggled to survive in a bad work environment. When I finally decided the stress and frustration was beginning to affect my health and home life, I quit. And when I told a friend of my decision, she said, "You gotta do what's good for you." I nodded in agreement, and it wasn't until I was on my way home that I started thinking that maybe she wasn't right after all.

Because you see - I left that job quickly. I went down to the HR department, gave them my resignation, and then told them that while I would abide by policy and give them two more weeks if they required it, I would strongly prefer that they allow today to be my last day.

I left several teammates in a lurch that day - and heaped the very same stress I'd decided I couldn't handle onto their already burdened shoulders. In truth, I was selfish.

I mention this only to say that in the grand scheme of things, I am one of the most selfish people you will ever meet. But lately I wish we could all be a little more honest, and open, and just plain nice to one another. That for one moment each day, we really make an effort to place ourselves in the shoes of the person standing next to us, and ask what we can do to make their life easier.

So the next time I have to pick twelve items from a menu before I find one that they actually have in stock, I'm not going to get angry. I'm going to smile, and say thank you, and try my best to be the happy part of someone's day, instead of just another customer.

Because the truth is, I'm just being selfish. And the world could use a little less of that attitude.
Monday, August 6, 2012
Jason posted this on Facebook, but just in case you missed it, I thought I'd share it here. Remember seeing the news about 6.something million people losing power in India due to a couple of failures in their infrastructure? Luckily, Bangalore was not affected.

But...Jason may have captured a clue as to what the issue is...

You tell me? Is electrical equipment supposed to be this - flamey?



Tuesday, July 31, 2012
You may be aware that my awesome wife was a finalist in RWA's Golden Heart competition.  So it gives me great joy to announce that she was the winner in her category!!

Yea!!!

http://www.rwa.org/cs/2012RITAGH

Thought I'd add a link to the speech my sister helped me write. It got me a couple of requests for my manuscript, so bravo Andy!

http://lorendac.com/2012-golden-heart-acceptance-speech/


Monday, July 23, 2012
I remember spending hours on the Hodgen School playground in Elementary school. Spinning on the merry-go-round, swinging on the swings, and being launched through the air from the Teeter-Totters by my good friend Kari. I also remember the solid metal slide. You know, the one whose surface had been rubbed to a fine polish by years' worth of elementary-sized bottoms. And the one my classmate Alisha eventually fell off and broke her arm.

Ouch.

Since I was young, safety standards for playground equipment has really evolved. No more metal slides - they're plastic now. The Teeter-Totters are smaller, and less-able to launch children into the upper atmosphere. And the hard gravel or dirt surfaces have in some cases been replaced by sand or that weird recycled tire stuff.

Not so in India. Okay, sure, the ground at this playground was covered in nice, soft sand. And there wasn't a slide in sight. But take a look at this picture and tell me what you see. Go ahead, double-click and get a closer view.


Yes folks, the bottom half of this piece of equipment is totally rusted away. And very very sharp. But you know what? My kids LOVED playing here. And I've gotta say, all the climbing toys looked like a lot of fun. But you can bet I'm glad all of our tetanus shots are up to date. 








Friday, July 20, 2012
Our neighbors let us in for a treat a few weeks ago. They invited us to come up and take pictures of their night blooming flower, known as the Brahma Kamal or Night Queen in India. Jason got some great pictures of Girija holding up one of the blooms.



What makes this especially neat, though, is that the Brahma Kamal blooms at night only once per year. Cool, huh?

Monday, July 16, 2012
I occurred to me that even though I have photos of our trip coming up in the slideshow, I haven't done a post about the Bannerghatta Zoo. We've been twice now - once with Jason's parents, and once on our own. The zoo is maybe a thirty minute drive from our apartment, and we always seem to have a great time.

They have a "Grand Safari", where they load you up on a bus and drive you through several very large fenced areas with lions, tigers, and bears (Oh My!) along with a brief glimpse at elephants and spotted deer. I must say, we are vastly unimpressed with the deer compared to the other passengers on the bus - likely because we see them all the time in Oklahoma. The other passengers were jumping from their seats and shoving cameras out the windows, while we yawned and said "oh look, deer".



We made up for it with the more exotic - to us - animals.



We really enjoyed the Grand Safari, and if it wasn't for the fact that they attempt to cram WAY too many people on a tiny bus, I'd give the experience five stars. As it is, the heat and sardine-packing steals half a star.

After the Safari, your ticket grants you admission to the "regular" part of the zoo, which is what I consider a traditional zoo experience. You walk around and look at animals in cages with posted signs telling you what they are. A major plus is they have a very good shade canopy because of several very large trees. No sunburns or heat stroke!

