Bengaluru Ganesha Chaturthi

We knew we wanted to somehow honor this holiday in celebration of the birth of Ganesh, the elephant-headed god, but we weren’t quite sure how to do this. Melissa spent some time hunting online for possible events and came across the 55th Annual Bengaluru Ganesha Chaturthi, an 11-day festival downtown with different performances every night. While the information was limited, we decided to take a chance.

When we got to the National College Grounds, we saw that they’d covered the huge parade grounds with a tent. To one side at the front of the tent was a sort of temporary temple with a giant Ganesh and other symbols on the holiday, with people lining up to walk past and receive the attentions of the priests.

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To the other side was a big stage with a women’s choir already singing as we arrived around 5:30.


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The main event (a dramatic dance performance of Krishna’s life called Krishna Leelaavarna) was to begin at 7, but of course we’re living on India time. After the choir finished, a drum line with 30 drummers situated near the altar began to play with great gusto and for longer than we would have imagined anyone could sustain. It was incredible and projected on the screen above the stage the whole time, interspersed with shots of the candles being lit and offerings being made to Ganesh. It would have been nice to have things explained, but we still found it exciting to be a part of it all.

Exhausted from our day of walking, we didn’t make it to the main performance of the event, but the evening felt complete.

Lalbagh Botanical Gardens

Lalbagh Botanical Gardens are right in the middle of downtown, quite close to Cubbon Park which we enjoyed a couple weeks ago. Lalbagh was commissioned in 1760 and finished some years later. It is considered to be the jewel pendant in the necklace of gardens that historically covered this city and, along with those other parks, were the “lungs” of the city. While many of the parks have been replaced by highrises, Lalbagh remains.

We very much enjoyed walking amongst flowers, shrubs, and bonzai trees; around the lotus pond and the lake; and up to the top of the 3 billion-year-old granite hill with a temple on top. We saw random Disney characters and an imperialist remnant of a glass house. There were more monkeys and a crazy blue non-waterfowl of a bird skipping from lily pad to lily pad.

The glass house built in honor of an 19th century visit from the Prince of Wales. Now it’s used for flower shows twice a year.

While lovely, the gardens show some signs of neglect – statues in disrepair, a few abandoned buildings being reclaimed by foliage, the beautiful 19th century glass house that only has flowers in it a couple times a year.

The people there, though. Everywhere we go in this town, we come across kind, happy people. The joy and exuberance of the kids is inspiring. Parks like Lalbagh bring out the best in these already wonderful people. The worst you can say about them is the frequency with which they request selfies with us enjoying the park with them, remembering that our tour guide Tej called us flamingos. They are so kind and happy and eager, it is impossible to say no, particularly if we don’t want to be jerks (which we don’t). This means there are moments that someone asks, “Just one selfie, ma’am?” which turns into ten, and then another group wanting “one” of their own, and if we’re really “lucky”, a third group right on their heels. At times it feels like we are carnival freaks, but we remind ourselves it is just people being excited. There is a little bit of us that wonders if we are ending up on Facebook as part of some game — see how many pictures we got with the weird white people!

Melissa’s Musings: Ganesha Chaturthi

Tomorrow is Ganesha Chaturthi and we are excited for two reasons: we get to experience our first India festival and we get a three day weekend! We’ve decided to take advantage of the long weekend by spending time in downtown Bengaluru and doing some things that might normally be more difficult with the traffic between us and city center. That will also put us near some significant celebrations and allow us to visit some ancient temples.

On today’s walk, I saw a vendor selling Ganesh statues. Tomorrow begins 11 days of celebration in honor of the birthday of Ganesh (via a complicated “birth” story that involves beheading and reanimation with an elephant’s head). In the next few days, people will mostly have family events with special sweets and altars to Ganesh set up in their homes. Toward the end, the statues from the altars will be submerged in bodies of water around the city, sending Ganesh home,taking all of our misfortunes with him. 20170824_151008Unfortunately, this practice has evolved from traditional clay statues to brightly painted plaster of paris statues that kill the fish in those lakes. There’s a big awareness campaign on right now, so hopefully this year will be better than last, although my local vendor was selling both kinds.

