Foreign registration process

Perhaps the most challenging part of our move to India: the Foreigners’ Registration Office (FRO).

Many of my friends and colleagues warned me about the bureaucracy in India. I never imagined it could be as dense and frustrating as it was this week.  All the same, it’s part of the cultural-exchange experience!

I just completed the process of registering at the Foreigner Registration Office (FRO), which is required within 14 days of arrival (for anyone staying more than 180 days).  The point, it seems, is to inform the government about where you are living.  The process was far more complex than what I expected, given the instructions from Fulbright India.  (They tell me that Bangalore is notoriously picky and I expect that recent terrorist activity has made the FRO become even more careful.)

 In my case, it took four visits to the FRO, three visits to a notary, two visits to a helpful IISc Professor, one visit to a bank, six visits to a photocopier, and over 70 pages of documents. Many of these visits took 1-4 hours, not to mention 30-45 minutes travel from place to place. I estimate that the process consumed about 25 hours of my time over four days. 

In Bangalore, there is no FRO, so one must register at the Commissioner of Police; I got to know the CoP/FRO office very well last week.   I’ll give you the abbreviated instructions about how to with the FRO game, along with some local color I discovered during the process. 

You must achieve success in four lines (some of them more than once) before you win the game.  I number the lines here, although no such numbers exist at the FRO and you pretty much have to figure out the process as you go along.  A lot of handwaving and gesticulating by various FRO officials is required. In my visits, I interacted directly with at least 8 officials, and there is a roomful of paper-pushers that no doubt were involved somehow as well.

  1. When you arrive, wait in line to sign your name in the reception book.  It’s a lot like a hotel reception book, and the smiling woman who holds out the book for you asks, each day, whether you’ve brought your cute children with you again.
  2. Go through the metal detector and into the door marked ‘Janapara’.  I don’t know what that means, but the subtitle is “Single Window.” Inside are four windows, a waiting room, and various desks and various lines. Hmm. Which line is for you? Ah, there’s a line behind the sign “Enquiry and assistance”, but you’ll later learn that really means “You can’t make it to the next line until we like all your documents and sign your paper.”  We’ll call this line 2.  Be patient but be a little pushy or others will cut in line in front of you. Tell your children, through gritted teeth, to be quiet and stop arguing about their card game in front of all these people starting at you.  When you get to the front  of the line, keep pushing your papers in front of the two men there, because others will cut in from the side and do the same. Revisit this line many times until you succeed in him stapling and signing your papers.  If you don’t have your wife and children with you, go back to the end of the line, as their presence is required.
  3. Go outside and around the building and into the other entrance.  Wait in line to meet the assistant commissioner of police.  Tell the kids to quit squirming and that this nice man will throw them in jail if you don’t first.  When you sit in front of him, smile and hope he signs your papers.
  4. Go back around to the first entrance, push through line #2, and look for the teller-like window at the far right (Counter #1).  Wait in line.  Wait for the attendant to stop fiddling with his mobile phone.  Tell the kids to stop pushing each other and not to knock over the lady in line behind them. Give him your papers.
    1. Wait in the chair for him to call your name.  Get your signed receipt.
    2.  Come back the next afternoon.  Wait in this same line again.  Get your residency permit!
  5. Wait, did I say there was a fifth line?  No, I didn’t, but neither did they!  In step 4.2, you can get your permit, and your spouse’s permit, but not the childrens’ permits.  They send you around to the other office, near line number 3, where a man hands you the passports and asks you to make two copies of each. More work!
    1. Go across the street, wait in line to make copies.
    2. Come back, wait in line to give the man your copies.  The copies and passports disappear.  Ask where to go next.
  6. Oh, I see!  Back outside, around to the other office, wait in line 4 at counter #1. Wait some more, until the passports arrive from the other office.  Sign the papers, and receive the passports.

If you make it to this point, you win the game!

Of course, at any step you may be told that your documents are not correct, in which you must leave, fix the problem, and come back tomorrow and start again.  If you need photocopies, there is a tiny stand across the street that does a booming business making paper for people to bring to the paper-pushers at the CoP.  Don’t copy anything back-to-back: single-sided only!  This cost me one trip to FRO and another trip to the photocopier.

