January 2007 in Bangalore through the eyes of an Englishman

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The garbage disposal unit at Ulsoor Market.

31/1/2007 - Another Month Slipped By.

I have nothing much more to report. I've been busy at work on three projects at the same time, and Adia is up to her neck in course work.

The picture of the goat just got my attention. In the streets, the cows get the job of cleaning up such rubbish. However in the market that would be rather impracticable. Nobody is prepared to beat them off with a stick, so they'd eat all the vegetables. The goat is not subject to such restrictions, and can be tethered in some suitable place.

Next month I'll try to come up with some mini-videos that demonstrate interesting Indian driving technique, or something else that's interesting in a video context.

Click on the picture to see the video. If it does not start you need to install the Flash player or upgrade your existing one.

Traffic on MG Road.

28/1/2007 - Video on BEV.

I thought it might be interesting from time to time to include some of those crappy little videos that you can take with your mobile phone, so here's a test I've set up so that I can play with it from various different machines and see how it works. The subject matter is not particularly interesting - just traffic on MG Road taken from an auto rickshaw which I hope accounts for the rather variable camera position. I'm using a rather nifty utility called Flash Video MX to make the Flash files from the 3gp files that the phone produces.

And yes, I've gone against my principles of the past and embedded a Flash player object. It follows that to see the video, you'll have to have Flash installed, and you will have to have Javascript turned on in your browser. You can get the latest version of Flash here. The implementation of Flash embedding is courtesy of Geoff Stearns.

Golden carp.

Papayas like footballs.
15/1/2007 - Another Sunday Brunch Venue.

Today, for our monthly Sunday brunch we continued our Zagat style survey of brunches at the primary Bangalore hotels. This time it was the Oberoi's turn. It has to be said that the surroundings were better than we've seen anywhere else, and the service was good without being 'clingy'. I particularly liked the series of ponds connected by a stream, and stocked with golden carp. They create a very restful atmosphere.

But the food was a let-down. They didn't have anywhere near the range of the cold buffet as the other places, and a lot of the things were little one-piece presentations on tiny plates - more presentation than substance. The things they cook for you while you wait were generally OK, and in fact the fried dim-sung was excellent - cooked just right and nicely presented. However the pasta was rather bland, and the barbecue items tended to be overcooked. The precooked food was the spoiler. It was tepid, and in our book there's no greater sin than serving hot food that isn't hot. The management were clearly perturbed when I went round the food tureens feeling the underside for temperature. I should have almost burned myself, but there wasn't a hot one among them. I think they got the point, and they really need to do something about it.

All-in-all, next month I think we will return to the Taj in the hope that they had an isolated off day on the occasion that provoked this survey. On their good days they're pretty good.

We saw the papayas on the way back. I can't recall seeing them this size before. However we'd just got a smaller one, so we did not have a need to purchase one of these football size beasts. They were quite probably all water like a watermelon anyway.

In the evening we did TGIF again, and Florence turned up. She and Adia had quite a long conversation that was summarized to me as "Florence wants to go back to Africa". I'll believe it when I see it. Florence tends to come up with a new life scheme every time you talk to her.

14/1/2007 - In Harness Again.

Given that I'd just been off for two weeks, the week at work didn't go at all badly. I had plenty to do, and that always helps, and I actually got quite a bit done, which is just as well, since the project I'm on is supposed to be completed by mid January. That's not going to happen, but it won't be my fault.

It was TGIF again on Friday night, and it was pretty empty and rather boring. I must find myself an alternative pub, but I've still got no clue where to go that might be better. Some of the hotel bars are OK, but they're damned expensive for a Yorkshireman living in India.

Today we went to what is about the best camera shop in Bangalore to see what they had in the way of a replacement for the defunct Olympus. As it happened they were very low on stock, and just had a collection of rather elderly models that nobody wanted. The man said there would be a fresh shipment arriving on Monday, so I guess we'll go again then.

Home sweet home.
6/1/2007 - Back to India.

The flight back to Mumbai seemed interminable. The arrival time at four something in the morning implied that it was a good idea to try to get some sleep. However there was a bunch of passengers in front of us, and one small child to the side who apparently thought otherwise. I'm no good at sleeping on planes anyway. I can never find a position where some part of your body does not become intolerably uncomfortable after ten minutes. So if I don't get to sleep in that time I have to start the whole process over again.

Eventually we made it to Mumbai, passing first over the oil rigs to the west in the Arabian Sea - your first indication that you are close. Mercifully we were a little late, so we did not have to hang around for long at Mumbai International Airport. That, as I will have pointed out before, is one of the most inhospitable airports known to man. Soon we were off through security yet again, and after a short wait we were on our way to Bangalore.

