What's Up? [en]

[fr] Occupations, réflexions et choses intéressantes des derniers jours.

Keeping myself busy in Bangalore, either by eating in posh restaurants, buying too many books, conversing with fellow travelers, learning to use Lightroom correctly and uploading my photographs, and hanging out on Quora.

A few random things for today.

Bangalore is a real culture-shock for me. Big, new, shiny, orderly and expensive compared to the India I’m familiar with (Pune).

I’m still dumping my photos on Flickr without much sortage (or they’ll never get online!) but I’ve started organizing them into sets. Check them out.

Instagram.app is just wonderful for taking snapshots when you’re traveling. I’m getting my friends hooked on it.

Blossom Book House in Bangalore is a book-buyer’s paradise. They even prepared my book parcel for me (I just need to go to the post office and send it, praying it won’t cost an arm and a leg).

Magazines Store has cats. Meow! And they’re on Facebook!

Cats

I have a backlog of Indian recipes to write up.

2011? More travel, more reading, more writing, more photography.

Want excellent (really excellent) Western food in Bangalore? Go to Chamomile. It’s pretty pricey (by my Indian standards) but absolutely delicious. I think this was our biggest culture shock so far: we were really worried when we saw the place and the menu, but ecstatic when we started eating the food. My dad had an extraordinary T-bone steak, perfectly cooked.

EXCELLENT rare t-bone steak

I’m hooked on Quora. Tell me if you want an invite. (Can you get in without a Twitter/Facebook account, by the way?) I spent all morning two days ago answering cat questions, and have started getting replies to some of my India questions (asbestos, anyone?).

India is a great place to get stuff repaired. My chappal (Indian sandals) which cost around 12 CHF to buy cost me 45 CHF to re-heel in Switzerland. Here: 20 Rs (1 CHF = 46 Rs). Need to replace a broken screen on an otherwise functional laptop? Quite affordable, labour included. Next time I come I’m bringing all my old sandals with me. And any laptop that needs repairing. Oh, and scanning slides? See:

ScanCafe looks like an excellent slide/negative/photo scanning service. They built their scanning centre here in Bangalore. Pity you can only use their services from the US/Canada for now. I am going to see if there are good slide scanning services in Pune/Delhi though, for next time I come (I have 1000+ slides to scan from my year in India). Spend some time reading their website — a model of what a company website should be.

Two other great websites I encourage you to spend time visiting, and great projects:

First, the Ashraya Initiative for Children, a small non-profit in Pune that helps street kids. They’re doing extraordinary work, both by housing selected children (Residential program), supporting Yerwada children’s education (Outreach programs) and improving life in their community. My friend Mithun is their Social Media Manager, which is how I came across them. I’ll be paying them a visit when I go back to Pune next week and am eager to see how I can support their work. Oh, read their blog too and find them on Facebook.

Second, Reality Tours and Travels Mumbai, a travel agency which specializes in small guided tours off the tourist track: Dharavi slum tours (80% of the profits from those tours go to NGOs working in the area, mainly Reality Gives, the non-profit sister organization they set up for that purpose), village tours (2 days and a night in a local village outside Mumbai), as well as the more traditional market and sightseeing tours. All that with guides from the local communities who speak very good English, in small groups (less than 6 people). Anita’s friends from Australia, whom we spent the day with yesterday, did the Dharavi slum tour and were very enthusiastic. I’m definitely planning that and the village tour for my next visit to Mumbai/Pune.

In the same vein of “non-touristy tourism”, my dad and I will be taking a Victorian walk through Bangalore tomorrow morning.

Taking photos from a train, like I did on the Udyan Express? Some tips gleaned from Twitter and experience: wide angle, manual focus to infinity, speed locked on 1/1000th, shoot facing direction of travel or opposite (rather than at a right angle) to minimize motion blur. If traveling in an AC carriage like we were, do not hesitate to go and open the door between the compartments. Forget about shooting through the dirty tinted windows.

Udyan Express From Pune to Bangalore 16.jpg

Plans?

  • Come back in October to spend two weeks in Delhi to brush up my Hindi. Got good Hindi teachers there to recommend for private lessons? Let me know.
  • Travel through India by train. Or maybe, travel to India by train. Or by car. Anybody done this?
  • Do stuff other than helping people communicate better (just a vague desire, I’m not looking at a change of career right now, but I’d like to… do stuff, rather than just talk all the time)

Indian food is mainly carbs. Not much veggies in fact. A few veggies, tossed in spices, and lots of bread to eat them with. And rice and daal. And if you’re eating non-veg, it means “no-veg” — meat and bread. (Bread = Indian breads.) Nice, but not very balanced.

Fashion seems different in Bangalore. More Western clothing. Much more. Women in business suits. Way less salwaar kameez.

Going to Mysore rather than Pondicherry after all. Happy with the change of plans.

Internet-enabled India is very different from non-Internet India (ie, my experience 10 or even 7 years back).

Very happy with Cleartrip for booking train and flights in India.

It’s lovely to have lots of “empty” time to do things without having to worry about being productive. I guess that’s what holidays are, I’d forgotten!

OK, back to sorting my photos and learning how to use Lightroom 🙂

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