I will now issue a warning for any would be tourists - DO NOT TRUST THE MONKEYS! Several of these cute little critters run free throughout the zoo, and when I saw two of the babies, I sat on a bench nearby to watch. They quickly came closer to see what we had on offer, and I pulled out a can of Pringles for their perusal.

They seemed quite willing to get within touching distance, so I gave a piece of chip to Timothy, and we all got a kick out of watching him hand it over.



What we did not realize, however, was this entire encounter was a huge scam. 


Do you see the bottle of Coke in the picture above? While we fed the "oh, how sweet!" baby monkeys, mama monkey was sneaking up behind us. Before Jason was able to warn us, mother monkey had grabbed the bottle, unscrewed the lid, and poured the liquid on the stone bench. She then proceeded to drink from the puddle. No more Coke for Jason.

I guess I should be happy she had a caffeine addiction. I'd much rather share my Coke than the contents of my wallet.





Tuesday, July 10, 2012
No, I have no died. But I did get back some revisions on my manuscript, so I've been busily working on them. But I'm finished (at least for now), so expect at least something interesting to show up here soon.

For now, I'll just tell you that I almost killed myself today by running out to our semi-outside laundry/dishwashing sink room today. My washer has a filter that has for some reason started to leak water all over the tile floor.

My feet were not prepared for this, and neither was my balance. So I left the room with a sore hip and wet rear end.

Go Water!

On the bright side, I finished washing all the laundry, so I won't have to brave the wild outdoors again until later this week. 
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
I must admit, I'm a little homesick today. Every year, on the 4th of July, my aunts and uncles, mom and dad, sisters and cousins, and all the poor people they tricked into marrying them gather on the banks of the Blackfork river in Southeastern Oklahoma, eat. And eat. And eat.

And then we swim, and play volleyball, and cards, and generally cram as much fun as possible into the least amount of days. Most of these relatives I only manage to see once a year. This is my only year (other than the year I had to leave before the actual 4th rolled around) that I haven't joined the party.

So, while I'm still glad the United States won their Independence from England (sorry, England), it's the familiar faces that I miss celebrating most of all.

For all of you Crutchfields happily roasting in the heat, consider this your hello from India, and I'll see everyone next year.


Monday, July 2, 2012
As I completely missed week, and I have nothing prepared today, I'll open the floor up to the readers. Every once in a while, we make the trip over to MG road to eat at Bangalore's Hard Rock cafe. And every time we go, I see this man, and my brain tells me I should know who he is, but when I request this same brain to tell me, I hear nothing but silence.

Is it the lead singer of Rage Against the Machine?

Help me!
Monday, June 18, 2012
A lot of the stuff mentioned on this blog has been about my positive experiences here in Bangalore. But I know when we were trying to decide whether an Indian adventure was the right choice for us, I tried to find information on all of the "deal-breakers" as well, so I wouldn't be surprised by something I just couldn't handle. So, in the spirit of full disclosure, I thought I'd try to sum up some of the not-so-exciting things we had to get used to (or at least try). Like Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart, these issues seem small on the surface, but might drive you mad in the long run! I'm calling these posts "Be Sure You Can Handle" and adding a separate tag (BSYCH).

Back in Tulsa, when we first moved into our house, every time the wind would blow, our power would brown or black out. A month later, the power company must have found the branch in question that was banging against the power lines, because the issue stopped, and we never had trouble again, unless a major storm came through.

Here in Bangalore, we experience the same problem with our electricity, only it's not considered a problem here. Remember this post, where I told you about the coal shortage, and the scheduled blackouts? I'm beginning to long for those days. Scheduling is nice, because then you have a chance of working around it.

Last week, the Bangalore Times had an announcement - Bangalore Water supply was shutting down for up to three days for "maintenance and upgrade". We were lucky; our apartment management took steps to store water for the complex for these few days. 


However, it seems like our water is turned off at least once a month here, because they have to clean the tanks (our complex, in addition to the city water, uses collected rainwater). 


I haven't completely figured out the system here. In the United States, most people (well hookups excluded) use whatever water they need, and are billed for it later. In certain areas of the country where water is scarce, the water may be turned off for specific periods of time during the day, or a ban on watering gardens, lawns, etc is in effect. Here in India, it seems there is a cap on the amount of city water allotted? I'm not sure.


Here, the water system seems to be somewhat regular for us, but I believe that's mostly due to our apartment management's work. In addition to city water and the rainwater harvesting, our complex regularly receives water delivery via tanker truck.


