Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Hey--who's in my shower?!?

Okay, so I'm up this morning getting ready for work and at my computer catching up on email when I hear water running in my bathroom. Since I just moved into this building last week and I'm not familiar with its distinctive "sounds" (you know how every environment has its own unique sounds and smells...?), I assume that it must be one of my neighbors taking a morning shower. So, just like the barking dog that yaps every morning, I try to ignore it.

After a few more minutes, however, I realize that it's sounding just a little too loud to be a neighbor's shower, so I decide to investigate. I need to keep my bathroom door closed due to the fact that mosquitoes can get in through the airvent in my window, so as I am approaching the door I hear the water getting louder and louder. My only thought at the moment is, "Hey--who's in my shower?!?" So I slowly open the door...

The answer? Nobody. A water pipe has burst and it's raining in my bathroom. Oh my.

At first I just stare at it think how amazing it is--this site to behold. The water is spilling through the ceiling tiles like a fancy art deco fountain at some posh hotel, until I realize that this beautiful fountain is actually filling my bathroom with water and I don't know where it's coming from or how to turn it off. My face quickly moves from curious to concerned... urgently concerned. I run to the phone and try to call the building maintenance--no answer. I call building Security--no answer. So I run downstairs (in my pajamas pants, of course) and flag down the nearest security guard. We run up to my apartment and this poor young security guard sees my bathroom turned shower and his eyes grow wide very quickly. He isn't sure what to do--they do not have any walkie talkie systems--he just stands there. I nudge him with a, "Well...??" and he runs off to get help.

Needless to say, within 10 minutes (4 inches of water) later, they are able to switch off the water main to my bathroom. I call my landlord and he brings plumbers 20 minutes later. They will try to replace the broken pipe this morning... or by this afternoon... or maybe by tonight... or possibly tomorrow. I just have to think, "Whenever..." That's part of the adjustment as well--"Indian time"--but it reminds me of "Hawaiian time", so another familiar feeling will live with me again this year as well. Another lesson in patience, perhaps...?

Not such a big deal--a little messy, a little unexpected--but nothing major. My only disappointment is that I didn't get a chance to take a shower this morning. Hmm... maybe I should have jumped out of my pajama pants and stepped into it during that moment of awe-induced inspiration! Now that's something you couldn't do in that posh hotel :o)

Onward ho.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Beauty and The Bacteria

This weekend marks my second full week in Bangalore and I can confidently say that this country is truly the "land of contrasts". Everywhere you go you see brand new buildings tucked between dilapidated structures, many of which are perpetually under construction or appear to have been destroyed by some force of nature. Amongst the busy streets, crowded sidewalks and garbage-ridden alleyways exists artists and craftsmen creating beautiful jewelry, clothing, and stringing flowers into lovely pieces of art. Contrast.

My driver, Amith, drove me around the city on Saturday and showed me a few of the parliament buildings, which are beautifully ornate. We saw several government buildings (many of which were built by the British) including the Bangalore State Parliament and the High Court of Karnataka (red building). The size of these building is amazing--reminds me a lot of Europe.

Amith and I continued to drive around the city, stopping to pick up supplies for my new apartment as well as some Indian souvenirs for my family's Christmas box. It's hard to believe that it's Thanksgiving weekend--you wouldn't know it living here! It's 80 and sunny every day (much like it was in Hawaii), so the seasonal calendar is quite obsolete. For Thanksgiving dinner a group of the Target expats, along with other expats and their families, gathered at a local restaurant for a traditional American-style Thanksgiving dinner. They served up a buffet with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, vegetables, and pumpkin pie. It was quite delicious! This dinner was also a great opportunity to meet more expats from other companies and countries.

This past week I've also been "privileged" enough to experience the not-so-good side of living in India. The bacteria. Even though I usually only drink bottled beverages and try to be safe with the foods that I am eating (avoiding cold water-based beverages, ice, and any foods rinsed with water) it is inevitable that you will get sick while you are here. So, I spent two days in bed last week, and had a tough night and day of fever and "Bangalore Belly" this weekend as well. Not so nice. However, I figure that my system will need to adjust to the bacteria, but my immune system is working overtime. Thank goodness for my essential oils! I'm usually through the worst and in the clear within 24 hours. It's much like the 24-hour flu or food poisoning... actually, it is food poisoning... a different type of bacteria that my American body doesn't process. So now I will continue to adapt. Ah, yes--welcome to India.


Friday, November 16, 2007

Let Him Drive You...

Okay, so trust me on this one... you DO NOT drive in Bangalore, your driver does. Why, you ask? Because in Bangalore there are no rules on the road--it's every man, woman, child, auto rickshaw (the yellow-topped buggy in the picture below), motorcycle, motor scooter, moped, bicycle, dog, and cow (yes, cows roam the streets untouched... they are sacred) for him, her, or itself.

