Chennai Journal
Monday, May 30, 2005
This week's adventures
Well, I know it's starting to sound like a broken record, but we still don't have internet at home. The problem seems to be that cable needs to be laid to our area, and that hasn't happened yet. An ominous sign is that the marketing guy wants to return my check until they get the port installed. So last night we decided to call one of the standard dial-up services, even though it will be a lot slower, just so we have something. Now we'll see how long that takes. (The last time I tried this route the installation CD blew up Microsoft windows).

This week both Marty and I have been been to the doctor a few times. Marty has had pain in his hip that the x-rays show is caused by a couple of dislocated discs. He is going this afternoon for an MRI. The orthopedic doctor gave him a prescription for some painkillers. 7 tablets cost a total of 57 rupees (about $1.25). I have high blood pressure. Our doctor in the States put me on some medication a couple of months before I left, but it isn't working. So I have to see a cardiologist here. I also had to renew a prescription for thyroid medication. That cost about $3 for a six week supply.

The Apollo Cliniq where we go is part of the Apollo Hospital chain, which is becoming world renowned. Although the clinic is quite modest (they still use the old fashioned manual blood pressure equipment), the doctors seem very competent. We seldom have to wait more than 5 or 10 minutes when we do go. Big change from the U.S. on all counts.

Next time I will write about our culinary adventures, including Marty's experience with a cat food sandwich. Stay tuned.
Sunday, May 22, 2005
Back together
We are all safely in Chennai. We (Marty, Dad, J.D. and I) flew out of Detroit on Tuesday night, arriving about 24 hours later in Chennai. It was a tiring trip but by having a wheelchair for Dad at Madras airport we were able to clear customs through the diplomatic/disabled line which took a fraction of the normal time. Dad did not sleep on the trip and got a bit confused toward the end (he said to me at one point on the Frankfurt-Chennai leg, "well, I guess I'll go upstairs to bed") and has taken a few days to get oriented and get over jet lag. But as of this morning he seems fine and is enjoying watching many of his favorite TV programs which are available here as well.

We had a brief scare at Metro Airport when Lufthansa almost refused to let us board with J.D. because she wasn't microchipped. They pulled out the regulations that stated "to enter the EU all animals must have a microchip or a tatto". But, as I pointed out, we weren't entering the EU--we were in transit and neither we nor J.D. would be clearing customs in Frankfurt. Finally they called Germany and my interpretation was correct. We had brought J.D. in a shipping container to go into climate controlled baggage hold (along with two other cats and a dog that were travelling on the same flight) as checked baggage---thinking that she would be more comfortable that way and be able to be let out in the veterinary area of Frankfurt airport. But I had also brought her Sherpa bag just in case. Once we got past the microchip controversy, the lady at the ticket counter persuaded me that it would be better to take her on board. So quickly we made the switch.

J.D. was a real trouper throughout the trip and barely made a sound even when riding in the van to the airport. I let her out briefly in the bathroom in the business class lounge in Frankfurt, but she was frightened enough by the strange surroundings to almost immediately crawl back into the Sherpa bag. Now she and Junior are reunited and seem to be doing well together. J.D. has found a new hiding spot---under our mattress where the lining has developed a hole to allow her to get in between the mattress and the lining. We looked all over for her one evening and Leela discovered a large lump hanging from the mattress when she looked under the bed. (I suspect this is actually not a new spot for her, but one that she might have discovered when the bed was in Detroit).

We hope to get internet this week. It was supposed to be hooked up on Thursday but they were oversubscribed and had to expand the equipment or something so they are now promising us by the end of this coming week. So Marty and are both still using the internet cafe. Marty did get a cell phone earlier in the week so at least he can stay connected, since we also don't have international call out capability on our land line (the previous tenant did not pay the bill and despite the property management company trying to resolve the issue by paying the bill and contacting them many times, the government bureaucrat at the phone company hasn't budged).

Marty also attended a Rotary meeting yesterday but this particular one doesn't seem to do a lot of volunteer activities. There are over 20 different ones in Madras, so he's going to sample a few more. The Rotary name is attached to lots of different community activities here, so it's probably just a matter of finding the right one.

Monday, May 09, 2005
Furniture at last!
The sea shipment arrived! It feels very good to have our furniture, including the beds, books, and other comforts of home. Junior has settled back into Dad’s favorite chair without missing a beat. Early Wednesday morning, I’ll leave for the States and on the 17th, Marty, Dad, and J.D. and I will fly back here, and then the relocation part of our experience will be complete. Leela will look after the house and feed Junior while I’m gone

It is said that servants and requests for loans are synonymous, and I had my first request this week, from our driver--for his son’s tuition. Fortunately I was prepared for the request and while I agreed to help him (many Indians will advise you to refuse such requests entirely), I told him that I would lend him the equivalent of one month’s salary but not more than this. I drew up a little agreement, stipulating the repayment terms (500 rupees from his base salary each month, with no further loans until this one is paid off) and had him sign it to make the whole thing official. The amount? 4500 rupees, or a little more than $100, which was roughly the cost of his son’s tuition. Although it may seem like not much to us, this is a large amount of money by working class Indian standards. The main reason for these requests seems to be simple lack of money management skills---it’s difficult the world over to put money aside for purchases in advance!
Sunday, May 01, 2005
Internet Woes
Well, I still don't have internet access at home. Have applied for it through the government owned telephone company and am told we could wait a month or so for it. In the meantime, I got a dial up CD from one of the private companies thinking that while I'm waiting, I'd just log on via the phone. I did get logged on but my computer immediately froze and when I rebooted, Windows XP was completely messed up. I had to reinstall it. So I'm back at the internet cafe.

This week the plant is shut down for block closure, I'll have some time on my hands. The good news is the sea shipment is due in port today, so should get delivery of that by Friday. Unpacking the boxes will keep Marty busy for a few weeks once he and Dad arrive! Since there isn't much else to do, I'll plan on catching up on reading this week.

I discovered the secret of lizard removal this week. A tiny one was on the wall in the living room, near the front door, while I was eating breakfast. Junior spotted it and started pacing. Out from the kitchen came Leela, an old fashioned dust broom in hand (it is all bristles with a short handle) and gently began coaxing the lizard down, Junior supervising. Finally she worked it over to the door and brushed it outside.

Also finally heard from the club we're going to join, which is next door to our apartment. Do you remember the scenes from "Out of Africa" with Meryl Streep where they escort her out of the bar at the beginning of the movie and then invite her for a drink at the end? It's kind of like that--still reminiscent of the days of the British raj. They don't have email or internet, and require official letters for everything. They will entertain my membership on May 2, and wish to interview me on the 16th. I'll be in the States then, so asked if they would kindly consider moving up the date. No. So the whole thing gets postponed by another month. As I've said before, patience is a virtue one gets lot of practice on here!

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