18 November 2003 through 8 December 2003

Tue Nov 18 11:51:44 IST 2003 Arrived last night around midnight. The line to get through customs was really long. The plane trip over was long and tiring, but otherwise very nice. Singapore Airlines feeds you well, and the workers were pleasant. The plane refueled in Hong Kong. During the nine hour layover in Singapore I took the free bus tour, which had four stops where you could get out and wander around for a while and get picked up an hour later by the next bus. I overheated pretty badly -- it was around 90 and humid, and I was dressed for cold planes. Mostly the same set of people did the three legs, so they started feeling quite familiar -- we spent about twenty hours on planes together. The trip over, including layovers, etc., took about 36 hours -- midnight Saturday till midnight Monday. The other people were mostly young Indian couples with children. I'm all settled in here. Gaj and Madhavi have a guest room set up, and I'm all unpacked. There is lots of noise in the morning, so I'll be getting up at eight every day whether I want to or not :). The apartment complex is quite fancy, and is surrounded by a concrete wall topped by barbed wire. Hopefully I'll get set up here for uploading pictures soon. The roads here really are pretty wild, though supposedly the ones i've seen so far are relatively orderly. Scooters, three-wheeled open-sided taxis, bicycles, pedestrians, and trucks all fluidly move about, flashing high-beams, honking, and gesturing to coordinate. The result is a constant background of buzzing and beeping. It's quite warm here; around 80 during the day, sunny and humid.
Tue Nov 18 18:04:06 IST 2003 Uploaded pictures from the trip over:
Ariel dropped me off at SFO, and figured out the timer on my new camera
The Blue Screen of Death appears on some internet terminal or something, at the gate at SFO
The plane I spent most of a day on
The Pit of Despair at SFO
Dawn over Hong Kong
Misty mountains over the tarmac at Hong Kong
Air conditioning units in Singapore. It was SO hot!!!
In Singapore, I did the bus tour with a nice Indian/Canadian woman named Geetha. Here, she gets her fortune selected by a parakeet.
I woke up, looked out the window, and discovered I was at The Village!
Wed Nov 19 20:36:04 IST 2003 I've been both days with Madhavi to visit her parents.
The central room of Madhavi's parents' house, looking toward the table.
Looking the other way from the same spot, out to the patio/balcony/roof, through the monkey-invasion-prevention bars.
Past the monkey bars, looking off the roof at the coconut palms.
Thu Nov 20 09:25:49 IST 2003 Dosas (not oily), chutneys, and papaya for breakfast. Yum! It is so easy to overeat.
Thu Nov 20 10:49:10 IST 2003 I'm acutally beginning to get used to riding in a car here. Traffic is actually less chaotic than it would appear at first. There are conventions about who goes when, and when you honk, etc.. Unfortunately, though, the air quality, esp. on the roads, is very poor. Three-wheeled open-sided "auto-rickshaw" taxis are everywhere, and spew rather acrid exhaust. People throw garbage in piles on the side of the road. Cows (kind of like the way people have outdoor cats in California) wander by and rifle through the garbage, eating the plant material. It's not quite composting, but it's in that direction. Lots of people ride around on scooters, usually the woman riding side-saddle behind the male driver. I can't imagine riding side-saddle on a scooter, with no helmet or protective clothing. Public services here are really weak -- US Libertarian Party supporters would love this -- so everywhere there are private workarounds to public problems. The water supply is not very clean, so rich people buy a filter for their house. The water supply is only available for a few hours a day, so people come up with various schemes to store it when it's available (the apartment complex here apparently has a huge underground storage tank for this purpose). The electrical grid is unreliable, so rich people have generators. There are city sewer lines, but no public toilets, so poor people go on street corners, or in the storm-drain ditches. The contrast between rich and poor is really mindblowing. A just-out-of-school programmer makes 20-40 times what a maid makes, and the owner of a large company would be rich by US standards. So you have a one-room electronics store with 14 employees -- the people are that much cheaper than the merchandise. The idea that people are hungry in a place with such a mild climate and abundant wonderful produce is absolutely infuriating. In other words: If you thought capitalism was bad in the US, you ain't seen nothing yet. Lower-class people do not speak English, so I can't communicate easily with the 8-5 domestic servant Nagamna, or the cleaning lady, or the driver Kumar. So I just try to be friendly and respectful, which they seem to appreciate. Nagamna told Madhavi that I seemed like a nice fellow, and that Madhavi should marry me off to one of Madhavi's friends.