I sure wish the above process was all there was.  Doesn’t it look simple?  Not so fast.

On my first visit to the FRO I learned that I needed to have 1 reporting form (provided by them), with photo attached, one registration certificate (another form provided by them), in quadruplicate with your photo attached, two copies of my passport, two copies of my visa, two copies of the passport stamp I received on arrival, two copies of proof of local residence, two copies of my letter of affiliation to IISc, and two copies of a financial guarantee affidavit.  And that was just for me; Pam needs all that too, and the kids need all that and a bona fide certificate from their school.

Financial guarantee affidavit?  What is that? The FGA is a notarized document, on official government “stamp paper”, in which an Indian citizen guarantees that they will assume financial liability for you if you become destitute.  This document was a huge challenge.  Put the FRO game on pause, and play the FGA game!

To get the FGA:

  1. Get stamp paper (Rs.20 denomination).  What is stamp paper? It is special blank paper, issued by the government, with a colorful heading. This can be obtained only at State Bank of Mysore, which is not far but not close to the FRO.  Wait in line, outside the bank.  Expect to spend 1-2 hours waiting in this line (hope that it does not rain).  As you get close to the head of the line, holding your “challan” (a slip of paper on which you have written your request for stamp paper), everyone in line is clearly excited that their wait may be over.  People push more tightly. Push your challan and money through the first bank window, and then hang out with the other men (they are all men) waiting for their stamp paper.  Wait some more. Hope that the man behind the second window will say your name loudly and clearly.  Watch 25 men all crowded around the window, so that nobody can reach their paper when it comes out… but everyone is nice and hands the paper back through the crowd to the person named on the paper.
  2. Find an Indian citizen to be your guarantor.  [I was very lucky on my first visit to the FRO, because another IISc researcher was trying to register and his host was with him.  They explained the FGA process to me and this professor was extremely generous with his time.  He took me through the whole process, driving me to the bank and the notary, putting himself legally on the line for me, and exposing personal details such as his salary.]  Using the form from the FRO, have him type up the formal language in which he assumes financial responsibility for you, and print it onto the stamp paper.  Don’t mess up, or you go back to the bank.
  3. Find a notary.  Guarantor signs and stamps, and notary signs and stamps, the FGA.  Pay Rs.100.  In my case, I was again very lucky. The IISc professor’s father has been using a local notary for years, and they are old family friends.  So, on Saturday morning, after filling out the FGA, he drove me over to the notary’s house. (We drove past two camels being ridden down the main street. Nobody but me seemed to notice.) She asked about his father’s health, and there ensued a 20-minute conversation about his father’s recent surgery, etc.  This personal communication is clearly an important part of the business process.  The actual notarization took 2 minutes and we were on our way.
  4. It’s now Saturday afternoon.  You’re still waiting for the kids’ school to to produce bona fide certificates, which the kids will pick up on Monday at school.  Rest a little for the weekend, though with some stress because the deadline is Tuesday.  If you miss the deadline, your penalty is another trip to the bank (to pay the fee) and the chance to stand in several “bonus” lines at the police station. 
  5. On Monday pick up the kids from the school bus and head to the FRO.  Forget to make copies of the bona fide certificates, so leave the FRO, cross the street, and make your copies.  Each time you cross the street, of course, you spin the wheel of chance and may find yourself out of this game and instead starting the hospital game.
  6. So, back in line number 2 at the FRO.  Although the FGA form never indicates, and the FRO staff never tells you, the FGA must mention you and all of your dependents by full legal name.  My FGA mentions me by name, and we added “and his wife and three children”  for good measure. Sorry!  not good enough. I was about to cry. The kids have waited in line for a second day, and despite all the logic which indicates who are my wife and children, the FGA must be changed.  We will need to come back tomorrow – and keep the kids out of school so they can visit for a third time.  They told me to change the notarized document (did I hear that right?), have the guarantor sign and stamp it again, have the notary sign and stamp it again.
  7. I meet our Fulbright-appointed facilitator, who was able to come to the FRO this time.  He suggests that we take an auto-rickshaw directly to the notary, even though she is not answering her phone.  Perhaps by the time we arrive she will be there.  This auto ride was fascinating, because we took numerous twists and turns through tiny alleys, attempting to find the right address.  People’s wet laundry wiped the side mirrors of our auto – which is itself a very narrow vehicle, so that tells you how narrow were the alleys.  Many times we asked passers-by or other drivers for directions.  The great thing about these open-air autos is that it is a very social experience. 
  8. We wait.  Wait some more. Wait 2 hours, no notary.  Meanwhile, I watch the construction site next door.  A small crew of workers is building a new house. Women carry baskets of sand and concrete on their heads over to the portable cement mixer.  A boy, perhaps 12, helps out and pushes the mixer to the truck at the end of the day, My assistant tells me that they are paid little: Rs200 for men, Rs100 for women, and Rs25 for children, despite the ban on child labor, and work 8-10 hard hours. Most are barefoot or wearing flip-flops. This is typical of construction workers I’ve seen.
  9. We give up and I go back to campus. It’s now evening, and pouring rain.  I walk over to the professor’s office and we tamper with, er, modify the notarized document as instructed.  A tricky business involving white-out and some tricks of Microsoft Word to put the new words in the right place.
  10. The next morning, I call the notary and ask if I can come again.  She asks me to be there in 30 minutes, nigh impossible given the traffic.  I race out and try to find an auto driver willing to take me. Often, they refuse because they don’t know the neighborhood around the destination, and they are paid by km not per hour.
  11. Phew, it takes a few hours, but I get the document notarized and I’m off to the FRO to rejoin line #2.  Remember the FRO?

