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Lazy Sunday

February 9, 2014 at 15:11

This Sunday is the most relaxed I can remember being, in like forever. We wanted to sleep long, but awoke by ourselves at around 9. We just put on the TV and cozied under the blankets for about an hour before we got up and went to the pool.

I started reading Paulo Coelho’s new book, “Manuscript from Accra” on the sun bed. I have a sort of love-hate relationship with his books. Some of them I think are really boring and stupid. Others are really  inspirational and great, in the sort of way that makes you feel like you grow as a person. My favorites are “The Alchemist”, “The Pilgrimage”, and “The Devil and Miss Prym”. I really like how his books are always centered around a really simple subject, that he splashes a bit of spirituality and magic on, to create a story that is really fun to read.

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Anyway, we hit the shower because we were to meet our future neighbor and her friends for lunch at the Renaissance Hotel. They were really, really nice and we had a great time!

The lunch buffet at Renaissance is crazy. There’s one section for starters, one for main course, and one for desserts. And by section, I sort of mean restaurant. We payed about 2600 rupees (NOK 260) for the food with free drinks. Free drinks doesn’t mean two cokes and a coffee. It means full selection of cocktails, beers, soft drinks and wines. I was in heaven, of course. The price also covers a trip to the gym and the swimming pool, which we will be sure to visit another time.

After the four hour meal, I came down with a severe case of itis, so I had to sleep it off at our hotel. So that’s where I’m still at. I haven’t moved an inch. We were planning on heading over to Juhu Beach again tonight for some rooftop open-grilling, but we’re beat.

Oh. Tottenham’s playing now. That’s my queue for a trip to the bar:-)

Best regards, Marius

Juhu!

February 8, 2014 at 16:19

It’s Saturday night, and Marius and I are not out partying with the Mumbaikars. No, we’re in our pajamas in our hotel room watching Liverpool beating Arsenal five – one. After a full day exploring the Bandra and Juhu areas we have thrown in the towels for the night. Sure, we are getting used to the Indian sun, the massive crowds, the noises and the traffic, but we still find it tiresome at the end of the day, and especially at the end of a long week. We are still at our hotel waiting to move in to our apartment, and we are getting really tired of living in our suitcases. But hopefully and according to the plan we will be able to move in on Tuesday and finally get our own place. The Ramada Hotel has been a really good home for us the past two weeks, but now it’s time for us to move on.

The Pool at Ramada Hotel

The Pool at Ramada Hotel

Now that the weekend is here we thought it was about time to visit some of the other areas in Mumbai other than Powai, Vikhroli, Andheri and Malad, which are the only places we have been to since we came to Mumbai. Since we spent our time in south Mumbai the last time we visited the city, we decided to check out Bandra and Juhu. Bandra is a nice area with lots of nice stores, cafées and restaurants, and we spent our time here window shopping in Linking Road, eating ice cream and browsing the local markets. After a stroll in Bandras streets we took a rickshaw to Juhu beach, which was just so much more beautiful than I had imagined. I have been told it’s crowded and dirty, but it is actually a really nice beach with white sand and palm trees and a good atmosphere.

Juhu Beach

Juhu Beach

Of course, you won’t see any people in their bathing suits soaking up the sun, but you can enjoy the beach with your clothes on, which is not too bad either. Also, it’s not recommended to take a swim here because the water is so polluted. So don’t expect the typical tourist beach with water activities and topless sun bathing, but rather just enjoy the cricket matches, the flying kites, the sand and the view of the ocean.

Juhu Beach

Cricket game at Juhu Beach

It was just perfect to get some sun in our faces, wind in our hair and sand between our toes to get that good summer feeling we have been longing for the last few months in Norway before we came here.

Wearing way too hot, but appropriate clothes.

Wearing way too hot clothes for the occasion. 

After a stroll on the beach we went for some early dinner at the Hard Rock Café in Andheri. We hadn’t been to this one before, so we thought we had to try it out. After all, Marius and I have developed a kind of OCD with regards to visiting the Hard Rock Café in every city we go to. Marius had his much longed for burger and fries and I had my favorite HRC dish, sizzling fajitas.

A hungry and grumpy Marius before his dinner.

A hungry and grumpy Marius before his dinner.

