Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Back in Bangalore….

Well, we had so much fun on our jaunt to Pune and Trivandrum, but it was nice to be back at home in Mandara.   This apartment complex has been a wonderful place for us to live these few weeks.  It is kept super clean both inside and out.  Each morning these two ladies sweep all of the walkways and paths, removing any of the plant material that might have fallen in the night….DSC05916

….and every Saturday morning we are awoken to this machine polishing the granite hallways….

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I always feel bad walking on the newly polished floor with shoes that have dirt and grit on them!!!!

The complex is made up of several sets of buildings, some housing students and some professors and their families…..IMG_2071

The grounds are very well manicured and have lots of beautiful flowers…..

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This magnificent arbor is in the center of the main courtyard…..DSC05742DSC05743

…and a fun play area for the kids….IMG_2056

I walk up these stairs everyday going to and from the laundry and I kept noticing these little bits of red in amongst the foliage….

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When I delved deeper, I found this interesting red and purple flower….
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Speaking of the laundry, there are four machines provided for the guest house and it was so easy to run down and put a few things in to wash each day. 

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They were fully automated machines.  You put in the clothes and soap and it figured out how much water was needed and how long to wash!!!

On Saturday morning (the 26th), Michael was scheduled to give a talk at another institution in Bangalore and the driver was to pick him up at 10:00am.  The gate attendant called at 9:00am and said that the driver was there….but it was an hour early!!!   Michael went down and was told that there was a strike of the Rickshaw drivers scheduled for the day and that the taxis and  buses were striking in solidarity so nothing would be running between 10:00am and 4:00pm.   He also said that it could be dangerous to travel between those times as people were prone to throw rocks and other projectiles. 

Needless to say, Michael left early to avoid the strike hours!!!   I walked out at about 11:30 to pick up a few things for lunch and was amazed to find that almost all of the stores were closed up.  I didn’t walk far on the street because it had an eerie feel to it with almost no traffic other than motorcycles and virtually no one on the street.   But, the stores re-opened at 4:00 and life went on as normal.  Apparently none of the expected violence erupted so that was a good thing!!!

On Sunday (the 27th), we were looking forward to once again attending Bangalore Presbyterian Church, especially as we had been told that it was “Potluck Sunday”.  We wanted to take something to add to the meal but couldn’t easily cook so I decided to run down to our local sweets shop and purchase a few things.   DSC05920

As I was standing at the counter, I asked the salesman what people would like best and his reply was “all of them”!!!   So, I bought a selection to take and none were none left when I came home, so I guess that he was right!!!

Sunday morning started off slowly as part of the electricity was off and we couldn’t heat water for tea or coffee or make toast. So, I had the breakfast of champions…..Pepsi and cookies…..DSC05922

The church service was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed singing “Arise My Soul, Arise”, one of my all-time favorites!!!

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However, the words to this song were a bit harder…..DSC05924

We settled in for the sermon by Paul Arnold….DSC05926

…and then it was potluck time.  As in any church, all of the women started pulling dishes out of bags and before we knew it, the meal was ready….DSC05930

It was a magnificent mixture of foods and spices and we thoroughly enjoyed the food and the company….DSC05934

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Way too quickly it was time to say goodbye to Paul and his wife Shirley and two kids, Elsie and Joseph…..DSC05940

Our wonderful driver (Prashandh)  had taken us that morning and hurried back to bring us home again and we had to have a photo to say thanks….DSC05946

As the day went on we could hear lots of drums, singing, and shouting going on around us as more and more Temples delivered their Ganeshas to the water.   It sounded interesting but we decided to stay away from the religious fervor!!

About 5:00pm we had a huge rainstorm that slowed some of the celebrations down a bit but they started up again as soon as the rain stopped, however not quite as fervently.

Monday and Tuesday were mostly spent getting organized for our upcoming Trek in the Himalayas.  It took a lot of work to go thru everything we had packed and figure out what was supposed to go on the trek with us.  As I was going thru things, it became clear that we were going to have to have a small suitcase to help carry our stuff to Kathmandu so I headed out to find one.  

On the way, I passed my favorite fabric store and decided that I was crazy to leave India  without buying silk.   When I entered I was eagerly greeted and invited up the stairs to see the silks.   I chose a series of Autumn colors and ordered 2 meters of each…..

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As I walked back downstairs I saw the bolts of trims that were available….DSC05951

….and of course I had to have some to match the silks.   BUT, look at the baubles and beads…..

