Bible college

Wow! I am exhausted. I have just finished the first semester of Bible College. Ending with 8 two hour exams in one week. (That’s been a test of endurance I can tell you!). It has been a blast. It is also why my blog has been a bit quiet of late. Study and assignments has taken up most of my time. Trying to fit all that into the daily challenges of life in Bangalore has not been easy. It has meant my time for reading and writing has been squeezed out. However, I am now on holiday until January. Time to catch up on all things.

Daily Life at College

For now, I’d like to give you a glimpse into life at Bible College in Bangalore. Obviously I have nothing to compare it to so I have no idea how it contrasts to other Bible Colleges. I am also a Day student and not a boarder. The boarders have a set daily schedule they have to adhere to from 5am (yes that’s right, 5am!) until 10pm. Their lives are literally mapped out for them whilst they are at Bible College. By comparison the handful of Day students have it easy.

This has been an amazing journey. I still can’t believe I am at Bible College. It is great and I am really enjoying it. I am learning so much and despite being there from 9:30am to 1pm Monday to Friday I feel as though I don’t have enough time to study. It’s amazing what you learn when you start studying again.

Facilities

Finding the college at first was difficult. It is in a residential area on the ground floor of a three storey multipurpose building. It is unmarked. There are no signs directing you to the college and no signs outside the college to alert people what the building is used for. I have no idea why this is as I have not asked but I do wonder if it is for safety and security reasons. This is a very nationalistic Hindu country and attacks on Christians are not rare.

The college itself is very basic. The desks are old and falling apart and our chairs are a variety of plastic garden chairs. The space is one large L shaped room, two classrooms and a book warehouse with a sink and kitchen table. The one toilet is outside around the corner. (More on that later.)

The L shaped room is used as a music area and the main area is used for daily morning meetings. The meetings are held from 8:30am and consist of praise and worship followed by one of the students delivering a sermon, in English, on a portion of the Bible. A safe place to practice for those going into the ministry.

After the morning meeting the chairs are moved into the classrooms and tables arranged in rows. We share desks, two to each desk. There’s not a lot of space. There is a white board on the wall. The windows at the rear of the classrooms have bars on them (usual in Bangalore). The classroom door has a lock on each side. (Can you see where I am going with this?) I was quite alarmed when every teacher entering the classroom locked the door behind them. Nobody else seemed alarmed. I was at the back of the classroom near the windows. My exit route was locked. I requested the door be kept open at all times. It took a few days before everyone got used to having the door open.

I open the windows and switch on the fan every morning to circulate the air. We keep the window open throughout class and whilst it is noisy (even in a residential area the noise is incredible), it is worth it to circulate the air and avoid a stuffy classroom. One of the teachers once closed the door and asked for the windows to be shut because of the noise.The small classroom quickly became hot and stuffy and we were all falling asleep in the heat. A quick break and reopening windows for the entire session afterwards solved that problem.

There were no fire exit signs, no first aid box or signs and no fire extinguishers. Considering one of the rooms was a storage area and full of books, I found this to be an incredible oversight. The safety of the students just didn’t appear to have been considered (although I am sure it had). I ordered and placed all the above in college. No one said anything directly to me but I could see that they were bemused. That’s not quite true, one lady student laughed at me thinking I was ridiculous. I ignored it.

The next thing I did was buy a welcome mat, washing up liquid and hand soap. They were drinking out of cups that were being rinsed under a cold tap before being reused. I also started supplying biscuits to go with chai (tea) at the morning break. This was a very welcome addition.

Toilets

Right, toilet facilities. When I first arrived (late in the term due to holidaying in the UK), I was directed to the ladies boarding house for the toilet. It was about 100 yards away from the college, we needed a key and one of the boarding ladies to accompany us there. Now it doesn’t take a genius to work out that with Bangalore Belly being a feature of my life that this was a very dangerous arrangement for me. The risk of having “an accident” was high and very unwelcome. The risk of total humiliation in front of my fellow students was not appealing. Nevertheless, I complied with this arrangement for weeks. I also supplied the ladies boarding house with hand soap and a towel as there wasn’t any. I was also told not to use toilet tissue as it wouldn’t flush. The crux came when I needed the loo and I had to wait for one of the boarding ladies to exit the wet room as she was having a shower (I use that word in its widest sense). As she stepped out into the bedroom, wrapped in a towel, I thought enough was enough.