Although I found it extremely frustrating, and downright tiring, I tried to keep reminding myself that this process was just another part of the cultural exchange, and that I was experiencing – full force – one part of the culture of India.  The process is tedious, sweaty (lots of people crammed into old offices waiting in lines for hours), and difficult (imagine three fidgety children waiting in line with you, for hours, three days in a row). On the way, however, I experienced the generosity of Indians – like the professor, who volunteered half a day of his time to help me, or the people on the street who helped my auto driver find the house where the notary lives;  I enjoyed the conversation between the professor and the notary, in which they discussed the health of his father and other family matters for 20 minutes before conducting business for 2 minutes; I was awash in the sights and sounds and smells of the back alleys of Bangalore as I took the auto from place to place; I saw two people riding camels down the street; and I enjoyed a lot of people-watching at the police station, people who were each trying to get their own paperwork for one purpose or another.

So, that’s done.  Now I’m resting up for the next challenge: our visas were accidentally one month too short for our stay, so we need to extend the visas.  I hate to think what that will require!

This post was transferred from MobileMe to WordPress in 2020, with an effort to retain the content as close to the original as possible; I recognize that some comments may now seem dated or some links may now be broken.


An itinerant ironing man.

I saw this man in the street outside our apartment one day.  He rolls his cart from block to block, ironing the clothes brought to him by apartment housekeepers.  I don’t know how he heated his iron, which  was the heavy old-fashioned type.

A man stops his cart along our street, about once a week, to iron the neighborhood laundry.

The norm, apparently, is for one’s housekeeper to do laundry every day, scrubbing garments by hand on a rough stone bench in the small courtyard between apartments.  Our apartment has a washing machine, so we chose to do our own wash.

The washing machine (above) has two hoses; you hook one hose to the sink and places the other next to a floor drain.  You insert the electrical plug into a wall socket.  You add clothes on the left side, turn on the water until you think you have enough, and turn a mechanical dial that causes the machine to agitate for a while.  Then you turn another dial to cause it to drain.  Then you move the clothes to the right side, which is for spinning; another mechanical dial times the spin.  Usually, the water drains too fast and floods the kitchen a little.  This process takes a little practice, and a deft touch in the dials.

Either way, the clothes dry on a clothesline strung on the roof.  (The roof is flat, with a tiled floor and walls, plus a clothesline on poles.)  Of course, this is the rainy season, so it is very humid and rains nearly every day, so we have to keep a sharp eye on the weather.

