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.

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