Category Archives: hotels

Mysore day two–a temple and a market

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In the morning, I had a special treat—a private yoga session in a beautiful outdoor setting. The kids were totally awesome to give me the gift of that time with no drama. I was so happy and relaxed. Then we headed to breakfast, which was a delicious buffet. I had a spicy madras omelet and Indian tea (i.e., lots of milk and sugar). Kaden enjoyed the muffins. Carson had a chocolate donut. We tried tasting all of the juices—watermelon, marsh melon, lychee, and a green milkshake that started with a p. I also stuffed by purse with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, muffins and hard boiled eggs for the long drive later in the day. There aren’t McDonalds along the road to stop like back home!

   

I let the kids have some more time at the grounds of the resort while I packed up. Then they took a brief dip in the chilly hotel pool before it was time to head back out into the town.

First stop of the day was Chamundi Hills, one of the six most holiest Hindu places in South India. The most devout climb 1000 steps to the top to the Sri Chamundeswari temple. We had our driver take us straight to the top. We joined the throngs of pilgrims approaching the shrine.

Again we passed a whole section of vendors, although up here they were more often selling flowers and coconuts to give as offerings in the temple and pictures of the deities. To borrow from a website: “The offering of a coconut is a common offering to a deity in Hindu religion and it is distributed later as ‘prasad.’ The most important reason for offering coconut is that is the purest thing that a human being can offer to a deity. The water and the white kernel inside the coconut are the only unadulterated offering that a devotee makes to the Lord. It is not polluted as it remains covered by the hard outer shell until it is offered to the God. Next, the breaking of coconut symbolizes the breaking of the ego. The coconut represents the human body and before the Lord it is shattered – breaking the ‘aham’ or ego and symbolically total surrendering and merging with the Brahman – supreme soul.

http://www.hindu-blog.com/2008/03/why-do-hindus-break-coconut-in-ganesh.html

The bowls are brought into the shrine to be offered in front of the deities.

These people are breaking coconuts.

This man is receiving a blessing from a holy man. He puts money on the tray and then scoops up the smoke toward his face.

This guy had a hand drum that he would beat and people would come and give him money.

Coconuts for sale for offerings (and maybe for the smashing?)

These holy men offered flowers and a red smudge on the forehead.

When we got to the temple, you could wait in one of three lines—free, rs. 20, or rs. 100 ($2). We paid the big bucks, checked in our shoes and made our way into the temple. You can’t take photos inside, so I’ll just have to describe. First you walk through some flowing water, which washes your feet. Then we joined a CRUSH of people making our way toward the deity. (Okay, I snapped one photo!)

Along the way there were various opportunities to receive blessings from holy men who would put some red powder on your forehead, give you a spoonful of holy water to drink, or some smoke to pull toward your head. The major crush was toward a statue of a deity. The kids were so smushed they did not enjoy this part. And the deity was really far away still when you got to the front where a security guard pushed people along to keep them moving. Some devotees were permitted past this gate, presumably by paying lots more. They had the plates of coconuts and flowers to present to the shrine. Outside this main area were other smaller statues and blessings. While the kids weren’t crazy about the whole thing, I think they learned a lot about another culture and another form of religion in those 20 minutes!

When we exited, it was time to get our shoes back, buy some Lays Ruffles potato chips and sodas and head for our next adventure. Remember those 1000 steps? Well, we walked DOWN a portion of them and had the driver meet us down below.  We passed people sporadically—all of whom were heading UP the hill. The most devout had the red powder and were blessing EVERY step of the 1000. These people looked really tired since they were nearly to the top. Along the way, we also saw goats and monkeys!

   

  

View of the Majarajah royal palace and the race track as we walked down the hill

Women sat along the way selling sips of water and snacks to the pilgrims. A few holy men and tiny shrines were along the way. AT one, I received a red smudge and a flower for a few rupees. Carson was freaked out by my smudge, but I figured a blessing from a holy man was something that I could really use these days! The photo to the right, below, is a close up of the steps. Using the same red (or yellow) paint, the pilgrims bless each of the 1000 steps as they walk UP, UP, UP.

  

We finished our journey at the statue of Nandi the Bull. The driver found us here and we made our way back down into the town.

We had one more goal for Mysore—a market. After much nudging of the driver who kept trying to take me to other shops, we finally found Devaraj Market—an old-fashioned bazaar.