We look forward to having some great stories next week!

Melissa’s Musings: A Period of Adjustment

Some days I wake up excited to find myself living in India, conscious of my good fortune at being able to make this dream come true, and eager to see what the day will hold. And some days . . . I don’t.

Some days I wake up crushed by the weight of a thousand tiny irksome things that I can’t change or don’t understand. I don’t like my enormous hair, somehow inflated to twice its normal size by the humidity. I’m sick of the relentlessly itchy bugbites on my legs and shoulders (and last week on my right cheek). I’m tired of the frequent vague nausea that never actually results in anything, but somehow can’t be entirely ignored. The scaly rash on my eyelids is tremendously irritating. I don’t want to brush my teeth with bottled water. I don’t want to deal with the expense of a harrowing taxi ride to go anywhere. Neither do I want to walk along the filthy, smelly, noisy street to get to anything. I don’t want to use “toned” milk or part-buffalo milk butter or soak all of my fruits and vegetables in vinegar before eating them. And I want the stupid power to stay on, leaving the internet functional through the entire length of a TV show.

There are also particular challenges for a white American introvert in Bengaluru. I’ve found that I really kind of like the invisibility of middle age in America. I go out for a walk in Portland knowing that I can choose to be noticed, but am otherwise unnoticed and unremarked. Here, I do not blend. People will stop what they’re doing to stare at me as I pass. Strangers ask me to pose for photos with them – I was counting how many times until the numbers got too big. When I walk into a store, I draw a crowd of people trying to help me, all standing uncomfortably close and trying to interact intensively while we discuss rice cookers or mattress toppers or whatever I was vaguely interested in, but suddenly want to escape. I don’t want to be a jerky stranger in a strange land so I engage with everyone who attempts to engage with me, but it takes a toll and I generally arrive home exhausted.

The hardest part of the difficult days is acknowledging my own deficiency. I pictured myself living serenely in India, engaging happily with community, always up for any challenge that arose. I don’t like the reality that my nerves can fray and my tolerance for adversity is less than I’d like. But I know that in time I will grow a thicker skin and find it easier to deal with the challenges that life In Bengaluru throws my way. And even on the difficult days, I know I’ll probably wake up happy tomorrow, once again excited to find myself living in India.

Nandi Hills

After nearly three weeks in Bengaluru, we were ready to do a little exploring out of town. We wanted to breathe some cleaner air, see some beautiful vistas, and maybe be in an area with slightly less human density. We were also eager to check out Grover Zampa Vineyards and see if Indian wine was worth further exploration. Sadly, GZ will have to wait since we learned that the winery is closed until September, but all other things seemed possible.

We put out the call to Tom’s colleagues to see if anyone else wanted to come along on our excursion, and happily we were joined by two families: Colleen and Ethan, originally from Lopez Island, but most recently from Cameroon, with their 9-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son; and Ben and Christina from Denver, also on their first international placement, with their 10-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son.

Since the winery idea fell through, we invited everyone to join us back at our place for snacks and some blind tasting of a few Indian wines after the day of sightseeing. Planning for this was a bit of a challenge for Melissa. We love entertaining, but realize now that we have some pretty comfortable entertaining ruts that just don’t work here. The cheeses, dips, crackers, etc. that we expect to easily acquire at New Seasons just aren’t available. The more complicated things we enjoy serving require fancy, new-fangled kitchen equipment like ovens and food processors or inaccessible ingredients. With stops at two stores and an order placed at Nature’s Basket (the place to find fancy imported foods at a serious premium), we had enough random munchies that people wouldn’t be hungry, and we planned to make our first papad and onion bajjis.

