Expat blog

Hi Everyone

Before I moved (or shift to be Indian correctly…) to Mumbai, I did some researching on a number of web sites. One of the sites that I came across that time was one called Expat blog. This site has now recently been upgraded, and they asked me if I could put a post on my blog about the changes they have done to their blog. As I’m, mostly, a nice guy, I can surely do that. So please read below. All information here is provided by the team at expat blog, so please do complain directly to them if there is something you don’t agree with.

What’s Expat blog? It’s a web portal launched in 2005 by expatriates, for expatriates. Its ambition is to help people living or willing to live abroad, wherever they are from or would like to go. Expat blog is the most active online community of expatriates, with 420 000 members from 206 countries and 400 big cities.
Who is it for? For all the people living or wishing to live abroad. It is a platform of expression and exchange, an information source about expatriation.
How does it work? The website offers various tools to help expats and potential expatriates:
– discussion forums
– expatriate blogs directory
– guides
– photo albums
– business directory
– classifieds.

New features : Jobs and Housing sections
To meet the demands of expatriates and soon-to-be expatriates in India, Expat blog has launched two new dedicated spaces: a jobs section and a housing section. They are aimed at helping people in their job and accommodation search, two essential steps when expatriating.
The idea is to get access to job offers in India, wherever you are.You can have access to the [pays] job offers, per job category and job contract. You can also create your CV and contact potential employers. Here is the link to the India Job section: http://www.expat-blog.com/en/jobs/asia/india/

The India Housing section enables you to look for or to offer an accommodation: rental, sale, flat share, flat, house…it’s up to you! You can see pictures of the apartment and get in touch with the person via Expat blog (you need to be a member of Expat blog to post an ad).

Talk to you soon!

Karsten

Greeting from Norway

Hi everyone

During the Easter holiday I had a friend from Norway visiting me. Here is his report from India:

Greetings everybody

This Easter I travelled to India and visited Karsten. I was invited as a guest blog to write about our trip inIndia. First of all you have to excuse my writings in English, my job and life does not involve a lot of English speaking or writing at a normal day, so I am a bit rusty.

I was in India for almost two weeks. When I told friends and colleagues that I was going to India there were two kind of response. One was a positive response. The other was “do you really want get sick during your vacation?”. Many of Norwegians have this impression about India. When you travel to India you get sick. And the statistics says that 40 % of all people who travel are getting sick. I have to be honest and say that was also my biggest concern. But the key point is just to be aware of what you eat and drink. You have to drink from bottle water which you also brush your teeth in. In the shower, close your mouth. Eat at nice looking restaurants and ask that the meat/chicken is well done. In the beginning I was really careful but since it is so good food in India, at the end I really did not care what I ordered. I had a slight degree of stomach problems, but not so seriously.

When I left Norway the spring just had arrived with around 10 degrees. But it was a big difference to come Mumbai at night time which had around 30 degrees. In Mumbai I used time to do some shopping. The prices at malls down there are around 1/3 of the price back home, so for me this was cheap. I have to admit I bought too much. I almost did not get the suitcase closed when I went back home and I came to Mumbai with an empty suitcase.

Before I went I bought the book Shantaram, which is obligated to read before you go to India and Mumbai according my colleagues. Because of the book, I had to see the restaurant Leopold, Gateway of India, Taj Mahal hotel, and Marine Drive. To get to these places we went by train. Karsten warned what to do and the ride met my expectations. It is strange to see people standing in the door or no door when the train goes around 100 km/h. It would never been allowed in Norway. On the way back home we went by taxi and took around two and half hour. Mumbai is BIG. After two days in Mumbai we went to Alleypey and boarded a houseboat. I have to say that was the best part of the trip. They say Kerala is God’s own country, which I believe is true. We had a big houseboat with separate bedrooms. The nature and the channels were just beautiful. The food we got served was excellent and we really had a good time onboard. The only negative was that I got cockroaches in my bedroom when I tried to sleep. There were no use to kill them because after you killed one, there came another one. Luckily we had a boat with three bedrooms so I went to sleep at the empty room. But overall, I wished we had some more time on this.

