Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I bet you ain't never had no Mint Mischief potato chips

So I'm observing that one of the fun - and exhausting - things about living in a foreign country is that even normal daily things like going to the grocery store are completely new and exciting. After a day and a half of Clif bars and one pricey restaurant meal, I ventured into an Indian grocery store called Spencer's. One of my flatmates, an Indian, told me that I should either have groceries delivered (which all the stores do) or ask the housekeeper, Clara, to pick them up, but before I can do that I had to figure out what my options are. Here's what I got.
  • Two packages of these amazing fresh flatbread things. Tortillas are the closest thing that come to mind, but they're thicker and a tiny bit greasy.
  • Some dried and salted broad beans
  • Basmati rice
  • Green beans
  • A papaya (I had to ask an Indian woman how to choose a good papaya. She got me a good one, but she didn't speak English so I still don't know how she picked it.)
  • A bunch of these crazy tiny bananas
  • Potatoes
  • A pomegranate
  • Some ginger / garlic paste
  • The aforementioned Mint Mischief potato chips
  • Gouda cheese (Oh yeah, it won't really work to not eat dairy here. Plus, it's not an ethical consideration because cows are treated so well. And there's no soy - sadness! - so I would probably waste away without the protein. Weird, but okay.)
  • Onions

The bill came to Rs. 422.13, or about 11 dollars.

What else? I guess I didn't write this yesterday, but by the end of the day yesterday I was so sick to death of being stared at. I know I stand out appearance-wise and I was expecting it to some degree, but still. Today was better though, and I had some fun exchanges with strangers. The book vendor laughed when I asked him how I should have bargained with him (instead of paying list price). Maybe next time I'll actually do so. I also walked a little farther than I did yesterday to some pretty big and commercial streets a couple kilometers from my apartment. I'm starting to get why people call Bangalore cosmopolitan. You really can see every kind of person here - it's pretty great. I haven't yet gotten up the nerve to take out my camera very much (as I'm conspicuous enough as it is), but I will one of these days. I want to try and show you all what this city looks like. It's pretty amazing.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

My new stomping grounds

I live in a neighborhood called Richmond Town. Supposedly it is the nicest neighborhood in the city, but I would have no way to know if that is true or not. I do know it is around the corner from the office, for which I am very grateful. Traffic here is abysmal.

First view of Bangalore

To be honest I didn't take this picture (thank you, Google Image) but this is exactly what it looked like when I came in tonight. I'm really excited to be here.

The women's bathroom at the Dehli Int'l Airport

I'm not above admitting that this fazed me for a minute. Gets the job done, though, and it was fine once I told myself it was just a cathole in the woods. Minus the woods.

First impressions

I had a good, relatively uneventful trip from Seattle to Bangalore. It consisted of three flights - to Taipei, then Dehli, then Bangalore. I was way less overwhelmed than I expected to be. It was pretty easy just to take things in stride. Dehli was a little nuts, but in an okay way. I don't feel jet-lagged at all either, though we'll see how I feel tomorrow morning. Here are some random first impressions:

  • There were a bunch of dudes at the Dehli airport with really big guns - guns that looked like they belonged in a museum. I'm not sure if that should make me feel more or less safe. :)
  • I've only seen one other white woman so far in India (and actually there weren't very many women out and about at all), and feel like I definitely stood out for being young and white and female and traveling alone. I didn't exactly feel threatened, just conspicuous.
  • Just because we all speak "English" doesn't mean it is easy to communicate! My driver asked me what percentage of his English I understood. I told him about 75% and he was pretty happy with that. My ears will have to adjust, which is fine.
  • My baggage arrived! Now y'all just pray for the boxes I shipped to get here safe and sound, and I will be a happy camper.
  • So here was the surprise portion of my trip: Turns out there are two airports in Dehli, an international one and a domestic one. They are across town from each other and I arrived at one and found out I had to get to the other in not-a-lot of time. Nobody felt the need to make this explicit to me, though, they just kept wordlessly pointing me through a series of dingy corridors. Finally, someone waved me outside to go wait for a bus that would take me to Terminal One. (I was picturing something like a shuttle that would take me to the other end of the airport.) I waited and waited and waited, attracting a flock of men who were hanging around on their lunch break. One of them, a taxi driver (or maybe just a pimp for a taxi company), asked me if I'd like to take a taxi rather than a bus. I declined, but when the bus was late I asked one of the other men, "So a bus will be here at about 2:00, right?" "Maybe." "Maybe, huh? So how will I know if it is coming or not?" He shrugs. "They don't always show up in the afternoon. If the bus doesn't come you take a taxi." So I took a taxi, and think I got ripped off for it too - I'm not sure. I don't really care. It was a fascinating ride through Dehli and I finally made it to the domestic airport.
  • Everything you've heard or would imagine about traffic in India is true, and then some. There seems to be a high level of trust in the laws of physics and the best case scenario. For example, theoretically there is no problem with four vehicles wedged into three lanes travelling abreast around a traffic circle at 50 miles an hour, right? They just don't see the need for the same margin for error that drivers in the US do. It's simple physics, really. If you're driving and you can observe how fast a bicyclist crossing the street in front of you is going, and you know how fast YOU'RE going, there's really no need to leave more than a few inches of clearance, RIGHT? The horn is used liberally and lane markings seem to be optimistic suggestions. The passing maneuvers would take your breath away. (They did mine, even though I tried not to show it. Best not to watch too closely.) Seriously, though, how would you design a multi-use thoroughfare that could accommodate cars, trucks, motorcycles (helmets? what are those?), buses, bicyclists, tricyclists, pedestrians, auto-rickshaws, cows, elephants, and the odd weird flatbed wagon thing? When you consider what they're working with, it's not so bad.
  • The security guard at my apartment building is drunk out of his mind. I'm not sure if a drunk security guard is better or worse than no security guard.
  • Bottom line: I'm really excited to be here. It's gonna be big. I miss you all already, though, and can't wait to talk to you soon!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Wanna buy my car?

This 2001 Toyota Corolla has good gas mileage and a great engine, but more importantly it has character. We've been through a lot together in the past 17 months. Here's a partial list:
  • Three speeding tickets.
  • Two tickets for expired tabs.
  • One really big ticket (and near-arrest) for driving with a suspended license.
  • Several court appearances.
  • One $1500 warrant issued for my arrest when I forgot about one of said court dates.
  • Two instances of being rear-ended by an idiot without insurance. (The first girl told me she was changing her clothes while she was driving.)
  • One instance of me being the idiot and taking out my front headlight with a parking garage pillar.
  • Countless fun road trips and trips to the mountains.

So this car is a guaranteed good time! Let me know if you'd like any real information about mileage (125K), power accessories (doors & window), or price (depends on how much I like you).

Monday, October 8, 2007

You're doing what?!

  • Moving to India at the end of October.

  • I don't know exactly. It depends on how much I like it and what sort of adventure I decide to have next. But probably about a year.

  • I'll be working for an NGO called Unitus (http://www.unitus.com/). It's a fabulous org that increases access to microfinance--a powerful tool in the struggle against global poverty. I've worked in our Seattle headquarters for about a year and am now transferring to our office in Bangalore, which is now big enough to require a dedicated operations person (that's me).

  • Way far south, straight up from the bottom point.

  • 6.5 million

  • Well no, I don't love pollution and heat and grime, but 1.1 billion people manage to make it work so I probably can too.

  • Okay, I'll try not to hit a cow. I heard the same thing.

  • Yes, you can come visit me!