Category Archives: neighborhood

Paris pit stop

Standard

On our way back home to the United States, we booked our tickets to have a few days to see something in Europe. Kaden insisted she wanted to see the Eiffel Tower. We flew into Frankfurt, stowed our luggage at the Holiday Inn Express (for free, thank goodness!), and took the fast train to Paris. Below, we are waiting for the train and then finally boarded. After an all night flight from Bangalore, we were exhausted!

   

The scenery in Germany and France was gorgeous–yellow flowers in big patches blanketed the springtime countryside.

In Paris, we found an apartment to stay in through the website airbnb.com  It’s a website that links you with individual people who want to rent their house out for short term stays all around the world–even in the United States. All of the photos are verified plus individual certifications from people who have stayed at the homes make it feel very safe to use. With five people, we would have needed two hotel rooms (no hotel rooms with two beds in Europe!). Plus, this was just so much more pleasant.  A kitchen, a neighborhood.

We stayed in Phillipe’s house on Rue D’Hautpol near Canal de San Martin. It’s the apartment he has his kids staying with him. We guessed he was staying with a girlfriend while we were in his place.  He came over and showed us the neighborhood, helped us to book a taxi and overall was very kind.

    

We were delighted to find boulangeries on the corners, fresh fruit stands, and if you went up the hill just a half a block, a gorgeous park. We arrived on May Day, so many things were closed. Most signs in Paris said Closed December 25, January 1, and May 1. So May Day is a huge deal in Europe!

      

The Canal St-Martin  connects the river Seine, near Bastille, to the Canal de l’Ourcq, near the Villette in the 19th arrondissement. Here, the Canal turns into a beautiful park just a few m inutes from the apartment. Above is a view from the park to the apartment below where we were staying.

The Parisians were really enjoying their May Day at the park. I do’nt know if you can see the plumes of smoke emerging from each group of people. Smoking is still in full force here in France. Kaden was shocked!

This picture was taken at 8:30 in the evening. We were astounded that it doesn’t get dark here until 9:30! In hot and humid Bangalore, it gets dark at 6:30!

    

The neighborhood also has a school. Although it was unclear if they really did have uniforms all the kids were in black. The place looked so big and depressing to me, I honestly stopped to consider whether it was a prison! The kids were in a caged area for their recess/break that was kind of freaky!

    

The neighborhood also had a cool cemetery and lovely patisseries, boucheries, and boulengeries!

    

    

Kaden summed it up this way “smoking, dog poop and lots of old things, but lovely cafes on every corner!!”  We loved the food, and we are not talking fancy restaurants. We saw none of those, but perfect baguettes, crepes, croissants, and fruit on every corner. Carson loves the nutella crepes. I am returning home inspired to find beautiful ingredients even for the simplest of foods.

And the art is amazing. And we love how it stays light for so long.

The graffiti was an issue too–Kaden thought it was a disgrace. Carson thought it was cool.

Advertisements

Summertime and the living is easy…

Standard

We have one week left in Bangalore. And it is HOT here!  April and May are summertime. Schools are closed. Vacations planned to get away for the heat!

My ambitions seem to falter with every increase of mercury as the temperatures go  up and up. My processing speed now seems to mirror our painfully slow dial up/data stick internet. Thinking quickly, getting work done efficiently by U.S. standards just doesn’t even seem comprehendible. Checking email is a 20 minute process just to open the messages.

Maybe this slowdown is a blessing. I have completely reevaluated my expectations of what counts as a productive day. I take one task at a time and I am grateful if I accomplish that task.  Perhaps I can take this new normal back with me in the U.S. and help to use these measures to carve out a more “normal” pace of productivity at home. Lightning fast internet speeds, access to information right in my pocket is fun. But it also creates its own exhaustions. Doing one thing at a time has its merits.

The kids have slowed down as well, and they seem quite happy to “do nothing” with much less exclamations of “I’m bored” than I hear at home. Being out of school, they have been sleeping late, staying in their PJs until the afternoon.

Granted I am letting them play on their screens more than usual. But I know that they are awaiting the punctual 5:30 knock on the door from the neighborhood posse for the evening game of Cops and Robbers. Or an occasional night swim, game of cricket or football. The whole neighborhood seems to come out after dark, really. Sitting in the courtyard visiting with one another. The puppies come out to play. The heat is just too much during the day.

Sanskriti, Pratham and Mehir came a knockin’ this evening to round up the kiddos.

