Tag Archives: bureaucracy

The woes of the Internet, the next chapter

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I have already shared the many woes of our internet experience. The first company showed up and then never came back. The second company came, took our money for a Wi-Fi system and then never came back to install more than one direct line that only sort of works. The third company said they would come right away and then determined that they can’t provide service to our area.

So, we have decided to try the internet sticks. They look like a data stick at home that stores info, but instead it can access the internet from wherever if you plug it into your computer. It doesn’t help to solve the problem of I pads and I touches since they can’t plug into a stick, but it’s a start.

Like mobile phones in India and at the same stores that seem to be located on ever road, big and small, purchasing a data stick is very difficult and even more so for a foreigner. The process involves a several page application, a passport size photo, a copy of your passport, a copy of your visa, proof of residence in India (a lease). Buying a house would be easier in the United States than getting a data stick in India. I had to return to the store three times to get my paperwork correct, since the guy that I worked with also said that we needed our Foreign Registration paper. And then the lease copy wasn’t good enough.

Getting a copy involved driving about 10 minutes away to this little storefront of a guy who sells sewing machines. In this little shop is a copy machine. I think he does more business on copies than sewing. The copies are 2 rupees a piece (remember that 50 rupees are a dollar). Here are some photos of his shop.

  

 

The view to the left and the right

If you are lucky enough to get the stick, it then takes several hours to be activated. That means that you can’t check while in the store. And if a problem is found with the paperwork after you leave the store, they don’t call and tell you. They just never activate the stick, which has already happened to me once.

  this shop couldn’t help me despite waiting for a looong time.

  

This one finally did! (again, note the three people huddled around the page, but the guy in the sweater was definitely in charge at this store. Ultimately, it costs only $20 to gain 3G access from this process, but it took over a week to actually acquire the stick. Happily though, now that I have it, I can Skype from any room in the villa or anywhere else for that matter. And my email goes through much more smoothly.

Meanwhile, as we are headed to the copy store, the courier calls me. We had sent two boxes of books to India in December via “diplomatic pouch” which is a cheap way to send books to other countries where you will be working via the consulates. So, a good month later, the books arrived in Chennai and then were couriered to me. But the person trying to deliver the books did not speak English. So I handed the phone to my driver. The next thing I know, we are pulling over the car, and a man is running across the road with two boxes of books. He delivered them to our car!

 my driver and below, here come the books!

 

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Service struggles

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While I need to keep reminding myself that we have only been in India for 3 weeks, it is frustrating that we are not fully up and running yet. The local ex-pats smirk and say that it takes a full month to get settled here, but with only four months in our stay, that is a frustrating experience.

Some tasks have occurred very quickly. For example, my mom went to register for TV service and they arrived within ours to make the installation. The WiFi has been another story. One company  came on Wednesday and said they would come to do the install on Friday. So we waited all Friday. He never came so we called another company on Saturday. They came, took 2200 Rupees, promising to install the router on Monday. We waited Monday.  Finally at 5:30 Tuesday they arrived, but did not come with equipment to install a wi-fi network but instead just one direct line connection that doesn’t work very well. We have no idea if they will every come back to install the proper network.  We are thinking we need to start over with a new company and just eat the costs paid to the last company. There really is little recourse when this kind of thing occurs.

We have also had issues with bees. There was a four foot by two foot bee colony on the adjoining apartment’s balcony. Of course, the bee guy came to remove the hive at the same time that the tv guy and the wifi guy arrived, which was all right when the kiddos were coming home from school. We sit and wait for days and then everyone arrives at once.

We talked about our service dilemmas with our Bangalore family, and concurred that it definitely is a different approach to customer service here. It is a “labor intensive” economy. While in the U.S., there is a tendency to understaff, here most things are overstaffed. People travel in twos, threes, fours. As our friend joked, one guy does the installation and another guy has the job of handing him the tools, much like a surgeon. With our wi-fi issue, the technician could not install a router because there is a separate service person in charge of routers instead of the direct line connections.

