Donna and Joe have finished their assignment in India. Occasionally they still travel somewhere.

Monday, August 20, 2007

ups and downs

Yesterday (Sunday) I stumbled to the restaurant for breakfast, where my jet lagged brain stared at all the food in a huge breakfast buffet, where trying to choose between familiar food and trying new Indian foods (just what ARE they all?) The effort was more than my tired brain could handle. All I really wanted was coffee! WHERE is the coffee? I don't recommend starting a 24 hour trip on only 4 hours of sleep.
Finally different waiters started coming to my aid. I gladly accepted their suggestion for an omelet, they advised me that watermelon juice there is safe, (not always in India, I guess), and finally somebody led me to a table. Soon a dark skinned angel named Steven brought me coffee, and after he added more the 3rd time, said "Now you will stay awake all day!"
(Steven is in the middle of this photo)
Today I cheerfully announced to that sparkly eyed angel , "Look, I'm human!"
So far the breakfast foods have all been outstanding, with plenty of choices that aren't too spicy. My favorite today was called a coconut horseshoe. Sort of a phylo-type dough that had a thin layer of filling that tasted subtly of toasted coconut. (Racine people, think of a horseshoe shaped coconut kringle.)

Our real estate person picked us up with her car and driver, and showed us around town today. We saw some local landmarks, toured the Bangelore palace, which is only 130 years old. (Notable in that they were the last people to resist the british.) The newest King is very heavy and more interested in fashion design and having fun than kingly things. He designs all the saris, and clothing that is made and sold at the palace. We watched 2 men embroidering a sari, and they said it would take them 4 days to finish one.

An interesting piece of "history" is that 3 generations ago the king supposedly had an affair (2 wives weren't enough) and his line was cursed with the inability to ever have a male heir again. Indeed, every generation since, the king has sired only girls, and the last and present kings were both adopted.

Yesterday we tried a walkabout, which ended at a government sponsored craft emporium. On the plus side you're
supposed to be sure that you are really getting what they say you are getting. The minus side is that you pay more for it there than anywhere else, in part because the drivers get a 30% commission (kickback?) for every customer they drag in. Except that the salesman will ask you if it's O.K. to list what you paid as less than it actually was on the report form. All of which is a little hard to understand, because of the Indian accent, so you sort of nod and hope your spouse knows what the heck he was talking about.

Later we decided to try to check out the local shopping, but the auto rickshaw driver explained that the shops were closed because it was Sunday, but he could show us where there was some really good shopping. Guess where we ended up? ANOTHER craft emporium!

Today we stopped for lunch at the biggest mall in town. We had chinese food in a food court, which was similar to being in the states except for the music, and the fact that beverages, main dishes, and deserts were all sold at separate booths.

Then we went shopping for an Indian outfit for me. After trying on several, with our real estate agent critiquing each, she announced that the best we found was too much money to pay, and we left! She will hopefully show me the fabric street, where I can choose my own, and have it made to order by a tailor, like she usually does.

After our day with her we finally connected with our Hertz driver at the hotel. We asked to go to the bookstore. He dropped us nearby, because he couldn't park in front, and we wandered around for a while looking for what was really above our noses near the beginning. We found some books on religion and learning kannada, the language.

Then we started to try to go to a mall, but were stuck in traffic so long that we gave up, and just asked him for recommendations of a restaurant for dinner. We got out where he directed us, went down some stairs, and discovered we were guessed it, a craft emporium!

We stalked back up the stairs. This time he DID take us to a restaurant, and even gave us specific suggestions on what REAL Indian food to buy. (This same driver had also invited us to have breakfast at his home some day this week.) Anyway, the waiters showed us the menus with a mini flashlight, because the one votive candle was so dim. We fussed a little about our shopping adventures, I got a teensy teary on the edges for a minute, and we ended up laughing and enjoying our dinner. Then at the end I discovered that the second coke he brought me had ice in it. Big no no, because it probably was made with unsafe tap water. Joe hadn't noticed if there was some in his. So we went home and both took pepto-bismal for its anti-bacterial properties, and we're hoping for the best. So much for eating like the locals. I think I'll have a ring made that says NI--for NO ICE!

In general, our impressions are:
1. Shopping is hard work here, and you really need someone with you to tell you if you're being taken.
2. The traffic is incredible; it really does move like a school of fish or a crowd of people, going around obstacles or slow moving vehicles. But the horn honking isn't constant or as loud as U.S. cars, and doesn't denote impatience so much as letting you know they're there. People and machines ease around each others with only inches and milliseconds to spare. But they seldom move at more than 15 to 20 mph, so it's not as scary as we expected.
3, Everything outside, even plants, seems to have a thin layer of reddish dirt on it, and seems tired and run down, much like Puerto Rico. And they have the worst sidewalks I have ever seen.
4, Their handwork and craftsmanship is exquisite. We saw a wooden elephant carved inside a wooden elephant, inside a 3rd wooden elephant! All one piece of wood, no seams. The textiles are beautiful , in every shade of the rainbow. Women are walking flowers.

That's more than enough for the day.

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