This photo is actually one of the wider alleys in the market

The kids were a bit freaked out at first by the narrow stalls and again, the insistent salesmen. But Kaden especially was taken in by the amazing colors and sites. She made good use of her new camera.

 

We came upon a perfume/fine oil booth.  This man was THE best salesman ever. We left spending a lot more than I intended, but holy awesome oils—jasmine, rose, lotus, lavender.

I also caved and got a few other things from some persistent salespeople. The sights, sounds and smells of this market were incredible. Imagine smelling sandalwood, incense, curry powder, beeswax, jasmine oil as you wander about small pathways and listen to the salespeople shouting for your attention.

   

  

    

On the way out of the market, I stopped and bought samples of famous Mysore sweets, including Mysorepak—a treat made from ghee (clarified butter) and lots of sugar. I bought a few more as well. We sampled them all but didn’t like any of them.

Walking along the street, we saw women stringing garlands for flowers. And if you look carefully, the photo on the right, below, is of women sitting on the floor in a saree shop on the while the salesman pulls out yards and yards of fabric.

  

The kids were tired and we decided that we just wanted to make our way to Matikeri and our hotel rather than heading to lunch. But, it turns out, that since I was not explicit in telling the driver to take a lunch break, that he had not eaten yet, and it was 2:00. I am still trying to figure this whole thing out! So I told him to drop us off at Domino’s pizza and we would wait there until he was finished with his break. It seemed that every Ex-Pat in Mysore was in that place! It was actually jarring to be around so many fair skinned people at once after so long in India. The pizza ended up being quite delicious, plus a clean bathroom. We played some Uno and Anthony was back before we even got antsy.

  

So, on to Mentikeri, which is a hilly region of Coorg, famous for its coffee growing areas.  Based on what I could decipher from the website and reading reviews, we were to be at the Dubare Elephant Camp by 8:30 in the morning for our Elephant Experience. The problem is, the Dubare Elephant Camp is in the middle of nowhere. And being Americans with sensitive stomachs and kids who don’t eat India food, we have to be very choosy about accommodations. Since it was Republic Day weekend, I called six places before I could find one with availability. The nearest place that seemed safe to me was almost an hour away, and the price was higher than I wanted—over $200 (but with all meals included). That was steeper than our beautiful Mysore hotel, but nowhere near at nice.  The Heritage Resort was set in Coorg, an area of big green hills that is famous for its coffee growing. The setting of the resort was one of those hilltops, which was covered in a series of little cottages.

  

The restaurant looked brand new and was a gorgeous high ceilinged, big windowed place at the very top of the hill, just off the pool.

  

Once it got dark, we needed a flashlight to move about the grounds. I thought it was rustic and fun. Kaden said, “This feels like Quaker Camp.” And she was not saying that in a positive way. The rooms had two single beds and they brought us an extra cot. The walls were plastered and thus uneven. The place was very clean and comfortable, but definitely rustic.

  

My main complaint was that the shower would not stay on. You had to press a button with your hand. I wonder if it was an Indian shower, since there was a small and large bucket in the shower, with the intention that you fill up the bucket and dump it over yourself in the shower. Kaden was also very unhappy about that. But we all slept really well, other than the roosters around 5:30. The food at dinner was a pretty decent Indian buffet, and the staff even cooked French fries specially for the kids and brought out chocolate and strawberry ice cream for them as well. A meal of French fries and ice cream was enough to put smiles on both kids’ faces and settle them in for bed.

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Mysore, Day One

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The kids had a five day weekend due to Republic Day. I wish it were in a few weeks when Todd is here, but I didn’t want to miss the chance of taking them to see some sites. Bangalore is a great city for living, but not big on the tourist stuff.

I had hoped to be on the road by 8:30, but the driver was half hour late, then he needed to stop for gas, then we hit a massive traffic jam, then he got lost—twice. So, we didn’t get to Mysore until 1:30 (normally at 3 hour trip).[(Shout out to Stephanie S. for lending me her Salwar Kameez 🙂  ]

   

  

We went straight to the hotel, which was absolutely gorgeous. Thanks to my new ex-pat B’Lore friends for telling me to go to the Windflower! The cottages were set along a beautiful set of water with brass urns, geese, waterfalls. The kids LOVED playing chess on the life-size chessboard right along the water.

