Traffic for 2011 January

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[Comments] (1) fiddler on the roof: I instructed Sandeep my driver to pick me up at 4 pm today so I could get my hair cut this evening. He said ok. Then when he picked me up I asked him where the nearest barber was and he said "Oh sir you can't get your hair cut on Tuesday or Friday. Such shops are closed those days." Well. Even if I was unaware of this tradition, why did he not mention it this morning?

But he and I sat in the car and hashed a few things out today. Namely, protocol on car repairs and having him chauffer us to Pondicherry in Feb. I told him it's over Valentine's and I have to spoil my wife because hotels, food, massages, flowers, etc are so CHEAP in India compared to US. For example, I bought a beautiful arrangement for Sumana's mother Nagalakshmi and it only cost US$4. Something like that in the states would have been $30+ easy. He laughed with me, so apparently Valentine's Day translates across borders easier than does the barber's holiday.

Mysore was a fab trip. We stayed with Nagalakshmi in her beautiful house and had the upper wing to ourselves. We visited the zoo, which had an otter and some beautiful giraffes (my favorite). Everything else was just ok. We also went to Brindivan garden, which is next to the dam and aquadect that provides water to Bangalore. We got there at dusk, boated across the lake, and witnessed the nightly fountain show and otherwise enjoyed the grounds all lit up. It was beautiful.

Places like this are tourist traps but they are also quite entrepreneurial. We chanced upon some individuals that, for $1 extra, have already waited in line and pre-purchased tickets so we didn't have to wait in line. Yes, I'll pay an extra $1 to not wait in an hour-long line! The kids especially benefit because any time we have to queue they get thronged. Susie is normally opposed to this practice but I find their ingenuity to make a buck charming.

We also went to Chamundi Hill. People thronged us there, and I think they were also impressed by the hiking carrier Maggie rode in up the mountain. The view of Mysore from up there was grand, but unfortunately the air quality is quite poor. I'm unsure if it's smog or something else.

We also visited the Mysore Palace, which costs 20 rupees for Indians and 200 rupees for foreigners. I wonder if the US could EVER get away with something like that; methinks not. The palace was beautiful. I especially enjoyed the hand-carved doors. Upon exiting the palace, we chanced upon camel and elephant rides and who could resist? The camel ride was a bit scary at first. I was on the back of the hump, without a seatbelt, holding Maggie in place on the first hump with nothing to hold myself in place. The back hump does not leave much room for a man to sit comfortably. But it was rather smooth and a neat experience. The camel ride was $1.50 for the whole family and $7 for the elephant ride. Prices are cheap, we speculate, because these companies do not fear lawsuits and therefore do not carry liability insurance.

Mysore also has these quaint horse-drawn richshaws. We rode one completely around the palace, with buses, pedestrians, and autorickshaws sharing the road with us. That cost about $2.25 and was quite nice with the breeze it provided. In the evening they light up the palace and it was really pretty. I would imagine it gives the locals a certain sense of pride. The palace is quite famous, as we saw more white people here in one day than all month long in Bangalore. Susie and I have decided the palace was good enough for us and we will most likely skip the Taj Mahal.

We saw some toy autorickshaws and could not resist. The first guy charged us $3.50 but we talked him down to $2. We then asked Sandeep how much he would pay for one and he said 50 cents. So I gave him $1 and told him to go get us another one since the kids were already fighting over that one and he could keep the change. Apparently the rule of thumb that foreigners get charged double is a misnomer; they get charged four times as much!

The trip there and back was hard. It takes four hours to go 100 miles. Just getting out of Bangalore takes one hour. There is a four-lane highway but unfortunately it goes through each town rather than around the town like in the US. This means stop lights, speed bumps, etc. Every time you make good speed, some cow gets in the way and ruins everything. It's not that I was in a hurry, but Maggie gets motion sick here.

Today for lunch we discovered that, for US$3.50, we can get a big bowl of pasta that comes with the most delicious chocolate waffle topped with ice cream. We just added another option to the work lunch menu!

[Comments] (2) Murphy: I think Murphy of Murphy's law must have been in India when the law was first coined. Yesterday I got my haircut. What an ordeal. It comes complete with a very oily head massage, all for $2.25!