We passed through immigration slowly but smoothly and found ourselves an illegal cab who didn't want an arm and a leg. After leaving the airport by a very devious route that I didn't even know existed, presumably to avoid being challenged by the police, we got back onto airport road and in no time we were back to the Good Earth.

Cali greeted us with the scorn cats reserve for their owners when they've been away for some time, but otherwise seemed fine, and the apartment was as warm and friendly as we'd left it. Adia's friend Omary, who'd been looking after Cali and the plants had done a great job, and both balcony and the plants inside were lush and green.

Sleep was the first order of the day, so we piled into bed and slept until about two in the afternoon: home sweet home.

When we woke, we realized that the fridge was empty, and therefore some shopping was called for. We went into town, and were generally unsuccessful in buying anything that we wanted. Everything seemed to be out of stock. Good old India. Having bought food, come evening we both agreed that we could not be bothered to cook, so we went off to TGIF to see if I had been banned for a temper tantrum I threw before we left - they had served me a meal where the 'recipe had changed', and which consequently was only half the meal it had been before, so I refused to pay for it. Nobody objected to us, so we had chicken fajitas, then retired to bed again for some further sleep.

The port of Dar-es-Salaam.

The stick of office.
5/1/2007 - Dar-es-Salaam.

We got a taxi to the airport at the planned time in the morning. Adia's aunt who works at the airport told her the hairstyle looked awful, so a scarf got applied to it, and it will have to go. Mama Azizi came to see us off, but that didn't take long as we were quickly whisked through checkout into a departure lounge. We will both miss her. In no time we were away, and by the time we'd eaten our giraffe sandwich (actually beef, but there was a picture of a giraffe on the box that made you wonder), we were descending to Dar-es-Salaam.

Dar-es-Salaam was very hot and very humid. I broke out in a sweat the moment they opened the plane doors, and remained in that state until we checked into the New Africa hotel and casino. It cost as much as a hotel room in New York, but it had air conditioning, so I didn't mind. We spent the afternoon watching India playing South Africa on the TV in the air-conditioned bar, made love in the air-conditioned room, and ate in the air-conditioned restaurant.

In the morning we found a place where Adia could get the hair changed. I sat around for a while, and wandered round for a while, but it was just too hot for me. It's only about 7 degrees south of the equator, right down at sea level, and it's was midsummer. I could not live there.

Toward evening we went to look for a souvenir that Adia had promised to a friend. They didn't have anything that suited Adia, but I bought an ebony stick for the equivalent of $8. Don't ask me why, I just liked it, and it is ebony, and it is long and black, and - whoa, penis envy, watch your step Steve. It will be the stick of office of the GPT party.

We whiled away the evening in the other restaurant in the hotel on the top floor that does Thai food - rather well too - and then whiled away the morning. Before long we were on our way back to the airport in the inexorable heat. I had a quick last couple of bottles of Safari in the Flamingo Cafeteria, and then all too soon, we were off back to India.

A recycling team.

The offending hairstyle.
3/1/2007 - GGPT.

This acronym stands for Grumpy GrandPa Teve, and is how I was for much of the day. I'd been making noises about getting some nookie the day before, and sending signals in the night, but when we woke Adia was all set on packing in preparation for our journey back to Dar-es-Salaam the next day. So I got the sulks. These were compounded by a new hairstyle that Adia acquired during the day. I'd been shown various styles that she could get on a hair-style-menu poster, and asked to choose one, which I did reluctantly, since I was quite happy with the Dorothy Dandridge look. My general requirement was that she should get a style that preserved the appearance of as much of her own hair as possible. This is called British understatement, and probably accounts for the fact that the British never get what they want: they don't ask for it. So then she went off to the hairdresser, and I said I'd occupy myself by having a wander around the town.

My enthusiasm for town wandering didn't last long though, since the sun had now appeared, and it was a hot business. Also there's only so much of Mwanza city centre that you'd want to walk. Since we've now probably got enough spies on the look out for property, I skipped the suburbs, gave up, and walked back to the pub where the hairdressing establishment is co-located. I had previously christened this place the 'Fly Bar', because it seems to have more common-or-garden flies than I've seen anywhere else in Africa. I think they must spray the tables with something to attract them. Two hours of sitting there with Mama Azizi beating the things off with my cap did not improve my mood, despite the interspersed beers. Then when the hairstyle was finally complete, there was nothing to be seen of Adia's own hair. All that was visible was synthetic weave, reminiscent of the fibre they make those nylon rugs out of, you know, the ones that don't absorb any water.

