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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Closer

I love to write.   Lists, cards, letters, emails, facebook posts, blogs, notes from meetings.  Somehow writing down a thought, an idea, actions or the flow of a meeting make things stick in my brain.   Here in India one of the first things my colleagues commented on (and my superiors) was my propensity to take notes.   It was all so overwhelming when I first arrived; new organization, new names, learning to spell Indian names - I had no choice but to write, write and write it down.    I have been keeping a notebook for about 10 years, I usually go through a few per year and I save them.  There have been times I pull up an old one to check notes from the past...I guess I am ready for court should i need to prove my whereabouts!   My notebooks are a mix of personal and professional.   I usually write work items in the body of the book and personal reminders in the top margins of the pages.    The funny thing is that I almost always remember writing something down and whether it was at the top of the page, bottom, left or right side.   I guess you would call that a visual learner.

We are just finishing up the first 8 months in India (arrived in mid-August for those of you just joining my blog now).  I have used up my first notebook; Staples brand composition notebook.   In between the note book entries I have run through several packs of sticky notes that I typically attach to my laptop, bulletin board, wallet and iPhone for the "must do" that day.    However looking back on my unraveling black and white book, the progression of my journey to settling down in India unfolds.   The first pages list the necessary actions for survival here:
- get cell phone
- register at Police Office
- find cleaning supplies for house
- call Vet
- get parking sticker
- find orthodontist for William
These items CONSUMED me for nearly six weeks as I just tried to make sense of my new surroundings.   Flipping through the next set of pages, I have noted lots of names with their job positions, phone numbers that I needed to meet to establish myself.   By early November I can say I was well on my way to problem solving, dealing with employee issues and contributing to our organization.     December through late February seem frantic, notes in all directions, stickies stapled to pages as I assumed more responsibility and began to supervise an even larger team.    As of late my note book has contained  mostly meeting minutes and countless notes reminding me of the aspirations and grievances I hear each day from my team.  I have been traveling to our many locations here in India for face to face sessions; in addition to reminders on what hotel in what city, I keep track of who I meet and when.   Some of you might think, can't she remember?   The answer is yes, but I want to remember what I hear as well as what strikes me during our meetings becuase often the things unspoken are the most powerful to remember.   My notebooks take the following form - checkmarks for action taken, strike-through for no longer relevant and circled items for things still open and taking time.  

This week I start a new notebook; moving forward my goals, dreams, places to book vacations in Asia and a long list of people I look forward to meeting with and helping grow.   Maybe it's all in my head but somehow just knowing it's also in my notebook helps me make sense of my life, close out the items on my plate and know there is lots to look forward to.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Putting down Roots in India

We are settled down pretty well here in Bangalore. After 8 months, your house feels like home and coming home after any business trip – your bed feels cozy. Doug and I have begun to look around the place and made a list of things that would be nice to have for the next 18 months. Fortunately we are members of several expat and community groups. The wonderful thing about Bangalore is that people are always coming and going. Whether that be our friends and colleagues that bring us goodies from the US or members of these networks posting items for sale. The funny thing about all these networks – Bangalore Expat Club, Overseas Women’s Club and the Palm Ladies Group – is that people think their stuff is gold. If you are an avid garage/ yard saler in the US, you know how this works. The ad goes into the paper with a short of list of key items to get the shoppers in. The truly serious garage / yard salers show up before the stated time of sale and pick up the good finds. If you show up at the listed time of sale, you get leftovers. The same thing happens here! However the prices are nearly the same as full price but the fact that it’s from IKEA or Pottery Barn retains retail value like nothing else I have ever seen. And if you have a small child and are looking for something as rare as Fisher Price toys, those will be snapped up immediately for the crazy prices. On occasion we can find some of those items new here in India, but many of them you simply cannot. Often you find a similar looking item but the quality might be slightly less durable – especially for toys. Also the really popular toys in India are the same as in the US – which makes them extra expensive here when purchased new.

Back to my home decorating. We have been watching the postings for a dresser, armoire, terrace furniture, vacuum cleaners, ovens etc… We were successful on the vacuum cleaner back in December and I think that was equal to $100 USD. We caved and just bought new terrace furniture and an oven because we kept showing up at sales where those things were already gone. Multiple times we have seen listings for 47” Sony flat screens but only come to find out they are sold within seconds of posting – on the phone or email transactions. The other crazy thing is that people who are leaving really do sell everything. We have seen listings for liquor – some open bottles, some not; medicine – Prilosec to Xanax; magazines; flippers; bikes and mattresses. Many times its cheaper to rebuy it at home vs. ship it from India. Doug and I have changed our strategy. Keeping cash on hand the minute a posting shows up with something decent, we call/ email or show up at the lister’s house regardless if its sale time or not . This has landed us with a new armoire and a twin bed (Sealy Posturpedic) plus bed frame. And of course we no longer attempt to negotiate for “used” stuff because there is a line up behind us of other hungry expats wanting something quick and easy that feels like home. Our only consolation is that we should be able to unload our purchases for what we paid for them.

On a side note, this helps satisfy my shopping hunger :)

Mascara Magic

I have been feeling like an ugly duckling lately in India. My wardrobe consists of the two suitcases of items I selected last August - strategically picking out coordinating pieces to maximize my mixing and matching; a collection of shoes that seem not so appropriate for the lumpy Indian sidewalks and an assortment of silver jewelry. Indian women are very colorful, so my somehow NY chic look seems a bit sad in here. Some things are starting to look a little tired as they have cycled through my wash machine mixed with towels and soccer uniforms ....the idea of sorting by color and delicates is lost in translation with our maid. As I dig through my closet I am momentarily cheered up by the new tunics and dresses that are adorned with yellow pompoms and sequins. Somehow those items distract from the black or khaki trousers I wear almost every day. But on a closer look, there is something else. My face is looking a little faded lately. It's 8 months of trekking to the office each day, in and out of airports across India, decreased yoga and increased wine. Add a healthy dose of India sunshine and I feel like I am sporting farmer chic; no make-up and a lot of tired. To top it off, I did not stock up on my supply of make-up before leaving the US because it's been ages since I have actually used a full tube of something up. I honestly did not know it wouldn’t last a year! Office life will do that to you, I ran out of mascara in February. I picked up a local brand at the "Health and Glow" which ended up giving me the sad clown look as it streaked under my eyes throughout the day. Next I opted for the heavy black eyeliner that gave me a distinct look; distinctly scary as either a blonde Cleopatra or something more like a street fighter. Then over the last few weeks, I had all but given up. Fast forward to another business trip. To my surprise a new display has taken shape at the Bangalore airport. LancĂ´me makeup has arrived. I have searched high and low but I think the local population has mascara low on their list of beauty needs given their naturally luscious lashes. I was VERY excited to find something similar to what I was missing! I whipped out the Amex and bought my tube of extra black mascara. I was so excited that even for my 8pm flight, I ran to the rest room and clubbed it on my eyes. It was a transformation: instant awake, bright eyed, happy! I am feeling better the next day too, I look like myself again - who knew how important eyelashes can be...I guess those Kardashian were right about something - load on the lashes!