As for electricity, this is my biggest irritation. Even though we have a backup generator (a must here in India as the power infrastructure is nowhere near ideal), none of my large appliances will run when we are on backup power. And the power goes of at random times. Which means there have been several occasions where I will start a load of laundry, add soap, and then watch the power go off just as my clothes are nice and sudsy. 
Also, our apartment has lately had issues with the generator. Sometimes the power goes on and off so violently (power surge), that it trips our breaker. So we're always groping around in the dark to flip the switch. Sometimes we're not so lucky, and the breaker that is tripped is the one in the basement and we have to call maintenance.


Which would be fine, except we've had a couple of times where the breaker is tripped in the middle of the night, and we are kept awake at three or four in the morning while we wait on maintenance by the screaming alarms on all of our smaller battery backups (which we need to keep our internet modems and routers on, since we need them for work). I guess we should be smart and unplug them before bed, but since I have three separate internet lines because THEY aren't reliable, it turns into a lot of battery backups!


So, as you can see, this is another niggling problem that turns into a major annoyance when exposed to it on a regular basis.


We are such spoiled Americans!




Monday, June 11, 2012
A lot of the stuff mentioned on this blog has been about my positive experiences here in Bangalore. But I know when we were trying to decide whether an Indian adventure was the right choice for us, I tried to find information on all of the "deal-breakers" as well, so I wouldn't be surprised by something I just couldn't handle. So, in the spirit of full disclosure, I thought I'd try to sum up some of the not-so-exciting things we had to get used to (or at least try). Like Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart, these issues seem small on the surface, but might drive you mad in the long run! I'm calling these posts "Be Sure You Can Handle" and adding a separate tag (BSYCH).


When we first moved to our apartment complex, we found out that our intercom system - the method of communication between our flat and the security gate - was not working properly. We contacted Airtel, the company responsible for the service. They sent a technician to our flat and he looked at our system.

The entire time he was in our flat, his cell phone was ringing, and he was answering calls. From what little I could understand (I speak no Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, or Kannada) he was apparently behind with his visits. About twenty minutes after he'd first arrived, he informed me that the intercom was working, and left. Since I was busy working, I took his word for it.

Bad idea. The intercom was in fact NOT working. So, about a week later, we called them back. Only this time it was because we were having issues with our internet lines. Yes, lines. We have three of them, because at any time, they have been known to stop working.

Anyway, a different technician shows up this time, stays for a while, then tells me everything is "fixed". This time, I'm not busy with work, so I ask him to show me how to use the intercom. He tells me that he can't, because my phone handset is broken. Me, being stupid, believe him.

We buy a new handset. No change to the broken intercom. No change to the failing internet lines. We make a third call.

A different technician shows up, gives us the same runaround, but this time, I've wised up. I give him both of our handsets and tell him that they are both working properly, and show him by dialing a number. He piddles around with the phone jack for a bit longer, then tells me he needs to check the wires in the complex basement.

Me, understanding conceptually that phones need lines to work, agree.

An hour later, I realize he's not coming back. Now Jason and I have an inside joke: anytime we need an excuse to leave an uncomfortable situation, we say "I gotta go check the wires in the basement".

Fourth call is made (fifth? I've lost count). A different tech shows up - we've yet to get the same guy twice. He gives me the usual runaround, tells me he's checking the wires in the basement. I tell him that's fine, but I'd like him to leave his motorcycle helmet in my apartment until he's finished. Suddenly, the wires in the basement are fine.

Long story shorter than it would be, we still don't have an intercom system, even though we had an electrician replace all of our phone cords in the apartment. But we learned a very important lesson. People have no issue lying to you here, and unlike in the US, it doesn't seem to bother them overly much if they are caught. I'm not saying the US doesn't have a lot of people willing to tell you a story, but it seems to me that there's more of a social stigma attached to being caught in a lie than here in India.

It's especially surprising to me that businesses are run here that allow (or at least do not discourage) lying to customers. In the US, we were much more apt to threaten a lawsuit, or at the very least post our poor review to the public.

Here? Not so much. I told my neighbor and maid this story, and their reactions were remarkably similar. "Yeah, that happens."

For us, it's a little annoying. It's not as if we miss slinging lawsuit threats around, but it does make getting anything done very difficult, when you're never sure whether someone is telling you what really needs to be done to fix a problem, or if this is another version of "checking the wires in the basement"
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
I'm a guest on the RWA Golden Heart-centric blog, the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood, today. I talk about a little about my kids, but mostly about my writing life. If you're interested, feel free to stop by.

http://www.rubyslipperedsisterhood.com
Monday, June 4, 2012
A lot of the stuff mentioned on this blog has been about my positive experiences here in Bangalore. But I know when we were trying to decide whether an Indian adventure was the right choice for us, I tried to find information on all of the "deal-breakers" as well, so I wouldn't be surprised by something I just couldn't handle. So, in the spirit of full disclosure, I thought I'd try to sum up some of the not-so-exciting things we had to get used to (or at least try). Like Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart, these issues seem small on the surface, but might drive you mad in the long run! I'm calling these posts "Be Sure You Can Handle" and adding a separate tag (BSYCH).