I asked the class ‘Captain’ (elected student representative) where the men went to the toilet and was told that there wasn’t a toilet available for ladies on site and I had to use the boarding house. After pressing her, I was told there was a toilet on site for the men but it wasn’t suitable for the ladies. I asked why and wasn’t given an answer. The class Captain said she would have to as the college director whether I could use the men’s toilet. The incredibility of the situation was lost on her.

I asked one of my male classmates to direct me to the loo they use. It was outside around the corner at the back of the college. It had a functioning toilet and a tap, bucket, a hose / douche but no sink. The floor was a lake but it was perfectly usable. I was dumbfounded as to why I wasn’t allowed to use it.

Now, those who know me will know that I would see that as a challenge, and indeed I did. I started using the toilet. The men were bemused at first but got used to me queuing for the loo with them. I also upgraded the facilities with some easy and obvious additions. I bought a plastic three tiered veg tray stand and placed it in the toilet with hand soap, soap dish and antibacterial gel. I placed a towel on the hook and bought (a much needed) air freshener. (I wash and change the towel weekly). I also supplied mosquito spray and toilet roll. I placed a loo block in the cistern. The toilet was transformed. I now use it all the time. The other ladies still will not use it.

The Syllabus

So, enough about the facilities, what have I been studying for the last few months? The syllabus has been interesting and varied. The subjects covered in the first semester were as follows:

Minister’s Foundation – we studied a book called ‘Code of Honour’ which contained some basic guidelines about what to do and what not to do in ministry. It covered personal life, family, people, conduct, preaching, anointing, results, fellowship, money, women and fame. Yes, fame. Apparently in India this is a thing. Who knew!

Old Testament Survey – literally a gallop overview of the whole of the Old Testament in one semester. Learning about history, authors, themes, purpose etc of each book. It was a good grounding in the background to each book of the Old Testament. I did feel it was rushed though and the sheer volume of information was daunting in an exam scenario.

Praise and Worship – and the difference between the two. I found this to be the most difficult topic. I am not musically talented or gifted in any way and whilst I enjoy singing, the right note or key is an aspirational thing for me. Thankfully there was no ‘practical’ side to this. We did learn about what the worship team does mid week, about auditions and the probation period. They really have no idea how fortunate they are to have so many gifted and talented musicians and singers within the church. It’s normal to them. Rather unlike the small churches in the UK who scramble around to find anybody with the slightest musical talent to beg them to play. (Don’t take that personally, it’s not about you!).

The Holy Spirit – The person of the Holy Spirit, work of the Holy Spirit throughout the Bible, baptism of the Holy Spirit, gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Trinity etc. This was a real education and fascinating.

Who we are in Christ – understanding our union with Christ. This class was taught by Pastor Kenny who is a gifted speaker and frequently went off topic to tell us about events to illustrate points. It was very interesting.

Faith – literally everything to do with our faith and what helps and hinders faith. Very useful.

Prayer and Intercession – I found this the most enjoyable subject and was taught by Kala who is also a gifted teacher as well as an amazing prayer warrior. It really has transformed the way I pray and my prayer life. Don’t know how to pray? Start with the Lord’s Prayer folks. It’s a great way to start praying if you never have.

Soul Winning – pretty much lessons on how not to be a dick! Nobody likes a Bible Basher after all. That’s not the way to do it. There were some interesting insights into the biblical foundations of evangelism as well as some basic principles.

We had exams in all of these subjects which completed the first semester. January sees the start of a whole new bunch of subjects which, I am sure, will prove equally fascinating.

EXAM WEEK

This is the diary I kept when I took my first set of mid term exams in September:

Day One I’ve just sat the first exam in literally decades.  It was weird going into the classroom, with the desks laid out in rows and our names on the desks. First year students were sat next to second year students so that there was no temptation to copy. At the start of the exam the teacher handed out the double sided question papers and people immediately started to look at them and write on them before some of us had even received a copy of the paper. The teacher then waited a few minutes before giving out blank pieces of paper and telling everyone NOT to write on the question paper and write all the answer on the plain sheet, and no one was to start yet. A little late for that announcement!