Here are a couple of photos I’ve taken of this phenomenon in the past two days. One are some workers here at our villa complex—two security guards and two of the workers who do landscaping and odd jobs around the property. They were all collectively knocking on the door of one of the tenants. I’m not exactly sure what they were doing, but it’s so common and usually it is for something that in the U.S. would never involve more than one person—even when it would be easier if it did.

Also note that the youngest kid in beige can’t be more than 15, but he is already working full time.

In this other photo my mom and I are buying an internet data stick at the mall. Four service people were working together to fill out the paper work. Four.

Still no internet…

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This blog is currently being published in batches of posts because we STILL do not have internet at home, despite day after day of hoping that perhaps it might be the day that the internet guy will arrive. So, when I do make it in to the office, I publish what I can! Hopefully at some point I can resume a more steady post of publishing. Keep your fingers crossed for us! (And for finding a dedicated driver too. The current one didn’t show yesterday when it was time to pick up the kids from school.)

Is it really just day two? Errands!

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We had an ambitious day of appointments and errands today. After breakfast in the hotel, a car arrived from a local realtor to take us to see a possible rental unit. It is 45 minutes north of the city center and very close to where the kids will be attending school. The property has just been built, so there are only a handful of families who live in the facility so far. We saw both three and four bedroom bungalows—huge by Indian standards and at a very reasonable price of Rs 30000-40000 ($500-$750). The place has a gym, a swimming pool and a playground. The four bedroom home even has a beautiful terrace, and we can see the school from a distance on the property. It definitely set a gold standard for house hunting. They will furnish the apartment with rented furniture for our four month stay.

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second story terrace on the four bedroom condo

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external view of the condos

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main living area of the condo

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Kaden checking out her school from a distance

After touring the property, the owner took us to visit the kids’ school. The entrance to the school is off of the main artery that leads to the airport. After winding down a dirt road lined with coconut and then banana trees, you come upon a beautiful white school with tiled blue roofs. The facility was closed for the holidays, but it had a very good karma about it and the kids seemed pleased. The buses were also lined up inside the gate so we could see the kids’ future transportation as well.

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Canadian International School of Bangalore

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Carson checks out the banana and coconut trees on the road heading to his school

We then rode back to the hotel, took a brief rest and then set out to buy cell phones.  It is New Years Eve and many streets in the city are blocked from traffic to prevent revelers from leaving their cars three rows deep in the streets. Over 16,000 police officers have entered the city center to prepare for the crowds. But in the afternoon, it was just mainly a crowded Saturday of shoppers. We travelled to my mom’s favorite mall in town due to its big book store and Pizza Hut.

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At the mega mall

The Pizza Hut had table service and very delicious pizzas with interesting curry flavors and unexpected combinations.  By ordering off the menu we were able to get a plain cheese pizza for the kids plus a vegetarian pizza for the grown-ups. I ordered Thai chicken skewers which looked and tasted more like meatballs from wedding soup. Kaden ate potato wedges but was disappointed that “lemonade” was actually a carbonated drink. We had to be sure to request no ice for our drinks as you never know where the ice was coming from.

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Kids reading books in the mall's bookstore. (Note Kaden jabbing Carson in the ribs. It never ends).

By 3:00 Carson was exhausted and terrorizing his sister. Having been awake since 10 pm the night before, his body was shutting down. And we all were wiped out really. But we needed to finish the cell phone task. Buying a cell phone in India requires showing your passport, visa, and providing a passport size photo for each phone. Foolishly, we should have brought our old phones from the U.S. and then just bought SIM cards (you can’t do that with an I-phone unfortunately, but with any other phone). We had to go to three separate counters for choosing the phone (no, we don’t need a camera, blue tooth or MP#–we just want to make calls please), then buying the SIM card and then buying the calling plan. The kids were DONE by the end of this one hour task I took them to an arcade to play air hockey, skee ball and Pole Station before we made the long drive home, totally exhausted. Kaden said, “I am done with India for today.” We all are. Time to get some R and R and recover for tomorrow.