If you know us, you know that we’re more wallflowers than social butterflies, and are often happy to sit quietly at home. At the same time, we really enjoy getting to know people and we’re committed to a life outside of our comfort zone right now. So this weekend, we said, “yes,” to the opportunities that presented themselves, and were pretty happy about it.
On Friday night, we were invited to the home of two of Tom’s fellow teachers. They are game lovers, as evidenced by an entire bookcase filled with games near the front door, and have frequent dinner and game evenings. This gathering brought over 20 people together, including new teachers, old teachers, and teacher families. It was lovely getting to know people, and particularly nice for Melissa to meet more of the people Tom has been talking about. We were also happy to see an apartment similar to ours that actually looks like a home and get some tips on where to buy furniture and furnishings (it looks like Zefo will be our saving grace, with used and overstock furniture at great prices). We had to acknowledge a moment of envy, though: our apartment complex has two phases, and we live in phase one with all windows gazing at phase two, and all of the bustle that comes from overlooking a courtyard; Nicolas and Beth live in phase 2, with 5th floor windows that all look directly at the canopy of a dense forest, and only nature sounds around them. So lovely. Maybe there will be an opportunity to move to another unit next year – we’ll see how cozy we’ve managed to make our home by then.
On Saturday, Tom was in need of a slow morning after a week of overwhelming work. By midday, though, we were both ready to rally. We decided to walk to Yelahanka Satellite Town which is a half-circle of streets filled with residences and shops. We desperately needed to activate our ever-frustrating phones which now had data but no talk/text minutes applied to them, so a need to visit Airtel gave us the excuse for some wandering. It took about 30 minutes to walk from our house to the commercial section of the satellite town – a walk that would have felt completely daunting a week ago, but which now felt perfectly fine. We’ve gotten good at leaping over sidewalk gaps and no longer hesitate to step into the street when necessary to get around a vendor, heap of garbage, or dog blocking the path.
It’s hard to describe what it’s like to walk around here – it really is filthy and often smelly, the noise from the honking of horns is constant, personal space is defined differently, and people don’t step aside when in your way. At the same time, there are occasional fence gaps revealing beautiful meadow areas, delicious smells wafting from restaurants and vendor carts, and an incredible parade of clothes that seem too nice to wear for any but the fanciest of parties. And, yes, there are cows.
Seriously, they are everywhere. They lie down on sidewalks, they saunter through frenetic traffic, they amble through the tall grasses. They are everywhere, just exuding a sense of peace and ease.
The center of the satellite town is filled with shops selling everything you can think of. At a glance, many of the stores appear large, but when you get closer you see that they extend fewer than 5 feet back from the street. What you see from the sidewalk is what there is to see.
At the Airtel store, Tom was able to use the ATM-type machine to activate his phone, but Melissa was “unsuccessful” and directed to request a refund of her $500 rupees from the cashier. The store was packed and we didn’t want to wait for help, but it didn’t seem like there was much of an option. As soon as the cashier looked free, we headed up to just get our money back. He was so kind and gracious, applied the $500 to talk/text time, and said to just come to him instead of the machine next time. We will.
With that task successfully accomplished, we headed home, only realizing when we were practically to our gate that we’d failed to stop at the wine store so Tom went back. Our closest wine store is called “Not Just Wine and Cheese,” which is particularly funny after you’ve been inside and seen that there is no cheese anywhere and the shelves are filled with hard liquor – the wine is an afterthought relegated to the hot, stuffy 2nd floor with a single standing fan pointed at the bottles. Sub-optimal storage conditions.
That evening, we actually had two invitations to choose between. A large group was going for dinner at Druid Garden, a local hotspot where we’d attempted to celebrate our anniversary. We were also invited to the home of one of Tom’s English department colleagues for a celebration of the July birthdays of the other three members of the department. Eager as we were to go to Druid Garden, we decided that an intimate dinner was likely to be more our speed. We brought the wine.
Of the four members of the high school English department, Tom is the only non-Indian member. Adina, Devika, and Archana are starting their 4th, 8th, and 2nd years at CIS respectively. Adina, our host, does not enjoy cooking but has some great skill in ordering food, so we enjoyed a delightful feast: samosas, onion pakoras, a sort of sandwich pakora (unusual and tasty!), and Caulifower Chilli (which we’ve had elsewhere, called Ghobi Manchurian). There were also many different munchy things, and sweet graham balls called Ledou (or something like that). Lastly, there was a chocolate cake to celebrate the birthdays and welcome us (Tom & Fly = Tom and Family) – so sweet! Adina’s home has a lovely view of the nearby lake that Tom walks around on his way to school. When we weren’t eating, we were enjoying the view and interesting conversation – we learned quite a bit about Indian history. It was a really nice evening.
On Sunday morning, we met up with a big group of new teachers, all eager to go to the Mantri Square Mall. We piled into three taxis and headed over to meet two returning teachers who were leading our excursion. They kindly offered to spend the day at a corner table in the Starbucks so that we could run around amassing homewares and periodically dropping them off with them so our hands would be free to go get more. This was a terrific mall with everything we needed. While we didn’t accomplish everything on the list, we came pretty darn close, and went home tired but happy that we finally had hangers, clothespins, candle holders, a cheese grater, napkins, placemats, mixing bowls, and a bunch of other stuff as well.
That night, we decided to check out the famous Druid Garden for ourselves (see Druid Garden) and had a perfectly lovely time. We’re starting to get the hang of life here in Bangalore.