When he said we could start there was frantic writing all around me, whilst I read through section A of the paper and turned over to section B, where I found some questions I thought I could answer. Section C was memory verses (I knew one of the eight listed – oh dear) and section D was a true or false section; so a 50/50 chance of getting them right. We were half way through the exam before I realised the time. As we were only given one piece of paper to write on I had to keep asking for more. Some students had finished 45 mins into the exam and stood up, walked to the front and handed in their paper before walking out. That was a distraction for me as in the UK people generally sit till the end of the exam and they certainly don’t get up and walk to the front – you have to raise your hand and wait for the invigilator to collect your paper.

Time up and people kept on writing. We were asked to hand in our papers at the front. As we did so some were still writing. Eventually the last lady handed in her paper. I was disorientated. This would never have happened in the U.K. In exam halls everyone has to put their pens down and wait for all papers to be collected by the invigilators and wait to be dismissed by them. It was really strange.

Final exam week

Exam week two, just completed, was pretty similar but with the exam being two hours long a lot more people got up and left early when they had finished their papers. For some exams there were only one or two individuals sat writing exams at the end whilst the rest of us enjoyed a cup of tea and biscuits. One exam, the second years finished early whilst the first years were still writing away, so they brought us all tea and biscuits to our desks. It was very welcome. Can you imagine that in a UK exam hall?!

Christmas Break

The final exam saw the end of term. We are now on a break until January. Students have returned to their villages across India, back to their families for Christmas. I have given each of the first year students an Advent Calendar (imported from the UK) together with an explanation of what it is and how to use it. They had never heard of them. I hope they all enjoy the countdown to Christmas, Our Saviour’s birth, as much as we do.

Now, time to start preparing for Christmas.

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Bible College in Bangalore – my story of how it happened

This is a post I never thought I would be writing. My friends will tell you that I am the least likely person to go to Bible College. (In my opinion, I am also the most likely to get kicked out at some point!). So how did this happen? How, after 33 years of being a (pretty crap) Christian, did I end up going to Bible College? How did I get here? Obviously it’s all in God’s great plan for my life, but I can tell it from my perspective.

Becoming a Christian – my belief in God

Woodvale Chapel

I had attended Woodvale Chapel in Ainsdale, where I grew up, ever since my cousins Michelle and Carol had taken us at a very young age. I loved going. The folks were kind and accepted us (me and my twin) with all our challenges, having come from a ‘chaotic’ family childhood which made us aggressive, defensive and outspoken. (I know, not much has changed.) 

Billy Graham, Mission:England

The church took the youth group on a trip to the Billy Graham Mission:England at Anfield Stadium in 1984. I sat listening to this old American preacher saying things I had heard a thousand times before. God loved me. He loved me so much that He sent His only son to die for me so that I could go to heaven. I knew it and I believed it, only I had never said ‘the prayer’ asking for forgiveness and accepting Jesus into my life. Billy Graham did an ‘alter call’, which is asking people to make a public declaration of faith and saying ‘the prayer’. Me and my twin looked at each other in the stands and asked each other should we go down. We went down together and in front of thousands and together with thousands of others, asked for forgiveness of our sins and welcomed Jesus into our lives. I didn’t feel any different. I just knew I had done it. I was 14 years old. 

My Christian life

Now, becoming a christian doesn’t magically make your life perfect, and mine hasn’t been, but it does give you an assurance that your sins are forgiven. My Christian life has had many ups and downs. There have been some very deep downs, the biggest being when my father died of cancer in 1996. I was 26 years old and my father had been taken away from me. I was, and am, devastated by it. My life changed forever and God seemed very far from me. It took me a very long time, years in fact, to ‘forgive ‘ God for what had happened to my father and robbing me of a parent. 

Whatever happened in my life, when I drifted away from God, there was always something to bring me back. My faith has never wavered, ever. I know that God is there. It’s just sometimes in my life I wish He wasn’t. That’s quite bad really. I do get fed up, frustrated and angry. As I have got older, and hopefully wiser, I have realised that I am not alone in those feelings. I also know that I think I am the worst sinner in the world and God can’t possibly forgive me again for doing the same thing over and over and not learning. He does. Thankfully.

How did a crap Christian get into Bible College?

