I need to start carrying my camera with me so that I can post pictures too. I’ve been saying that for a few weeks, so let’s hope it lands a permanent position in my purse sometime soon!
Until then, here are some (very textual) updates from Bangalore.
Size & congestion
First, Bryan and I learned from Wikipedia (so take this lightly) that Bangalore is the 16th largest city in the WORLD. New York was the largest United States City and it ranked somewhere in the 20’s if I remember correctly. No wonder it feels so big and seems to have a little of everything. I don’t mind the size and congestion like I thought I would and I appreciate everything it has to offer because that means there are things like home.
For example, our friends recommended a butcher and I was timid about going because I was preparing myself for an open-air type environment with some carcasses just hanging around. I was pleasantly surprised as the part of the shop that was exposed to the general public was a counter with a bunch of refrigerators and freezers. (Obviously, in any butcher shop there are carcasses hanging around, but I am used to them being more hidden and at least refrigerated.) This meant that it smelled like any butcher would in the States (a smell that I can tolerate) and had a large array of options like chicken cut an way you like as well as chicken sausage, chicken sticks, etc. I heard it would have some pork, but I was pleasantly surprised to see there was beef! We got 6 chicken breasts and 1 lb. of beef mince. Yes, I said beef mince. You know, the cut of beef also known as ground beef in the states? That was fresh (read: ground directly from the animal in the back and still warm when they gave it to us.) I’m happy to report that the beef mince tasted just like it does at home and we haven’t tried the chicken, but I’m not so concerned about that. I’ll be making many a return visit to this butcher for sure!
Thanks to the wonders of Google and my searching husband, we discovered that there is a Gluten-Free bakery in Bangalore that not only has gluten free but also has dairy free items. They have bread! Want to know what else? They have cakes, amazing looking cakes! We just discovered it today, but you can bet we'll be making a trip sometime soon. Then, hopefully I can dine on some PB&J sandwiches for lunch instead of some nuts out of my purse. Things are looking up! (Oh - BTW - I recognize that I could bring my lunch, and plan to, but this whole food thing has been hard, so we're starting with baby steps and will grow into it as we are here. We expanded our repertoire to include pizza and spaghetti last week and are going to work on tacos this week. You see, it IS SLOW but we are making progress!)
There is a lot of shopping here. In the forms of malls but also in the forms of stores along the street. Shopping is everywhere! (I guess it needs to be with this many people!) Most people shop at local food stands, but I’ve learned that if you want a big-box grocery store you have to go to a shopping mall, where they are always found. (I would love to shop at those little stands, but I have special dietary needs (and am spoiled) so it’s the big-box stores for the most part.
The malls are quite large and seem to be just as much about entertainment as they are about shopping. There are plenty of stores and even some familiar ones, but there are also movie theatres, mazes, wacky mirror rooms (you know, the kind where the mirror makes you look short and squaty), mock race tracks, and the like.
Things in general are not air conditioned as much, which means that I’m comfortable and Bryan is sweaty, but the mall we went to on Friday night had me sweating, so you know it was warm in there people! We seemed to be the only people affected by the temperature though, so we just went with it.
We also saw a cigarette vending machine of sorts. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen one of those!
As all expats in India must do, we had to register at the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO). We were blessed because our company got someone to help us navigate through this bureaucratic task, and our friends prepared us for the “worst part of living in India” as they described it to us. Even before we left the States we’ve been sending the requested documentation/information off to be prepared for our FRRO paperwork. When we got here, the emails seemed non-stop and after some very hectic last minute moments, our paperwork was ready and we were informed to appear at the FRRO office by 8:15 AM. We were prepared for the trip to take the better part of a day so we brought our iPad and Kindle and were set to camp out. The sun must have been positioned just right as we were in and out with our necessary paperwork by 11:30 AM!
Then, we had to begin the PAN registration, which is some sort of tax registration. That’s been a hairy mess, and the required elements seem to change by the day. For example, on Friday I verified where we were supposed to send our information with my contact. She confirmed. I sent it via courier as directed only to be told on Monday that I should use a different address as that would be “better.” Really? Really people? My courier is well on his way, and he’ll just drop it off at the location you gave me, ok?
I got a response back (a day later) that yes, since the courier was on his way the address they supplied me would have to work. We’ll hope that we get the PAN stuff done soon!