Monday, December 29, 2008
Friday, December 26, 2008
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Our 16-odd boxes were cleared and were delivered before dinner time, so we were able to enjoy Lesa's nice birthday meal and cake that evening.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Our temporary driver, S.K. (photo below) is a very experienced professional. He's probably about 45, and has been driving for quite some time. He is a devoted employee, very knowledgeable about where things are located and where things can be found... and very protective of his passengers.
SK found out I was thinking about getting some business cards. This was on my mind since we now have signed a lease and have an actual address here. We also have a family cell phone so it now made sense for me to get a box of cards.... especially since people keep giving me their cards and I have nothing but a dazed grin to give them in return. SK said... "Dont worry sir. I know a good marrrket we can get them." So off we went to a local Noida Market (see the new "Swimming-in-India" banner above to get the picture of this place).
We parked on the street and after inquiring at a few street-front shops SK led me down a tight alleyway. (photo above). The alley got narrower and dingier. SK made a few more inquiries at a small stall. We went on and made an abrupt right turn down an enclosed alley way with no power. It looked like a scene from Blade Runner. Open fire, darkened stalls lit by candles. Water on the broken concrete floor. Rubbish everywhere.
We walked to the end of the alley and a voice in Hindi called out from a dark stall. The man lit a candle (this really happened) and emerged from darkeness. SK and he exchanged words and he pulled out a stack of business card samples from beneath a ratty little table to show me. After a bit of haggling, gestures and broken English we settled on a format, colors, font and price... Rs 450 (about $9 for 500 hand printed pieces.) Rs 100 deposit and the deal was done. 3 hours later SK and I returned to proof the card on the street (again, refer to the new photo on the "Swimming-In-India" banner for a visual) and the cards were done.
My sense is this is a normal transaction here in India.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Getting into an Indian school is about exams and interviews for the children. For the parents it involves a tremendous amount of waiting, flattery, and ultimately patience.
The children passed their school placement exams today at Lotus Valley International School. They both did really well and will enter at their current grade levels. Audrey is really charged up about starting saying: "tomorrow is going to be the most exciting day of my life." She is sure she will have a new friend by the end of the day. Evan is more reserved, but gladly didn't fuss about wearing a uniform.
Although there is protocol at every turn, the staff have been warm and welcoming. The kids' first day of school will be on Tuesday (tomorrow!!).
The kids have been amazing for the entire past week. They are experiencing massive amounts of change -- time, culture, accent, food -- and taking it all in stride. They have hardly fussed through multiple long days of apartment hunting, school interviews, Indian meals and waiting, waiting, waiting.
The other BIG event today was that we signed the lease on our apartment at ATS Green Village. It is a 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom flat overlooking the gardens and pool of the complex (known as "Societies" here). The flat includes a secure, separate room and bath for a live-in servant. We plan to hire both a cook/housekeeper and a driver at least for the first few months here.
Establishing a utility service, a bank account, buying a cell phone - any task involving paperwork is agonizing here. There is always a proper order of events, a protocol for signatures and review, and a specific number of copies to be made... Passport photos, copies of passports and visas, copies of lease-contracts, letters of employment, all seem to be required to set up any service. Standing in a queue or waiting a significant amount of time before, during and after each step seems to be part of the price of admission.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Lesa and I like to watch the comings and goings on the street out front. All the usual traffic... buffalo-drawn carts, auto-rickshaws, bicycle-rickshaws, wandering cows, you name it. This morning we saw a family of 4 riding on regular bicycle... Mom, Dad and 2 small children. Laxman, the cook/caretaker of the house is wonderful. He and the staff are very kind and help us with pretty-much anything we need... Ha! It's nice to have someone bring you a cup of coffee with warm milk and sugarcubes!
Yesterday was spent going to a few local department stores to get a better idea about the cost of new furniture and appliances. We are hoping to purchase some of these used from other expats readying to end their overseas assignments. If we can do this it will save some rupees since we are on a limited budget.
Today we are just resting and unpacking some of our belongings so we can be a little more comfortable. Our next goals are to finish enrolling the kids in their school and to sign an apartment lease. Once the lease is signed we will have a "permanent address." This is a big step because it will enable us to set up a bank account... then the fun of really establishing a household here begins...
Thursday, December 11, 2008
We are comfortably staying in the Radisson-Noida for our first few days... my only complaint is that the internet is slow and last night it wouldn't let me send out any emails... going to call their IT today to see what the issue is. Spent most of our first day starting to register the kids their school and looking at 8 or 9 possible apartments. I think we have it narrowed down to 3 or 4 good possibilities right near the school and work. More on this later.
We also have a cell now... I will send the number out today if my email is working. Lesa has already sent this out to a few folks via her work email.
Today brings us more apartments, school registration and a little exploration. I will bring my camera today to get a few pictures. Namaste.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Just as a reminder, if you have been trying to get in touch with us, our only working phone is our home phone - only set up for local calls at this point. Email is the best way to reach us until we have a phone and permanent address established in Noida (hopefully by the end of December). Snail mail addressed to our US address will not be forwarded to India by the postal service.
Our renter/house-sitter moves in with us this weekend for a crash-course in care-taking the 'homestead' here in Austin. I think she will enjoy the home and our neighborhood and we will be able to communicate easily with her through work email.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Since the kids are not enrolled in school now, we have been learning about India. Made a map and a flag of India today. We have also been studing the difference between Celsius and Fahrenheit and started learning about the metric system to prepare for life outside of the US.
Monday, December 1, 2008
About 2 weeks ago we were notified that the visas were due to be processed and released on November 28th (according to the Indian Consulate in Houston, TX). This was cutting it very close for a Dec 1 departure date, but we were reassured that all was on track..
As timing, luck and/or fate would have it, the bombings in Mumbai (Bombay) occurred on November 26... sending the Houston Consulate into a frenzy. The consulate staff was suddenly overwhelmed with local requests from Indian Ex-patriots trying to check on loved ones back home. Subsequently, no visas were issued by the Indian government to travelers on Friday. Several friends joked and reminded us that waiting is also an essential part of travel and life abroad.
The good news is that this delay will give India a chance to settle down a bit, and give our family a chance to finish properly packing. As soon as we have a new departure date I will post it here.