Faith Camp

So last year Zahra and me went to Faith Camp. It’s a family camping week at the South of England Showground and Peterborough Arena organised by Kingdom Faith Church. It’s a week of fun filled activities for the children, of all ages, and a week of lectures and seminar and praise and worship for the adults. It’s a great atmosphere and the teaching is great too. 

Last year there was a big advert (for want of a better word) for their Bible College. I was sat listening thinking I wouldn’t mind going to Bible College BUT, I thought, they would never let me in and it was on the south coast and the fees were out of my price range. As I sat there thinking this, friends surrounding me kept nudging me, winking, indicating I should apply, and laughing. I thought it was funny too. I thought they wouldn’t know what hit them if they did let me in. It WAS funny. I WAS the least likely person to go to Bible College (after all, I have been known to bring bottles of Prosecco to Bible studies!). There was absolutely no way I was going, even if I did fancy the idea.

Move to Bangalore

God, of course, had different plans. Fast forward a few years and here we are as a family in Bangalore, India. We moved here in 2015 with Rez’s work. It was a traumatic move and affected my health badly. I had to give up work. I’m not going to bore you with that long story, but it now meant that I was free to do what I liked. For the first time in my life I didn’t have a job. It is very liberating. I have never been out of work. I worked through college and university and went straight into work afterwards. No travel or inter railing for me. Now I had time to do something I wanted to do.

Volunteering

I spent most of last year working on the school PTA raising funds for the three charities they support. I baked and sold and organised and badgered sponsorship from local companies. It was all encompassing and kept me busy. When the school holidays were approaching I was considering whether I wanted to continue on the PTA or do something else. 

All People’s Church

That is when All People’s Church (APC) started advertising for applications for their Bible College. Now Zahra and I have attended APC for about 18 months now but I didn’t know they had a Bible College.

Again I thought about it and thought I might enjoy it. I also thought they wouldn’t let me in. I thought about it for several weeks before I spoke to Pastor Nancy about it. She encouraged me to apply. I finally plucked up the courage and filled in the application form and sent it in. I had done my bit and fully expected to be rejected. I mean I am 47 years old competing against 20 something’s from all over India for a college place. I didn’t rate my chances. God had a different idea obviously, and I still think this is His sense of humour coming out. I received a phone call from a number I didn’t recognise. Normally I don’t answer them but this time I did. It was the Bible College asking me to come in for an interview and arranged a date. 

The interview

I was bricking it. I have not had an interview in decades, literally decades. I know nothing about modern interviews for colleges and universities. I had no idea what to expect, whether there would be a panel and how many other candidates would be around and what they would ask. I arrived at the appointed time at the church office and waited, alone. I was met by a lovely lady who led me into a small interview room and offered me tea. I was disoriented. For the next 30 mins or so, she asked me questions, none of which I can remember and all of which I answered. She then tells me about the college and what the subjects are, the teaching is in English (a relief) and timings (9.30am to 1pm), fees and that as an “elderly student” I might “nap” during lectures but not to worry, they were there to help and support me. (I try not to laugh but fail).  I am confused so I ask when will I find out if my application is successful. She tells me immediately that it is successful and I am going to Bible College. 

I’m in!

WHAT?! Wait. How did this happen? This went far too smoothly to be real. How did I just get into Bible College? It fits with school runs too. Just too surreal.

Then the spanner in the works came. Bible College started in July. I would be in the U.K. until the middle of August so I couldn’t join. No problem! What? You’re letting me start 6 weeks after the course commences? Yes indeed. I was stunned and delighted.

I returned home in a daze. It was still sinking in. I was actually going to go to Bible College. No one was going to believe me. No one was going to believe they actually let me in! How was I going to tell people and what would there reactions be. Probably similar to those I experienced when I told people I was getting married, no one believed me then!

Bible College

Anyway, here I am at Bible College and really enjoying it. I am learning so many things about history in the Old Testament as well as prayer, praise, worship, the Holy Spirit, practical christian living… load of things. It’s great. I’ve already caught up on assignments (some of which were pretty tough) and I’ve managed not to nap in lectures! I am the second oldest in the class surrounded by young men who look likely to be pastors and ministers of the future. It’s exam week next week. A whole week of exams. I’ve not even caught up on what I’ve missed yet but who cares…this is the first time I will have taken exams in over a decade too; I don’t care what my result is, it’s the experience which will be valuable. 