The festivities end when Mehir and Sanskriti, the oldest kiddos at 14 and ethical compasses of the group (well, usually,), decides that it is time to for everyone go home. Usually that end point doesn’t happen until after 9 at night. Carson comes home so tired  that he often falls asleep changing into his PJs and before he has had his dinner.

When we go out, evening excursions  are more appealing as well. The other night we headed to UB City for a bite at Café Noir.

Carson had fun with this poster at the UB City Entrance

The kids had fun getting soaked in the fountains.

  

Then we drove past the lit up parliament buildings on the way home.

With a stop at Baskin and Robbins for some ice cream. We stopped to watch a few minutes of the cricket match that had the city at a standstill—the Bangalore Royal Challengers versus the Rajasthan Royals.

Below, weddings are still in full force during the summer months!

We also finally got my kids together with my friend Priya’s kiddos. They are the exact same age and gender. Our schedules didn’t connect until this late date. We went over to their house for some swimming. The kids got along great, but unfortunately Kaden developed a tummy bug when we were there and spent most of the visit on the couch. Carson got it the next morning and both kiddos spent the day on the couch. Nothing as serious as the Dehli Belly, but enough to put them out of commission for a while.

At bedtime, sleep is a challenge in the heat. While luckily it does cool down in the evening, not enough for the house to cool well. We have just one bedroom with an air conditioner in our place, and we put it in my parents’ room where they and Kaden sleep. It didn’t seem worth it to spend $400 US Dollars to buy another one when we are here for so short of time. Carson doesn’t seem to mind the heat of our bedroom.  We bought a small oscillating fan for $40 US Dollars. Couldn’t find any box fans at all. And can’t believe the cost of fans in general!

But the oscillating fan broke with 2 weeks left here. I can’t take the heat anymore,  so I have started to sleep on the outside patio on our roof. The first two nights I accumulated 11 mosquito bites on my face, so it was time to get some mosquito netting and make my bedroom a permanent fixture. Very hard to find, mosquito netting. It’s not used much anymore here. But I finally found some for the hefty price of $20 US dollars. I’m just amazed at how much these things cost here!

I just got everything settled tonight in my open air bedroom. And the skies opened up. Our first rain in four months!  The monsoons won’t arrive until June, so hopefully this was a fluke, and I can return to my outdoor sleeping plan tonight.  I have enjoyed the majesty of taking deep breaths in the fresh air and looking up at the stars as I fall asleep.

Food, books, dancing, swimming, riding a bus–Indian style

Standard

With the kids only in school for one more week, it was time to tackle some of the restaurants that might not be viewed as so much fun to them. One experience that I wanted to try was a traditional thali lunch. With circular plates lined with a banana leaf, the veg thali lunch here at Bheema’s Restaurant on Church Street was standard lunch fare for the tables of workers that filled the restaurant. With mounds of rice and dal and papadam as the main staple, I was also presented with little bowls of yogurt, spicy sambar soup, a little desert and pudding. I realized that at my office, we basically have a thali lunch everyday, since that’s just what they serve–rice, a bread, a sambar, curd, cukes and tomatoes and then two or three veggie dishes. But the thali is special because of all of the cute little bowls and the banana leaf presentation.

  

Plus a guy would come around with buckets of food–beet root, more dal, chutney. The food was very spicy. The meal wasn’t over the top amazing, but quite satisfying and a fun experience.

After the meal, we braved the crazy sidewalks, some of which were as high as my shin, to get to an incredible used bookstore. Three floors of every book imaginable for no more than a few dollars. Not that we need anymore weight in our suitcases, but I got some paperbacks of the hottest Indian writer right now, Chetan Bhagat. Plus we found some of Kaden’s favorite Nancy Drew graphic novels.

On the way into town, here was a bus of workers on the highway. This bus was moving. No room inside, so people hung to the outside. Wild.

Here, Kaden is swimming with her new neighbor and friend, Diya. Sometimes in India I feel like I have stepped into the 1920s. And her family is modern–the girls actually have swimming suits. When dry, the suit dries out to be baggy shorts. And swim caps–de rigeur.

Neighbors Diya and Ecta, in their standard matching outfits, enjoy Just Dance on the Wii with our kiddos. The Bollywood song is now a huge favorite in our house!