The are a few stoplights, but they're not usually obeyed. There are a few traffic policemen, but they're only present on really really busy streets. There are lines painted on the roads (that are paved), but it's apparently for decorative purposes only. I've never experienced so many people moving at so many different speeds and in such close proximity. If you were to reach out your window you can touch the car, bike, or person next to you. Everything is compressed into such small spaces... the roadways are not wide enough to accommodate all of the traffic.

Then there are the horns--a constant cacophony of short and long beeps from cars, motorbikes, scooters, cabs--all signaling to each other, singing in continuous harmony. It reminds me of those trees full of birds in the morning singing their morning songs. Motorscooters (and people) weave in and out of traffic between cars, but everyone seems to know that everyone else is there. Wives, children, friends, brothers--all hop on the bikes for rides, sometimes you will see 4 people on one little scooter.

It's amazing. When traffic stops, people walk between the cars and sell their goods--magazines, fruits, balloons--anything to make some money. In fact, an interesting site on the way to work yesterday was a small girl, maybe only 5 or 6 years old, doing cartwheels, flips, and walkovers between the cars as we stopped for a moment. She would then tap on your window and tap on her mouth, indicating that she'd like you to tip her for her performance. Amazing.

Here is a picture of my current driver, Amith (pronounced "ah-mit"), as he is on loan to me for the next couple of weeks. I will eventually have a permanent driver assigned to me for the rest of the year. On my way to and from work he is teaching me Hindi (the national language of India) and Kannadan (the state language), and I am teaching him words in Finnish and the little Spanish and French that I know. It's totally cool.

Well, off to the Bangalore Expat Club mixer! Week One of work: complete. Week One of living in India: complete as of tomorrow! This place rocks.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A Passage to India

The two days of flying are over and I have arrived in Bangalore safe and sound--hooray! After flying to Chicago; then to Frankfurt, Germany; and finally on to Bangalore, I have adjusted very quickly to the time change. Thanks to Paul Dominski's words of advice (he's my excellent VP at Target--thanks, Paul!), I managed to sleep and stay awake at the right times to beat the shift. I am now 11 1/2 hours ahead of Minnesota time (BTW: that extra 1/2 hour is due to India not wanting to split the country into two time zones...)

My flight into Bangalore was right on time (1:20am), but, alas, the luggage was not. Apparently the luggage door on the airplane was stuck and so we all waited (patiently) for the luggage to arrive. During the wait, all of the lights in the airport went out (power outage), and everyone started clapping and cheering. Wow! Now there's a reaction--they seemed to celebrate! I'm going to like it here :o)

Even though there were a couple of grumblers, most people were content just sitting and waiting. I had on my earbuds listening to Lisa Gerrard, so I was just fine. And, after an hour and half of waiting, the baggage carousel started moving and slowly parcels began to appear. Hey--it was only 3:00 in the morning and after traveling for 2 days, what's the difference?!

Despite the delay of the luggage and a small "snafu" with my Visa in Chicago being delayed, the move to India has been smooth and easy--just the way I knew it would be.

My room at the Oberoi Hotel is absolutely beautiful. The staff is very friendly, the weather is beautiful and sunny (reminds me so much of the climate in Hawaii), and I am very comfortable. I unpacked this afternoon and have been catching up on email. It's nice to have my laptop with me... I feel like I haven't even moved at all! Now to venture outdoors and check out the city.

Namaste :o)

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Connecting With Home

Since this was my last weekend in Minnesota I drove up to Bemidji to spend time with my family before I embark on my journey to India. My Mom & Dad (Tom and Yvonne) still live in Bemidji after 41 years (in our new house since our original home burned in 2002), and my sister, Becky; my brother-in-law, Jim; and my nieces Nicki and Natalie drove over from Erhard, Minnesota (a cozy little town over towards Fargo) so we could all be together.
It was a typical family weekend--we just hung out, ate Mom's great cooking, ordered Dave's Pizza (mmmmm...), watched football (wow-the Vikes actually WON!), played 2500 (our latest card game craze), and just visited with each other. I love going home! We are all such good friends and really enjoy one anothers' company. What a gift family truly is...
Since I am going to miss our family Christmas together this year we even set up the Christmas tree and did a little "early celebration". Nicki, Natalie, Louie (the dog), and I played with my new camera-- total blast. Check out his tongue in this shot.
Since I've been in the routine of driving up to Bemidji every month I am going to miss my visits... but I bought M&D a webcam, loaded up Skype, and showed them how we can do video conference calls with VOIP. Excellent :o) I'm in no mood to pay $2.00/minute for AT&T service--yeah, I think not!

Okay--time to finish final packing. Off and flying in no time. India--ready or not, here I come.