I am sure I will do another blogpost about Bible College itself in future, but for now you have my tale of how I got there. Lesson? Never underestimate what God has planned for you…it may well be outside your range of possibilities but it is never outside His!

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If you want to find out more…

If you want to find out more about becoming a christian take a look at CrossCheck for more information and help: http://www.crosscheck.org.uk/ 

Being too Busy in Bangalore to Blog

I haven’t written a blogpost for a couple of weeks. I have come to really enjoy writing and I am missing my daily drafting of notes of things to write about and update you. What have I been doing then?

U.K. Visitor and School Inspection 

We had a visitor with us from the UK for a week. We took a day trip to Mysore (which will be the subject of a blogpost at some point) as well as a trip around Bangalore seeing a few things. I also took him to a friend’s place as she was hosting a talk on North East India. The beer and biryani was certainly an attraction but the talk was fascinating.

During the same week though there was a visiting group from the international Baccalaureate accreditation who were looking at the school. I was on a panel of parents who were asked a few very easy questions about the school and the environment. So that took up an afternoon. 

On the Friday Zahra was in the PYP music concert and then finished school at midday. She also had a friend over for the afternoon for a play date. We went to the pool for the afternoon. 

The week just flew by really.

PTA Charity Gala

Well, it’s all been about the Stonehill International School PTA Charity Gala for the last few months and very hectic over the last few weeks. 

I’ve been sourcing gifts for the raffle and silent auction as well as vouchers for all attendees. I was pleased with the results. Thank you to those wonderful people who did donate and those who bought tickets.

I have to say though that the experience was one that was certainly an education in cultural differences. I can say with confidence that it is a heck of a lot easier to source raffle prizes in the UK than it is in India. Most businesses simply refused. Others passed the request up the lines of management (for there are many) before refusing. Those who indicated they might be interested in sponsoring wanted to know immediately what they would get in return and presented a long list of requests. Suffice to say that European contacts and companies were a lot more forthcoming and didn’t make these demands.

The whole process was exhausting. I had so many phone calls, emails, Whatsapp messages to try and get some of the donators over the line. It was if I was asking some of them to sell their granny to me!

I won’t be quick in volunteering to do that again. I’d rather bake some cakes. Which leads me nicely onto the next event.

Swim Tournament at School 

There is an international swim tournament being held at school on Friday and Saturday. (Zahra has an ENT viral infection and can’t participate.) We are hosting two girls from the Dehli school who are from New Zealand and Japan. They arrive Thursday afternoon. I’ve been shopping for healthy snacks (not easy in Bangalore) as I am sure competitive swimmers will be hungry. We rearranged bedrooms and got spare beds ready, all whilst baking for the bake sale. 

I’ll be having a stall to sell cakes and (handmade) cards at the swim tournament. So I’ve been baking: Chocolate Brownies, cookies, red velvet tray bake, flapjack, chocolate fudge cake with mini eggs, coconut cake and chocolate coconut cake. So far. More to come.

Sofas

It’s fair to say that travelling thousands of miles in a shipping container and a move across campus took its toll on our sofas. I washed the removable covers, only for them to shrink. 

I’ve bought new fabric – which Zahra chose- and the tailors are currently sewing up a storm in the lounge. Bespoke re upholstery is cheaper than buying a new sofa in India.


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So imagine the scene, there are cakes and cookies chilling everywhere and I have tailors measuring and sewing on the floor. In addition I finally got round to having all our art work framed and that’s sat around the walls on the floor waiting to be hung. 

It’s chaos. 

Volunteering at a Slum Summer School

This week was also the start of the summer school in a slum. This will be two mornings a week for the next 8 weeks. The first one was on Tuesday and it was great fun for both the kids and the volunteers.

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So as you can see, I’ve been too busy to blog.

The International Food Fair

Every year the PTA at Stonehill Hill International School organise the International Food Fair. It takes months of planning and it is a well liked and well attended event which raises thousands of pounds for the school community and the three charities the PTA supports.

When was it?

Saturday 21st January 2017, 1pm to 4pm.

The timing is deliberately in late January or early February each year so that home country food and supplies can be brought back by families returning home for Christmas.

What is it?