After that we had some days in Kochior Fort, in Kochi which the island is called. We got to see the Chinese fishing nets and other things. Even it was a relaxed atmosphere there, I would not recommend to stay there too many days. After this we went to Benguluru. We stayed with a colleague of Karsten who had opened the home for us which we are thankfully for. For me this was just a big city and reminded me about Mumbai.

After this we went for Goa. We stayed at Calangute/Baga Beach. I liked the cabanas on the beach with palmtrees in the background. It is good that it was not build hotels close to the beach. Then it looks more natural. The ocean was salty and going into it was almost not cooling since the temperature was high also there. We rented motorbikes one day. When we rented these bikes I said that I am not renting before I get a helmet. Yes we got a helmet, but it was no strap. So if I crashed the helmet would just have absolutely NO meaning to protect. But the renter just told us that you only need helmet when you go on the highway(?) Anyway we rented the bikes and went to see the beaches up north which was Anjuna and Vagator. If you want a postcard beach, you have to go to these places. Next time I am going to one of these beaches to stay. And it was fun to see hippies are still there.

When I was in India the cricket season begun. It is not a big sport in Norway, so I had no expectations to it. Before I have always seen this as a boring sport which take too long time to watch. But I have changed my opinion. After Karsten has told me about the rules, we tried to watch one game pr day. It is interesting to see how the different tactics is in the game.

A culture difference I noticed was concept of time. To schedule to meet a person at a certain time is no use. InNorwaywe get angry when people are too late. This is not an issue in India. There you schedule a time, but it is just for saying a time to meet, you will probably meet this person two hours after you scheduled. This is very much an example of the difference between the M-time and the P-time.

But overall, I really liked India. I liked the people, food and atmosphere. It is an exotic country and compared to other countries in Asia, like Thailand, they still have preserved their culture.

I hope to go back sometime this autumn if Karsten is still located there.

This weekend I was up in the mountains to ski on snow. It was strange feeling to ski since few days before I was swimming in the ocean of Goa.

Cheers

Frode

Talk to you soon!

Karsten

Hosting a football tournament

Hi everyone

Some people have asked me if living in India have changed me as a person. Honestly, I don’t think I’m the right person to answer that question. But one thing is for sure; seeing some of the poverty I have seen in India have made me realize how privileged I’m by having what I have. No, I don’t say that I’m happier than those who have so much less than me, but it is for sure that I have many more opportunities than what some other people have.

In previous blog posts I have written about helping underprivileged girls with their education through the Nanhi Kali program and also about some of my trips to Dharavi. The latest trips to Dharavi have been organized by a NGO called Reality Gives. As I have now been on a number of trips with them, I’m on their e-mail list and regularly get updates about their work.

A few days ago I got an e-mail where they describe one of their new projects, which is to host football tournaments for girls! This is done in association with another NGO called YUWA. The project started in the state Jharkhand, which is one of the poorest states in India, and also a state I have never visited. This state is known for child marriage, human trafficking and lack of opportunities for girls. This state is ranked 24th at the human development index and 27th in terms of literacy. During the years I have heard a number of alarming stories about how girls are being treated in different areas. Some of the stories are so sad that I don’t even want to talk about them.

So when this opportunity came, I’m more than happy to pay £49 to host a football tournament. If YOU would like to do the same, please click at the home page to Global giving and donate today.

Now I’m looking forward to an invitation to my very own football tournament, in Dharavi or Jharkhand.

Talk to you soon

Karsten

Bengali New year

Hi everyone

For a number of times, I have written about new year here in India. It is actually quite interesting, or maybe I should say funny, to live in a country where you have some many new years, or maybe I should say “new years”. First we had the Parsi New Year. We have had the Gudi Pawda, which I think is mostly a Maharastrian new year. We have had Eid, which I think is some kind of a new year for the Muslims. And I’m sure there are a few more new years that I have in some way or the other missed.

But well, today is Poyela Boishakh, which is the first day of the Bengali calendar, and then hence the new year according to that calendar.

The Bengali calendar is closely tied with the Hindu Vedic Solar calendar, based on the Surya Siddhanta. As with many other variants of the Hindu solar calendar, the Bengali calendar commences in mid-April of the Gregorian year. The first day of the Bengali year therefore coincides with the mid-April new year in Mithila,Assam, Burma, Cambodia, Kerala, Manipur, Nepal, Orissa, Punjab, Sri Lanka, Tamil Nadu and Thailand.

