This last week has been spent mostly unpacking boxes and sorting the house into a livable space. I’ve managed it with the help of the lovely Saroja (our new housekeeper) and only have about 3 or 4 boxes left to unpack. The house is looking more like a home.
It’s been a tough week though. Rez has had a cold all last week and has been coughing, sneezing and restless in the night which meant I wasn’t sleeping properly either. I finally succombed and came down with a cold on Thursday evening. I am so glad I stocked up on cold and flu capsules before we came out – we’ve really needed them.
It’s rained everyday and as a consequence the power has been off for hours everyday. In practical terms that means no hot water for showers, the fridge and freezer contents quickly spoil, the washing machine sits soaking clothes for hours and the dishwasher leaves residue on the pots. The water filter doesn’t work so there is no water to cook with (unless you had a handy supply of bottled water in) and of course the oven, microwave, slow cooker are all out of action. It is incredibly frustrating.
I can’t begin to describe how difficult daily life is here. As well as the disruptive power cuts there is the daily chore of trying to find stuff and work out how things are done here. Supermarkets do not stock meat, cheese or alcohol so separate trips have to be made to different places in town to make a meal for the evening. The traffic is horrendous so it takes hours. A weekly shop is impossible as food only lasts a few days and less if the power is off.
Cooked ham is only available in one butcher in town or a shop that imports western food. It is incredibly expensive averaging £5 per 200g. Bacon is the same but only American style bacon is available. For the non veg people the choice is usually chicken or lamb / mutton. Cheese is only available in western stores and is imported. 200g of Manchego cost £10 and 200g of goats cheese cost around £5. After a day spent buying ingredients I have had to abandon cooking dinner some nights as the power has been off for hours. It is thoroughly disheartening and time wasting.
We are still battling to open a bank account – we have PIN numbers but no cards. We have to re register with the Foreigners Registration Office now we have moved from the apartment to the house. We still have UK tax forms and electoral register forms to complete – which have still not been sent to us and so far we have been unable to download here. (We have discovered that some web content is simply blocked or unavailable in India). I have to find a local post office or one that isn’t at least an hours drive away anyway. Zahra has written some letters to friends and I haven’t managed to post them yet.
Zahra has settled in really well at school but a local boy in the housing complex keeps stealing her ball when she’s out playing so now I have to supervise so he doesn’t pick on her. She is the only girl on our street who plays outside.
After several days of unpacking and massive power cuts I finally succumbed to the stress of the move to India and burst into tears at a parent workshop at school last week.
The kindness of the other expats was overwhelming as they all said they had done the same at some point and it was part of the process. I abandoned my plans for the day (mainly as traffic was more horrendous than usual – due to the rain everyone on scooters had got into cars and caused gridlock) and headed home.
I spent the day reading the pack of papers for a UK meeting – over 150 pages in the end- and writing a long email to them on my thoughts in case the power went during the Skype call. I then spent 3.5 hours on Skype in the meeting, becoming visibly more ill as the call progressed. I now have a stinking cold. (Rez has had one all week). I need to rest but there is too much to do.
Everything is different and difficult- we have an electricity bill (what a joke) which looks like a till receipt and we have no idea how to pay it for example – it will take me some research with language communication barriers to find out how to.
As daily life is so hard and women here are effectively ignored as an irrelevance (it’s truly shocking)- I have thought about getting in a plane back on more than one occasion believe me. I long for a decent Costa and a glass of wine.
But you know, the kindness of strangers continued. I received text messages from school parents asking how I was feeling that evening. I had other parents inviting me round for coffee (and a cry). Others still sent me contact details of parents in our neighbourhood who were more than happy to help. Others texted me details of shops and services I needed. I felt surrounded by a support group I didn’t know I had or even that it existed.
Most ex pats here have lived and worked abroad before. All without exception have said that Bangalore is THE most difficult and different place to live. The sympathies and help that follow from this being our ‘first’ posting abroad is most welcome and helpful. It doesn’t necessarily make life easier but it does help knowing that I’m not over reacting or losing the plot because I am finding daily life so difficult – everyone here has been through the same at some point.
The kindness of strangers – what a wonderful thing.