Susie's computer's hard drive died, and it's only 6 months old. Getting a new hard drive is proving to require days and days of work. The simplest little tasks can be so exhausting. I am normally ok paying whatever is required to fix things quickly rather than shop around, as shopping around is very difficult here. Yay for Staples! but it sure would be nice if they opened before 11 am.

the ropes: I think I've mentioned it before, but it bears repeating: the simplest tasks take a monumental effort here in India. For example, we have a light fixture out and I need to pay an electricity bill that requires my Citibank account to be finalized. These should be easy tasks but unfortunately they are sucking time and energy from my soul. I just hope they don't turn the power off on us in the meantime!

But today was very positive. Susie & I both needed eye exams, having gone over 3 years since the last one. We found some locations online in the hip Indira Nagar, near our home where we do most of our shopping since it carries things Americans enjoy, including beef, non-crumbly (edible) bread, etc. We also learned ahead of time we don't need an appointment and the one store opens at 9:30, the other 10. So off at 9:30. We couldn't find the place so we called them. They hung up on us. So we had Sandeep our driver call them; they hung up on him. Sandeep informed us they didn't want our business.

So we went to the second store, which was an older store in a government building. The doctor was kind and efficient, but he measured our eyes without our glasses using the oldest methods possible and had no decent glasses to buy. So we paid him $6 for our eye exams (can you believe that?) and went searching for another store. Somehow Maggie gashed her leg there and didn't even notice until Sandeep said something, and then of course she went pale. The doctor gave us a band-aid and some white goo Sandeep says stops the bleeding. They were a kind shop but unfortunately we needed something more robust.

We found a new store in Indira Nagar within minutes that was able to measure my current perscription and had a wider selection. My eyes have hardly changed (slightly better) and Susie's eyes are now monumentally better. She'll be 20/40 within a year! We also picked out glasses and had them high-level scan our eyes with their new-fangled machinery and, what do you know, the old fashioned way still works! The prescriptions came out about the same.

We both got new glasses for just over $300, without insurance, including the eye exams, which is way cheaper than what we pay back home. My glasses are way expensive because I need the lenses thinned from the coke-bottle look I would otherwise tout. Susie will got back for sunglasses later, and I don't have to since my sunglasses are in good shape still and my perscription is still the same. We both ended up with black glasses with a yellow highlight, mine more subtle that Susie's. We're excited to get them next week!

We also went back to Hyper City and bought a mixer for Susie to make whipped cream with and Maggie's BD present. We found the perfect gift and both realized we better get it now, since Indian karma may leave us unable to find it again in the future. She'll be so excited! We also bought more towels, bedsheets, rugs, etc and some American food as well. Surprisingly, we spent less there than the last time.

I looked in the meat locker there, and they had a skinned rabbit, still very much intact otherwise, in a ziplock for sale. I have never seen rabbit here. They had no meat. We asked Sandeep about meat here and he confirmed my suspicion that killing cows is illegal in Karnataka (our state) but legal in others so our meat is imported, which Susie couldn't believe since it seems so fresh to her. We learn new stuff every day here.

The kids always get a Cadbury chocolate at the store. For 13 rupees (27 cents) they get a chocolate with a Disney character and on plus a sticker. They like them and are the perfect snack size. Well, off to play Handy Manny with Maggie.

[Comments] (2) culture: Our ward has a healthy dose of Africans. I inquired of one today where he is from. Ivory Coast. Apparently Bangalore is a big education hub for people from this former French colony, as he is here studying computer science. The diversity is nice and we had a nice chat, until Dalton decided to dump his goldfish all over the floor.

Today was Maggie's first day in Primary. She seemed to do well and the Erickson girls were THRILLED to greet her.

[Comments] (1) teaching what i know: Oh I also forgot that I now teach piano lessons at church. This Sat night after Institute will be the first. We'll see how it goes. One piano, hoping to get a theory book and easy hymnal at the distribution center next to our house this week, and about 5+ students. Could get interesting!

charles shultz meets mahatma ghandi: After a busy day, Maggie & I unwound watching The Easter Beagle. In the show, although it's Easter, Christmas decorations are up. That sounds about right. Most stores here have yet to take down their Christmas trees. Also, Peppermint Patty and Marci can't seem to communicate about how to boil eggs. We can't seem to communicate with the water guy to come give us a new jug, nor can my work communicate with me about how to pay my bills here, nor can Citibank communicate with me about how to deliver my mail. Apparently the mail room guy didn't know I exist and has not been accepting my mail. Any of it. Who knows what letters have not made it to me?