After that we went to the market to get a chicken for dinner, and that didn't improve my mood either. I fully realize that some bugger has to kill the chicken, cut its head off, pull its guts out, and rip the feathers off its still-twitching body. But I like to imagine this is all done under nice hygienic conditions in a chicken-processing factory by a nice buxom country lady with rubber gloves and a plastic shower hat over her hair when I'm not looking, and not by a man who's working surrounded by a pile of chicken guts and street garbage and who washes his hands in a bucket of chicken shit. Ok, ok, I'm a squeamish westerner who believes that chickens come in standard sizes in neat plastic bags. Of course I'll eat the thing - its all the same when its been boiled for a while. Except, of course, that the ones in the plastic bags have been pumped full of hormones, and genetically modified so they have short fat legs, and prevented from ever taking any exercise, so they'll be tender - GGPT.

Adia's a practical soul, so when we got home I got some nookie, and felt suitably mollified. I'm sure that Mama Azizi being the excellent cook she is, the chicken casserole will be wonderful. Then when we've eaten we can all go back to the bar at the Tilapia and get suitably legless on our last night here in Mwanza.

The meal was as expected, so once again, we all ate too much, except possibly Zawadi, who may be watching her weight, though Adia says she's not. The bar at the Tilapia was more or less deserted. I think there were six people there on average, and we contributed three, Ibri having gone off to catch the ferry to Bukoba. Mwanza is definitely not a hot spot on a Tuesday night. They started putting the drinks away at about ten, and when we left around ten thirty, it was a while before a taxi brought some guests back and we were able to escape. We set the alarm for 06:40, and it went off almost immediately.

Adia on New Years Day.

1/1/2007 - Another Year.

So here we are again. Another year snook by, and at the same time everything is the same, and everything is different. GPT is not getting any younger, and wonders how many more new years he will see - only time will tell. Anyway, Adia has forgiven me for my transgressions of last night, and Mama Azizi has fed me, and it is raining again to reassure me that everything is normal. Adia is the only one among us without a hangover of some size. Now today I could really use those wellies and a plastic mac, a walk around Swinsty Reservoir in the weather prevailing here would be good. I wouldn't fancy doing it in the January weather in England though, which I gather is foul - I'm less hardy in that respect than I used to be. Lake Victoria is a tad large to take a walk around. It is the second largest lake in the world by surface area, coming second I think to the Caspian Sea. If you look at a typical map of the world it looks tiny, and the Great Lakes in the US/Canada look bigger, but that is just a result of the old Mercator's projection - the same effect that spreads Antarctica all the way across the bottom. It's not very deep though, maximum 84m, so it's nowhere near the second largest by volume It's close to the rift valley, but not part of it like lake Tanganyika to the south, which is very deep. Adia says Lake Victoria does not get storms, but I'm kind of dubious about that, given its size.

Today we had a really lazy day. We got up late, ate breakfast, and then walked very very slowly across the city centre to an as yet unvisited relative. After a 20 minute visit there, we continued on foot to Rock Beach and the Chinese restaurant. Although it's not far, this took some time, given our proper African walking pace and the frequent interruptions to our progress by people who knew either Adia or Mama Azizi, or who wanted to. I bought an English language newspaper, "The Guardian", on the way. By the time we reached the restaurant I had recovered sufficiently from breakfast to want to eat a veggie spring roll, and so had my companions. The food came slowly, but they do a good spring roll, and when we'd eaten our one each, the second helping came slowly too: the nature of the day. Aside from that, Liverpool were thrashing Bolton on the TV, and finally I remembered the newspaper I had bought, which occupied Adia and me for some time. The sisters chatted away in Swahili, and Ibri turned up after an hour or so, complaining about his hangover like a good Muslim. In no time it was 18:30, so we took ourselves off to a restaurant in the city centre called "Diners" that an expat woman I'd talked to at the Tilapia had recommended. It was Chinese/Indian, with a small 'continental' menu. I had steak and chips which was a pleasant surprise, being both not overdone and tender. At the last moment Adia and I also thought to order a portion of stir fried mixed vegetables in soy sauce. This made a great combination with the steak and chips. After dinner we walked back home to maintain our record of no transport for the day, and now I'm ready for bed again. Doing nothing is so exhausting.

Adia by Lake Victoria.

Jackfruit on the tree.

Coy children at Nyakumba.
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