Celebrations of Pohela Boishakh started from Akbar’s reign. It was customary to clear up all dues on the last day of . On the next day, or the first day of the new year, landlords would entertain their tenants with sweets. On this occasion there used to be fairs and other festivities. In due course the occasion became part of domestic and social life, and turned into a day of merriment. The main event of the day was to open a halkhata or new book of accounts.

In Kolkata, Pohela Boishakh (and indeed the entire month of Boishakh) is considered to be an auspicious time for marriages. These days people wear new clothes and go about socialising. Choitro, the last month of the previous year, is the month of hectic activities and frantic purchases. Garment traders organise a Choitro sale and sell the garments with heavy discounts.

Pohela Boishakh is the day for cultural programmes. Prayers are offered for the well-being and prosperity of the family. Young ladies clad in white saris with red borders and men clad in dhuti and kurta take part in the Probhat Pheri processions early in the morning to welcome the first day of the year.

This day being auspicious, new businesses and new ventures are started. The Mahurat is performed, marking the beginning of new ventures.

Pohela Boishakh is the beginning of all business activities in Bengal. The Bengali Hindu traders purchase new accounting book. The accounting in the halkhata begins only after offering puja. Mantras are chanted and স্বস্তিক shostik (“Hindu swastika”) are drawn on the accounting book by the priests. Long queues of devotees are seen in front of the Kalighat temple from late night. Devotees offer puja to receive the blessings of the almighty.

On Pohela Boishakh various fairs are held in West Bengal. The most famous of these is Bangla Sangit Mela, held at Nandan- Rabindra Sadan ground. This fair is conducted by the Government of West Bengal.

Pohela Boishakh coincides with the New Years in many other Southern Asian calendars, including:

  • Assame New Year, or Rongali Bihu (in Assam)
  • Malayali New Year, or Vishu (in Kerala)
  • Oriya New Year, or Maha Vishuva Sankranti (in Orissa)
  • Tamil New Year, or Puthandu (in Tamil Nadu)
  • Tuluva New Year, or Bisu (in Karnataka)

So let’s see if there can be some more celebrations soon…

Talk to you soon

Karsten

Tsunami warning

Hi everyone

More update: The second earthquake made tremors even in Delhi. It’s maybe actually strange that Mumbai not seem to have been affected. The Earth Sciences Ministry and the National Disaster Management Authority have now “virtually ruled out” any chanced for a tsunami here in India, according to The Hindu. But well, do I trust the Indian government?

Update: Even our office in Bangalore had to evacuate. This is quite serious.

A tsunami warming for India just came in. As it seems right now, Mumbai is not affected, and I do feel safe. Some of my colleagues in Kolkata had to evacuate the building there.

I hope to be able to get some pictures from there during the day and will then surely update this article if I get it.

Talk to you soon!
Karsten

20120411-162331.jpg

This is from the beach in Chennai. Will it look like this tomorrow?

Have I “concurred” India?

Hi everyone

This is a title that I hope not will come and hit be back. It is said about India that either you love it (and maybe even so much that you stay here) or you hate it. Honestly, I think I might be a little bit different. I don’t easily fall in love. And I do think that I’m too stubborn to let things go into me in such a way that I get to hate it. But I think, or maybe I should rather say hope, that I now have managed to find an “easy” way to live in India. Yes. India is still full of frustrations, but I do feel that the frustrations are fewer and they don’t happen as regularly as before. And since I’m not British, it’s surely nothing like “the Empire strikes back”. It’s maybe more of how even a Norwegian Viking can manage in a place like India 🙂

Let me give you a few examples. My credit card stopped to work a few weeks back. It turned out that the magnetic stripe was damaged. Maybe I had actually used it too much. Ok. It might only be in India that this happen after only one year. BUT; I got a new card almost without any problems. I had to go to the bank to get a new one, and yes, they asked for some copies of some documents. But I didn’t have to give any pictures (like I always used to do before), and the card came to the address mentioned within one week. And I got the pin code at the same day as I got the card. Quite good! And I was even upgraded from a standard ATM-card to a premium card. My like! This morning I renewed my membership in CSK-supporter club. And it worked perfect! Everything done through internet, and my new credit card did it all. No problem at all. My washing machine has had some problems lately, so I needed some service on it. Off course I feared that the person I needed would not come on time, and that he would not even be able to speak English. He promised to be at my place before 10 am. So I said that I would start to call him at 9 am, to check where he was. The first time I called, he said that he would be there before 10.30. Ok. So he was 30 minutes late, but he was actually there at 10.30. And he spoke quite well in English. He told me that the drum inside the machine was damaged and that the whole machine needed to be taken for repair. Even I have seen that it seems like the drum has had some problems, so I fully agreed with him. He promised to be back with the machine on Thursday. As I will be busy on Thursday, I asked him if he could come on Friday instead. Off course I will follow up with him and confirm, but I do think that he actually will be there on Friday.

How is it possible to handle India as a foreigner? I have added a few keywords below that I think is important

Patience – Not really the word that most people will associate with me. But it is really needed. Things here work in its own speed. You can off course sit down and be frustrated. But it wouldn’t help. Off course you can be a bit clever and plan so that you have the extra time, or you can have a plan B. I do always carry a book in the car, so that if someone came late, I can do some reading. It works.

Try to understand – No. I will never fully understand India. And no. I will probably never fully understand the Indian people. But I do my best to try. I have read a number of books and articles and still do that. And I do try to think when I observe something. One of my colleagues told me that people get “high on spirit” and I don’t think about the alcoholic spirit during festivals. How can that be? Try to think through it and reflect a bit about it.

Don’t expect others to understand you – A Norwegian will always, or at least quite often, think different than an Indian. I’m the one who is just one in a crowd. The people around me would probably not have any incentive to try to understand me the same way I will have to try to understand them.

Ask – Maybe the most important point here. I have had a number of discussions with a number of Indians. I have asked about things that I don’t think I should share with others. But if you really show a proper interest when you talk with people, they will answer your questions. And I think that the old cliché “there are no stupid questions, only stupid answers” still apply.

Last year I showed the adaption ladder in a blog post. I’m not sure if I have reached the final stage here, but I’m very sure that I feel very comfortable about the whole situation here now. I also wrote a post about how local a foreigner should try to be in another country. That question I think I will leave to others to answer. But paying attention to things around you is surely important, and only by doing that you can understand what really happen around and learn more about your new home place.

Talk to you soon

Karsten

Tax in India

Hi everyone

The new budget for India is out now. I will surely make another post about this sometime soon, but here I will just give a quick write up regarding tax.

According to this article in BBC, only 3 % of people in India actually pay tax! Some of my colleagues have stated approximately the same figures before, so I guess it is close to correct.

How can a society work if only 3 % pay tax you might ask? I think there can be (at least) two answers on this question. One can be the simple: “it does not work”. The other one can be: “it work the Indian way”. Let me take the first one first. According to what I would call Norwegian standard, or maybe I should rather say Norwegian system, it can be tempting to say that the society doesn’t work. How can it be that the roads are full of potholes in a city like Mumbai? How can it be that you still have to fill out a form to do the simplest small task? As a Norwegian, I easily get frustrated by things like this, and it is easy to then say that this does not work!

But on the other hand, it does work! No, the roads might not be good. But the society work here. It can be very tempting to point at the black market, and corruption and things like that, but I can also easily see it from a different angle. This is a country where you don’t expect the government to fix things for you. They have tried for a number of years, but it hasn’t really made a lot of improvements. Why pay them if they don’t do anything for you anyway? Why don’t you then rather pay the people that make things to work? In a previous blog post, I wrote about the fine I got from the police for not having a valid pollution certificate in my car. Yesterday I went to a place to take a control and get a new certificate. These controls are quite simple. There are some cars parked at many places with a notice saying that they do PUC. I have done this before, and know quite well how this works. But the poor guy who were in charge of the car where I stopped couldn’t a single word English. What did he do? Instead of making the control of my car, he just gave me a new certificate, and I paid the price for it. That works doesn’t it?

