Posts tagged Life
How to Live in a Foreign Country: Six Easy Steps

1. Clothes: As soon as you land you need to decide whether you want to fit in or stand out and LOOK like a foreigner. Sometimes the colour of your skin decides that for you. But all is not lost, a few casual adjustments to your wardrobe and you can fade into the crowd. The other option is easy: just keep wearing whatever you bloody like no matter what the temperature is or how many weird stares you get. This is called the permanent tourist method. 2. Food: Either start loving the food in local restaurants or LEARN HOW TO COOK LIKE YOUR MOM. For most of us the latter is impossible, so you're left with the more adventurous option - tolerate the local food and surprise yourself everyday with new discoveries. E.g. "Yum!," or "I'm never going to that place again!" or "Oh God the horror..." Beware: after several months your adventurous nature may disappear.

3. Transport: The most fun part of any new country is the unpredictable and new buses, taxi's, roads, and train services. If you are from a country with a horrible and inefficient system you will appreciate the calm monotony of a dependable service. If you are from a country with awesome transport you will hate it and need to improve your survival skills.

4. Night Life: If you manage to make cool friends in the foreign country you will go to to the best places in town which are awesome no matter where you are (seriously, anywhere). If you don't make cool friends then you can meet other losers like yourself and stumble around the foreign country in an adventurous and potentially dangerous (in some places) manner. This is also okay.

5. Weather: If you are very good at living in a foreign country and manage the first four steps easily, then I can assure you that weather is always a problem. If you are from a very cold country you will love the warm and unbearably hot temperature and bake yourself pink everyday until you fall sick. If you are from a hot country you will hate the frozen foreign land and wonder why God has forsaken these people.

6. Language: This is the deal breaker for most people. The most practical thing to do is to choose a foreign country where you KNOW THE LANGUAGE. If you are stupid you will not do this. Instead you will try to learn an absolutely new language and in some cases, new SCRIPT, and struggle to do simple tasks like buying bread and reading the menu. You are truly an adventurous spirit because after one year of this you will either become an expert or start hating this complex and mystical foreign language. In extreme cases you can just use sign language, with a calculator, and point at things (this is also part of the permanent tourist method and locals will secretly or openly hate you depending on how polite the foreign country is).

Mastering these six steps will make you an expert in living in foreign countries, and don't let the negativity fool you, it's actually awesome fun! (sometimes).

Or check out Nine Advantages of Living in the Third World

Bournemouth
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My first few glimpses of the streets nearby. Suddenly the importance of weather forecasts has trebled, because it could mean the difference between freezing and sort of bearable (for me). In Bombay there's no need to check the weather because the temperature varies between 25-36 degree C throughout year, and during the monsoons it rains everyday.

Vegetable Sellers on the Train
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All kinds of stuff gets sold on local Bombay trains, especially in the women's compartments: vegetables, fruits, safety pins, cell phone covers, earrings, rings, bangles, sarees, stationary, dress material, make-up, evening snacks, you name it. What caught my eye this time was the last of the vegetable stock being sold off late in the evening - past 9pm. Within a few minutes everything is gone, because almost every woman in the compartment has to go home and cook for the family.

Local Train Signage
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Crudely painted stenciled signage from the relatively new Mumbai local trains. The 'Alarm' sign inside the compartment is pretty legible, but do the same in Marathi, and suddenly it is more difficult to read especially because it's partly scratched off. Alarm Signage Local Train

I can figure out the first and last word, it says apatkaleen (something) uplabdh. Then the arrow points to the footboard of the compartment door. A real puzzle, typical of the Indian government or should I say Railway authorities. I can guess it means 'In case of emergency (aapatkaleen) use this (uplabdh)' then the arrow pointing to the footboard. God only knows what it's supposed to point to.

It's an excellent example of the typical contradictions you face everyday in Bombay. The new trains have this cool new speaker system which announces the nearest station in three languages, and at the same time the emergency help services and signage are at this level.

Ramoji Film City
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An entire city of film sets, from Bollywood and Hollywood to famous monuments and what not. Located in the outskirts of Hyderabad the place seems to be more of a tourist destination than a place for movie directors to find their perfect location. Apparently, it isn't as popular as it once was in the film industry, but it's still an entertaining experience. A bright red tourist bus takes you around the massive place, while a guide rattles off the number  of movies and famous directors that have chosen locations here.

tourist bus at ramoji

Hollywood...!

