Chapter Two: The Apartment

On July 31 at 5 am, after about 30 hours of traveling, we saw our new apartment for the first time.

We had corresponded for weeks with Premanand, the facilities manager for the school who also manages apartment assignment and repairs. The school would provide us with a furnished 2 bedroom flat, but we had the option of paying the difference for a three bedroom unit (about $94) to allow Melissa to have a functioning home office even when we have guests. We asked Prem to find us a 3 bedroom flat on a higher floor because we assumed that (a) we would have more of a breeze on a higher floor, (b) we would have a greater sense of privacy on a higher floor, and (c) there would be fewer spiders on a higher floor (very important to Melissa). First he offered a 3-bedroom on the 2nd floor, so we checked our assumptions with him before committing. He responded, “No worries of the spider – breeze will be less comparing with higher flats,” and committed to looking again. “No worries of the spider” became something of a catch phrase through the rest of our packing time, but provided little comfort to Melissa who wasn’t sure what that meant! A week later, Prem had found us a 3-bedroom unit on the 11th floor, and we took it.

While we generally tried not to build up our expectations about things, it was hard not to do that when it came to our home. The apartment complex has a website, so we were able to look at furnished model units, and we were excited. We pictured  moving into something like an Airbnb, or maybe an apartment recently vacated by another teacher and all set up for our needs. The reality is a bit more stark. We have a lot of space, but very little in it. Our floors are all bare, beige tile. Our walls are a uniform beige except in the fully tiled bathrooms.

The layout is nice and open. You enter into a hallway/entryway with a door to the right into a guest room with its own ensuite bathroom (Hey, guests! You’ll have your own private space when you come to visit!). It’s not fancy, but we’ll add a bed and make it comfortable.

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The hallway opens into a living room/dining room space with a large balcony with 4 foot walls framed in with mosquito netting.

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Off the dining area is the kitchen which has a door at the end that opens to washing room with a washing machine and shelves – this is essentially another balcony framed in with what we now know to be monkey netting (we haven’t yet seen any monkeys, but we’re really excited about the possibility!).

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Toward the back of the apartment is a bathroom to the right, a guest room (and likely office for Melissa), and the master bedroom with its own bathroom. Off the master bedroom is another balcony, but it’s been entirely closed in with windows. That might be a nice kind of solarium if not for the fact that the AC for the apartment is located in the master bedroom with it’s motor in that small closed area – it’s crazy hot in there when closed up! Maybe we’ll eventually adjust to the heat and do without the AC. The ceiling fans in every room really help.

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Our furnishings consist of:

  • a super-firm, matching couch and two chairs in the living room with a small end table
  • a dining room table with four chairs – perfectly nice
  • in our bedroom, a queen size bed with a mattress only slightly more cushy than a carpeted floor, and a large wardrobe
  • in the first guest room, a similarly cushy twin bed with a desk unit with shelves, and a wardrobe
  • in the second guest room, a dresser (no bed)
  • The kitchen has 4 plastic plates, 4 small glasses, 4 mugs, 4 forks and knives, 6 spoons, one non-stick frying pan, one plastic lidded thing lined with a metal insert (no idea what to do with that), 2 carving knives, and a peeler/corer, and a “coffee buddy” that lets you make one cup of coffee at a time directly in a mug. We have two gas burners, a microwave, a fridge, and a filtered water dispenser.

Note that there is no mention of linens because there aren’t any beyond one slightly scratchy flat sheet on each bed with a blanket. For the first two nights we put both blankets under the flat sheet to add a little more softness, covered them with a flat queen sheet folded around the mattress, and covered ourselves with a twin flat sheet. Melissa is not known for her good sheet sharing, so it was a bit challenging. We also had to use Tom’s long sleeve T-shirts as towels and showered without shower curtains – luckily the full tiling meant the bathroom was prepared for that.

The folks from the school really are trying to take good care of us and had stocked the kitchen with necessities: coffee, tea, milk, bread, eggs, peanut butter, apples (which we were told to soak in water with vinegar for 2-3 minutes before eating), juice, and cheese spread. We were grateful to be able to feed ourselves on the first day.