Someday, we may learn more about the man with the mobile ironing service.  

This post was transferred from MobileMe to WordPress in 2020, with an effort to retain the content as close to the original as possible; I recognize that some comments may now seem dated or some links may now be broken.

IISc flora and fauna

The IISc campus is, in effect, a wildlife sanctuary.

The IISc campus is, in a way, a huge park with large forested areas, grassy paths, and quiet lanes.  The campus is surrounded by a wall, with guards that limit access through the gates; thus, the campus is an oasis from the noise and chaotic traffic of Bangalore.

I am just beginning to explore this campus, which you can see on the Google Map (zoom in) is covered in large forested areas.   The main roads are paved, but there is a large central wooded section that is cris-crossed by well-defined walkways.  These walkways appear to have been cobblestone, long ago, though today are largely dirt and grass.  The space reminds me of a much larger version of the Dartmouth Green, but covered in trees.  Although much of the campus seems to be left rough and relatively wild, several buildings on campus (such as my department, ECE) have carefully tended formal gardens out front.

It is apparently illegal to cut trees in India, without a government permit, and the IISc campus has countless varieties of trees – many with numbers and labels that imply they are tracked or studied carefully,  All of them are unfamiliar to me, and I look forward to learning more about them.  Today I saw an amazing tree; from one tree grew countless twisted vines (branches?) that spread and were suspended on nearby trees.  It was impossible to capture the incredible spread of this tree’s vines in single image; they stretch the length of the building and across the street.  IISc had even built support poles to hold the branches where they cross the path and cross the road.

As a result of all this green space, there is a lot of wildlife.  There are countless birds – my birding eye is not sharp enough to spot them, but every morning there is a cacophony of birdsong.  Today we saw some sort of weasel poking around the leaves on the side of the road.  I’ve seen small lizards, and I’ve heard there are snakes (and even a “snake rescue” club).  There is, I’m told, an entomology group that looks out for the welfare of the insects on campus. 

Our kids are delighted by the resident population of monkeys, which we have encountered twice.  The first time, there were two adults and two tiny babies on the ground – but we unfortunately had no camera. Today, we spotted three monkeys eating the fruits of a nearby tree (pictured above, and below right). Apparently they will try to steal your food if you are having a picnic, and have been reputed to climb through windows and open the fridge.  

IISc is blessed with a verdant, forested campus. We are lucky to live here.

And yet, the IISc campus is a study in contrast.  One the one hand, they have a nursery and some staff that tend the trees, shrubs, and gardens.  On the other hand, it is not uncommon to see, next a well-tended garden, a large pile of trash, an old pile of bricks, or discarded sinks and other debris.  I recognize that I do not understand the whole picture, but it puzzles me that a campus with such inherent beauty is left unkempt in so many places.

More in the photo gallery.

This post was transferred from MobileMe to WordPress in 2020, with an effort to retain the content as close to the original as possible; I recognize that some comments may now seem dated or some links may now be broken.


We arrived during the monsoon season, which in Bangalore means that it rains every day, usually as a brief downpour in the afternoon, but sometimes as a drenching rain overnight.

It’s impossible to characterize the weather of India, which is a huge subcontinent with ecosystems that range from the tropics to the Himalayas.  Bangalore is at 3000’ above sea level, so it is considerably cooler than most of south India; we arrived during the cool part of the year, aka the monsoon season.  Lots of rain, and as a result the IISc campus is awash in greenery.

During the week we have been here the weather has been extremely pleasant, highs in the 70s and lows in the 60s.  It is humid, of course, because it rains every day.  (Well, almost every day: yesterday was the first day it did not rain at all.)  It is usually cloudy, or overcast, and strong sunlight is rare.  This afternoon, when it was sunny, was the first time it seemed somewhat hot.

Of course, come March and April it does get hot here, with highs in the 90s.  Although we have no A/C in the office or apartment, we have numerous ceiling fans and many windows.

This post was transferred from MobileMe to WordPress in 2020, with an effort to retain the content as close to the original as possible; I recognize that some comments may now seem dated or some links may now be broken.