On Saturday morning, we were picked up by three taxis arranged by Madesh and drove north for the first time since our arrival. We live in the north part of Bengaluru so are usually traveling south to get to anything – shopping, parks, entertainment. But to the north are the Nandi Hills and Tipu Fort, our primary destination for the day. It took about 75 minutes to get there, thankfully a drive with relatively light traffic, passing a lot of really interesting scenery that included green, jungle foliage, neighborhoods of varying levels of affluence, and the ruins of Tipu Sultan’s birthplace. Tipu Sultan is often called the Tiger of Mysore and was an 18th century ruler of Southern India, most famous for his determined resistance to English rule in the Anglo-Indian wars.

Tipu Fort is high up on a hill at nearly 5000 ft with commanding views of the whole region. The narrow, shoulderless road up the hill is a series of abrupt switchbacks with a fair amount of traffic going in both directions. It was definitely a moment for trust because we had no control at all. Happily, we were distracted by all the monkeys along the way. Melissa (who had not yet seen any monkeys) was delighted, but repeatedly admonished by the driver, saying, “Monkeys are dangerous. Caution!” We promised to be careful.

We had read that tickets would cost 15 rupees for Indians and 200 rupees for foreigners, but when we got to the front of the line, we were asked for 10 rupees each and an additional 50 rupees for a camera. That brought the total to just over a dollar for the two of us, which frankly didn’t seem like enough. Near the entrance, a vendor was selling ice cream, and a couple of the kids got some. This triggered the only trauma of the day when 10-year-old Ainsley’s ice cream was stolen out of her hand by a bold monkey. Monkeys were everywhere throughout the day, and it was so fun to see them, especially the babies (although we protected food carefully after that).


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After passing through a gate, we headed up a long path with very little idea of where we were going or what we would see. It is strangely difficult to get specific information about Indian sites. We’re used to going on-line and carefully researching the things we want to see. In other countries. we can usually find someone’s carefully curated walking tour with points of interest and historical fact, but not here in India. There will be plenty of guidance about the importance of going to a particular place and maybe a couple specifics (a number of people recommended going to Tipu Fort for sunrise, a suggestion reiterated by our driver), but the majority of details just aren’t written down. 20170819_111635As we walked around the grounds, there were signs in English with clearly stated rules, but all other informational signs were in Kannada, so we were in the dark. There was one big sign that listed the points of interest in both English and Kannada, so we knew some of what we were looking for. From there, we just wandered and took in what we could. It had been suggested by one of Tom’s colleagues that we should hire a guide for the day – we decided not to because we were putting it together at the last minute and it was going to be a bit pricey, but we’d like to go back at some point with a guide who can offer more context.


At the highest point of the hill is the Yoga Nandeeshwara Swamy Temple. We thought this 20170819_114513would be an old relic that was mostly a tourist destination now, but it really isn’t. Sure, there may be some tourists, but it is an active temple and place of worship. No photos can be taken inside and it really felt solemn and lovely. There is a priest in just an orange lungi lighting incense which people line up to wave over their faces while walking slowly past the idols. We’re not yet sure what’s appropriate for us. We know it would be inappropriate to visit a Catholic church and take communion when we don’t believe – does it naturally follow that it would be inappropriate to stand in line for incense waving? Or is that more appropriate than standing aside to observe? We’ll find out and be more confident in our actions next time.


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After quite a bit more wandering and marveling at the natural beauty, the old ruins, and the adorable monkeys, we headed back to find our drivers who were waiting for us in 20170819_141552-1their cars. From there, we told our driver that we wanted to go to the Bhoga Nandishwara Temple, and he said he’d take us there but insisted on going somewhere else first. We didn’t really understand what he wanted to do or why but decided to just trust him – boy, were we glad we did! He took us to a temple that hadn’t been on 20170819_141458-1our list but was truly magnificent with idols in alcoves and a giant bull statue inside. Worshippers were walking slowly around it, and we joined them. Our driver told us (we think) that it started small 1000 years ago and has slowly been added to over time. So far we haven’t been able to find it on line, but we’ll keep trying because we’d like to be able to take people there in the future.