   

    

They also became very good friends with Rosy, the Australian Cockatoo who could talk and eat of your hand. They would have spent all day playing chess and hanging with Rosy.

  

We need to get better about trying to eat BEFORE we are hungry because service is much, much slower here. You can wait 15 minutes for menus. Drink orders will be taken and they might not arrive until after your food. We dined at the hotel restaurant—an outdoor place with thatched roofs, surrounded by water falls and streams. Gorgeous ambience. The silly thing is, they called it the Olive Garden and I swear the logo was the same! But the food was mainly Indian and Chinese. When we sat down I asked them to bring us two milkshakes and French fries as soon as possible because the kids were hungry. An hour later, after all the rest of the food was finally served, the milk shakes and French fries finally arrived. The kids had HAD it.

Then it was time to try to do some sightseeing in Mysore before it got dark. I wanted the kids to see three things in the town—a palace, a temple, and a market. We chose the palace first.To get to the palace, as with any touristy structure in India, you have to make your way through the stands of people trying to get you to buy everything from sunglasses to sandalwood fans to ivory elephants to pieces of watermelon. Looking like an American is an invitation to dive in with the hopes that we will foolishly pay five times the price for something silly. The kids hate the crush of hawkers that pester us in such situations.

note the clock numbers are in Kanada

Maharajah’s Palace is considered “the” palace in South India, designed at the turn of the 20th Century. It is massive and has lots of stained glass from Glasgow Scotland, marble floors, carved wood, and ivory.

   

   

We then headed toward the interior of the structure. In any special place in India, you must take off your shoes to enter. So at major attractions you have to check your shoes and proceed barefoot. The kids weren’t too happy about that. But it is easy to spot the kids’ Crocs when we have to find our shoes!

We made our way to the ticket booth—Rs. 20 for Indians and Rs. 200 for foreigners. We then walk about the palace grounds with roses and big broad pathways. Suddenly a man grabs both kids’ hands and pulls them toward his little child and starts snapping photos. He said, “Look! Friends! Friends!” Kaden looked so mad. Carson too It’s one thing to ask to take our picture and another to drag us in to the frame. But I figured I should snap a photo of the spectacle as well.

 Upon entering, I realized that I missed the well hidden location to store your cameras. So I was confronted by a guard, a member of the military policy, who said that if I gave him 10 rupees, I could bring the cameras inside. Bribe #1 of the trip.

We then picked up English headsets for the tour. No one else in the whole place, and there was a CRUSH of people, picked up headsets even though they were free of charge. Kaden loved the headset, which was quite well done, telling stories about the Maharajah and of deities and design plans. She loved the design concepts and found it all interesting. Hurray! Carson got bored about half way through and then started getting punchy—literally. The crush of the crowds was really wearing on him and he was exhausted.

    

I noticed when we were in the palace that EVERYONE was taking photographs. So I figured I should take out my camera and take a few as well. When I was shooting the elephant tusk photo above, I was approached by another guard who tells me that taking photographs is a 1000 rupee fine. That’s $20! Which is totally nuts. And I didn’t even have that much with me, honestly. I said everyone was taking pictures and then he said they are all using mobile phone cameras which are fine. How in the world is that different? I had a strong feeling that he was trying to take advantage of the American, especially since his counterpart was the one who let me have my camera in the first place. So I grabbed the arms of both kids and walked away quickly and did not look back. Thankfully, he didn’t follow us.

Leaving the palace grounds, it was about 5:00. I wanted to do one more thing before going home and then hopefully find some dinner. But Carson threw a massive fit. He was done and he made that very clear. We were all tired, and as he said later, “I’m sorry but I just didn’t want to do anything else.” Good lesson to learn from my kiddo. When tired, rest. Trying to do more when you’re figuring out a foreign country is just not a wise thing. It will just make your miserable.

So, we returned to the hotel. Carson was fine after five minutes in the serene hotel grounds. Ready for some more chess and cockatoo time.  For dinner that night we ordered room service because I couldn’t put them through that restaurant again! We found the flavor of these chips to be very spicy!