More pictures
At Madhavi's parents' place again
From left: Madhavi, Tejas, and Madhavi's parents
Feeding Tejas
View from the roof, beyond the monkey bars
The monkey-invasion-resistant door
At Gaj and Madhavi's place
Sitting on the kitchen floor with Nagamna at Gaj and Madhavi's apartment
The guest room where I'm staying. I haven't had to use the mosquito netting, yet.
The main table in the common room at Gaj and Madhavi's place
The doorway into the kitchen at Gaj and Madhavi's place
Fri Nov 21 13:55:05 IST 2003 Two pictures from this morning.
Looking out into traffic at a big intersection. Very few intersections have a traffic light. Instead, everyone slows down enough that the four streams of traffic can interleave more-or-less safely.
Kumar, the driver. He can read Kannada, but knows no English.
Fri Nov 21 19:34:00 IST 2003 Pictures from domestic life:
Madhavi, Yeshas, and Tejas building a tower of foam blocks
The completed block tower
Portrait of Yeshas, the artist, as a young man
Sat Nov 22 17:30:15 IST 2003 Today we went to see the under-construction apt complex that Gaj and Madhavi will be buying an apt in (they're currently renting). It is more on the outskirts of the city. The buildings are lower, and everything is really dusty.
Looking back from the car in the outskirts of Bangalore
A scaffold on the side of a building under construction
A woman standing on top of the same building
Two men digging a ditch
The tower on the left is mostly complete. Eventually there will be five towers in the complex.
Tejas and Madhavi in hard hats at the construction site
A family of construction workers at the side of the road
Workers carrying loads on their heads
Workers putting in the floor in an apt in the mostly-done tower
A lake in Bangalore, near the construction site, which is being filled in for more construction. The oblong black shapes are street cows.
One of the street cows scavenging in the trash
We went to a pizza joint. Yes, they have pizza joints in Bangalore. This one was trying really hard to be US-styled -- there were lots of pictures of famous jazz musicians covering the walls. The pizza was ok. We didn't order the one that included pickles.
The storefront of the pizza joint
Whereas in the Bay Area there are posters everywhere urging you to "work from home" (sending spam, though the posters don't mention that), in Bangalore the posters advertise programmer training classes.
An action photo of Gajanana. OK, actually I just moved the camera by accident. :)
One of the water tanks that people have to store water to work around the limited hours of public water availability.
Mon Nov 24 15:27:51 IST 2003 Got back this morning from an overnight country jaunt with my hosts and a neighbor family. There were nine of us total: two sets of parents, four boys between the ages of 2.5 and 6, and me. We packed into a Toyota SUV that isn't sold in the US (really boxy, not particualrly sturdy-seeming, not powerful, but can have three rows of seats!) and motored off into the countryside. Being a passenger on country highways is much scarier than riding in the city. Everything is still crazy, but the traffic is much less dense, and people drive fast. Very few cars; lots of trucks, busses, scooters, and bicycles; a good number of ox carts; some pedestrians. On the way back, this morning, we were driving with the morning commute into the city. The busses were super full, and some had people clinging to the side of the exterior. This causes the bus to lean towards that side, meaning they had to hold on at a greater-than-vertical angle. We also encountered a rolled-over truck this morning. There were basically four types of building that I saw: * all concrete or brick * concrete or brick with currugated metal roof * concrete or brick with woven plant fiber roof * dug into the ground, built entirely of plant fiber In the morning, people were warming up around little outdoor farm-waste fires. The area we drove through was, for the most part, farmed: lots of rice paddies, some corn, some beans, some sugar cane, some coconuts, and quite a few unfamiliar crops whose names I can't recall at the moment. Very few tractors were in evidence. Cows, oxen, and stray dogs were everywhere. Sheep and goats were less common. I saw the occasional pig or chicken. According to my informants, pesticides and chemical fertilizers are cheap in India, and widely used. Gasoline is quite expensive, though. People were hauling huge piles of plant material on bicycles and scooters. One such that we passed had a five-foot-wide woven basket of plant stuff balanced on the back. The trucks were almost all elaborately and colorfully painted. Red and yellow seem to be really popular colors. I somehow managed to get a mosquito bite on my upper lip yesterday. It's a bit uncomfortable.
This shoddy picture is trying to show the way the road was shaded nicely by trees for much of the way
Rice paddies. Please excuse the reflection.
The car was moving. The tower was supposed to be in the center of the photo.
By the side of the road are people, cows, and a scooter. On the left is a concrete-walled plant-material-roofed building. At the horizon is one of the ubiquitous busses.
At the silly little resort place, Gaj somehow made this face while talking normally
Sujata, one half of the Gujarati couple that joined us. Our transport, the Toyota SUV, belongs to them.
Barag, the other half. He drove, quite skillfully.
From left: Yeshas, Gajanana, Tejas, Madhavi, (behind Madhavi: Sujay sitting on Sujata's lap), Satchet
The right half of the waterfall we went to see. Gaj, Barag, the three older boys (Yeshas, Satchet, Sujay), and I walked down to where you can see people in the lower right.
The left half of the waterfall. There is considerable overlap with the previous picture.
A concrete platform above the waterfall, from which I took the previous two pictures.
Most trucks were elaborately painted
Thu Nov 27 18:47:21 IST 2003 Kannada is neat. It has lots of pleasing regularity, while still being very alien. It's also interesting to see a lot of my own personality in Yeshas, the six-year-old. He'll make a fine engineer some day. :) On the other hand, Tejas, the 2.5-year-old, is simply terrifying. I set up the printer and the wireless network yesterday. This morning I printed out Bach's two-part inventions, and played them on the "electric piano" (i.e. nice keyboard) in the apartment.
Sun Nov 30 20:01:11 IST 2003 Back from an overnight trip to visit Gaj's parents in Mysore, a three hour drive away. Took some pictures, which I'll post soon. Also, I'm working on a Kannada page.
Mon Dec 1 15:20:02 IST 2003 Uploaded pictures from the last few days.
The view as a passenger in an auto-rickshaw, the ubiquitous three-wheeled open-sided two-stroke taxi.
Some of Gaj's coworkers playing cricket. The ball is in the air in front of the batsman, having just been hit.
A truck (the decoration is typical for Bangalore) pulling into a gas station. Gasoline is heavily taxed, and very expensive. Even with the ridiculous exchange rate, it costs about twice as much as in the US.
The gas station employed a great number of people.
The Yahoo building interiors were imported at great expense, and look just like cubes would in the US.
On the way to Mysore, we stopped at a bird sanctuary in an area flooded by a dam. Rain threatened all day, but didn't actually arrive until the night.
Pulling away from the dock for a 15-minute rowboat tour. Still on shore is a massive school group, which later pursued us in several boats. From left, you can see Tejas, the arm of Shashi (Nagamna's cousin), the shoulder of Yeshas, Madhavi, the hand of the guide, and Gaj's shoulder. :)
Fruit bats against the cloudy sky.
A crocodile (let's call it "Sam").
Three birds, and another crocodile (let's call it "Pat").
A closer view of Sam.
An even closer view of Sam.
As we got really close, Sam made a hissing sound, much like a hostile cat. In the back you can see Pat again.
Some birds flying.
Lots of raptors in India. Many many more than I'm accustomed to seeing. I guess there's a lot to eat. The water *was* full of fish, actually.
Birds perched in a tree.
This place was lousy with birds.
Another tree full of fruit bats.