Hollywood sign

This is called Hollywood st. for some reason, where the houses look western, perfect for a scene in a foreign country :)

Hollywood st

Jimmy's Drive In

Jimmy's Drive In

The gas station near Jimmy's:

gas station near jimmy's

A train engine which says Texas Mail:

texas mail

The wild west area has several actors and stunt men who perform an entire action sequence, blowing up banks, etc.

saloon

Now for the more local, Indian sets! A fort, or it would be more accurate to call it the entrance to a fort.

fake fort

Chikatpally police station, although the set was dismantled to some extent, it was worth a shot :)

Chikatpally Police Station

A fake airport, looks like what it may have looked like 10 or 20 yrs ago. Completely outdated.

fake airport set

Inside the airplane set, look at the number of tourists!

airplane set

One of the several palace sets, lit up at night.

palace set

Giant creepy statues that line some of the pavements.

statues at night

An absurd evening at The Office

* The sky was that dim dark blue that makes you realize its past seven and you're going to be at work for another hour easy. I was, predictably, still following up on things that were probably not my job due to the fact that we were under-staffed. Making sure the damned Finance department would pay my vendors on time became more important than design work, since without printers you can't get anything done anyway. In this case, 'on time' was long gone and it was quickly turning into paying my vendors 'ever'. Add to that the internet is down (again) and the emails are not working (again). So my numerous replies and follow ups must be done via phone. It was during this process that I had a very strange twlight-like conversation with the HOD of Finance.

[The Finance dept. lost all the bills, and I had sent them copies the second time].

"Hi, FM."

"Hi, yes Aditi"

"I just wanted to tell you that I have sent all the bill copies to the Purchase dept. again. My email is not working, so I just wanted to say that I gave it to them in the afternoon."

"Good, good. okay. Once Mahesh tells me he's recieved it, I will go ahead."

"But he has recieved it, I gave it to him in the afternoon."

"Yes but nowadays I don't trust anybody, not even you, not even Mahesh."

"Okay..."

"I don't even trust myself. Finance dept. is such, the kind of work that we do. You can't be too careful. I don't even trust what I am saying and doing."

"(Laughter) You don't even trust yourself? But how...?"

"I'm telling you. You never know if the bills are recieved, with accounts, with purchase, finance or wherever. Once I know where they are, then I will take action."

"Okay, but I gave them to Purchase today."

"You already told me that. Are you telling me twice because you had to give copies of the bill twice?" (Laughter)

I forced a laugh out of myself. I don't think giving copies of bills again and again is funny at all. "But I'm just telling you FM, that's all."

"Good, good. And once I am certain of what's happening, I will definitely take action." At this point I gave up since I realized we were having a circular conversation.

"Enjoy!" FM continued. This was the most strangest part. I had never had such a long conversation with him, but this was definitely a weird way to hang up.

"Okay... Thanks then." (For nothing, I added in my head).

"Enjoy, enjoy!" he repeated merrily and then hung up. I stared at the phone for a couple of moments, wondering what just happened. Clearly someone was making a fool of me. I looked around, but everyone was seriously typing away at their cubicles. So I shrugged it off and got back to work.

*

Tamil and French Fusion Architecture
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I lived all alone in this old Tamil house for about two weeks while I was looking out for an apartment. Everyone told me it was haunted and all that, but I didn't have any scary experiences (what a surprise ^_^). The house itself was old, old and beautiful. The current owner told me an interesting story about the house.  Less than a hundred years ago it was owned by a hi-flying Tamil bureaucrat when Pondicherry was still a French Colony. According to an old cook who has worked in the house for more than sixty years, the name of the previous owner was Ramaswami Chettiyar, his daughters name was Rani and his wife's name was Maragadham. He built the ground floor in traditional Tamil style, with a courtyard and everything, while the first floor is built in French style, with chandeliers, high ceilings and a huge ballroom to entertain French guests. I lived on the first floor, but most of the rooms were closed off. Large parts of the house have been broken down over time to give space for roads and neighbours, only the smaller parts of it remain, and even those are badly maintained. That's probably why some people find it scary.

Main Room

room

My favourite part of the place; The bathroom door is completely stained glass:

Stained Glass Bathroom Door

mirror-detail Detail of the giant mirrors on both sides of the drawing room.

The stained glass windows really add to the overall effect, and conflict nicely with the traditional, and brightly painted carved wood and absence of glass on the ground floor:

courtyard tamil house

Only some of painted details remain, but these wooden columns were completely painted before falling into disrepair. Unfortunately, this part of the house has also not been maintained.

Here you can see an area where the bright colours are still visible and not completely faded:

Detail Tamil House

Related Posts:

> More about Pondicherry

> Architecture in Pondicherry