DSC05950They don’t fit in my color scheme, but that is ok!!!!

And look at the color wall…..DSC05948

I don’t really need those, but look at the wonderful stripes on the far left.  Some of those HAVE to go home with me!!!! 

As the store owner wrote out and added my total, I started worrying that I didn’t have enough cash.   Unfortunately he couldn’t take a credit card so I started counting out my cash, and counting my cash, and counting my cash.   The result was that I had 10 rupees left over!!!  I think that he felt sorry for me because he rounded the total down and gave me another 10 rupees back.    So much for the suitcase!!!

After meeting Michael for lunch (and getting more cash), I set out to buy a shirt in the style worn here.   I passed a small store that had one out front that I liked so I plucked up my courage and went in.    I had gone into one larger shop earlier in the trip but was put off by the fact that all of the proprietors were men and it felt weird to buy clothes from them.

But, this time I hit on a great shop with two VERY sweet young men helping me.  DSC05954

The clothes are not hung out for you to see but are packaged and sitting on a shelf.  Once we had determined what size I needed, they started putting out various packages for me to look at.   After I had picked out one or two that were “possibles”, I was shown where the “trying room”was….a 2 foot by 2 foot closet with a light and mirror.

I finally chose two shirts, happy that my decision making was over and then he said the fateful words…”It’s buy 2 and get 1 free”!!!    So, more decision making ensued.    If you look in the photo you can see how many different shirts they had unpacked for me to look at!!!

Next….. to the suitcase store, talking with a young clerk who had helped me when I first started looking (before I spent all of my money).   I made my purchase after a bit of bargaining and then he asked if we could take a photo together…

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Cute….huh!!!

As I was walking home from the store, I found myself happily walking in the street and feeling perfectly comfortable there.   Over the month, I have decided that it is safer and easier to walk in the street, against traffic, rather than jumping holes and dodging trees, dogs, cows  and people on sidewalk.

On Wednesday morning, Michael went in to work to drop off his keys and say goodbye to everyone and I finished up with the packing and cleaning out the apartment.  We took one last NCBS car to our hotel for the evening…..the Goldfinch Retreat. 

The hotel room is fine and will give us a good nights sleep, but the true worth was in the pool deck and bar/restaurant!!!DSC05982

….and yes, Michael is holding a lit cigar!!!

We spent a wonderful 2 hours sipping on drinks and eating a fantastic meal of Non-Veg Tandoori Kabobs (ie…tasty chunks of meat), even getting to watch it being cooked.

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Here is one of our tasty chicken bits coming out of the oven…..DSC05969

The result was a wonderful meal with two types of chicken (the legs were neatly wrapped in foil so that you didn’t get your hands dirty), fish and some mystery meat that was so good we didn’t CARE what it was!!!!DSC05972

Then we ordered some Naan to go with the meat and naturally I went to peak thru the little window and see the process.   He first took balls of dough and patted and rolled them into a thin flat tortilla.   The tortilla is placed on the blue and white pillow…..DSC05977

….and is slapped onto the side of the Tandoor oven.  The long skewers are then used to flip the cooked bread from the oven…..

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I would have bits of bread everywhere!!!

The chef’s helper desperately wanted his photo taken, so…..DSC05978

The Naan arrived at the table and was quickly devoured.  It was flakey and buttery and SOOOOO good!!!

Dessert was a yummy Chocolate Mousse….DSC05985

Our waiter, Krishna took excellent care of us, coming over many times to reload our plate or our glass….DSC05986

Ok….this is our last night in India for now and we are both sad to leave, but excited about the next stage of our journey.

We leave for Nepal tomorrow, arriving in Kathmandu around 1:00pm.  We meet up with the REI tour group and spend Friday in the city.  THEN, on Saturday we fly to Pokhara and head out for the Himalayas!!!!

I don’t know what internet will be like over the next two weeks, but I will update when I can, and if not, I will be back on the 16th!!!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Back to Bangalore….

 

Now I need to return to Bangalore to catch up with the weekend prior to our Pune trip…..

The last post was about the Ganesha Festival day and it was a big one!!  The following morning things were quieter with the new shrine set up but the stage and seating gone……DSC05678

Now, Michael and I had been eating almost entirely vegetarian food and it had been wonderful, but we decided that Friday evening called for a little bit of meat….. RED meat!!!

We contacted our driver who sent another young man to take us back to Sunny’s restaurant where we had gone early in our stay.