Shopping in Bangalore

Standard

After returning from Mumbai, Kim and Leti were going to spend a day in Mysore, but they were just too exhausted from our Mumbai experiences. So instead we focused on shopping in Bangalore–something that is very fun to do in this town! We started at Safina Plaza. The interior courtyard had an open air market where we sampled and bought lots of spices and candies.

Kim and Leti got bangles, shawls, wall hangings and more handbags. I got a beautiful Salwar Kameez set-which was altered on the spot in about five minutes by some guys with sewing machines at the top of the stairs!

Mom got a bedspread. Kaden got some rings. After maybe too much shopping, we headed to one of the best Chinese buffets in town–Mainland China. Below, Kaden and Leti are playing the game Angels and Assassins that Carson insisted that we do. We had trouble understanding the rules and that got him very upset!

On the way home, we stopped at a roadside watermelon stand to get some watermelon to bring to a picnic the next day. They weight it on a scale–10 rupees a kilogram.

Kim and Leti in the back seat of the Innova helping Kaden play a geography game on the IPad

Some photos taken by Kim and Leti while we drove about town. Below is the lake that we pass on the way to school. It used to be an important bird sanctuary but encroaching development is shrinking the water table.

A sign by my yoga class–please pick up after your dog, with dog poop right below it.

  

Signs of the ongoing construction in Bangalore–the beginnings of a sky-high metro rail system that will connect the airport with the downtown. We struggle through this construction daily to get to our house.

The barbed wire fencing around our community. Which both kids claim “I touched it and it’s not sharp at all!” Why are they touching it? Sigh.

The Ganesh blessing the community, cared for each day by Mr. Yadov.

Penn State faculty take on Bangalore!

Standard

Kim and Leticia, my friend/fellow professors at Penn State joined me here in Bangalore for a business/sightseeing trip. They  planned their trip in India to last only SIX days due to commitments back home. Quite a whirlwind tour.   They arrived at 2:30 in the morning.  They met the kids when they awoke for school and then bravely joined me in my yoga class by 9 a.m. Then we headed off to see some B’Lore sights. First stop: Nandi the Bull

Kim and Leti got blessings from the Hindu priest at the Nandi statue

  

We also visited the Ganesh that is supposedly made out of Ghee (butter). But I swear it looked like stone to us.

  

Then I showed them the bats in the nearby park! Flying foxes!

Kim and Leti had the misfortune of being here on the day that my driver situation self destructed. After Nandi the Bull we were to visit Tipu’s Fort and Tipu’s Palace. But  instead, the driver started heading to the other side of town. We gave up on the sightseeing and decided to head to the Taj West End for a delicious buffet lunch at Mynt. Below are two photos from the Taj Grounds.

We then set out to do a bit of shopping. But the driver got lost again heading to Commercial Street–one of the biggest landmarks of Bangalore. We just had time to stop in at our favorite bedspread store.

Back home we spent some quality time with the two new additions to our neighborhood–a one month old Golden Retriever puppy named Angel

And  a three month old Golden puppy named Flash!  We love them both. But quite the different personalities–a newborn and a mischievous toddler!

   

Lunch time at the Canadian International School

Standard

We went to join Carson for lunch. We often do this back home but haven’t here in India since it is harder to get to school given the distance and the driver arrangements.  We were 15 minutes late because we were stuck behind  Air Force guys running/training on the road en route to school.

When we arrived, we saw that Kaden still hadn’t made it to lunch yet. She was walking very slowly with her friends. Kaya is from the U.S. and Gabby is from the Philipines most recently. She is moving to China next month.  She waved hello but certainly did not want us joining her!

  

All of the kids eat lunch at once, and it does not seem like there is hardly any supervision at all. Here is a video of the chaos, including a boy in yellow shoving another kid if you look to the right of the video.  As we were leaving the cafeteria we saw the headmaster and his wife, the dean of students, coming in. “Is it crazy in there?” he chuckled.  The man did not seem concerned at all about the lack of safety. I felt very concerned.

The food at lunch varies depending on the day. Continental on Monday and Wednesday (European–definitely not American. No chicken nuggets or pizzza at this school. Instead, pasta with cream sauce, beef stew, etc.).  Tuesday is Oriental day (their word, not mine), Wednesday is Indian day and Friday is Mediterranean, which most often means Middle Eastern. We arrived on Continental day, much to my dismay. Baked beans, a mac and cheese of sorts, a potato soup.  Some veggies. BUT also fresh lettuce and the first Balsalmic vinegar that I have seen since leaving the States! Joy!

