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Published: April 18th 2016
I’ve been asked if I’ll be writing my ‘blog’ again whilst I’m in India … so I thought I’d better J I’m not sure if I can remember how to do it… but here goes… I use it to remember things for myself and to share what I'm doing with my family and friends… it reads best if you know me (and can appreciate the rambling!) but anyone who’s interested enough to read is welcome.
Since I last posted about Uganda in 2013 I’ve been away a few times… a fantastic European road trip with my parents… New York to my good friends Kristen and Dan’s wedding, Dallas to see my lovely friend Lauren and California to see Brian. I’ve not posted blog updates for those but as I’m going to be living and working in India for 6-12 months I thought it would be useful again.
I was getting itchy feet again in the UK so when an opportunity came to work abroad without having to take another career break… I was lucky enough to be given a role in the team working in India. My boss Lisa has been here for several years, which is an incredible help to the rest of us because she has so many tips and is a great source of professional and personal support. Jane and Sharon arrived in India 2 weeks before me and are based near Delhi (Jane and Sharon are also both writing blogs… if you want to take a look I’ve put the links at the end of this, I love both their writing styles and they will have a different perspective to me) and some new people will join us soon.
I am based in Bangalore (or Bengaluru). I hadn’t been to India before the week long ‘recce’ visit we all came on in March (visiting Gurgaon near Delhi and Bangalore) but I really liked it. I didn’t experience as much culture shock as I thought I would (felt like a blend of South East Asia and Uganda) and I thought Bangalore had a nice feel to it, it reminded me of an Indian version of Brisbane (similar temperature!) and as I loved living in Brisbane I took that as a positive.
So the date for my relocation was set: 11 April. The run up to leaving was crazy… there is a lot to organise when you’re moving to a new country and it was more complicated than my last two trips because I had to sort out my house and keep up to date with Uni and Believe In Better’s (the charity I’m a trustee of http://www.bibetter.co.uk/
) administration. The ‘to do’ list was pretty big and at times it was a bit overwhelming (that was mainly Uni, which tends to take over at the best of times). But with the support of my amazing parents (who I should have been paying as personal assistants), my brother and friends I got there.
Saying bye to people was, as always, very difficult and at times pretty emotional. My parents seem to be used to it now… and it was easier leaving this time already knowing I’ll be back at the end of June and again in September… The difficult byes were my friends children… I drove away from a few houses in tears after promising to Skype from the car when I saw cows in the road.
Monday 11 April – Home to Bangalore
Miraculously, it all came together on the morning I was leaving. We’d had a power cut the night before… which didn’t help packing… but we finished packing, sorting out the house and my car got collected 5 minutes before the airport pick up at 10am… once the 7 bags were loaded in the car (5 were mine…!) we were on our way to Heathrow. Everything at the airport went pretty well… had time for some shopping and a beer and the flight was on time. Brian wasn’t initially so impressed with sitting in economy whilst I was in business…(tee her!) but every time I went to check on him he seemed to be having an amazing time… having made friends with a steward who kept bringing him drinks…!
Tuesday 12 April – Bangalore
We arrived in Bangalore at 4.45am… and it was already 28 degrees!!! Immigration and customs were really easy… I had a work visa in my passport but Brian had to get a visa on arrival… you apply online in advance (Indian e-TV… supposed to be an easy system… but think filling in the form and uploading pictures took longer than it took to process…would suggest not leaving it till the minimum 4 days in advance) and then we were through looking for Lisa who had kindly come to get us at that time.
Lisa was waiting and swiftly located my new driver Noor… who seemed very efficient. It was really nice driving to the hotel as Bangalore was waking up. We arrived at the Leela Palace where we’d stay until the next day when my apartment was ready. I really love that place, it’s such a beautiful hotel and the staff are so nice, so was very happy to be spending a bit more time there. We had some breakfast then slept for the majority of the day… I did get up later to go for a swim - that will be my local pool 😉 – and then we went to the gym before meeting Lisa for dinner. We had a really nice dinner from the Leela’s Indian speciality restaurant.
Wednesday 13 April – Bangalore
Today was apartment moving in day… so after breakfast and getting packed up… Noor came to collect us to take us to my new apartment in Koramangala, a popular district for expats. I had been there before during the recce visit but knew the owner and Lisa had been re-furnishing and organising it. I was very impressed… it has plenty of space (a spare room for all you visitors…!), is very comfortable and has a good TV service.
After a look around so I knew how everything worked Noor took us to the local supermarket… which is a really big Spar. We had some trouble getting in… as the floor numbers on the building sign did not line up with what was actually on the floors… I’m so glad Brian was with me as I wouldn’t have had a clue what I was doing. We bought all of the essentials for the cupboards and a week’s worth of food for about £70, which was pretty good. They had an international food section with proper Heinz Baked Beans… a very interesting selection of eggs (eggs for the ‘heart’, eggs for the ‘brain’, ‘happy’ eggs) and huge bags of rice and lentils where you weigh out and pay for what you want. The selection of meat was noticeably different to home though… chicken, lamb, goat and duck advertised… no beef or pork. There was a good selection of wine… the Indian wine Sula about £6 a bottle but the cheapest Prosecco was £16! I guess that’s not that bad but it’s not a Tesco offer price…! I’m glad I kept the receipt… as they get stamped by security on the way out.
Back at the apartment we chatted with Lisa, managed to get mango on the sofa (that was me, typically clumsy), got the Wifi working and Brian cooked dinner – a really nice homemade Indian dish. We spent the evening watching TV (there are good channels… although they repeat a lot) and chilling out.