Cell phones

Cell phones are pervasive in Bangalore, and in most urban areas of India.

Cell phones (“mobiles”) are pervasive in Bangalore, and in most urban areas of India. (iPhones go on sale here at end of August.) One can find tiny shops everywhere that offer “top-up” services to add more rupees to your prepaid cell plan. Getting a SIM card, however, is a lot of work!

The first day, we tried to arrange for cell-phone service.  Unfortunately, because of concerns about terrorism, one cannot simply buy a SIM card like you do in Europe.  You must present proof of residency and identification, because each SIM card (and its phone number) must be registered to a named person. 

This week, I took a letter from the department chair attesting to our residency, and our passports, to one of the many phone shops downtown. I had to fill out a lengthy form, listing both my US and India address, passport number, and attach photocopies of my passport, NH driver’s license, and letter of residency.  Unfortunately, I had not brought photocopies. The shop owner sent his “boy” to photocopy them.  Not wanting to let go of my passport, I tagged along.  We went outside, across the street, up the road, and down a muddy, trashy alleyway to a tiny shop that provides a photocopier, telephones, and internet terminals for a few rupees. All this paperwork must be filed with Airtel, and effectively, with the government, before my phone is ready to us.

Cell service is inexpensive: 1 rupee (2.5 cents) per minute to anywhere in India, and a penny to send an SMS within India.  Incoming calls are totally free.

This post was transferred from MobileMe to WordPress in 2020, with an effort to retain the content as close to the original as possible; I recognize that some comments may now seem dated or some links may now be broken.

IISc campus

A short way across campus is the Nesara restaurant.

The IISc campus sprawls across a large area; it was founded 100 years ago and at the time was on the outskirts of Bangalore.  Large sections of the campus are woods, with some pleasant walking paths. The campus is green, full of trees and birds, and as we discovered today, monkeys (or some other sort of primate).

The kids loved discovering new things, especially the huge millipedes (6 inches long) and 24” seed pods from some of the huge old trees.  They quickly made up some new games to play outside the house.  Soon I expect they will connect with the many other children who play in the neighborhood.

There is little traffic within the walls of this campus, and lots of people out walking or biking, so it is a very pleasant oasis from the hubbub of Bangalore.

See photos of IISc and this map. See also Wikipedia about IISc.

A short way across campus is the Nesara restaurant (below), which has very good Indian food, a friendly family atmosphere, and yet is inexpensive. (The five of us ate a big lunch, with dessert, for $8 total.)

This post was transferred from MobileMe to WordPress in 2020, with an effort to retain the content as close to the original as possible; I recognize that some comments may now seem dated or some links may now be broken.


Bangalore’s streets exist in a sort of perpetual traffic jam, where there seems to be little attention paid to official rules of the road, but rather some unwritten rules that boil down to this: if you are a centimeter ahead of me, you have right of way.

You really have to experience traffic in Bangalore to appreciate it. The sights, sounds, and smells are a powerful mixture, and sometimes you just have to close your eyes and pray that things will all go safely. (Sometimes you have to close your eyes because of the dust and pollution, too.) Indeed, most vehicles seem to have some token of protection on the front dashboard – usually Ganesh, the elephant god, but sometimes Jesus or an Indian flag. On several autos I have seen a dangling string of chili peppers and a fruit.

In this city of over 6 million people, double what it was about 10 years ago, there are virtually no highways, overpasses, or tunnels, that one might expect to see in a large city – although some are under construction.  The roads are extremely congested, and one spends most of the time stopped.  It is about 10 miles from the main shopping street (M.G. Road) to our apartment, but the trip takes about an hour; more at rush hour. (On the other hand, it only costs $3.)

With the prosperity brought by the IT industry and outsourcing, there are hundreds of new cars added to the roads every day. They compete with  motorcycles and scooters used by commuting couples, the occasional ox-drawn cart, and thousands of the yellow-topped “auto-rickshaws”.