  

Carson was almost finished with his meal when we arrived.By the time we got our food he was ready to run out to join his classmates in a game of soccer. That is a LOT of kids playing with just one ball!

Wednesday is House Day, which is why the kids have four colors of shirts on instead of all wearing red!

Carson models the new Moose Mascot hat for the school. He loves this hat!

After lunch Todd and I had a meeting with his teacher. With just three and a half weeks to go before we go back, Carson is just ready to be done with school here. The teacher is a firm believer in neatness, staying within the lines, writing small. That seems to matter as much as the content of the work here. Plus, Carson is having trouble getting started on his work which means that he is not getting it finished. He promised to start his work sooner. But honestly, he is learning at an early age that if he is outta here in three weeks, there’s not much the teacher can do if he just doesn’t want to do his work. If Carson could go home with Todd, he would–other than the cricket match coming up next week. But even that isn’t enough to keep him. Problem is, Todd came on a different airline, plus my stipend is dependent on the kids staying for 80% of the time, plus we’d have to arrange childcare back home. It would be several thousands of dollars for him to go back six weeks early. I tried to communicate to the teacher that he needs to follow directions but we also just want her to focus on having the end of this experience be a positive one. We’ll see how it goes. Kaden is happy to be here  a few more weeks, thankfully.

We also had the thrill of seeing Kaden in an interhouse soccer match. Kaden was chosen to play for the red team. They played the blue team. The game ended in a 0-0 draw, so it was on to penalty kicks. I’ve never seen such leadership from Kaden. She immediately raised her hand for the first penalty kick and volunteered to be the goalie as well. She saved every shot. AND scored the winning goal of the game!

  

During the house soccer tournament, Carson practiced his cricket batting with his cricket coach.

Favorite snacks

Standard

I have discovered Chat. Love it. Chats and Sweets is a common sign that you see on roadside corner. Chats are more savory snacks, like samosas, fried foots, and the chaat that I like which is Bhel Puri. I hadn’t had any before because I can’t eat at those roadside stands without fear of getting sick. But I visited my friend Meena’s apartment after yoga last week and she had her cook mix up some Chai and Chaat for us. It was delicious. You throw all of the grains and sauces from the mix together with tomatoes, cilantro, and red onion. I made it last night and Todd and I had so much, we just called it dinner for the night!

   

We are also such a huge fan of the mint chutney that we are putting on everything these days. Here’s a slice of Sbarro pizza that Todd got at the Mantri Mall the other day–and he smothered it with chutney!

Kaden has not added many (any?) foods to her repertoire here. In this photo she is giving thanks to the portable packets of Heinz ketchup that we bring when we travel. Heinz ketchup is a way we can get her to eat rice. We took this photo because we are thinking of sending it to Heinz as a testimonial of her loyalty to the product!

The kids and I are also starting our list of foods we will miss when we leave. For me these will include mint chutney, murgh chicken on the tandoor, fresh naan, and the drink “fresh lime soda sweet.” And I will miss getting served Chai absolutely everywhere. In china cups at fancy restaurants, in little tin cups at schools, in paper cups by shop keepers. Always with steamed milk and sugar. Bliss. Below is chai served in a paper cup with “high tea” at the water park!

Kaden will miss the frozen hash browns and Baskin and Robbins Ice Cream. Carson will miss the fresh lime as well.

And foods we can’t wait to eat when we get back:

Kaden: frozen buttermilk pancakes

Carson: Pretzels

Me:  medium rare steak salad with feta cheese, balsalmic vinegar and spring greens

Todd:  hot beef from Maple Restaurant in Ambridge

We also have agreed that our first restaurant stop will be the Waffle Shop, unless we go to get ice cream first. We are undecided if we would go to the Creamery or Meyer Dairy first.

In other very random news, our apartment community put together a testimonial about the place and we are featured in it. (click to see link)  I was a captive audience in the swimming pool–hard to say no. I am thus sporting my oh-so-fashionable swimming outfit. My yoga friends say I should start wearing my one piece suit. People will stare anyway. Might as well be comfortable. Apparently everyone here also always wears a swim cap to swim.  I’m just not willing to go there!

And lastly, I am falling in love with some of the street dogs. Really want to take one home with me. Seriously. But apparently they are almost impossible to train. If you live on the street, you survive if you are independent and strong willed I guess!