We also tried to rent a move from the hotel but all of their kids movies were dubbed into Hindi. Thankfully we found WWE wrestling on TV—Carson’s favorite. And then, because we had our first Wi-Fi since our first week at the Lemon Tree, the kids had a long Skype with Daddy. We even downloaded the same I-Book and Daddy read two chapters to the kids before bed.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

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Today was a day of memorable moments—some of our funniest moments of the trip and some of our worst.   Friday is Republic Day, kind of like the 4th of July but without the fireworks–just a big parade up in Dehli. A big flower show was happening at the Lalbagh botanical gardens to honor the day. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lal_Bagh

The day begin by convincing the kids to leave the house (a common occurrence in the U.S. too I must say. Transitions are not our forte).After the slow start, it took over an hour to get to the gardens due to intense Saturday morning traffic. My mom was only planning on staying for an hour since she and my dad were meeting a good friend during his layover at the B’Lore airport at lunchtime. The traffic was so bad that she literally just turned back around with the driver and headed back home without seeing any of the gardens.  Probably just as well because it was hot, crowded and a LOT of walking. The paper said 100,000 people attend the flower show this weekend (or 100 Lakh is how they say it here).

So, the kids and I set out on our own. We started with the Japanese gardens, including a very cool exhibit of tiny bonsai trees. The kids had fun guessing the ages of the trees, ranging from 13 years to 50 years! This one was the oldest .

We were also blown away by this peacock made out of flowers and also really liked the sand sculptures that we found.

  

Then we climbed this rock mountain. The rock was 2 BILLION years old!

At the top we bought some much needed water, and headed back down toward the main event—the Republic Day flower display in the glass house/conservatory. This display turned out to be one of the worst moments of the trip. The crowds were unbelievable and the display was interesting, but not worth the crush of people. It was hot and claustrophobic and we were ready to get OUT of there. But nonetheless here are some photos of the pretty flowers during our crush.

  

We snuck our way out an illegal exit, despite the guards saying that we had to make our way all the way back through the exhibit. We just couldn’t do it! And we were so hot and bothered that I took a chance and bought us ice cream from a park vender. It was ice cream from a box (like Good Humor bars at home like chocolate eclairs, etc ) and  I could see that the freezer was plugged into permanent electricity rather than a portable cooler. But still it was a bit risky.  It is hard to see all these food venders everywhere and not feel like we can have 95% of what is offered. But luckily the ice cream turned out to be a safe call.

 

Did you know that bananas grow UP?

At this point my camera battery died, so the rest of the pics of the day were from Kaden’s itouch. Apologies for the quality. The exhibit opened into the broader Lalbagh Park, which is a pretty big place with pleasant footpaths, cool flower displays and big trees—some of which are 200 years old. We saw a flower clock, a topiary garden, a lake

  

AND…. Monkeys! Our first siting of monkeys! There were at least 15 of them in this massive tree that looked like maybe it was a bamboo stand. Lots of babies, a mom, and what looked like a very grumpy dad/alpha monkey that almost started to chase us a few times. We were so happy to finally see monkeys.

   

  

We have heard some crazy stories about monkeys this week. My friend Tey lives on the 9th story of her building. She has a dog and monkeys have come to her balcony but when the see the dog they don’t do much more than pee off the side of the balcony. But one day when she was taking the dog for a walk, she left her kitchen window open just a hair, with the screen on. She came back to find a half-eaten pear on the counter, her balcony composting pots dumped out and some spices scattered on the counter. Monkey hijinks!

Our Bangalore family has also had encounters as well, on the 13th floor. Mamoni saw a huge monkey coming into her kitchen from her balcony. She tried to chase it with a knife but it chased her instead! Finally she chased it to the balcony where it turned on the water hose and made a big mess of things. So, that’s to say, monkeys sure are cute, but WATCH OUT!

While the monkeys were quite a photo opp. for many park goers, apparently we are a photo opp as well. Two separate young couples stopped to ask if they could take our picture. One wanted photos of the kiddos. We were having a grumpy moment at the time and I told him he could have as a caption, “Grumpy American kids wanting ice cream.” Another said his wife wanted a photo with us. I wonder what they said about the photo—we saw some strange looking Americans in the park today and they let us take their picture? And then another woman selling me water said, “Ma’am, you are very beautiful!” And then later, a 9 year old girl came up to us to practice her English. She was so pleased with herself that when she was done talking, she skipped down the lane laughing while her mother chased after her.