Then we went to Bhoga Nandishwara Temple, which is really a large walled complex with a beautiful park on one side and a temple on the other. It was built in the 9th century, dedicated to Shiva, and is covered with beautiful carvings and idols. On the park side people picnic and relax on the lawn. On the temple side, they are clearly there to worship. It is truly awe-inspiring.


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After about an hour there, we headed back to our drivers and back home, arriving a little before 5. We set out a spread that included imported cheeses (smoked gouda, kerrygold, and brie), dips (unappealingly grainy hummus, tasty peri peri garlic dip, and herb dip), crackers, masala potato puffs, onion potato puffs, veggies, cashews, and our own papad and onion bajji (which were quite tasty if we do say so ourselves). The grown-ups came over but left the kids to relax at their respective homes with their screens – it had been a big day.

We also put out 4 bottles of wine for tasting and ranked them as a group: the clear winner was Grover Zampa La Reserve, followed by Fratelli Cab Franc/Shiraz. There was some dispute about which came in last, MS Sangiovese/Cab Franc/Syrah or Raya Red Wine, but we all agreed that they were all drinkable even if not all our favorites. Nice to know we can get a good bottle of wine for $15, decent bottle of wine for $11, and a drinkable bottle for less than $7. We’ll do ok 😊

Most significantly, it was really nice to have an evening to hang out and chat with new friends. We look forward to many more such evenings!

Tom’s Tales: My Walk to Work

Sorry, Corrine, Mike, and Adina. My commute to work is so great. Last year, I struck the lottery with my carpool. It was more relaxing, more entertaining, and more interesting than spending an hour or more every day in a car by myself. This year, getting to work is even better. As I started looking at the new life I had just signed up for, I got excited about my new commute. Most days, I get to walk to work. It’s a quick 30 minute walk, but it includes this incredible little cross section of India I didn’t anticipate.


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The walk starts with crossing the Doddaballapura Road just outside our apartment complex. We’ve already discussed how intimidating crossing the street is here and how unintimidated the locals are. It turns out, Doddaballapura Road is a piece of cake. In our first three weeks here, we have successfully navigated a few streets that make ours look like our little Cook St. in Portland. The key? Keep moving. Traffic in Bangalore is described as a liquid — it flows around all impediments. If you stop suddenly because you get startled, the drivers who are trying to flow around you are not going to be able to know what to expect and . . . higgledy piggledy.


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Then I head down Kenchanahalli Road. This road is interesting for its many transitions. First, on one side of the road, comes an apartment complex far fancier than ours. On my way home, I frequently see monkeys bounding about the fences of the complex. On the other side of the road is a huge construction project that I’m afraid is either an oil refinery or a diesel power plant (or possibly both — did I mention it’s huge?). Around the corner, after the sign that announces that the property has been seized to investigate the owner as a slumlord and another huge construction project that looks like more apartments, comes a little building that looks like the Bangalore version of the classic Portland development — retail first floor, residential above. The retail, though, is more like little stores people set up in their garages.

In the morning, I am walking toward school at the same time there is a flood of walkers in the other direction — groups of men dressed for construction and other types of work, kids in a rainbow of school uniforms, and women dressed in the stunning saris that serve as everyday dress around here. Also, I pass women in a wide variety of Muslim dress — from the niqaab (black robes that cover everything except a slit for the eyes) to the basic hijab, and I can only assume I pass many Muslim women who have chosen not to cover themselves.  The men, too, dress in a variety of ways. The key, though, is that I never see anyone being harassed; quite the opposite — groups of kids and adults frequently contain Indians of all walks.

