Chennai Journal
Monday, April 04, 2005
Buying a "dirty box" and other essentials
This week's accomplishment was moving into the apartment and getting air conditioning in three of the five rooms. The rest of the air conditioning is supposed to be installed today, but this has been a several-day project so I'm not holding my breath. I bought a DVD player over the weekend so that I could spend Sunday night sitting in my one chair and have some entertainment (cable was installed but isn't working yet--chabuduo as they say in Chinese---it almost works!). The air conditioning guys let a small lizard into the master bath, so chicken that I am I've been using one of the other bathrooms (each bedroom has one) until I can get rid of it.

My housekeeper, Leela, was waiting for me when I arrived at the apartment. Leela is a ball of energy. She stands a whopping 4' 6" and is probably in her late sixties--though I'm finding it hard to gauge age here. Her English is fairly marginal but with a little creativity she's understandable (e.g. I figured out that a "dirty box" means wastebasket). We made a list of basic items to set up the house and then she, Antony (the driver) and I went shopping. This was quite an adventure that took us all over the city in search of the one item that the general store/grocery did not have: a plastic table for the kitchen. Many Chennai shops are closed on Sunday, but we finally found a plastics shop. Leela did her best to negotiate the price down, but I think my presence was probably not helpful. Finally she got about a 25% discount and I forked over the 900 rupees (about $20).

One thing that is taking some adjustment is just how long everything takes---whether it's installing the air conditioning or having my nails done. I finally found a place in downtown Chennai that does acrylic nails. But forget about the 30 minutes it takes at the Vietnamese place I go to in Southfield. Try almost 2 hours. It's partly that everything is manual (no drills) and partly that it's just plain inefficient. After about 20 minutes I just settled into the fact that I can't be in a hurry here--it won't help.

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