We thought that our adventures were done for the day, but apparently they were only beginning. Since mom took the driver with her back to meet up with the friends at the airport. The kids have been wanting to take an Auto-Rickshaw ride and I figured this would be a good time to take one home. It would be a long ride, but the cheapest and easiest way for us to be back toward home. Ha ha. Fatal last words. I really need to learn to speak some Kannada. The first two Autos were not willing to take us so far. The third guy seemed great. He was willing to use his meter, which is the first sign of an honest driver. Almost all refuse when they see me coming and instead try to triple their fees. But he turned on his meter.

I said, “Airport Road! Bellary Road! Go to Esteem Mall! Go North!” (the kids wanted some Baskin and Robbins on the way home).

“Okay, okay!” He said. He nodded that he knew where to go. Perfect.  Carson was so excited he was positively beaming. Here is our picture getting into the Auto

  

As we were driving, nothing looked familiar, but I thought, well maybe we are going a different way through town. 45 minutes later, we are hot. We are dusty. We are tired of being in this vibrating machine that feels like a roller coaster. He pulls over and motions like we are here. I have no idea where we are at all. Turns out he took us to the OLD airport road, which is south of the city. Basically, he took us 45 minutes in the opposite direction from where we needed to go. We were now an hour and a half away from home. I had the kids with me so I had to hold it together. I called my dad and said, “help!” He handed the phone to his driver who could speak Kannada and explained to my Auto driver where we needed to go. But there was NO WAY we could ride in an Auto for another hour and a half. We were done already. Half hour is pushing it in one of those things. So I had the auto driver take us back to the city center and Ran sent the driver down to find us.

Here are photos at the end of the Auto ride. I literally told the kids, “We fell miserable now, but this is one of those times that we’ll look back and tell stories about someday. And we’ll even laugh.

  

It was a tough drive back into the city. Our legs wobbled as we got out of the Auto, kind of like after riding a roller coaster too many times in a row. But luckily at Mom’s recommendation, we followed our Golden Rule for travelling. When having a rough day in India, find the nearest five-star hotel. So we had the driver take us to the Taj on MG Road. Best decision ever.  The place is so service oriented that you feel safe and cared for after harrying experiences. Kaden got a strawberry banana milkshake and fries. Carson got pasta Bolognese. I had the strongest mojito of my life.

And we were happy again. So happy that we got a little giggly and loud. At some point after the mojito, Carson apparently hid behind a potted plant and jumped out to surprise what he described as a “billionaire with a briefcase.” I’m kinda glad I missed that one. He remembers it fondly as his favorite memory of the day.

  

 

The silliness continued all the way back home once the driver found us. And we got that Baskin and Robbins ice cream as a final treat.

So in the end, all’s well that ends well. And with a Mojito, it’s just a little bit better.

We find the expats

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This week I have discovered the ex-pat women’s network in town. Very helpful! The Oversea’s Women’s Committee—OWC has a huge membership of over 1000 women, primarily from the US and the UK but also from Germany, South Africa, Denmark, Sweden, Japan, etc. Most of the women in the group are wives of people who have been transferred to Bangalore for 1-2 year stints. As such, most of these women are here unwillingly to some extent. They are trying to embrace the adventure but they didn’t CHOOSE to come here. Nevertheless they offer a wealth of information on everything from driver recommendations to where to find cheddar cheese and fresh meats to finding a place to stay for a weekend trip. They also offer many social activities, including cooking demos, wine tastings, and excursions.

http://www.owcbangalore.org/index.html

The main event with the OWC is a weekly coffee on Thursdays in Leela Palace south of the city. However, every other Tuesday a coffee is offered on the North End of town, just a 20 rupee auto-rickshaw ride from my NIAS office. So I arrived at the Mövenpick Hotel promptly at 11 and eventually 10 women joined the group.  Five of the women have kiddos at CIS like Kaden and Carson and one was even in Carson’s class.

In the two hours that I was there, I learned about how to take an air conditioned airport bus into the city from Brinda (an India woman who lived in Germany for 50 years before recently returning). I also learned from the CIS ladies about some inside scoops on the school.  I found out a woman named Helen from the UK who has lived here for four years hosts a private power yoga class in her house Tuesday and Thursday  mornings on this side of town (yay!). I also got some leads on drivers and some weekend trips. And I even found out the best grocery stores to buy meat, cheese, yogurt, and other U.S. kid-friendly foods. Total score!