Thursday 14 April – Bangalore
Today was my first day working in India, albeit from home. It took a bit of getting used to the regular power cuts… and the impact that has on the Wifi (a generator kicks in immediately so the lights come back on but everything else takes some time) and slightly slower speed. During the morning various people turned up to fix things like windows and I met the maid Usha, who would come in to help 6 days a week (it can get quite dusty around here, so regular cleaning is important). Usha didn’t need much explanation and seemed the business, she knew her way around better than me.
In the afternoon I went off with Noor (on my own, eek) to buy Indian SIM cards. We first went to the UB City Mall… which had some very fancy shops and restaurants but no phone stores. Noor then found me a Vodafone on the corner of a random street… and they were incredibly helpful. I’ve bought SIM cards in pretty much every country I’ve been to… and it’s usually simple. In India they want a lot of information and proofs of ID. It took about half an hour and I walked out with 2… one for work and one for myself but didn’t really understand what plans I had.
I had a bit more shopping to do but because of the traffic (it takes a long time to get anywhere in Bangalore… most of my photos at present are of traffic) we had to get back to meet colleagues who were over from the UK for dinner. I got back to the apartment to find 4 new pairs of shoes outside… it turned out it was more window fixing… so we had to wait for them to leave before we could. We went back to the Leela (the Leela’s oriental restaurant this time) with two of my colleagues from the UK. It was great to see familiar faces and hear about their trip. We didn’t have a late night as was conscious that Noor needed to get home, we hadn’t yet had a conversation about late nights for him J
Friday 15 April – Bangalore
I worked from home again today, catching up on the last 2 weeks from being sick and travelling and preparing for my first week in the office. Once worked was finished we still had shopping to do and I had to top up my phone… as had used up credit already (obviously should have understood that plan better in the first place!). After an hours travel to the phone shop… and a successful top up (I now do understand the plans, I’m not exaggerating when I say there are about 50 options) we were starving and it was too late for the shops… so we asked Noor to take us for dinner.
Noor said he’d take us somewhere to try… and if we liked it we could go again and if we didn’t we’d go somewhere else… It was amazing. I couldn’t figure out what the restaurant was called (it had a really long name that was almost like a saying) but it was next to a place called Fisherman’s Wharf. The food was like a fusion of Indian and American and it felt like a fancy sports bar (or even like Frankie & Benny’s) and was showing the IPL, quite exciting when you’re in India (we drove past the stadium earlier, Noor suggested we go watch a game). The food was incredible and very cheap, we would have spent about £6 each on 2 courses if it wasn’t for the drinks… of which we had a few because they were very nice cocktails.
The drive back at night was really nice, you don’t get bored even in the traffic because there’s so much going on to look at.
Saturday 16 April – Bangalore
Today was supposed to be a productive day! But we were tired so it wasn’t so. I went out with Noor to get us brunch, it wasn’t great but at least that’s one café I now know not to go to.
Later in the day we went out with Noor to get to the shops (eventually, had been trying since Wednesday). Lisa had advised us to be very specific with our drivers about where we wanted to go… and I learned why today. We asked for a “supermarket, like the Spar we went to”. After about an hour’s driving we arrived at the ‘super-market’ to find it was literally a SUPER-market. It was a huge street market, with what seemed like everything you could think of to buy. Noor asked us if it was what we were looking for… and honestly I had my doubts (especially when I saw the live chickens in cages) but once we’d parked up and he took us around it was fantastic. At first I felt a bit daunted because I thought I should have had more clothes on (was wearing a T-shirt and knee length skirt) and it was really crowded but it was fine and one of the nicest shopping trips ever. Noor stayed with us and took us to the indoor fruit and veg stands, some really nice…some a bit suspect but we got tomatoes, pears, chilli’s, garlic, ginger... we then went over to a store that Noor’s Dad uses (through the goats… one took a shine to Brian and wouldn’t let him pass…). It had almost everything Brian needed to make the recipes he’d found. We also went to a beef market… we weren’t sure about the look of the meat so left that. The walk back to the car was cool, Noor said the whole place is open till 1am, it was starting to get dark and there was a big church that was lit up with lots of pretty lights. Noor left us at a corner to get the car… we bought fresh crisps (they were still warm). It was one of those times where you wish people from home were there, as you can never explain it.
On the way home we stopped for Taco Bell takeaway… no beef in these tacos… was all chicken, potato or veg.
Sunday 17 April – Bangalore
Today we took a walk to the shops… it was Noor’s day off so we were on our own… It took about 15 minutes to walk to the main shops… not too bad as that’s where the good gym is too. The Lifestyle store is a bit like Debenhams… (the brand sun glasses were much cheaper in India than the UK) and then we went to Spar to stock up. It wasn’t a bad walk… learned that the pedestrian crossings sound like police sirens when on green.
On the way back we stopped off at Barleyz… a nice brewery type place. The IPL was showing and for once I was the one explaining sports rules to someone (cricket, to Brian)! On the walk back we came across a cow in the road, it was so funny, there was a security guard trying to shoo it away from his store but it was having none of it and just stood there with the cars going around it. We stopped off at the Baskin Robbins just down the road from the apartment and I thought this is getting more like Brisbane by the day… there was a Baskin Robbins just down the road from where I lived there J
The rest of the day was spent unpacking… and getting the maids next day’s activities ready (washing… I was going to do it but couldn’t figure out the machine). Tonight we had dinner with the neighbours, who’d very kindly invited us around for delicious BBQ pork (got tips on where to buy meat). We went up to the roof terrace which is really cool... nice view and Brian liberated a coconut… am not entirely sure how he’ll get it open but we’ll see.
Anyway… to the office tomorrow.
Lots of love, miss you already.
Jane’s blog: https://indiaandiblog.wordpress.com/
Sharon’s blog: https://myindianwanderlust.wordpress.com/
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