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.
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.
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!