After my first week in India, I'm surprised I can still use my hands. I'd "white knuckled" them so much, I was afraid I might have lost circulation forever.

Compared to the United States, traffic here is much more of a free-for-all. Most roads have lane dividers painted on them, but I've never seen the lanes actually used. Want to cross the median? Sure, go ahead. Red light? Depending on the time of day, feel free to breeze right on through. Cow? Jerk that steering wheel to the left but whatever you do, don't use the brake.

We do the majority of our travel in an auto-rickshaw, and I'll admit, it only took me a few weeks to get used to the traffic. Even though there are almost no discernible rules, the drivers in general seem to handle the craziness with ease. In fact, I'll go out on a limb and say that driving in India (notice I did not say walking) is safer than the United States, because everyone here is forced to pay attention at all times.

But I have to admit, I'm still having quite a bit of trouble adjusting to the sheer number of people here. Back in Tulsa, Oklahoma, our population is nothing compared to larger US cities (NY, LA, Chicago), and it's rare to see traffic jams except during large road construction projects and the hour or so before and after work. If you plan right, these are all easily avoidable.

But here in Bangalore, there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the traffic jams.  Most of the time, you'll sit in traffic at least a small portion of your day. Jams are everywhere, and then one day, you'll drive the same street on the same day and time you did last week, and breeze through with no traffic issues at all. But this is rare.

The annoying part is the opposite. Here in HSR Layout, it takes approximately 20 minutes to get from our flat to the Forum Mall in Koramangala. Well, one morning, I told the kids we could go watch a movie during the 10:30 matinee showing of The Lorax. We decided to leave at the same time dad does for work: 9:30 AM.

Bad idea. We walked in to the theater and the movie was already playing.

Another thing that's very different from my country home...smog. There's tons of it here. The auto-rickshaws belch exhaust like nobody's business. And let me tell you - it's incredibly difficult to hold your breath for a full 45 minute traffic jam!


Friday, June 1, 2012
And a heart attack for his mother. My oldest ran out into the street without checking for traffic. I'd grabbed the younger's hand, never thinking my oldest would be the one who ran before looking.

The result? A motorcycle accident. This is a tire track on his knee where he was hit by a passing motorist. Scary!!!

Luckily, other than this, he was not badly hurt. It scared him too, which Jason and I are counting as a good thing. Before you ask, the dark spot on his chest? That's the shadow of my head, not a bruise.
Monday, May 28, 2012
A lot of the stuff mentioned on this blog has been about my positive experiences here in Bangalore. But I know when we were trying to decide whether an Indian adventure was the right choice for us, I tried to find information on all of the "deal-breakers" as well, so I wouldn't be surprised by something I just couldn't handle. So, in the spirit of full disclosure, I thought I'd try to sum up some of the not-so-exciting things we had to get used to (or at least try). Like Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart, these issues seem small on the surface, but might drive you mad in the long run! I'm calling these posts "Be Sure You Can Handle" and adding a separate tag (BSYCH).

I've indirectly mentioned this point here, but since I'm not a touchy-feely person anyway, this is something that can really get to me. (I'd like to note that I believe the story told here is NOT normal. This was just your average stalker, not the norm here in India.)

I've fully embraced online Christmas shopping, and when I was in Tulsa, I actually started ordering my groceries online as well (FYI for those in Tulsa, Reasor's has an online system you can shop from. For $5, you can have the staff pull your order from the shelves. All you have to do is pull up to the front of the store and they bring it out. Great deal if you have two kiddos with you who AREN'T interested in shopping. But I digress.)

My reasoning? I really don't like crowds. I hate that feeling of always being in someone's path no matter which way you move, and I especially dislike being jostled by complete strangers. It's no fun when you're only 5 feet 2 inches and the average height of everyone else's elbows.

Unfortunately, I've noticed the great majority of people here in Bangalore are not bothered by this at all. In fact, they seem to relish the smell of other's body odor. For example, it is common practice for the elevator (lift) doors to open, and instead of moving aside to allow the lift to empty before stepping inside, the waiters - those waiting to board the elevator - prefer to jam onto the lift first, and then force the people who want off to wiggle their way to the door through twice as many people.