Parent groups volunteer to represent their home* country and donate dishes and desserts and then sell them to the rest of the school community and attendees from across Bangalore. In addition games can be played which are traditional to their country. They are allocated a space and tables and are free decorate their area in whatever way they please. People really go to town – it’s awesome. Flags and country colours are everywhere; the decorations are brilliant. People dress up in traditional costume or country colours. The Japanese always look incredibly elegant and the Dutch always look incredibly orange. The Iranians had rugs and beautiful books depicting Iran. The Chinese had delicate painted paper wall hangings. The Brazilians looked amazing as well as their stall. The Brits had Union Jacks everywhere and a lot of bunting! It was a riot of culture and colours and looked fabulous.

Early customers at the UK stall

The Food

The Japanese stall preparing for the rush

Gosh it was an amazing selection of fabulous food you can’t normally get in Bangalore. There was so much to choose from. 15 countries were represented in total and I will try and recall what was being sold.

The Japanese did a roaring trade in sushi (always super popular) and completely sold out within 90 minutes (and they made loads). 

The French had very tasty pastries and crepes (with Nutella) that had a constant queue. 

The Americans had sliders (mini burgers), rice crispy cakes and cookies amongst other things on their Stars and Stripes stall. Germany sold muffins and cakes.

The Chinese were selling Dim Sum. Next to them was Korea but for the life of me I can’t recall what they were selling. Next was India who had a fabulous display with lots of dishes including samosas and chicken biryani.

Mexico was crowded and I couldn’t get near! The Danish sold the traditional treacle cake and rice pudding with cherry sauce as well as a whole host of other dishes.

The Dutch were selling pancakes and buns. Israel was selling salad, hummus and tabouleh. Iran had a variety of rice dishes and rice based desserts. 

The UK stall

We made sausage rolls, pies (steak, leek and potato, chicken), devilled eggs, flapjacks, meringues, trifles and lemonade. Our game was ‘Splat the Rat’ with British sweets as the prize.

Everything was really popular. We had to make several batches of lemonade. The ‘splat the rat’ had a constant queue of children. The flapjacks completely sold out as did the devilled eggs. We sold about 50 sausage rolls and 100 pies; and someone super organised turned up with a cool box to take home a batch of trifles!

We had take away boxes for those who wanted sausage rolls and pies but could not eat anymore food at the fair as they were stuffed.

Other Stalls

The PTA also ran a drinks stall and a ‘Tiger Gear’ stall. Tiger gear is the school hoodies and house t shirts for inter house competitions. Both proved very popular.

Fundraising 

The PTA sold vouchers (akin to raffle tickets) at 50 rupees each and they sold a lot. In total ₹299050 (roughly £3,610) was spent on the food and drinks (over £1000 an hour!) and more was made on the Tiger Gear.  It is an amazing achievement.

The British stall took ₹41,900 (about £506) of that and we were all delighted that the hard work, sore feet (and literally days of baking) paid off.

The Charities

The PTA supports three charities in addition to the school community. These are:

  • the Iksha Foundation, who support children with eye cancer. Link: http://ikshafoundation.org/
  • Morning Star Ashram – a home for street and challenged boys of Bangalore, and 
  • the Stonehill Government School.

All are very worthy charities who will benefit from this fabulous fundraising event. 

It was a wonderful day, great fun with fabulous food with global friends. What the world really should be like. 

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*Home country – choosing a home country can be difficult for some expats who have moved every few years. These parents and children are generally known as ‘Third Culture’. They are free to decide which country they most associate with. For example Canadian passport holders coming to Bangalore from Germany chose to represent Iran, the country of their parents.

Back in Bangalore

So after several weeks away over the school holidays I am back in Bangalore. I have numerous blog posts to write about the holidays, sights we have seen and friends we have reunited with. However I thought I would note about my first days back in Bangalore after weeks away. How quickly you forget about the details and complexities of life here. 

Mosquitos

I haven’t missed the mosquitos but clearly they have missed me considering the plethora of bites I have already received despite lathering up on Odomos (local mosquito repellent). I have loaded up on antihistamine tablets in the UK so I am raiding those to keep the swelling down and applying tea tree oil as well. (Thank you for that tip Taran – best tip ever). 