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Next, I cross the first of two railroad tracks. Melissa pointed out to me that the crossing gates are operated by a hand crank. On the other side of the tracks is a small neighborhood that looks right out of any Indian movie you’ve ever seen. At first, I wondered if there was indoor plumbing, but it seems like the homes have a wide spectrum of plumbing situations. At first, I thought this was poverty in action, but it seems far more middle class than I first thought. The kids are incredibly cute and happy, welcoming me with either cries of “Uncle!” or “Bye!” (I’m pretty sure they don’t know “Hi”). The adults seem more skeptical, often giving me hard, serious looks or quizzical “look at that carnival freak” looks. Almost invariably, those hard looks turn friendly and happy when I give them a quick nod and greet them with “Namaskaara”, Kannada for “hello.” Mixed in with these very modest homes and shops are a couple of estates that look incredibly lavish across the street from what is clearly the neighborhood dump.

As I leave this neighborhood, my favorite part of my walk, I reach the second railroad crossing. This is notable for two things: first, it’s not a railroad crossing, just the end of the road where people cross over to the second notable, the hole in the fence through which one must climb in order to get to the lake. I was nervous about the climb, until one day we climbed through and were met by park security. They waved us on through and later caught up to us on their bikes to take pictures with us.

One little diversion: Trains. About half of the time, I am held up by a train at one of the two track crossings. Sometimes, it’s full of flatbed cars with huge coils of steel. Other times, it’s passenger trains that fulfill every stereotype of an Indian passenger train — cars labeled air conditioned, sleeper cars to “third class cars” with open windows and packed to the gills with travelers.

A second diversion: White privilege. We have encountered white privilege several times in our three weeks here. I’ve tried to write about it several times, but it always comes off wrong — preachy or culturally ignorant or however else inartful discussions of white privilege go bad. One of the most uncomfortable moments happened at this point of the walk the first time I brought Melissa along. There were about 20 locals who had gotten off the back of a truck who lined up to go through the hole in the fence. We were in the middle of the group when a woman walked up beside the line, saying something loudly in Kannada which inspired all of the folks in front of us to step aside and gesture for us to go ahead of them. We declined and waited our turn. This kind of thing happens way too often for our comfort.

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Once through the hole, I walk a small portion of a very large lake. My new friend Sandeep told me that it is a very clean lake by Bangalore standards (the lake near his previous home in the southern parts of Bangalore caught on fire), and the powers-that-be are trying to protect it. The result is a lovely path with a bit of green buffer between the lake and new construction. There are all kinds of birds — some loon-looking birds, hawks of some kind, herons, egrets, pelicans, and a wide variety of small birds I can’t identify. Despite Sandeep’s assurances, let’s just say I never see anyone swimming in it, and no one would recommend eating fish caught there.

The iron train wheel factory.

The flip side to this part of the story is the part that makes the lakes catch on fire. Huge factories, including a train wheel manufacturer that spews (I’m told) orangish red something-or-other every day, line one part of the lake. Also, I am afraid the creek we walk over to get to the town of Yelahanka that runs black and makes us gag empties into our “clean” lake. One of these days I’m going to write about my hardening belief in strong regulation and the shortsightedness of the people who cry for regulations to be eliminated. Be aware: this will be some of my primary evidence.

Another funny feature of the lake is the nearly constant radio broadcast. We have no idea why.

Adina’s apartment complex.

Adina, my colleague who had Melissa and me over for dinner our second weekend here, lives on the lake on the other side. Just outside of her complex is a whole sports complex with basketball courts and workout equipment. The authorities stopped a construction project that was starting to fill in some wetland between her apartment and the lake, apparently part of the effort to protect the lake. They seem to really be trying to make the lake something that people want to have as a resource.

In a field separated from my path from a very intimidating barbed wire fence, I often come across cows, both individual and in well-controlled herds, or goats, usually being herded. The cows are everywhere, so other than their sacredness they don’t feel notable. The goats, though, super cute. And if you’ve never been with Melissa when she comes across baby goats, well, her reaction is its own category of adorable.

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At one of the gazebos that people use for meditation and the eating of lunch, the scary looking fence breaks apart. I scramble down a dirty, or, more often than not, muddy hill to a small field filled with butterflies and ants making crazy little ant hills. The field turns into a small palm tree forest that makes me wonder if this is how Bangalore used to look before 12 million people made it their home.