An “auto-rickshaw”, or just “auto”, is a three-wheeled open-sided taxi built on a two-cycle motorcycle engine.  They are cheap and easy to find, and generally reliable, but they are loud and emit clouds of noxious smoke. [Apparently some drivers add kerosene to their gas tank, to save money, but it makes a lot of smoke.]

It’s truly impressive how the auto drivers jockey for position at a stop light, squeezing between scooters and buses and cars to crowd up at the front. A driver must be aggressive to make progress, but it always seems to be courteous and, in a way, cooperative. Lane markers mean nothing to Bangalore drivers; even the dividing line is subject to interpretation.  Today, as we approached an intersection, our auto driver used the oncoming lane because it was empty, but as we passed a bus the light changed and a truck came barreling toward us. No problem, we squeezed in between. Whew.

So you’re driving through the streets, surrounded by honking (which means “I’m here” rather than “get out of my way”) and the high-pitched whine of 2-cycle motors, surrounded by a delirious mixture of smells: food cooking by sidewalk vendors, smoke from their fires, rotting trash, and exhaust.  You wince when you see pedestrians – including children – weaving through the traffic to cross the street. You marvel at the elegant woman in a sari, riding side-saddle on the back of a motorcycle (most carry two people), oblivious to the traffic while she texts on her cellphone. You smile as the few traffic cops attempt to bring some order to the chaos. You decline, repeatedly, the driver’s request that you stop by their favorite gift shop (“it’s on the way, sir”) where, no doubt, he receives some commission for bringing tourists in the door. You meet poverty face to face as beggars ask for handouts as they weave through stopped traffic. 

And yet, in these open-sided autos, you get the full experience of Bangalore, and a great view of the many beautiful temples, flowers, people, and other sights of the city.

This auto has an advertisement for school that teaches all sorts of software skills.  These ads are very common.

This post was transferred from MobileMe to WordPress in 2020, with an effort to retain the content as close to the original as possible; I recognize that some comments may now seem dated or some links may now be broken.

Our apartment

We chose to live in faculty housing on the campus of the Indian Institute of Science, where I am spending my time as Fulbright Scholar and my sabbatical year.

The early morning sounds woke me today, our first morning in the apartment on the campus of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc). There were the sounds of many tropical (and thus unfamiliar) birds, the distant whistle of trains, and just a few neighborhood noises. Traffic, so noisy in Bangalore, was just a faint and distant hum,  I’ll take birds over traffic any day.  Once again, I decided that we had made the right choice.

We have apartment E8, at upper right.

I am extremely grateful to the IISc-ECE staff who have been helping to coordinate our housing on campus, and working with the housing staff to clean, repaint, and improve our apartment (when Andy and I arrived yesterday, they were replacing all the light fixtures).  Although the outside is not much to look at (photo above), we have a second-story space with 3 bedrooms and 2 baths, a small kitchen and a comfortable living room.

The apartment is nice, but will take some adjustments on our part.  There are few electrical outlets – one per room, for the most part (tricky for me and my many gadgets!).  There are two showers, each with a water heater, but those are the only hot water.  Want to wash your hands? cold water. Shave? cold water. Wash dishes? cold water. Wash clothes? cold water. It’s a bit like camping: heating water to make some dish water, and brushing teeth using a cup and bottled water since we can’t trust the tap water.

On the other hand, the neighborhood is green and lush with tropical trees and flowers, children play in the parking lot, and I can walk to my office 100 yards away.  Want to see where we are?  Check it out on this Google Map. [Later, on Sept.28, I made a short video of the walk down our street and up to the apartment.]

We have ceiling fans but no A/C (or heat). The temperature this time of year is pleasant – highs in the 80s and lows in the 60s – and so we keep most windows cracked open to let in some air.  Yesterday, staff were repairing some of the screens – although it’s nice that the IISc campus is wooded, it means that there are more mosquitos than in other parts of the city.  Although malaria is not a big problem here, we still take some precautions. We purchased “Good Knight” devices – small nightlights that include a mosquito-repellant solution, and installed one in each bedroom.  We’re looking for some bed nets. 

Last night, the kids argued about which bedroom to use, and who gets what bed, but what else is new.  The mattresses are thin, but somehow the new sheets barely fit over them.  We have no blankets, so our first night was rather chilly.