Last night whilst we were sat at the dinner table we heard the familiar ‘hiss’ sound of the mosquito fogging guy. With Ninja like reflexes we all darted from the table, dropping knives and forks in the process, and dived for the windows. The windows were open (mosquito screens across) which meant the smoke from fogging was going to come straight in. I lunged for the lounge windows whilst Rez and Zahra sprinted upstairs to close the balcony doors and bedroom windows. Unfortunately I was a little too late and breathed in a lung full of the fog as I was closing the window. Rez and Zahra were safer upstairs as the fog hadn’t reached there yet. 

I had forgotten about fogging. It usually is around dusk (6pm), rarely when it rains and rarely after dark. It was 6:30pm and dark – we had been lulled into a false sense of security that fogging wasn’t occurring that night. What rookies.

Shopping

As soon as I returned I had a list of things to buy, mainly cleaning products, from the supermarket. I couldn’t face going to the ‘megastore’ (if only it were) and stopped off at the local supermarket on the way home from school pick up.  I gathered most of the items on my list quickly but could not find bin bags despite walking the whole store twice. Eventually an assistant asked if she could help. My pronunciation of ‘bin bags’, ‘rubbish bags’ and eventually ‘garbage bags’ offered “Pampers?” And two unrelated products in return. Eventually she understood my poor grasp of the English language and took me to a closed cardboard box under the stairs near the entrance and pulled out two rolls of bin bags. Now why didn’t I think of looking in that totally inaccessible and unobvious place?!

I also wanted dishwasher tablets. There were two boxes of 20 Finish tablets for sale. One cost INR 1999 (£22.93) and the other INR 2499 (£28.67). Clearly there was subtle difference in the two boxes I hadn’t spotted. I decided to give it a miss and leave them on the shelf. 

I paid for the products, put the receipt in my bag and exited the store. Only to be stopped by the ‘security’ asking for “Bill madam”. Oh yes, I forgot. Every store in Banaglore has them. Despite the ‘security’ at the door sitting (in this case) in clear sight of the till and watching you pay, they still insist on checking your receipt (but not your bag of goods) before hole punching the receipt. I have absolutely no idea what the purpose of this rigmarole is other than to employ someone as part of job creation. (Similar job creations in Bangalore include the chaps sat in lifts to push those buttons for you and the ladies at the car park ticket machines to push those buttons for you too. I wish I was joking.).

I put the bag in the car and turned back to complete my shopping at the fruit and veg section located inconveniently outside the front of the store. I looked despairingly at the sad selection of vegetables and fruit. I did decide to splurge and buy 3 nectarines (incorrectly labelled as peaches) at INR480 (£5.51) per kilo and 6 kiwi fruit INR290 (£3.33). Whoever said living in India was cheap clearly hasn’t been shopping in Bangalore.

I forgot to get drinking water. [insert your own expletive here]. That’s another trip. How quickly I had got used to drinking tap water back in the UK. 

The bread ordering group on WhatsApp is in full swing and I have put in my order for delivery. (See previous blogpost on WhatsApp groups). Bread without added sugar – something you can’t get in the local supermarket. Rez has discovered a local bakery selling artisan bread (ie without sugar) so we’ll be trying that in between the weekly deliveries. (‘Local’ is a 20 minute drive away).

Staff

Managing the staff again. We have a part time housekeeper (Saroja), a part time cook. (Saroja’s niece, Bhuvana), a part time gardener (Padmamma) as well as our full time driver (Manohar).

Gosh how simple life is in the UK when you can drive yourself anywhere at anytime without the need of a driver. He called me after the school run, work run and his breakfast: “Mam, what are your plans today?”. Every aspect of my life has to be planned in advance so the driver knows where to be and when. It can be exhausting. Suffering jet lag and trying to think straight was impossible. I gave him the day to himself and told him to return at 2.30pm for the school run. The shopping could be done then. 

Trying to organise a schedule where the driver is not just sat outside waiting at your beck and call is more hard work than it sounds. Whilst locals and some other expats here are quite happy to have their drivers waiting around, I am not. He’s got a job and I am not going to treat him like a slave. Be the  change you want to see in the world – right? That does however mean some energy, effort and organisation on my behalf. I need to get into gear and get going with the plans for the week.