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Next comes the trespassing portion of the walk. I pop through another hole in yet another fence into a beautiful small farm. The people their are kind and welcoming, especially after I greet them with a smile and a “Namaskaara!” The gate to the farm is occasionally locked, and I have to scamper through a gap between the gate and the building. I’m afraid that either that gap or the hole in the fence will soon be closed. The result will be a 15 minute longer walk, but most sadly I will miss this pastoral little stretch of the walk.

Once through the gate, I am at the front gate of Canadian International School of Bangalore, where I am greeted by the extraordinarily friendly security folks, and up into the school that feels like a resort.

I’ll write about my work soon. I’ve spent my entire career trying to avoid putting work stuff on the internet, and that caution is a hard habit to break. Stay tuned.

Tom’s Tales: Far far away with nothing to be done.

I’m going to write something now about the ugliness happening back home. I can’t promise it’s going to be profound, and I certainly don’t think the world needs another white person declaring himself a “good white person.” I just don’t know what to do. I wrote to Senator Merkley, hoping he’d remember that when we met him in June we told him we were moving to India, and to Representative Blumenauer, since we are his constituents. But they’re already deeply on my team, so what am I going to tell them they don’t already know? What I really want are email addresses, or 1,000 email addresses, or however many email addresses I can get a hold of decent people who voted for their Republican representatives to urge them to write to said rep.

Many of you family members and loved ones have been hoping for impeachment since January 20. I haven’t gone there with you. It’s not how our Constitution works. Sometimes, we lose elections. We work like hell to make sure the damage done is limited, then work even harder to flip things around the next election. No matter how much we hate the winner of an election, we have to live with it. In the past few days, Trump has put an incredible number of lives in danger he was elected and sworn to protect. By not standing against hate, he has created an atmosphere where these monsters declare they are justified in their hate and supported by the most powerful man in the world. If that’s not “high crimes and misdemeanors,” I don’t know what is.

But that’s all just politics. And a shot in the dark at that. This runs much deeper than politics. The things that those assholes are so afraid are disappearing make my life easier, too. White privilege is real. Impeaching the president isn’t going to change that. I saw Michael Moore speak awhile back. He tried to assure the crowd that what we are experiencing is the cry of the dying dinosaurs — they are going to freak out as they watch their way of life die out. But that was 15 years ago. And those kids in those pictures are kids. They represent a whole new generation of hate. I know that almost every one of my students I’ve taught in the last 18 years stand proudly and courageously against the hate, but I also know I’ve taught a very few who very well could be waving those wretched symbols. If the dinosaurs are dying, they’re regenerating themselves before they do. How will this end?

In the meantime, from the other side of the world, we can only try to represent the America we dream of. It’s a message people around here want to hear. And we can write write emails. Lots and lots of emails. If you have contact info for people who live in Republican districts, voted for Republican representatives and are disgusted by all of this, please let me know.

The message above was scrawled on the wall one day on my walk to work. Best wishes, friends.

Independence Day

August 15 is Indian Independence Day. We imagined that it would be like July 4th at home, but when we looked for a big celebration to attend, we couldn’t find anything. There were lots of events that day, but they were of the nature photography, cycling, kids athletic event, shopping deal sort. It seemed more like the kinds of things that we might do on President’s Day at home – less about the reason for the holiday and more about the day off. Given the conflicted feelings around the partition that occurred with independence, it makes some kind of sense. The only independence-focused event that we read about was the big event where Narendra Modi would speak and much of the article focused on the security measures being taken there.

Mandalas appear occasionally on the sidewalks of our complex and around the neighborhoods. Tom was told by his new friend Sandeep that they are a general sign of welcome.

We decided that this was the perfect day to rewatch Gandhi. Neither of us had seen it since it was originally in the theaters so it felt pretty fresh, and also pretty slow – interesting how movie styles change. We started it the night before, so just had half remaining to watch with our morning coffee. The movie did a great job of detailing the fight for Indian independence and explaining the hardening of the conflicts that tragically continue today. The New York Times had a fabulous article telling the stories of these persistent and deep conflicts.