But today was grand. We went to Cubbon Park, Bangalore's answer to Central Park. We spent the whole morning in the kids section with a busload of kids from another state. They were excited to see us! We rode the boat and the train and let the kids play in the playground. After we rode the boat with all the students, we lost track of them for a while. Then later at the playground the train made its circle and so we stopped to wave at the people on the train. Lo and behold it was the school class, which all bid hello to Maggie very loudly, by name, as they passed by. I wish I had caught it on video; it was epic!

We didn't make it to any of the museums, including the library, aquarium, or planetarium, because they were closed for some holiday, which appears to be a frequent occurance here. Oh well. We plan to go back in two weeks and see the actual park anyway, since we only saw the kids park anyhow.

Since the museums were closed, we went to a hipster mall called UB City. They had some international cuisine on the top floor of the building next to a water fountain and we dined in style at a really nice Chinese restaurant that had fried rice, sweet and sour chicken, satay, and FRIED ICE CREAM! This was our first time eating out at a nice place since we got here, and it only cost US$23. The fried rice crunchy outer coating appeared to be crushed nuts and something like chaat, rather than coconut and corn flakes. But it was still fried in honey and was good. I guess we shouldn't expect authentic Mexican fried ice cream at a chinese restaurant in Bangalore anyhow. It was still good.

The mall had a Lladro store, which we couldn't help but gawk and laugh at, and also had Versace, Louis Vitton, etc. It also has a hotel there filled with foreigners so we didn't get gawked at here, though the waiters loved playing with Dalton while Susie & I dined in peace. We were the only people there for lunch at 1; most people were still eating brunch across the way at the crepe store. So this mall carries really high end stuff for India; I would even call this stuff high end for the US. But the bathroom floor wasn't all wet like at work, which was a nice change! People here like to spray clean rather than wipe clean, which is fine, but it makes the floor wet.

It was a really fun day!

[Comments] (3) how low can you go?: The family jaunted up to Hampi over the weekend. We left Friday night around 7 pm and arrived at the train station just after 8. Our driver was amazed at the lack of traffic and our ability to arrive so quickly. The train station is quite the hullabaloo! So many trains, so many platforms, so many coaches, so many people, so many hagglers! Luckily Sandeep told us to stay in the car while he found our train, then he helped us with the luggage to our train. Finding the right car took time but we had time. At first Sandeep dumped us in first class, which was fine, but incorrect. We quickly found our second class sleeper. Maggie was slumped over asleep in the car, the carrier, and when we got there, unlike Dalton, who would not sleep.

The train actually departed on time! Maggie had fun looking out the window making up things she could see in the dark and dutifully went to sleep quickly thereafter. Dalton took his time going to sleep but still went to sleep before the people next to us, who kept their daughter up well past midnight while they partied on the train.

We took our own sheets and used their blankets to carpet the floor in case Dalton fell out in the night, which he did, only he fell out into the main aisle out of the curtain so all our planning went to waste. The first night on the train was horrid. The people across from us kept the light on forever, our curtain did not block it out, and it was too hot even though we had an A/C sleeper. This made for a first rough day in Hampi.

My coworker told me to book second class. First class isn't worth it, he said, because you pay a lot more for a door. He's delusional. First class has a door and more. Their beds are plush, not vinyl, and there is not two seats across from your two seats, meaning a bigger berth and MUCH more privacy. Oh well.

We got to Hampi at 7 am to find our driver holding a placard with our name! I felt so special. He took us to the hotel, which had a very nice room for us but otherwise was not so great. Once again, my coworker told us check in was flexible so we checked in at 8 am, freshened up, and went to Hampi. Unfortunately this left us to check out at 8 am the next day, even though our train back was not until 8 pm that night. Susie negotiated for our room for free until 10:30 and then they gave us the $15 room from 4-7 that night after our day was done to freshen up for the train. We put up the crib to keep Dalton from getting filthy in this room and all sat on the couch and watched Winnie the Pooh. Then we showered and left. The shower in that cheap-o room was still great but just looking at the beds left me cringing, thinking about bedbugs, etc.

Anyway, our two days in Hampi were great. The weather was very pleasant in the shade, of which there was plenty, and of course the kids made tons of new friends. We saw bats, Dalton was blessed by and elephant, and we saw monkeys and cows steal bananas out of people's hands. We also rode down the river in a Coracle boat, which was awesome but WAY overpriced, and had fun running around the elephant stables. This place is way cool, and the climate and atmosphere reminds me of Southern Utah, with red boulders everywhere.