The housekeeper Saroja is lovely and a chatterbox. As soon as she arrived she was full of questions about the holidays whilst noting I looked tired (that would be the jet lag!). Then came the list of shopping required and updates on her sons exam successes – one just off to University. She’s so proud of them both. A three year Uni course here costs INR 4500 (£5,163) in total. Which doesn’t sound a lot until you know that the average good working wage here for maids/ housekeepers/drivers etc is INR 500 (£5.67) a day. It will be hard work for her to pay those fees. I can see where her bonuses will be going this year.

Bhuvana turned up with ingredients (thankfully, I forgot those too) for dinner. She cooked chicken biriyani, cauliflower in white sauce, egg and roti. It was enough for two meals but she had put some hot chilli in the biriyani and we couldn’t eat it. (We gave that away the next day.) We hired Bhuvana after I became so ill and needed to control the food I ate and the environment it was cooked in. Bhuvana regularly shops for the ingredients (unless I want something in particular) which not only saves me hours of time but also means it’s from a clean, reliable source and cheaper. (We always have to pay more unless we buy from a fixed price supermarket.) It’s definitely helping with my recovery too. 

I’ve not seen Padmamma yet but she’s kept the plants alive whilst I’ve been away and removed one huge plant that was dying. The climbing plants I have trailing across the front porch railings have started to flower. The squash has started to die. (There’s a whole other blogpost to come on the trials and tribulations of trying to grow plants from seed here.)

Powercuts and laundry

Oh boy. How quickly these become annoying. Several every day. Still, I managed to get all the washing done despite the power interruptions. One great thing is that the washing dries within an hour or two here. A wash load takes about 1 .5 hours on a cycle here (without a powercut) so by the time the next wash is done the first is dry and ready to iron. There is a man here who collects the ironing and delivers it back, ironed, the same day. We brought our iron and ironing board with us to Bangalore – but of course you need power to use an iron. The ironing man uses a good old fashioned hot iron and water – no power required. The laundry is returned folded (with newspaper in the shirts to keep them stiff whilst stored) the same day. All for the princely sum of INR 5 (6p) per item. I had a full laundry basket returned the same day, ironed for INR250 (£2.87). One of the benefits of living in Bangalore.

TV

Wow I had forgotten how loud and shouty Indian adverts are. No controls over the volume of the programs you are watching and the subsequent adverts. You need to keep the remote handy. I’ve already been reminded several times that “Smoking is injurious to your health. Smoking kills. None of the actors in this program support or promote smoking.” etc.

We’ve been watching the Rio 2016 Olympics back in the UK. As we have the sports channels here we have 3 channels showing some of the Olympics. One of the channels is in English (I know not necessary when watching sport). We have been flicking through them to find anything Team GB are competing in. We can see some of the Team GB in the highlights and medal ceremonies but that is it so far. I’m missing the women’s hockey and were in the final. All video footage on the BBC and UK newspaper websites is blocked here so I can’t even catch up online. YouTube doesn’t have anything either. It’s so frustrating. 

School

Zahra retuned to school on Wednesday 17th August, very excited. She loves her new teacher and is delighted that she is able to sit with her friends (rather than being designated a desk by her teacher like last year). This teacher has relaxed rules on the placement of their water bottles in the classroom and some other minor ‘homeroom’ rules are relaxed now she is a year older. The timetable is different too with more information and different subjects. She also has a free period every Friday afternoon to undertake her own research. She has decided to research racism in preparation for her end of year exhibition. 

We bought some more uniform to replace the paint stained shirts and shorts from last year (no wash friendly paint here – this stuff stains!).  I had her feet measured in the UK and bought new school shoes there – at an eye watering £48. I hope she doesn’t have another growth spurt anytime soon. 

There are lots of dates to put in the diary and PTA meetings to attend. Sports camp is the first thing on the agenda in a week or so’s time – a night away camping at school whilst undertaking swimming, basketball and football. A camp fire, barbecue and scavenger hunt add to the fun. A great back to school ice breaker and great for new joiners to get to know their classmates.

Time for a cuppa

Manohar returned with the bottled water. Time to make a cuppa and catch up on the hundreds of emails I didn’t delete whilst I was away. Boring admin and bills to pay in the UK, oh and the re-letting of our home, which apparently  now needs redecorating after the last tenants left…I don’t want to think about that yet. Back to life, back to reality!