By the time the movie was over, we could hear activity in the courtyard and headed out to see what was going on. We had read that there would be athletic competitions for children so we were prepared for that, but were

The cleaning ladies with their gifts.

not prepared to see residents sitting in chairs while maids, gardeners, and guards were each called up and given a gift. We didn’t really understand what was happening, and it took us a little while to figure it out. We still don’t know what they received, but we hope it was really nice – they work so hard to keep our environment safe and beautiful here.

The kid’s competitions were adorable. We missed the earliest events with 2-4 year olds, 4-6 year olds, and 6-8 year olds competing, but we made it in time for 8-10 year olds. They lined up (with much coaching) for the very short bicycle race, foot race, or the triathlon that included a short run, bike ride, and a swim across the swimming pool.

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They were all so proud and determined, but the event itself was really chaotic – it seemed like the organizers were making it up on the fly and had never before considered the details. It all contributed to the relaxed, community feeling. It was also the only event that reminded us of our own Fourth of July and the athletic events (this year organized by Asa) at The Canal.

20170815_142532From there, we met our driver to go to Dastkar, a big all-India craft show with artisans from all over the country. It was at the Manpho Convention Center, which sounded to us like an indoor space, but turned out to be a large gated outdoor space. We walked past every booth a few times before settling on some acquisitions. Before considering furniture, we had to discuss the possibility of spending money to ship things home at the end of our time in India, however odd it may seem to think about that now. We then bought a beautiful wooden end table with a carved brass top from the Rajasthan booth, a bedspread and marble coasters from two different Uttar Pradesh booths, a shirt for Tom from Kerala, and  Rajasthani pants for Melissa. We were delighted by all of our purchases.

20170815_144644On the way home, we passed a sort of parade of people holding or wearing headdresses of marigolds. It came up so quickly, we couldn’t get very good pictures and we still don’t actually know what it was. Our driver tried valiantly to explain but between his limited english and our total lack 20170815_144639of any other relevant language, we didn’t get beyond the fact that it was a flower festival. Nothing about it online at all, but it seems many things go unremarked around here.


Back home, we settled into making Aloo Gobi for dinner (see Cooking Experiment: Aloo Gobi). It was decidedly mediocre, but we’re learning!

Cooking Experiment: Aloo Gobi

Part of our mission in moving to India is to master Indian cooking. In time, we’ll find people to observe so we can learn the finer points, but in the meantime, we’re just diving in! We bought heaps of spices and used the recipe from Veg Recipes of India to attempt Aloo Gobi. I do not in any way blame this very fine recipe for the food we created.

We were out of tomatoes, which was mistake number one, and decided to go ahead anyway. We also do not yet have measuring cups or spoons so can’t be certain that our ratios were quite right. And the cashew cream was pretty darn lumpy with a few fully or partially intact cashews in the mix, owing to our use of a spice grinder to make it. We also wonder what would happen if we ground the spices instead of treated them like aromatics simmering in the gravy.

The resulting dish had a really unappetizing color, was strangely lumpy, and was surprisingly bland despite all of the spices that went into it.

We will persevere in our Aloo Gobi efforts with the following adjustments:

  • use all ingredients on the list
  • buy a small food processor for the making of cashew cream and other chutneys and sauces
  • buy measuring implements so we can better follow recipes
  • be brave with the spices

On the upside, the frozen flaky paratha we bought was delicious!

A Busy, Fun-Filled Weekend

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, and 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 img_1818satellite 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 not a recognized concept, 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 img_1819to 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 there didn’t seem to be another option. As soon as the cashier looked free, we headed up to get our money back. He was so kind and gracious, applied the 500 rs. to talk/text time, and said to just come to him instead of the machine next time. We will.

Throughout the satellite town, there are surprise green spaces.

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 more likely to be our speed. We brought the wine.

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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, learning 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.

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