The first thing that we ordered were drinks and I decided to have a Corona….

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IT COST $7.50, but it sure tasted good.

For appetizer, we had avocado with tomatoes and onions and a sauce that reminded me of thin Catalina dressing…..

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The second appetizer was a Thai chicken kabob…..

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Both were excellent and a great start to our meal.

We had nice main courses but then ordered dessert….Michael had Tiramisu and I ordered a Swiss Chocolate torte.   This house shaped cake appeared with the top part being a dense fudge, and surrounded with a vanilla cream….

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YUMMY!!!

I had to take a photo of the back of this water bottle…..

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The brand is called Himalaya (pronounced Him..mall..ya).

On the way home we passed another Ganesha site, this one much bigger than our local temple…..

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Saturday was a quiet day with Michael teaching the last session of his course.  I had a few errands to do and enjoyed a few more street scenes.   Firstly there were these three ladies with their hefty burdens neatly perched on their heads….DSC05695

….and these shoppers who wanted to park as close to the store as possible….

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I also had an interesting interchange while shopping.  People are bad to cut in line in front of you and one man did exactly that, plopping his purchase down on the counter in front of mine.   He saw me looking (well maybe glaring) at him and he stepped back in line and told the cashier that I was first.   THEN, two young men pushed ahead of me and put their purchases on the counter.  The cashier just smiled at me and picked up my stuff first, making the kids wait.  When he opened his cash drawer I could see two of the coin areas were filled with small candies and when he gave me my change, he included two of them…it was a sweet interchange, AND, I appear to have developed a typical India head-waggle when I say thank you!!!

On Saturday evening, we were invited to have dinner with Sukumar and his wife, Sudha.  Sukumar was Michael’s host at the Indian Institute of Science when we were here in 2008.  We had a lovely dinner in their home and enjoyed hearing of Sukumar’s work with the elephants of India.   He has written a gorgeous book called “The Story of Asia’s Elephants” which explores the mammal as seen in science, literature and art.  

On the way to his house we passed a Ganesha parade that was heading to the water for the dunking.    There were lots of drums…..DSC05705

…and some other interesting looking characters as well…..DSC05708DSC05706I’m not sure why this young man has been captured…..

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We passed one lake that had a concrete “cage” in one corner and there was a rather large Ganesha already soaking in it.   We have since heard that this is one of the “approved” areas for the statues to be submerged because it wont disturb the ecology of the lake.

On Sunday morning, Michael was suffering with a head cold so we skipped out on church but in the afternoon we had a dinner planned with the students from his course. 

In the last few years, Bangalore has developed a beer culture and many Micro-breweries have sprung up and we were headed to “The Bier Garden”.  It was quite hectic trying to get enough taxis to take us all to the restaurant and rounding up the students seemed a bit like Corralling Kittens!!!

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One ordered taxi didn’t show up so we “commandeered” another one and the driver and two students vociferously discussed how much the trip would cost.   Michael and I both had visions of being dumped out along the side of the road.

Our group was the first to arrive and snapped up the best seats at the LONG table, a couch that would seat four!!!   The only problem was that we had to all work together to scoot the couch in or out  so one of the students (Gaurab) started referring to us as “Team Couch”.  

As we started ordering, the captain of “Team Couch” mentioned that they served bacon wrapped sausages.  How could we resist…..

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This set the tone for the evening as we plowed our ways thru plates of onion rings (isn’t this a great way to serve them)…..DSC05721

….hamburger platters…..

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……and MANY other delicious dishes.

This was the “Vegetarian” corner and all “Veg Only” dishes were passed their way first…..

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There was an exceptional trio playing, although they specialized in songs from the “Peter, Paul and Mary” era.DSC05727

Michael and I laughed that we were certainly the only ones at the table who remembered the first iteration of these songs, and were probably the only ones in the entire bar who were old enough to remember them!!!

When dessert time came, I chose the chocolate cake which ended up being a lava cake with ice cream that was magnificent……

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When I asked this young man what his dessert tasted like, his answer was “pink”!!!DSC05730

Here is the happy group…..DSC05725

….followed by Krushnamegh sorting out the VERY hefty bill….

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The night ended much as it had begun with 15 people trying to find taxis to take us back to NCBS.  Fortunately, two of the students took pity on us and ensured that we were safely chauffeured back to our apartment!!!

Tomorrow we head to Pune!!!!

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