On our way back to the hotel we had to ask our rickshaw driver to let us out before we reached our destination. Because just besides the hotel gates stood a pair of cattle tied to a wall on the streets. Obviously we had to go greet our new neighbors and take a picture of them.

New neighbours next to Ramada Hotel

New neighbors next to Ramada Hotel

They were so beautiful! And by the way, much friendlier than they look!

- Andrea

 

 

 

A different kind of day

February 5, 2014 at 18:55

Yes, that’s exactly what you get when you live and work in India! I wasn’t actually going to post anything today, but after getting home and thinking back on the day, I couldn’t really help myself. It was the kind of day that you don’t experience… Ever!

We started off taking a rickshaw to work. Which we always do, but I wish I had filmed this trip. It’s rather hot here, and sitting in the cool breeze of the open carriage is awesome in the morning. Plus, it’s the fastest method of travel in heavy traffic, and it costs us between 20-60 rupees (2-6 NOK). Our driver today decided he didn’t want to deal with traffic, so he took us out into the oncoming lane. I am usually pretty calm in these things even though, if you are a bit anxious about driving, you are going to feel like you are crashing every twenty seconds. This time, however, veering through oncoming cars and people and cows and whatnot, I was pretty sure it was my last moment in this world. It turned out alright, of course, as it has a tendency to do with everything in this city.

Arriving in Godrej IT Park, M4 office, we headed to the last day of inauguration where we got a very good and inspiring seminar about people with disabilities, and how we need to change mindset about disabilities.

Upon leaving the office, we see a bunch of people standing near the pond on one side of the building, looking at some workers emptying it. It turns out a little turtle is hiding in a waterpipe at the bottom of the dirty pond with polluted water, unable to get out, so they need to save it. Which they do, and after cleaning it of the muddy water and making sure it’s okay, the first thing they do is show it to us and let us hold it. It’s funny, because all the people standing around really wanted us to experience this, and no one swooped in to touch it or anything until they were certain we had held it and gotten a picture. I think it’s a good example of the love and pride Indians have of what their country has to offer, and their kindness towards foreigners – or firang – as they call us.

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Emptying the pool

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Finally got it out!

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Andrea gets to hold it.

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Cute little thing, no?

I went off on a meeting with the project leader of the project covering services for the Norwegian post office. We decided to try and find a suitable position for me there, with regards to me having some technical expertise as well as a good network on the Norwegian side. I can thus contribute both on the front and back end. It’s a good project for me, as I can get a place in the project on the Norwegian side when I get home as well.

It is rather funny, I go to India, and I still work on a Norwegian project:-)

The building that I will be working from is like the “store front” of the Capgemini office in Mumbai.

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Visiting companies logo's, created with loose marble rock

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Rose petals

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The waiting area

We spent the rest of the day getting to know more people around the office, all of whom are so extremely nice and friendly.

I will update again a bit later. Just had to share this with you:-)

Best regards, Marius

Keep on Rickshawing in the FRRO World

February 4, 2014 at 19:37

Allright! So here we are. We’ve passed the one week mark of our stay here in Mumbai. The city is treating us good and we have closed a deal on an apartment, and are just waiting for the money transfer before we can move in. The apartment is in the Verona building in Hiranandani. We’ll be staying on the 28th floor, so we can expect quite the view.

This week started out with me going to the FRRO (Foreign Regional Registration Office). It is about an hour and a half drive (with heavy traffic) from where we live, next to the Victoria Terminus train station. That is sort of familiar land for us as we stayed at a hotel close by last time we were here, and we even took the train a few times. It was fun to be back! The FRRO is the office where all foreign nationals who have visa for more than 180 days need to register, or it will not be possible to open a bank account, get a post-paid phone plan and several other details.

 

Victoria Terminus shot on mobile camera in passing.

Victoria Terminus shot on mobile camera in passing.

The office itself is dreaded by all foreigners and you can read a million blog posts on it if you care to Google it. My trip there was rather problem free. Capgemini has an agent who handles expats going to FRRO, and he made sure all my papers were in order before I got there, and met me outside and pointed me in the right direction. He even knew a girl on the inside who fast tracked me a bit, and I was out before I knew it. So no horror story from me about the FRRO – almost. It turns out I didn’t need to register, as my visa is exactly 180 days. So I got a stamp on a piece of paper stating I don’t need to register. Now, here’s the thing: The apartment’s owner is waiting for me to open a bank account, so I can transfer funds there and he can cash the checks. I had gotten a check book from my bank, pending my account opening after I returned from FRRO, so I had already written up the checks for the owner and all was to be well. Only problem is, the trip to FRRO went so well that I didn’t even need to register – meaning – I could not open a bank acccount.

