Last night was our first in our new home. It’s been a cornucopia of emotions! Sometimes I would look in awe at our garden, with hibiscus, squirrels, palms and unidentified plants. Yet, in the middle of the night I was ready to pack and come back to the U.S. This has passed! I really like it here.
The house is so big that I cannot find the kitchen. The layout is not intuitive to me, and I always end up in the downstairs bedroom, which is quickly becoming the “I don’t know where to put this” room. The kitchen is very big, with an American size stainless steel refrigerator. Although we had specifically asked to have a separate washer and dryer, we have a compact washer/dryer unit. We attempted to wash clothes yesterday and the cycle takes at least 5 hours. You can wash 2 large size towels at once, no more. I think I will have to wash the sheets one by one.
The bathrooms are interesting. I assumed the water heater would work like the old French ones, but no. You need to start the water heater about 10 minutes before you want to take a shower. Lather, rinse, repeat? No, you have time for one lather and rinse, or the repeat will be under cold water. The water in the toilet bowl is brown. You really need body lotion as the water is very hard.
We have had a litany of problems with the move in and this is the third day of them trying to fix them. I am stuck here for the third day waiting for random people to show up in my house, start work, until their phone rings and then they disappear for a while, but always come back. We have also encountered some of the class struggles within India (class, not caste, though I wouldn’t bet on it). There is a servant room in the back of the house. Yes. I gasped too and swore I would never let anyone use it. However, our driver wants to use it. It’s either he spends his downtime in a small room with bathroom, where he can sit or stretch his legs, or he stays in the garage. So for us, this has become Sathya’s room. In our family, you don’t diss Sathya, we love the guy! Some people said we should also store our “crap” in there, such as the TV box. No.
For some weird reason, I am ok (kinda) being taken advantage of by poor people. I justify it as “they need it more than me”. However, I am not ok at all being taken advantage of by rich people. Maybe because I now know that our monthly rent is the equivalent of more than 2 years’ salary of a hotel receptionist from a top rated hotel management school. And we have also had to time to swap stories with other foreigners, and it looks like we got an awful deal on the house. Remember a while back when we were told that the house would be furnished all the way down to pots, pans and linens? Once we got here, the relocation agency told us it simply isn’t done: “You don’t want to use someone else’s forks, do you?” “No, therefore I always bring my plates to a restaurant” (invisible eye roll). Well, it’s done for most other expats and they get brand new kitchen equipment, not someone’s hand me downs. And they wanted us to buy our own mattress for the master bedroom. Not happening. Then, for some reason, one living room has no furnishings. It’s now an empty room except for the litter box that we decided to install there. It looks classy! And the television set is set on the floor since we were told to buy our own TV stand. Nice.
Expats are fresh meat for relocation agencies and some squeeze us dry. We got the best deal we could under the circumstances. All the properties selected for us were extra-luxurious, and when we wanted to see something more “normal”, it was rather unacceptable. We now know there is a middle-ground, but on day 3 of our stay in India, we didn’t.
Little by little, we are getting the owner to relent and furnish the house according to standards in this community. Our leverage is that we know they waited a long time to re-rent this house, and that at the end of 11 months, we may pack and go to the house across the street if it is a better deal. We have heard “your company is paying” but we don’t think like that. This has been the frustrating part of the last few days. Otherwise, it’s still very fun!
Last night, I was cooking in the kitchen and heard the neighbor call my name. It was so sweet, she wanted to know if we needed anything, particularly bread. I think she misses having someone in that house which has remained vacant for at least 6 months, and her neighbors on the other side moved out yesterday to go back to Sweden. The houses are rather close so you can hear conversations. This morning, an American teenager kept calling “Mom?”, I was about to yell “Yes??”.
And the maids!! They are relentless!! I should say wannabe maids. We have had about 4 a day ring the (very loud) bell with their letters of recommendation in hand. I explained that we won’t hire for another 2-3 weeks. But they keep coming everyday, sometimes alone, sometimes with a translator. Unfortunately those are turned away since we want someone who speaks English. One lady came with a glowing letter of recommendation about her cleaning and cooking skills, as well as her perfect English. But she didn’t speak English. I spent the evening giggling at the fact that they were passing around those letters, but when she came the next day, she explained it was for her sister. Bad me for thinking she was dishonest!
I got woken up at 6 by the call to prayer from the (very close) mosque. A bit early for me, I will learn to ignore it.
Right after E. left for work this morning, I heard a bell in the streets. The garbage is collected manually by a lady pushing a cart. They are fanatics about recycling here! 5 bins we need! 1- wet kitchen waste, aka compostable stuff; 2- dry recyclables such as paper and plastic; 3- hazardous materials which are medicine, paint; 4- sanitary waste which means kitty poop! and 5- E-waste, computers and floppy disks (do they still exist)?
This afternoon we are going to buy a bunch of buckets!
This is all very familiar. All I can say is that it will get better. I remember standing in the middle of my house one day realising that nothing was going wrong with any appliances, I wasn’t waiting for any workmen to come, I wasn’t waiting for anything to be delivered, and I wasn’t arguing with anyone. I could relax. That day will come for you too!
We filled our empty rooms eventually. I will keep you in the loop if we are selling anything.
Thank you for the words of encouragement.