The example is maybe a too simple one, but it clearly shows something about how things work here. If you want to have a new road, you don’t expect the government to build it for you. If you can afford it. If not, you don’t get a new road. As simple as that. And by most people not paying tax, it reduces the price on a lot of the things you can buy here. There is a small shop next to where I live where I can get my clothes washed and ironed. I quite honestly doubt if these people pay tax. I’m not even sure if all the young kids who work in the shop can read or write. Most probably they sleep in the shop, eat in the shop and do everything there. If they should go to a tax office or something like that to pay, it would mean a lot of hassle for them. And it would raise the price of their service, which again means that the person next door who runs a beauty shop would not be able to pay for the service.

This is what I mean when I say that thing works the “Indian way”.

Talk to you soon

Karsten

My Indian States

Hi everyone

When you live in India for a while, a quite common question to get is if you have travelled around a bit and seen much of the country. I have been around and seen some of it, but never really bragged about it or thought about where I have been and at how many places. But maybe it is time to do a quick round up of the places where I have been, and what I have seen at different places.

India has 28 states. If I have counted correctly, I have been at 9 or 10 of them. If I do it in chronological order over the duration of a few years, this is approximately the states and places I have been to.

Maharashtra – I will never ever forget the first day I ever came to India. I think it was back in 2007 or 2008. I landed in Mumbai with a friend of me from Norway one day in August. And it was raining. It was raining like crazy! We had a pickup at the airport and our hotel was in Pali Hill in Bandra, for those of you who know the area. And the distance between those two places is not that huge. But the car had to take a number of detours in order to get there. I remember I thought: “please, please, I don’t want it to be like this for my whole vacation”. Luckily it wasn’t like this for the whole vacation, and now I have been at a number of places in Maharashtra.

Rajasthan – At the same holiday, we took the train from Mumbai to Jaipur, which is off course in Rajasthan. I do remember this as some of the best places in India. Rajasthan is a state that I really like. Off course I was also back in Rajasthan last Easter, when we visited Jodhpur, Udaipur and Mount Abu. All of them really lovely places in different ways. After having been twice in Rajasthan I still haven’t been to Jaisalmer, which many people say is the best place in Rajasthan. Maybe I have to go back there some time soon.

New Delhi – I have been to the capital New Delhi a couple of times. And I do think that is actually a separate state. Is it ok to say that I don’t really like that place? Mumbai is no problem to me, but I do feel that Delhi is hotter, dirtier and also that the hassle for tourists is more in Delhi than what I feel in Mumbai. Sorry for those who are from there, but this is how my experience with the place have been.

Uttar Pradesh – This is also a state I have visited a few times. I have been to Agra two times I think, and seeing Taj Mahal is off course something you just “have to do” when in India. Last year I visited the state again, when I travelled to Varanasi.

Andhra Pradesh – Two times I think I have been to Hyderabad. This is where Naandi have its head quarter, and both times I have been there in relation to that organization. I remember very well the second time I was there. I was staying at a colleagues place and celebrated Christmas in Hyderabad. At Christmas Eve we went to a home for orphans and handed out Christmas gifts. Surely the best and most meaningful Christmas I have ever had.

Uttarakhand – This is also a state I visited some years back. We went to Risikesh and Haridwar as tourist in a cold January day. Both places are sacred places for the Hindus and the river Ganges flow through both places. I really enjoyed the nature over there. Maybe the place in India I have been to that remain me the most about Norway?

Tamil Nadu – Chennai is the place I celebrated Christmas last to last year. Will never forget a 5 am trip to that beach!

Kerala – Ok. THIS is maybe my favorite place in India. Being at a house boat there during the dragon boat race last year was just fantastic. And so relaxing it is to be on a boat and just roam around at the channels there. Love it.

Goa – Everyone goes to Goa, don’t they?

During the Easter this year, a friend of me from Norway will come to India. We will spend one day in Bangalore, which is in Karnataka, so that will surely be a new state for me.