So now we are doing an online transfer of the funds, which it seems Indians are quite skeptical of. Well, I’m skeptical of checks, so I guess we’ll have to agree on having different views there. DnB (my bank) is saying I should expect the funds to be transferred within three days, but saying it could take about fifteen days at most. The owner of the flat, however, is saying no way on earth will it take more than two days. We’ll see. Hopefully he is right. We have to stay in a hotel until he gets the money, so if you are reading this, cross your fingers, and pray to whatever deity you have that he is right! :-)

This is getting to be a rather long post. I initially wanted to say something about working at Capgemini India, but I’ll wait for another day. Currently I haven’t actually started working, since Andrea and I are both doing an introductory program here. It is quite interesting to see how the Indian consultants are inaugurated here. It’s not really much different to how they do it in Norway. I will say this about Capgemini India before the next post, though: My colleagues are absolutely wonderful! They are always smiling, always helping and so warm and friendly that walking into the doors of the office, I feel really like I am at home.

Best regards, Marius

Our first week in Mumbai…

February 2, 2014 at 12:30

.. is almost over. And we are so happy to say that we don’t have any regrets about moving here! When we talked about moving here it was the first week we thought would be the most challenging. And if that is the case we will probably have a really great time in this mega city. So far we have just loved it!

Hiranandani

Hiranandani

This week we have been viewing apartments, met with our new colleagues and just tried to come to know the area. We are really happy about Powai, where we are going to live. Hiranandani is a beautiful area, just filled with good shops and restaurants. And we could not be more happy about the Capgemini offices in Mumbai and the people who work there. They have just been so welcoming and they made us feel at home straight away. Obviously those are the two places we will spend the most of our time, so we are oh so glad we feel comfortable at both our neighborhood and our work place. 

Other than that we have spent quite a bit of our time shopping, eating and exploring. We have been to some malls, among them R City mall, which is the nearest mall to where we stay. Here they have international restaurant and café chains like TGI Friday’s, Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Starbucks and so on, in addition to indian and other asian restaurants. They also have lots of good international shops like Tommy Hilfiger, Gant, Sunglass Hut and indian shops like Global Desi and Fab India.

R City Mall food court

R City Mall food court

We have also been to Infinity Mall and Inorbit Mall in Malad, which both host my favorite inexpensive shop abroad: Forever 21.

Forever 21 in Oberoi Mall

Forever 21 in Oberoi Mall

And the food.. For some strange reason we haven’t had too much Indian food yet. Maybe it is because we’re still trying to adjust to moving from Norway, where everything is familiar, to India, where everything is supposed to be very different. But still, we have tried some really good food this past week. For our Japanese or Chinese food we go to the incredible beautiful Skky Lounge in Powai, for our Italian we go to Red Olives and to satisfy our Belgian and French liking we go to Le Pain Quoditien.

Skky Lounge

Skky Lounge

 

Pasta at Red Olives

Pasta at Red Olives

Le Pain Quotidien

Le Pain Quotidien

It is safe to say I will need to start working out soon before my pants won’t fit anymore.

- Andrea

 

So it begins, this story…

January 28, 2014 at 19:59

In the first chapter of Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts, he describes in detail the feeling of that first meeting with Mumbai. He describes the first thing you meet, the very distinctive smell, which he calls the worst good smell in the world. The next thing you notice is the heat. It’s a clammy, dense sort, and it will make you sweat more than you thought possible.

It’s true what he writes, about the smell and the heat. I know this from the last time we visited. Back then, we arrived in late July. It was the warmest I had ever felt, and the humidity was extreme. It took a few days just to get used to breathing. But this time, arriving in January, it wasn’t like that at all. The smell was still pretty distinct, but the temperature was just right. Coming from -15 degrees Celsius in Norway, to about 25 degrees here was a blessing. So what I feel I have the most in common with Gregory David Roberts on this visit is the premise, as he writes: “So it begins, this story, like everything else – with a woman, and a city, and a little bit of luck.”

I have my amazing wife with me to Mumbai, the city we, thanks to the hard work of good colleagues in Capgemini India, are fortunate enough to be able to visit and work in.