A bigger OWC event is on Thursday at the very fancy Leela Palace south of the city—one of the fanciest hotels in the world. Here are some photos of this fancy place:

 

That’s Tay showing off the gardens.

  

   

A woman named Tay who I met at the Tuesday even offered that I could come to her house and then we could head to Leela with her driver. So my mom and I headed down there Thursday afternoon. Tay is from Greensboro, NC and her husband works for Volvo. She has a beautiful 9th floor apartment in Shantinagar—an old neighborhood in Banglore with large trees and actual sidewalks. She has her dog from home and they take walks around the neighborhood every day. She is helping to coordinate the neighborhood recycling effort, which is totally volunteer and just getting off the ground. Interesting stuff!

We arrived at Leela after a 45 minute crawl through city traffic. It was massive. At least 100 women there. My mom came along and we perused a binder full of information on drivers. We bought a book written by the ex-pat group on all the details you might want to know about the city, including shops, directions to groceries, and so on. I also signed up for an ayurvedic cooking class held next month right near my office. We met two women from Buffalo, one from Austin, one from Boston, one from RI, and a smattering from the UK among others.  It was a great resource, despite some of the disparagaing comments of some of the women, like “Why should my daughter have to know how to spell ‘burkha’ as a spelling word?

 

This is the OWC weekly gathering. What a beautiful outdoor room! And on the right, that’s Kathy from Buffalo. She just moved here with her husband and kids 2 weeks ago. Both of her girls go to CIS as well. We are getting officially registered as OWC members.

Tay was kind enough to drop us off back at Poonam’s—the uniform shop. And it turned out that a post office was right down the block. We made our way down some sketchy sidewalks and into the post office. Mailing a letter in India is complicated. Stamps aren’t used very often because people might cut the stamps off of your letters. So, most people go directly to a post office to send something. I needed to send some receipts for reimbursement to the Fulbright office. I had grabbed an envelope from my office at work but noticed that it had no glue on it. When I arrived at the post office, the main pointed to a counter where he asked me to “paste” the letter. Indeed, there was a small pot of paste on the counter with a stick on it for sealing the letter together!   I have also noticed that we do not have a mailbox at our villa. Bills do not happen through the mail either. In this labor intensive society, someone comes around to collect most bills and you pay in cash. Increasingly, internet payment is an option, but mailing options are still not very common at all.

Lastly, we needed to do some serious shopping so we hopped an auto to the Manti Mall—the largest mall in India. onSix floors of insanity.

http://www.mantrisquare.com/

  

On the right in the above photo, you have the only ice skating rink in Bangalore! It ain’t big, but it’s quite an interesting site!

Fitting the typical plan, the bottom floor is a gourmet/ex-pat friendly grocery store. The top floor is restaurants, a movie  theater and an arcade. In between those floors were everything from furniture stores to sari stores to book stores to electronics stores to Crocs, Reebok, and Office Depot! We were starving so we had a delicious late lunch at the “Great Kabob Factory.” A silly name but delicious chicken kabobs. I loved the four chutney choices—pineapple, mint, tamarind and peanut.

  

And the array of Indian desserts was also fantastic.

We got a few floor lamps and a clock to add to our sparse apartment, a data stick to access internet since we are still not up and running with WiFi, and LOTS of groceries. We were delighted to find fresh chicken breasts, strawberry yogurt, a huge vegetable section, and fresh bread and pastries at the Spar grocery story.

Since we still do not have a dedicated driver (although we are getting close), I called a taxi to bring us home. Mind you we had  a U.S. sized amount of groceries—about 8 bags, plus the two floor lamps, the bag of uniforms, and other assorted purchases. We never did find the taxi (which only come if you call a radio taxi service and it takes at least half an hour). So there we were on the sidewalk with fresh chicken, ice cream, yogurt and floor lamps and no way to get home. We debated an auto but wondered how on earth we could fit all our stuff into one. Well, we did. We were like the circus clowns that keep coming out of the car. Mom and I were squeezed so tight in that auto that the loaf of French bread from Au Bon Pain kept hitting my mom in the head. We giggled all the way back to Yelahanka, where we all had to pitch in to prep both kiddos for very tough spelling tests tomorrow!

First days of school!