Another favorite "sardines in a can" situation is any line at a retail store. Unless the store has a sign posted asking people to form a "Q" or "queue", everyone assumes you should huddle around the counter and wave your items under the clerk's nose until you have irritated him/her enough that they will check you out. Most retail stores are wise to this and have formed physical barriers that force the crowd into lines. Unfortunately, they do not form an exit area after you've paid. Can you guess what happens? You spend the entire time in line shuffling back and forth to allow the people "ahead" of you in line to exit the line after they've paid, effectively ruining the orderly line.

I've had to start making my boys hold my hands if I'm in public, and stepping onto the escalator at the Forum Mall is more difficult than it should be, because people don't notice/respect the fact that we prefer to ride together. They simply shove in between us, and the boys aren't quite big enough to prevent it. And when they reach the top/bottom, it's standard practice to stand directly in front of the escalator while deciding which direction to walk.

Very strange, and for me, very annoying.


Sunday, May 27, 2012
I've wanted to add a photo slideshow to our blog for quite a while, but I didn't like any of the gadgets available for Blogger. I needed a random photo generator that would link properly to our Picasa albums, and while there are several gadgets out there, none of them seemed to handle our 900+ photos very well.

Good thing my husband messes with mobile applications for a living. :) He wrote me a nifty little app that takes the Picasa RSS feed and randomizes the photo order. If I'd known it would take him less than five minutes, I would have asked sooner.

In any case, you should see a slideshow in the right menu bar. If you see something you like, feel free to open it in a new window by clicking the photo. 
Friday, May 25, 2012

Several months back, when we first arrived in India, I promised a tour of our apartment. I tried to add text to the video, but I couldn't figure out how, and two hours of learning did no good. Sorry, I don't care enough to make it three hours.



http://youtu.be/Ga6x52CyxRs
Monday, May 21, 2012
A lot of the stuff mentioned on this blog has been about my positive experiences here in Bangalore. But I know when we were trying to decide whether an Indian adventure was the right choice for us, I tried to find information on all of the "deal-breakers" as well, so I wouldn't be surprised by something I just couldn't handle. So, in the spirit of full disclosure, I thought I'd try to sum up some of the not-so-exciting things we had to get used to (or at least try). Like Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart, these issues seem small on the surface, but might drive you mad in the long run! I'm calling these posts "Be Sure You Can Handle" and adding a separate tag (BSYCH).


Back in the United States, I almost never carry cash. I use my debit card for everything. Really - everything.

Here in India, that plan doesn't work out so well. Yes, many stores do take credit cards. But even those who come equipped with credit card scanners will at some point or another paste a note to their front door that says "Cash Only". Sometimes they will even add "Sorry."

Internet service here is terribly spotty. In our flat, we have three different internet lines, just to make sure that I can get connected during my work hours. It seems that businesses are the same. And when internet goes down, credit card scanners do too.

When I worked at Applebee's during college, we were required to use the old fashioned manual scanners if our machines were ever down. You know, the carbon paper and arm-powered device to rub over the raised card numbers. Annoying, but effective.

Here, not so much. They want cash.

So, we started carrying cash.

But here's the next fun factoid. No one carries change in this country. When you ride in an auto, it's best that you have the exact amount due, otherwise you'll spend time driving around looking for someone who can break a 500-rupee bill ($10 USD give or take). When we first moved here, I assumed I just had bad luck picking the auto drivers who had just given all of their change the the last passenger. Now I'm thinking that's probably not the case.

Because stores don't have change. I don't know how many times I've gone to the big "foreign" grocery store to buy pancake mix and had them ask me whether I had change because they can't break my bill without getting a manager. It's the same everywhere. So a very simple and fast transaction turns into a ten minute search for change.

Again, not a huge thing, but repeated exposure breeds annoyance. 
Friday, May 18, 2012
Why can't he? The cannibal lizard has returned. And he likes to watch me work. I'm not so much of a fan.
Monday, May 14, 2012
A lot of the stuff mentioned on this blog has been about my positive experiences here in Bangalore. But I know when we were trying to decide whether an Indian adventure was the right choice for us, I tried to find information on all of the "deal-breakers" as well, so I wouldn't be surprised by something I just couldn't handle. So, in the spirit of full disclosure, I thought I'd try to sum up some of the not-so-exciting things we had to get used to (or at least try). Like Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart, these issues seem small on the surface, but might drive you mad in the long run! I'm calling these posts "Be Sure You Can Handle" and adding a separate tag (BSYCH).

One of the major frustrations for me is the general lack of a schedule here in India. I happen to be one of those strange people who land smack-dab in the middle of the Type B (Social/Flighty) and Type C (Detail-Oriented/Serious) personality types. (Ask Jason, we are VERY hard to live with!)