We lunched both days at the Mango Tree, which was fab! We got to walk through a banana plantation to dine with all the foreigners, who all eat here, because it's the only safe place with good sanitation practices. The food was way cheap and awesome. We had coconut shakes, coconut pancakes, banana fritters, cashew curry, cashew fried rice, etc. And the restaraunt leaves you eating on the floor on mats that are steeped in a hill overlooking the river. The ambience was so peaceful and we never wanted to leave. But the place gets quite crowded so we eventually did.

The middle night at our hotel we all crashed at 8 pm and slept until 8 am the next day, being thoroughly exhausted. Also, the train home was much better. Both kids fell asleep at the station, since the train was 45 minutes late, but the Hospet station is fool-proof and it was super easy to find our berth and dump the two sleepy kids on the same bed. And this time our bunk mates all retired reasonably early so we all enjoyed a good night sleep, until 6 am when all the lights came on simultaneously and they ordered us off the train. Luckily, once again, Sandeep was there to help us back to the car. We thanked him but letting him go at 11 am today.

I came home and slept until 10:30 this morning I was so tired. But driving through Bangalore at 6 am only took 20 minutes to get home! That drive is normally 90 minutes so it's amazing what you can accomplish without traffic! It was an amazing trip, for which we will post many pictures soon. Incidentally, anyone that comes to visit will get a trip here with us; it's that amazing. But we'll stay at a better hotel and maybe opt for a first class train. I still need to check the price difference there.

We keep our expectations extremely low here and we therefore normally end up quite happy when things go well. We expected horrid food, a hot day, and mishaps on the train. None of these things happened. This was one of those times when our actual experience was much greater than our expectation.

[Comments] (1) : really hates it when I rush home from work to spend quality time with the kids before bed only to instead spend that time dealing with screaming kids in need of a time out.

[Comments] (3) man of the town: The title refers to Dalton, not me, who is loved and adored by all here. Wed was Republic Day, a holiday here, so we went to Chili's, which is not too far from our house. It's a bit pricier here, but I guess that should not be too surprising. We read horrible reviews online that all proved to be false. In essence, no rats in the restaurant, we were not the only ones eating there, they did have beef, and the food resembled what you would get back home. I had a burger, Susie had a quesadilla salad, and we shared a yummy dessert.

Then today we re-visited Cubbon Park, saw the aquarium, which was quite good for the quarter we spent getting in, wandered the park, found the library, and eventually found the museum we were looking for. The library was really neat in that it was like in those movies where there were wall to wall books, including those ladder rides to get the high ones off the shelf.

The museum cost $1 and had a life-size moving dinosaur that thrilled Maggie but made Dalton cry. We also had fun lighting up lights by pedaling on bikes, pushing buttons to watch pistons and engines rev to life, etc, typical children's museum stuff. We only saw half of it and left for Sunny's for lunch. Sunny's also serves beef and I had steak and Susie had stroganoff. For dessert I had a blueberry creme brulee. The problem with eating out fancy here is that the tax is double what we pay back home so there is always sticker shock when the bill arrives.

I also was up late all week working on the Kaiser provision. They are offering me a job when I get home, which is not something I'm ready to think about right now.

Tonight is piano lessons, tomorrow we speak in church, and then tomorrow night I'm supposed to give some lady in the ward US Taxation lessons. We'll see how that goes. Life is much busier here than I anticipated.

[Comments] (1) new man of the town: I have been pretty outgoing in the branch and have been known to all as Brother John. The first counsellor is known as Brother Sam, which I am pretty sure is in reference to his first name and not his last, since he's Indian. So I assumed everyone knew that John was my first name and not my last name. Every week the church program lists Brother John as the ward pianist and today listed Sister Suzie and Brother John as the speakers (they called us on the way to church to inquire Susie's name).

Anyway, when they introduced the speakers, they introduced the first speaker as Sister Suzie John, which made me laugh. I guess John is also a legitimate surname but I thought they knew we were the Chadwicks and only called me Brother John to keep it simple. Suzie insists they called her Sister Suzie Johnson, which also means they think my name is John Johnson. Needless to say, I spent the rest of church confirming that I am Brother John Chadwick.

After church I got a lot of compliments on my talk. You made us laugh, some people mentioned. I try my best! I must have done well because after the talk I was invited to a baby blessing on Saturday and a wedding on Friday, both of which sound fun to attend, assuming I can eat the food. My biggest worry is always the food, since I am still struggling with it here. I think Sumana's mom simply did not know what to do with me when we stayed with her. And I never considered myself a picky eater before.


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