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not happy leaving the hotel at the   crack of dawn

a little happier now at the school

  

The kids are getting settled into their school. It is a beautiful place, and as the vice principal explained, “We expect the school to be an oasis for the children.” Classes are just about 12 children each and very child-centered. We have found all of the staff to be very caring and nurturing of our kiddos so far.

The campus of the school is quite large because it houses everything from pre-school all the way up to 12th grade, and some of the older students are boarders. The elementary facility is just one building of many, but it was overwhelming to the kiddos on the first day.  They are self-contained in this one building except for lunch, music, and PE. For PE they often have swimming in the outdoor pool. Much like California schools, the classrooms all open to the outdoors in covered corridors rather than having interior buildings. Both kids say the pigeons are very loud on the roof of their classrooms. They cause quite a racket throughout the day!

The school is incredibly diverse. For each class roster they list the country of origin in addition to basic information. A quick skim of Kaden’s 12 person class indicated students from India, Japan, Iran, Germany, Korea, Saudia Arabia, and so on.  Kaden has a wonderful teacher and has announced that she is already friends with all six girls in her class. She also provided me with a list of the names of these girls and announced that they ALL have cell phones. So, much to her extreme delight, I will allow her to have a cell phone in India. She will be getting it today.  Kaden seems to fit right in academically with her class. She has a biosphere diorama project due at the end of the month that we should start thinking about and ongoing spelling and math homework that seem to be feasible for her. She has a choice of Hindi or French. She tried French yesterday but the teacher conducted the class entirely in French and she felt very lost. She is going to try Hindi today.

  

  

Above: Kaden’s schedule, meeting her teacher, her two new friends and her classroom

Both kiddos have extracurricular activities as a part of the school day on Tues, Wed, and Thurs. So those days they are finished at 4. The other days they are finished at 3. Each day the activity is different. Kaden did Bollywood dancing yesterday. Today she might try soccer but she is getting the impression that only boys play soccer here. Tomorrow she wants to try unicycling.

Carson’s class also just has about 12 children. His adjustment has been more difficult, since the standards for second grade are MUCH higher than in the United States. One the first day of school he was expected to know his multiplication tables, which worried him greatly. We have been practicing at night and he’s just about to where they want him to be, knowing his 1s, 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s, 9s, and 10s.

Carson also has a weekly spelling test. Back in the U.S. his spelling was four words a week. The words included that, which, upon, and so on. Here the list is 12 words long. This is his list this week: knowledgeable, delectable, delicious, lighthouse, seafood, naughty, responsible, frightening (and four more that I can’t remember).  Needless to say, we are spending lots of time at home practicing this word list and it is HARD. But he is getting there. I really want him to have success on his first test on Friday, so we are really making an effort this week, practicing every night. The teacher is also sending home books every night for him to read. Long books!  The academic expectations here are very strict!

  

Carson’s teacher and his classmates filing into class

math three times in one day!

this is Carson’s entire class!

As a boy, making friends is harder. With just five boys in his class, it can be a challenge since three of the boys are from Korea and Japan. They seem to stick together and keep to themselves.  But Carson did make his first friend in his basketball class. A boy from France. This morning during drop off, most of the boys play soccer until the first bell rings. Carson waited and watched but finally the boy from France arrived and Carson happily ran after him. Phew.  Today after school Carson will try cricket!

We had thought the kids would come to and from school on one of the bus routes. But as it is a private school and we must pay for everything, we have found that the $400 cost of paying for the bus is more than the cost of hiring a driver to take the kiddos each morning since we live just 20 minutes from the school. And 20 minutes from anywhere here is like across the street in State College!  One of the adults rides with the kids for now, but as we develop a relationship with our driver we may eventually send the kids without us, especially if Kaden has a cell phone. We could reach the school via the main roads, but the traffic is so awful that it can take 45 minutes to get there. Instead, the trip to school includes some travelling on dirt roads, passing through one very small village, then past a grape vineyard, pomegranate field, lake, one other school, a tennis academy, a banana plantation, a Hindu shrine and a coconut grove. I will try to post photos of our journey to school in another post.  During our drive today, we saw cows, goats, roosters, dogs, plus other kiddos heading to their schools as well in different uniforms.

So, that’s the story for now. The first day after school both kids were very homesick for Easterly Parkway. Carson even promised he would wear a heavy winter coat every day (a big source of contention) if he could only return home to his friends and his classroom. But the second day when I picked them up they both had smiles on their faces and they are starting to adjust to their new routine. Saturday we have a newcomers high tea at the school. The event is poolside for kids and family members!