In addition to this, I think I must have crossed Gujarat on in train on my way to Jaipur. We went to a tiger safari some time back, and it might be that we actually crossed the border to Madhya Pradesh at that time. But as I’m not that sure, I wouldn’t mention it. And do I cross any other states to get to Varanasi? I don’t really know

Talk to you soon

Karsten

Preparing for a second Christmas in India

Hi Everyone

The Christmas season is just around the corner. With all the festivals we have had here you might wonder if we really have time for another one. Not sure. But well, Christmas is probably the absolutely biggest festival back home in Norway, so I guess it makes sense to celebrate it with style also here in India. Last year we made some ginger bread and actually had a Christmas tree at the office. This year I have some more space at home, so I decided that it was actually time to have a Christmas tree at home! When I plan for something, I usually do it, so yesterday my Norwegian neighbor and I went on and decorated the tree and also prepared the dough for the ginger breads. If everything goes according to the plan, the ginger breads will be made today.

I must admit that there is still something that is missing in order to have the real Christmas feeling. When I was in Norway last week it actually snowed there. But well, as people say here; this is India, so everything can happen. In the shop where we bought the Christmas tree, somewhere between the deodorants and the shampoos they even had a box with snow spray! Off course we had to buy it! I have seen some boxes with ice spray in Norway before (I think) and when you spray your windows it really look like snow or ice. So my expectations to this snow spray were kind of, well, some way high. We took the tree out on the balcony and gave it a try. You might object here and say that it shouldn’t really snow at any balcony in Mumbai. And also that snow should come from above and not from the side. Butt well. Some compromises had to be made. Unfortunately it turned out that the box was just full of some kind of soap water. So when I sprayed the tree it looked like it had a lot of soap foam on it. Or not even a lot, but a little bit. We’re having our Christmas party this Friday, and my hope was that the snow should last all the time to then. It lasted about 10 minutes. So lesson learned. I need more boxes of snow. And I have to spray the tree just seconds before the guests arrive. The winter weather in Mumbai is even more unpredictable than the one currently in Norway.

If anyone reading this is going to take the trip from Norway to Mumbai some time before Friday, please do get me some boxes of real good snow spray from there.

Merry Christmas!

Talk to you soon!

Karsten

Tiger! Tiger!

Hi Everyone

There have been quite a few blog posts where I have written about animals. First I wrote about the different animals in Mumbai, and off course it is the post about crocodiles in Powai lake, which is still the one post that appears most often in searches. But when I moved to India I did never thought that I should write a blog post about me spotting wild tigers. But well, now it is time for such a post.

This weekend I have been in Pench national park, which is basically in the middle of India. We arrived there Saturday morning, and stayed until yesterday (which was a public holiday in India). During that stay we had a number of trips into the forest and spotted a number of animals. I travelled in a group of five people, and some of them were really experts in Indian wildlife and had been to a number of safaris before. That made the whole trip so very much better, and I owe you a huge thank for that! But well, this post is to be about tigers, so I better stick to that.

On Saturday we started out early in the morning, just after dawn. We did travel around in the park for quite some time, but without any sight of the tigers. Then our guide told us that some of the foresters had spotted a few tigers eating on a kill! If we wanted, we could take a trip on an elephant and have a look on that. If we wanted? Off course we wanted to do that. So we were taken to a specific area of the park. Here we had to park our jeep and move on to an elephant. Honestly, this was the first time ever that I have been on an elephant, so even that was something new to me. The elephant took us maybe about 100 meters and so. There the driver pointed down in the bushes. There just next to the feet of the elephant a tiger was sleeping, or at least it looked like it was sleeping. And you be sure, I didn’t really wanted to try to do anything that could wake it up.

The elephant driver also pointed out two other tigers. One of them was sleeping in the bushes a bit ahead. I couldn’t really see that one, and barely managed to get a picture of it. But the other one… It was eating on a kill! You can see it at the picture below. I know the picture is not that very clear, but well, tigers like to hide, so it is not really easy to get some good pictures of them. But the red part of the picture is surely the animal it is eating on. And you can clearly see the left ear of the tiger and some of its head and back. This was to me a really big moment, and I must admit that even if I was on the top of a very huge elephant, I was almost, or honestly, really, a bit scared. But what a view! Some of the others had been to a number of tiger safaris before and never really spotted a tiger. And here I was, on my first ever safari, and actually
spotted three of them

I will update the blog with a post about more of the wildlife in the national park later. Hopefully also with some better pictures.

Talk to you
soon!

Karsten