Generally, my Type B takes over when I'm around others. I love to meet new people, and you can ask anyone about just how long winded I can be. It also dictates the state of my home. Most likely, unless you have excellent timing, my house is in a perpetual state of controlled chaos, with things dropped wherever I decided I didn't need them anymore (keys, clothes, toothbrush).

But when it comes to planning my time, Type C takes over. I need a schedule, people! I'm not fond of surprise trips, visitors, or anything that hasn't been vetted by me first. Want to take a meandering drive through the countryside? Let's do it. But you should tell me at least a day in advance so I can pack snacks. And if the trip has a specific purpose, or pit stops, I want to know the where, when, and how. (complete with flight numbers - yes, I mixed my modes of transportation)

Let me explain how this relates to my experience in India. I need something (repairs, ironing, dry cleaning, etc), so I call the local delivery service. They take my order, and give me a date and time my purchase will be ready. I happily take my little slip of paper and drop it in an inconvenient location. On the date my purchase is to be ready, I frantically search the house for the slip of paper, and call to ask about my things. Their answer is ALWAYS "It will be delivered in 10 minutes".

Sounds great, right? Well, they are lying. Ten minutes could be anything from 5 minutes to a week and a half. This isn't generally a huge deal, unless it happens all the time (and it does).

The Rare Example

So, that huge pile of Jason's work clothes I gathered to send to the ironing lady? I end up having to iron myself, a pair of pants a day, because the lady tells me every day she'll "be right up". So I sit in my pile of laundry all day, waiting for her to come up. I don't iron the rest of the things, because never fail, she shows up just as I've finished the last article, and I have to try and explain why I called her but don't actually have any ironing that needs done. (This is harder than you'd think - she doesn't speak English)

The Medium Example


We bought a new sofa set recently. The upholstery on our old set had started to peel and leave messes on the living room floor. We had the sofa re-upholstered but decided it was cheaper to buy something new than have the chairs done too. So we went to a cheap furniture place, picked out a sectional, and filled out the delivery papers. We were told it would be delivered in 10 days. Ten days came and went. Jason started calling. Two days after that,, he finally found someone who said it would be delivered "in about an hour". We stayed at the apartment all day (Sunday) to accept delivery. No delivery. Jason called the next morning before he left for work, and was told. "It's on its way."  I told him I would be here until it was delivered. Lunch came and went. As did afternoon nap time for the boys. Then dinner.

As Jason has his late meeting on Mondays with the US team, he wasn't home yet. I called him, and he told me that security had just called, and our sofa was on the way up.
Great, just great. And it would have been, except I work US hours. And after dinner is when I should be strapped to my computer. So I spent the next four hours running up and down the stairs while trying to work at the same time. The best part? The delivery guys damaged the furniture by shoving it in the elevator. Damaged to the point that the wooden frame was poking out of the leather. After a heated discussion in which I refused to "just have it stitched", I got their promise that they would take the damaged piece back, and I'd get a replacement...in 10 days. Sigh.

The Well-Done Example


Let me preface this story. Everything we brought with us to India fit in 6 suitcases. So our wardrobe is somewhat limited.

For two days, our entire flat was on generator power. For us, this means our lights, fans, and power outlets all work, except for the "large appliance" outlets, including the refrigerator, clothes washer, and dryer. On the third day, the power came back on, and I started doing laundry like mad, because you never know when the power will go back off. Got one load washed, and stuck in in the dryer...guess what? My dryer broke.

We have an Annual Maintenance Contract on the dryer, so I called the 24 hour hotline, more than a little irritated since it hadn't even been a month since they "fixed" my dryer the first time. The man on the other end of the line said he'd send someone "within 24 hours".

No show.

I called the next day (Sunday) and was told "we'll send someone Tuesday". I told him no, I wanted someone today. He told me that was impossible, and Monday was a holiday. I told him no, I wanted someone today, and that I had been promised yesterday that I would get a visit and I didn't. His answer? "But, today is Sunday - a holiday". I explained to him that I called on Friday, and should have had a visit within 24 hours per the contract, and that Saturday was NOT a holiday.

He transferred me to his manager. I explained the entire story again, and was told "we'll have someone there within 48 hours". I told him no, I wanted someone now, and that my contract stated that they would have someone visit within 24, and that they had already missed this deadline. He told me this was impossible. I told him I wanted my contract money back immediately. He told me he'd have someone there within the hour.

Win for me, right?

Wrong. Another no show. (FYI, we've noticed that at a certain point, people will either hang up the phone mid-conversation, or promise you things they have no intention of following through on.) I called at the two hour mark, and no one answered the phone. I called using Jason's cell phone, and they answered, and I went through my complaint once again.

I won't go through all the details, but it was two more days and a lot of screaming on my part before anyone came and fixed my dryer. The actual fix, a burned out fuse, took about 10 minutes.

The Summary


I'm sure we've all had experiences similar to these above. But there's one huge difference.

In the United States, if any of these happened, we would either quietly (or not) transfer our business to another provider. Find another ironing lady who would show up when we called. Order our furniture from a company with proven delivery record. Call the washer repair service's corporate number (and maybe threaten legal action).

In India, we don't really have that option. Sure, you could find a different provider, but unless you're really lucky, their service won't be any better. This type of thing is completely normal and expected. So if you're married, and both spouses plan on working outside of the home, or for other reasons neither of you is able to sit at the apartment for days on end yelling into the telephone, expect ridiculous delays for, well, everything.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012
So - remember Monday, when I told you I'd finalled in RWA's  Golden Heart®  Competition? Well, the judging was based on the first 50 pages of my manuscript, but I might have a chance to get my manuscript in front of some agents or editors, and they'll want to read the full novel.

Which means it needs to be polished...really polished.

And polishing takes a lot of time, so I'll be using my blogging time to focus on that for about a month, then I'll be back.

Perhaps I can convince Jason to post a few things, but until then, I'm offline. Of course, if you're an agent, please feel free to contact me. My contact details are located here. You can also visit my author page directly at http://lorendac.com


The Golden Heart emblem, found at rwa.org
Romance Writers of America® national website

Monday, March 26, 2012
This has nothing whatsoever to do with India, other than I wrote most of this book here in India, but I've just been named one of the finalists in the 2012 Golden Heart contest, which is Romance Writers of America's largest writing contest for unpublished authors. Very excited!

http://www.rwa.org/cs/2012_rita_and_gh_finalists#GHPARA 
Friday, March 23, 2012
Never say we didn't teach our children the important things in life. (BTW, they had a lot more trouble with this than I expected - thus the fingers)









Wednesday, March 21, 2012
..was a total bust. The boys and I picked up food at KFC, then stopped to get Jason so we could all go have a picnic at the park near daddy's office. I thought it would be fun, since we drive by it all the time, and it has one of the larger playsets for kids. But we got there, and saw this...

You'll note the parts that say the park is not open in the middle of the day, nor do they allow food and drink inside the park. Ooops.

Monday, March 19, 2012
I'm not really sure why, but it seems like every driver we've hired to take us somewhere (auto-rickshaw or taxi) likes to drive with less than a quarter tank of gas. I haven't made my observation a scientific study, but all the fuel gauges I've looked at are always firmly on the empty side. And the boys and I have actual spent a couple of afternoons on the side of the road for emergency rickshaw repair/fuel issues. Jason's been with us on the broken rickshaw, but the below is his first experience with the fuel problem. Luckily, there are a lot of nice people in India.

Friday, March 16, 2012
A few weeks back, Jason took us all out to eat at one of our "American" restaurants - Chilis. We were all sitting down, enjoying the music, which is primarily a mix of (somewhat) current rock and pop hits mixed with a few goodies from the 80's and 90's.

And then this came on.

It's good to know the most important parts of American culture are alive and well in India. I've decided this is the sole reason everyone here stares at us...it's not how we look - they're wondering how an entire country could at one point allow this song to hit the top of the charts. 
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Timothy experienced a "first" here in India - he lost a baby tooth yesterday!



And for all of you wondering, the Tooth Fairy does indeed visit India. Looks like the exchange rate is 100INR per tooth.

Monday, March 12, 2012
This past Wednesday, I had a very frightening experience at the mall, and I thought I would share.

For those of you who know me, it shouldn't come as a surprise that I like talking to people. I'll strike up a conversation with just about anyone. One of the best parts about actually looking like a foreigner is that people here assume I'm interesting and will strike up a conversation with me, instead of the other way around. I really enjoy it.

But after Wednesday, I'm not so sure.

I'd taken the boys to the Forum Mall in Koramangala to play in the children's play area adjacent to the food court. I sat down with my laptop, planning to take advantage of the hour and a half of peace and quiet. About ten minutes into my "break", a man asked whether he could sit down at my table. I, assuming he must be the father of one of the other children in the play area, said of course. I'd snagged one of the prime "kid watching" tables, it seemed only fair to share one of the other three chairs.

And here's where everything started going wrong. Instead of boring you with an enormous monologue detailing the "he said, she said", I thought I'd compile a list of appropriate and inappropriate actions while talking to a married American woman with two children. Hopefully it will give you some insight into the (American) female mind.