   

above: fifth grade play structure, library, and soccer fields

Aside

So, the whole plan to move into the new house today? Not happening. The furniture is not being delivered until late this afternoon, and more importantly, the gas that powers everything from the hot water to the stove will not be turned on until mid-day on Monday. All packed up and no where to go! So, we are now on day 10 in this hotel. Luckily it is a nice hotel and they are very kind to us.

It does mean that the kiddos will need to be taken by driver almost an hour to get to their first day of school. We will need to leave by seven to get there by eight. Plus the hotel kitchen will be packing Kaden’s first lunch! Luckily they all love her here and before I even asked they said, “So madam she will want cut fresh fruit and two pieces of toast packed for tomorrow?” Yes and then I’ll put the peanute butter on the toasts to make her sandwich! So, it will be an unusual start to the school experience, that is for sure.

Today was supposed to be a crazy day and ended up being a relaxing one. That is great. Tomorrow, will now be the crazy day. In addition to checking out of the hotel, moving our 700 pounds of luggage (literally), and getting the kids started in school, I have a seminar to attend at my host institution. I’ve bought gifts of chocolate for everyone there and will be hearing a talk by my two sponsors. How it will all get down without mass chaos will be interesting.

Today the kids got a lot of pool time. Then we finalized some shopping. Carson DID get to the toy store today, but unfortunately although the toy store looked incredibly cool from the outside, the inside was underwhelming. He did manage to get two lego kits though and is now relaxing in the hotel room finishing them up right now.

     looked good from the outside…not so good inside!

Meanwhile, Kaden was joking around trying to dress up like Carson!

  Kaden wearing Carson’s jeans

After the promised toy store stop, we needed to buy anti-mosquito repellent. They have these plug in things that you put in every room that somehow kill the mosquitoes dead. Then you don’t need the old fashioned nets.

Budu told us that they can be found in any large food market, so we headed to this fancy shopping mall–most fancy shopping malls seem to have a fancy supermarket on one of the upper floors. It was in the fancy market that we found the mosquito repellent, plus a range of other interesting treats.

   

above: the exterior of the mall. Carson was not interested in “indulding in happiness” and Kaden shopping in the clothing area

very unusual vegetables!!

   

above: couldn’t find cheerios but found Mickey Mouse Honey Nut Cheerios! and these Magic Rolls look and taste like Poky Poky from Japan

The kids were DONE and wanted to head back to the hotel, so mom and I dropped them off and then headed back to buy some more bed linens from the fabric shops that we visited a couple of days ago. Mom also decided that we needed a Ganesh for good luck and karma in our new home, so we went to a handicraft shop to pick one out. We also found two very cool Buddhas, and a Hanuman.

  

Street scenes:

    Baskin Robbins

Final day at hotel…take two

Dada’s birthday

Standard

January 6 is Dada’s birthday. In addition to fancy cards made by the kiddos, Kaden arranged a birthday cake with the hotel staff. She truly is going to be an event planner when she grows up. She even secured the email of the hotel manager in the process.

The hotel staff produced the cake at the appointed 4:00 hour. Unfortunately for Kaden and Dada, it was an ultimate chocolate cake. Neither eat chocolate. This error exemplifies a cultural difference in India–people go way out of their way to be helpful and extend themselves mightily, but they don’t first ask HOW they might be helpful, so the gestures don’t always hit the mark. The hotel staff really went above and beyond on the cake, but they never first asked what kind of cake we might like.

  

While I’m complaining, another gripe related to food. Ordering in an Indian restaurant takes FOREVER. When I am feeling well, I can handle it. But when spirits are low and we have to chase people down for menus and the drinks don’t arrive until the food and the food takes half an hour, I really struggle to stay polite. And being rude or curt India is NOT helpful. Gets you no where. So, in the cake example, as the cake arrived, we asked for drinks and ice cream. They arrived twenty minutes later. We were the only people In the restaurant. The slices of cake had been eaten long ago.

After, we set out to visit our Bangalore family to continue the celebration–right into rush hour traffic!
We are Papa Johns pizza and delicious tandoori chicken for dinner. Plus Ran and the kids put on some Marx brothers skits to entertain the audience!

  

You don’t see a sign like this in most American urban apartment complexes: