Amazingly, I’ve been in Bangalore for 7 weeks now. Time is flying by, and we’re already half way through the teaching term at college.
It’s tempting to keep counting days and weeks, in a Robinson Crusoe kind of way, but it’s more interesting to reflect on the on-going, qualitative, psyschological changes that I’ve noticed.
After about a month, I was on my way to work and suddenly realised that things felt “normal”. There’s something I once read about it taking 21 days to form a new habit, and here I finally was with a routine. Although we often reject routine because we can feel oppressed by it, you can certainly appreciate its value when you’re in a totally new place and new culture. Initially I’d had to think about every single decision I was making throughout the day, and it’s exhausting – What time to get up in the morning? How to get to work? How long would it take? Where will I eat? What should I eat? Finally getting a bit of regular structure back into my life certainly made me feel less lost.
Also around the 4-week mark I had my first run-in with the local microbes — I had Delhi Belly for 48 hours, and took a day off work sick. Taking it easy for a day and drinking plenty of water along with the usual medication had me up and about again. Friends have told me I did well to last 4 weeks, but then again I’d been really cautious with what I’d been eating. I think the salad in a restaurant in Ahmedabad airport was to blame.
Then came a frenzied period of house-hunting. A chaotic 10 days or so of semi-intelligible phone calls with a variety of Real Estate Agents, and whizzing around town on the back of their scooter or motorbike to view various properties to rent. Most of them were pretty grim until I hiked up the budget significantly. An interesting experience though, and a good way to see where and how people live. And riding around the city on a 2-wheeler was fun, even if my bald head did get badly sunburned when I forgot to take my hat with me.
Anyway, fingers crossed, I now have an apartment lined up. I still need to work out how on earth I’m going to transfer the deposit (10 months rent!) from the UK to an account here, since I only have a toy bank account at present. But all being well, I should be able to move in within a week or two. I’m really looking forward to that… particularly having a bit of outdoor space in which to enjoy the weather, which has been great pretty much non-stop since I arrived.
So up to now, so far so good. I feel like I’m “getting the hang” of India to an extent, I’m getting to know my way around Bangalore, and everything is a bit more familiar and understandable.
I’m even getting used to dealing with the really in-your-face beggars, although I still find it deeply shocking and disturbing to see small children with matted, dusty hair literally running through rush-hour traffic to pan-handle the rickshaw passengers while they wait at traffic lights.
There’s certainly a down-side to this new familiarity. The first few weeks were full of wonder and excitement… so many new and unexpected sights and sounds, which made every day thrilling. It felt a bit like being on holiday. Now I don’t really look twice when I see goats or cows wandering through city traffic, or a family of four all riding on the same scooter.
Of course I’m not a holiday-maker, I’m here to work, for 2 years at least. So there’s also the slowly-dawning realisation that I am now an expat. And I’m not going home.
At least, not for 1 year, 10 months and 14 days.