The DO's

DO ask general questions like "Where are you from?" or "How do you like Bangalore?" I'm fully aware I'm WAY too pale-skinned to pass for an Indian native. I won't take offense at your assumption, and I'll gladly answer your questions. That's essentially what I'm sharing here on the blog.

DO feel free to make observations about me. "You have a funny accent." or "You must be new here." Again, stating the obvious will not anger me, so long as you don't mention my weight or my not-so-clear skin. Even my husband gets in trouble for that one.

DO ask about my family. I love my kids, and when they're right next to me, separated only by a thin sheet of glass, it's perfectly appropriate to ask what grade or how old they are. I can talk about them forever. This is especially great if you have children to gush about. I'm not ashamed to say I carry photos on my cell phone in hopes someone will instigate a brag-fest

DO suggest places or things I need to try. There's nothing better getting recommendations from the experts.

The DO NOTS

DO NOT invade my personal space without my permission. I'll admit, I'm an overweight mother of two. I've been out of the dating game for over eight years now, so I'm probably not the person to give advice on flirting. But just assume that if the girl mentions her boyfriend or husband, she's probably not "secretly" asking you to run your finger up her arm. Americans as a rule tend to expect a little more distance between each other when speaking, especially with strangers. When in doubt, back up.

DO NOT wax poetic about how beautiful my eyes are - especially if I've already mentioned a husband or boyfriend. Do not assume that when I jerked my arm out of your finger's reach; that was secret code for "please tuck my hair behind my ear for me"

DO NOT ignore all other physical cues (flattening myself against a wall to get away from your fingers, complete lack of eye contact, broad hints that I need to get back to work) and try to share not only my table, but my seat. I do not want you to sit in my lap.

DO NOT follow me to another table if I move, especially if I actually say the words "I want you to leave me alone." If you hear these words, the appropriate response is an immediate retreat.

The REALLY, SERIOUSLY, DON'T GO THERE

DO NOT run your finger across the tops of my breasts pointing out moles, and commenting about how gorgeous they are. First of all, ew, and second - NEVER touch a girl's boobs in public. I don't care whether you can see my navel because my shirt's too short and you're too tall. Consider them wet paint.

DO NOT assume that I want you to put your cell phone number in my phone while I'm checking on my children. I did not teach Tyler to cry on command so you would have time to do this AND get my phone number. In fact, I'll go out on a limb and say you shouldn't even have your eyes on the screen of my phone or laptop at any time, unless I am holding it up to your eyes. DON'T, JUST DON'T

DO NOT ask me to kiss you before I leave. If I'm to the point of exiting the building to get away from you, I'm not in the mood for a European greeting or goodbye. I'm an American - we don't even use lip gloss after each other, we especially do not kiss strangers - especially stalker strangers.

The I THINK YOU NEED PROFESSIONAL HELP

DO NOT pluck a stray hair from my shirt, comment on how pretty it is, and then stick it in your pocket.

The I THINK I NEED PROFESSIONAL HELP

DO NOT follow me all the way out to the auto-rickshaw stand when I am trying to get myself and my children away from you. At this point, I have no problem finding a friendly (not creepy) security guard and asking him to detain you. I'm a stay-at-home mother - I've got the time to fill out a lot of paperwork if necessary.

The I WILL KILL YOU AND HAVE NO GUILT

NEVER touch my children. EVER.


Special Thanks to Andy (and Ludacris) for my new theme song.





Friday, March 9, 2012
Tyler, getting a free ride. On his own bike. :)


Thursday, March 8, 2012
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holi

I'll likely have pictures later.
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
So remember the post I did on the boards listing traffic accidents? Of course you do, because you clicked the link. Well, my mother-in-law's camera was far superior to mine, so here is a better picture.


When I mentioned this sign to Jason and commented about how these deaths and injuries seemed excessive, he pointed out another sign closer to the Forum Mall and asked "Isn't this for a different police station than the one you took a picture of [near Sony World]?"

If so, good grief. Sony World is maybe 15 minutes from the Forum Mall. So the area this station covered was much smaller than I first assumed. Which makes the statistics even more alarming.

I was talking to someone here in Bangalore, and asked about safety on an unrelated subject. They responded, with all seriousness, "Oh, yes, it's very safe. Just like crossing the street." I laughed and told them that to an American, crossing the street isn't safe at all.

And yes, I tagged this as medical, because 'ya know, I'm starting to think half of India's medical economy relies on traffic accidents.
Monday, March 5, 2012
Actually, it feels closer to summer. My poor body can't decide what's going on. We left a very chilly, snowy Oklahoma, and set foot in Bangalore's tropical heat. I've been back over two weeks now and I still haven't fully adjusted.

But that's not the case with the flowers. Bangalore is in full bloom!





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