We need to learn how to hire a housecleaner, who apparently is also the person who washes the laundry – there is a stone in the courtyard where they beat and scrub the clothes and then a clothesline for drying. We have a small washing machine, with a basin for washing and rinsing on the left and another basin for spinning on the right, a hose that connects to the sink and another that goes to the drain in the floor.  Awkward, but workable.

We have cable TV and telephone but we need to arrange Internet (DSL) next week.

We have a sizable porch, which would be nice if we had some plants or maybe a table and chairs.

Overall, it’s starting to feel like a home.

This post was transferred from MobileMe to WordPress in 2020, with an effort to retain the content as close to the original as possible; I recognize that some comments may now seem dated or some links may now be broken.

Kids’ school: CISB

Andy and I took a trip out to the kids’ school.

Andy and I took a taxi out to the Canadian International School, where John, Mara, and Andy will soon start school.  This school is a 45-60 minute drive from IISc, out the highway toward the airport. A small sign marks the turn off the highway.  First, you get onto a parallel access road, though; unfortunately, our driver tried to short-cut across the dirt median and whump! one wheel landed in a freshly dug hole. Fortunately, a passing motorcycle stopped to help immediately. The two gents on the cycle (and most motorcycles seem to have two riders) jumped off, and lifted and pushed until our taxi was back on the road. I was impressed at how willing they were to help.

A dirt road leads to CIS.  It passes some farm fields, and some ramshackle huts made of sticks, plastic tarps, and corrugated metal.  Once you pass through the security gate to CIS, however, you find a brand-new school facility, spacious and well-appointed, with surrounding playing fields and a swimming pool.  The contrast between the poverty of the shacks and the wealthy school is stunning.

Andy was interested in the natural world, however.  The road passes banana fields, with ripening bananas – a new sight for him – and mountainous anthills taller than Andy.  In the middle of the road lay a cow, with just enough room for us to go around it.

Next week we all return to CIS for orientation day.  After that the kids will take the bus to and from school, hopefully from right at the edge of campus.

This post was transferred from MobileMe to WordPress in 2020, with an effort to retain the content as close to the original as possible; I recognize that some comments may now seem dated or some links may now be broken.

First day

Our first day was focused on key logistics; checking our apartment and doing some basic shopping.

After resting in the hotel for the night we had breakfast at the hotel.  The kids were faced with their first meal in India, a traditional breakfast with idlees and sambar and other treats.  Andy and John tasted everything but Mara mostly nibbled at the corn flakes.  I thought it was good, though I’ve had better. (Our hotel, the Woodlands, is 2-stars and leaves a lot to be desired.)

Everyone was buzzing with excitement because today India won its first-ever Gold medal in the Olympics, in the shooting competition.  It was headline news in all the papers.

We met up with our Fulbright-provided facilitator. Professor M.K. Sridhar at National College (Bangalore) is a former Fulbright Scholar himself. (He visited U. South Carolina in 2000, I think, to teach sanskrit.) He has been extremely helpful, explaining how things work and taking us around the city as needed.  On this day we visited our apartment at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc). I am extremely grateful to the IISc-ECE staff who have been helping to coordinate our housing on campus, and working with the housing staff to clean, repaint, and improve our apartment.  

Street view of our apartment, at top.

Later, we went to M.G. Road, the busy upscale shopping strip.  Although touristy and somewhat expensive, one can find most things here.  We bought sheets and towels from a Bombay Dyeing outlet, nice quality at a reasonable price.

After my visit to the cellphone store I walked back to the hotel in a drizzle, after dark.  [Here in the tropics and in this part of the timezone it gets dark at about 6:30.]  The streets were busy with a meleé of honking “autos” (three-wheeled motorized rickshaws), cars, and pedestrians trying to weave through the traffic.  The sidewalks were packed with people, many who stop at little hole-in-the-wall (literally) shops that sell all manner of cooked food for a few rupees. It’s hard to describe the powerful blend of noises and smells that come from the traffic, people, and cooking.  Exciting, overwhelming, interesting, stimulating, all at once.

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