Saturday, January 22, 2005
Several of you have written to say that you like the blog and to ask further questions about our trip. As we are in the boring stage of the move--deciding what to put in a 20' sea container, what to take in our air shipment, and what to leave in storage (e.g. we are not taking Marty's mother's mahogany dresser with the mother-of-pearl inlaid top but we are taking the "wheel of dharma" painting from Japan etc. etc. )-- I'll spare you those details.
One thing we did discover is that grocery stores and "pet" stores do not sell cat food, cat litter, cat toys, or any other cat paraphenalia. While we encountered a number of Indians who do have cats as pets (one had 4!), "pet" stores sell puppies and dogs only. Dogs are the preferred national pet, with cats and parakeets a distant second and third. India's cats seem to eat what people eat and to do their business outdoors. We met one vet while there who showed us a pathetic little package of kitty kibble that one of our cats would have consumed in a single meal---price 40 rupees (about 90 cents). So we'll stock up on cat food, litter pans, and other stuff. As for litter, the kitty version of culture shock is going to be sand. (Fortunately there's a construction site next door to us so we'll have a ready supply for at least a while.)
Another little tidbit, and that is time. India is the only country in the world on a half hour time difference from other time zones (presently 10 1/2 hours difference from Detroit, which will be 9 1/2 when Detroit goes to Daylight Savings Time.). Hmm. There must be a logical reason for this, right?
Although several explanations were given to us there is one more likely than the others (or perhaps my years of studying diplomatic history have just biased me to believe it). To see it you need a watch. Pretend the time you are looking at is India time. Now turn the watch upside down. Take a wild guess as to what country's time is now displayed.....someday just for kicks I'd like to find the correspondence about this in the UK National Archives....
I sent all the documentation off this week for the working visa, but have no idea how long that will take to turn around (have heard anywhere from 3 to 7 weeks). Stay tuned......
Monday, January 17, 2005
Nancy and our guide Mercy in the back of our new apartment complex in Chennai.
January 17, 2005
Marty and I returned on Sunday from our pre-assignment trip to Chennai. Above is a picture of our new digs, a 4 bedroom apartment which we found on our first day house-hunting. Several other Ford expats have lived there. It is in the "Boat Club" area of Chennai, which is right on the Adyar River (both good and bad, the bad being the mosquitoes in summer!)
Our trip took us through Delhi both coming and going, and not much has changed there in the 23 years since my last visit. I think they may have tiled the the baggage area (it was a dirt floor as I recall). But the smog, crowds, dirt, and begging have not changed much. Quite a contrast to Chennai, which is quite green and bright, although equally crazy when it comes to traffic. By the time we left, we were pretty well adjusted to the congestion---cars, trucks, motorbikes, bicycles, auto-rickshaws, and the occasional cow all weaving in and out of what are lanes in name only! Marty said it reminded him of his dad's driving and he felt right at home......
On the first day while I was at the plant in Chengalpattu (about 45 minutes south of Chennai), Marty went sightseeing. He had an opportunity to see some of the damage from the recent tsunami in the coastal area, including boats washed ashore and temporary shelters for the fishermen who lost their homes. The main beach area in the city had already been cleaned up by the time we arrived. Fortunately, Chennai was mostly spared the ravages of the tsunami, unlike the areas further to the south.
We were able to hook up with Marty's sister's friend from graduate school, who runs the local English newspaper (with a circulation of over 1 million) and his wife, as well as another acquaintance from Detroit who is Chennai born and who is back in the city for about six months to get married (he hasn't met his future wife yet, but seems fully confident it will happen!). So we were able to get some local perspectives on life in Chennai which will be very helpful.