The apartment complex is lovely and we enjoyed our first walk around the grounds after an early nap on our first day. There’s a gate with full-time guards, a new and slightly off-putting experience for us. Within the walls, it’s really clean with a straight path all around the buildings and a more meandering path that winds through the foliage – beautiful flowering things everywhere and more butterflies than I’ve seen in one place outside of an enclosed butterfly garden. Women in brightly colored saris are always along the paths, gardening or sweeping the walkways with these short brooms. There is a beautiful pool in the center of the complex right next to the badminton net. Next to that is the club house which has an open room for parties on the ground floor, a ping pong table and pool table on the 1st floor, a fitness center with cardio and weight machines on the 2nd floor, and a mirrored room where the security guard says there are Zumba classes (Melissa is delighted by this news!). We’ve seen someone walking with a yoga mat in that general direction so we wonder about other kinds of classes as well.

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The complex next door is related to ours and has a small supermarket – more like a convenience store. This is particularly important for the water since we can’t drink (or brush our teeth in) what comes out of the tap. We can order a replacement jug any time and they will rapidly replace it. Big relief to figure that out!

We had wondered if this complex would feel like a closed ex-pat community, but it really doesn’t. Other than the new CIS teachers we’ve met, all the other residents seem to be Indian. We’ve read that only about 30-40% of the residents of Bangalore are from Bangalore so they may be from other parts of India, but we won’t have any idea until we start making friends. Most people seem to avoid eye contact, but some neighbors down the hall have waved at us so we have hope of getting through the barriers and actually getting to know the people around us.

We have a lot of shopping and “homemaking” to do, but have no doubt that this will be a very nice place to live.

Minor quirks of note:

There are switches everywhere – every outlet has its own switch, plus switches for ceiling fans, lights, hot water heater, and AC. Weirdly challenging that they all seem to turn on in what would be the off position at home.

Brownouts are real – we’ve had two so far that we know about, although the building generator kicks in for essentials pretty quickly and power is then restored within about 15 minutes. We need to buy some big, bulky UPS devices to ensure that our electronics don’t get fried, though.

6 thoughts on “Chapter Two: The Apartment”

  1. What fabulous descriptions… I can now imagine your apartment!! Sounds like you have landed in a beautiful place!! One of the things I have imagined about going to India is being surrounded by beautiful fabrics! Can’t wait to see what you pick out to make your home your own!!

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  2. Tom & Melissa,
    What an exciting adventure! Thank you for sharing it with all of us back here at home helping us to appreciate all the amenities we take for granted. Anxiously awaiting the next chapters!!

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  3. what a great description of your new home. Brings back memories from Peace Corps days, especially the water issues. I’m so glad you have a “little” time to acclimate It’s so interesting to find out what you take for granted. It allows you to open yourself up to many opportunities you never knew were available to you. Enjoy. Can’t wait to hear the next chapter.

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  4. Enjoying hearing about your adventure! In Kazakhstan at one apartment it took me a while to figure out what the “sheets” were! Didn’t look like anything I would have considered a sheet! And the mattress….

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  5. Oh guys- welcome to India! I wish we had spoken before you left the USofA. If you can order a memory foam topper for your mattress on Amazon, DO. I have no idea how they are comfy on those hard beds, but they are. When the kids were little, they used to say the beds would “slap you in the face” at night. Indian textiles are amazing. When you get out, try to find a FabIndia and purchase some lovely bed linens and towels. They will last decades. Anokhi is another delightful source of cottons. Wear Indian cottons to stay cooler. And don’t wish for monkeys, adorable as they are…they will ravage your home if they get in. 😱 Love this blog!

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    1. Thanks, Becca! That is all fabulous advice. Melissa is googling FabIndia right now. We are waiting on our Indian bank account to register for Amazon.in, but believe you me, we are going to go crazy once we do — mattress topper, UPSes, hangers, so many things we just took for granted two weeks ago.

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