We arrived during the night to Tuesday, after a rather long trip from Oslo. We travelled with British Airways to London first. The plane from Oslo was unfortunately delayed, or as the stewardess so politely told me: “We’re not late, you probably just didn’t read the clock right.” Well, it turns out we WERE late. About 35 minutes. Which is a lot when transfer time is a mere hour. Fortunately, another steward moved us to the front of the plane so we could run from there. He also made sure someone met us so we could be fast-tracked through security. Thanks to that, and the fact that they checked us in even after the gate closed, we made it.

Flying over Dubai

Flying over Dubai

Landing in Mumbai, we went through security, customs and passport control with no big happenings, before we boarded a taxi the hotel had sent. What you’ll notice first and foremost, travelling by car through Mumbai, is the diversity in living standards, people, and architecture. The taxi took us through slums, fancy hotels, past Indians, both Hindu and Muslim, rich residential areas, forests and lakes, under a water pipe line, past homeless people and into our 12 stories hotel, Ramada. We were beat, and went to sleep pretty quickly.

The streets of Mumbai at night

The streets of Mumbai at night

The day following, we got up for breakfast, slept some more, and ordered a taxi to go to the R City Mall. We had to drive through Hiranandani, hopefully our home in a short while. It is absolutely huge, and we spent a few hours trekking through. After the obligatory vacation-coffee/frappuccino at Starbucks, we ate at T.G.I. Friday’s. The prices here are quite different from Norway. We ended up spending 1800 rupees for the two of us, or about 180 kroners. I dare the statement that it would have cost us three times as much back home.

Driving through Hiranandani.

Driving through Hiranandani.

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After buying a few things at a local store, we headed back to the hotel for the SKKY lounge experience. It’s a rooftop bar next to the hotel, with great food and great atmosphere, as you can see from the pictures.

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Best regards, Marius

Here we go!

January 25, 2014 at 21:55

All right!

The people at the visa application center now know us by name after we have called and called again to enquire the status of our applications.

Truth be told, I got my visa approved a long time ago, it’s only Andrea’s approval that we’ve been waiting for. Her visa-type took a while longer than mine.

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I waited outside the application center while Andrea went inside to pick up her passport. I took this amazingly boring picture to have something other than text in this post. :-)

So we’re leaving this Monday. Tickets and a week at hotel Ramada ordered in Powai. We are very happy that everything is sorted – and very nervous.

I’ll be posting more on Monday/Tuesday after we arrive in Mumbai, hopefully with more interesting pictures:-)

Beat regards, Marius

 

And so we wait.

January 12, 2014 at 18:10

Today we are one day overdue from the day we were supposed to go to India. We had some issues with the documentation for my visa. It was quite a lot of paperwork we needed, it turned out. It will be right around another week before we can leave, I think.

It is really just as well that we are a few days overdue. Andrea has fallen really sick with Streptococcus and have been unable to get out of bed for a while, and you don’t really understand how much it is that you have to do before the day of departure. We have hardly gotten a chance to say goodbye to any of our friends and there are so many things we need to pack and pack away before we leave. Another thing is that we haven’t secured an apartment yet.  Andrea is a little anxious about it, but for me, it’s just another page in the book of “No worries”. It’s worked out pretty well for me for the last 26 years, but I’m guessing someday I will be rather disappointed. Let’s just hope it’s not on this one.

We are looking at a few places to live. We have been recommended the Powai area in Mumbai, more specifically Hiranandani Gardens or Lake Homes, which, in my opinion, look pretty great.

Powai, Mumbai

Powai, Mumbai

Hiranandani Gardens

Lake homes

It is quite expensive to live there, though. It will run at a little less than 1 lacs rupees per month (1 lac is 100 000, so it translates to about 10.000 NOK a month – 10 NOK ~ 1 Rupee). That means most of my salary will be eaten up  by this. Luckily, Andrea gets a pretty nice scholarship, and I can work extra remotely for Capgemini in Norway to supply our bank accounts with a little extra cash. We’ll be all right though, the cost of living isn’t that high overall. It’s fairly close to where we will be working, as well as the airport, so that is great.

I’ve gotten in touch with a few real estate agents in Mumbai, who all live in the area, and they have told me that it is a little difficult to get less that 11 months lease, because of a set “lock period” on that amount of time that is standard in Mumbai when you want to rent an apartment. They have said that they will be able to work it out, however, so we put our faith in that.