One of the boats full of children. For some reason our guide thought it would be fun to bump into their boat.
A stone plover sitting on a rock, looking like a rock.
Elaborately constructed nests.
Another boat full of children.
A close up of Pat.
Pat didn't hiss even when we got really close.
A "snake bird" -- a bird with an improbably long neck and small head.
There were lots of boats doing the tour.
Adjacent to the bird sanctuary were rice paddies. You can see the terracing.
Another view of the rice paddies.
In Mysore now, on the roof of Gaj's parents' house, looking up the hill. The houses are all concrete, most with flat roofs where people dry laundry, grow plants in containers, etc..
Turned 120 degrees to the right from the previous picture, looking down the street to two new houses under construction, with an even gaudier white house in between. People seem to really be into diplaying their wealth by building absurd-looking houses.
Turned 90 degrees to the right from the previous picture, looking at a public bit of land where washers dry the laundry people have paid them to launder.
The next morning, partially cloudy, with the sun out. Turned 60 degrees to the right from the previous picture. Note the dog tied up in front of the neighboring house. Many people in Mysore seemed to keep a guard dog tied up (on a very short chain) in front of their house. The dogs seemed rather unfriendly.
Looking back towards the laundry park, in the morning sun.
The interior of Gaj's parents' house. In the center is a shrine of some sort (I didn't inquire). On the right you can see into the kitchen. Sitting on the floor, cutting vegetables, is the parents' servant.
Tue Dec 2 10:13:44 IST 2003 So, the directions for Mefloquine, the anti-malarial I'm taking (as a preventative), suggest taking the weekly pill with a large meal. I guess this is actually pretty important, as last night I took it after a very light meal, and then qoke up rather ill at 3 am. I'm feeling less bad today, with symptoms similar to a pretty bad hangover.
Tue Dec 2 11:29:32 IST 2003 Feeling a bit better now. Printed out some Bethoven sonata movements. It's fun to play stuff that's familiar.
Tue Dec 2 20:36:53 IST 2003 Finally mostly recovered from the mefloquine dose. I hope next week's dose goes more smoothly. Nagamna's cousin Shashi has been living with us for about a week now, doing cleaning, child care, and su-chef-ing. Apparently there isn't much else for lower-class unmarried women to do. Shashi came with us to Mysore, apparently the first time she had ever travelled in a car. She suffered terribly from motion sickness. I took three pictures of her playing with Tejas tonight. Tejas basically demands the constant attention of some adult, so Shashi, Madhavi, and I take turns playing with him. Yeshas is much more capable of entertaining himself, either by playing cricket with other kids, or reading. He's currently reading a Nancy Drew book.
Shashi playing with Tejas:

There is some government regulation that mandates that all the commercial trucks around here have "Sound Horn OK" painted on the back in some obvious way. Nobody seems to know what this means, or why the trucks all have it painted on them. The trucks in Mysore had different text painted on the back. The "Stop Signal" label in the lower left is also typical.
After helping Madhavi unpack a box of music and videos into the new cabinets, Tejas climbed right in.
Here he is in his easy-carrying-case.
Madhavi reading to Tejas.
Mon Dec 8 21:46:38 IST 2003 Madhavi, Gaj's father, and I went to a wedding today. The groom is Gaj's father's cousin's grandson.
The gate to the wedding hall compound. There are many wedding halls in the city, but the announcement gates always look about the same. Modulo the names, of course.
The bride and groom are not visible, hidden behind people. The stage is brightly lit by lamps attached to the video cameras.
There were many many people at the wedding, so we ate in shifts. The feeding room was adjacent to the main hall. The food was served by men such as the two at the right, ladling out of buckets. They seemed grumpy for some reason.
The bride and groom are at center-right. They're the ones that are more elaborately decorated.
A clearer shot of the bride and groom.
People lined up to the left of the stage to congratulate them. The woman in the purple sari is the bride's sister.
Getting ready for a group photo.
Just after they posed for a group photo, as they start to relax. Lots of silly expressions.