So for now, we wait. And are grateful for the extra opportunity to prepare and say goodbye to our friends, at the same time that we are very anxious to go.

Best regards, Marius

Our last trip to India

January 5, 2014 at 02:06

Our first meeting with India was a good one. I was just out of high school, 18 years old, and ready to see the world. Marius and I paired up with to other friends and landed in Mumbai without a clear plan. Immediately I kind of fell in love with the big city. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. Noisy, polluted and dirty at first glance, but still – it was something quite special about the place. The smell, the people and the atmosphere we experienced just driving from the airport to the hotel with cows in the roads – we were all blown away.

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Since then Marius and I have travelled to quite a few other places in the world, but we have never had that kind of first meeting with a new country. Some people call it a culture chock – I like to see it more as an epiphany. As we had never been outside of Europe before we got to experience a country that was so different from our own – and we all loved it.

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Mumbai was a great city to start of our journey in. Thanks to our friend Tonia we got to see all of the major tourist attractions in a very short time. Being a Lonely Planet-fan at the time, she got us covered. We experienced Elephanta Island, Gandhi´s home in Mumbai, The Gateway of India, The Taj Mahal Hotel, parks, national parks, beaches, mosques and temples. We even went to see a Bollywood movie at the cinema, and later ate at Leopold’s and was offered to be extras at a movie when we went outside. Sadly we had to decline.

After a few days in Mumbai we took a 22 hour train ride to Agra. Like every other tourists who visits India, we had to see the Taj. The train ride itself was a great way to see the country. Lonely Planet, or “the Bible” as we called it, recommended to stay in sleeper class instead of first class even though the prices wasn’t that different (in European tourist standards), and of course we did.

It turned out to be good advise as we got to know very interesting people when we shared our space. We even got to know a new friend, who we still keep in touch with today, who was kind enough to help us arrange a fantastic round trip from Agra to Jaipur, so we could experience even more than we had planned. We got to see Fathepur Sikri, Amber Fort, Hawa Mahal, Baby Taj – any many other places and museums I can’t remember the name of. Our friend invited us to his beautiful restaurant and hotel Yoshis Resort on the way – for free, and we also met him and his family for dinner in Agra when we came back. It was a great experience.

And then, we got to see the great Taj Mahal. I must say I think it is everything it’s cracked up to be. It was beautiful – and huge! We spent hours wandering around it, studying the details and just sat there looking at it.

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After a great time in the north we headed towards the south for some relaxation much needed after a very busy week of sightseeing. We sat on a train for two days to reach Anjuna in Goa, and we stayed there for a whole week. There was some sightseeing there as well, but for the most part we just relaxed at the beach or by the pool, and shared delicious meals together on the local restaurants. Oh, Indian food! I love it!

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Our trip to India in 2008 was the perfect first backpacking trip. We came home after almost three weeks feeling we had been gone for months and with more souvenirs and stories in our backpacks than our friends and families could carry.

 

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Now we’re finally going back to our first crush – curious of how much she has changed in the last six years. We can only hope that she will treat us as good as she did the last time.

Andrea

The beginning of a journey

January 4, 2014 at 18:37

This year shoots off with a bang. And I’m not talking about the fireworks either. Andrea and I are going to India in only a few short days.

So that means we are spending the first few days of this new year going from emotional extreme to emotional extreme. We are psyched to go, and are looking forward to this new challenge that we’ve worked towards for a while. At the same time it’s – how can I say this – fucking scary!

We’ve tried giving ourselves a good start, so we’ve booked a suite for two days at a five-star hotel close to where we are going to live. After that we are hoping our apartment will be ready. Capgemini in India have really done a great job setting everything up this far, so were not really worried about that part. But we are anxious to get settled and start our life there, away from the uncertainty of not knowing what the daily life will be.

We still have a few things to settle, important things, like visas, contracts and work permits, so we’ll see how that goes. Maybe we aren’t going anywhere after all. Haha! Imagine that! It would make me so sad, happy, relieved and stressed out at the same time. In other words, it wouldn’t make a difference to how I feel right now:-)

We’ll update as soon as we (hopefully/regrettably) leave for the busy streets of Hiranandani, Mumbai.

Best regards, Marius