Sunday, 30 November 2008

The Story So Far... CODAS Chronicle

This is a short report I wrote last Friday for the CODAS Chronicle - my old department's electronic newsletter at JET

I've been in India for six weeks and there hasn't been a single dull moment. There's a constant assault on your senses - the temple "music" at 5am, the stinging mosquito bites, the smell of the burning refuse, the jaw numbing curries, the exotic flowers, and much, much more. Right now, in the middle of one of the regular evening power cuts, I hear conversations from neighbours, shrieks from the children down the road, raised voices in the street, the occasional lorry and motorbike passing, the cockerel crowing and tropical birdsong. There's a noise in my kitchen which turns out to be my saucepan of water, about to boil dry for the umpteenth time!

I spent the first few days in a cheap hotel acclimatising. I found rental accommodation fairly quickly afterwards and, in spite of warnings from the hotel owner, it's working out well. I'm in the ground floor of a house, the upper storey of which has yet to be built. It's an extension of the original building where the owners, their two kids, and the grandmother live. Despite my protestations the grandmother insists on looking after me with morning and evening cuppas, spicy breakfasts and sweet things with the evening tea.

On my walk to work I get greeted by at least ten people. On a good day, as today was, a rickshaw will stop briefly beside me and the six or eight giggling schoolchildren squeezed inside will all shake my hand. The work itself can be very trying and frustrating at times. For those who don't know, I'm volunteering at a "poor school" for 5-18 year olds as a support teacher for English, Maths and IT (SISP). There are only seven teaching staff so when one is ill there's a significant knock-on effect. Today two staff were off and I had to teach for three periods entirely on my own. Keeping control in a classroom of kids who pretend not to understand me, tell me incorrect names and constantly try to run circles around me can be so exhausting. Added to that, the classes have a wide range of abilities and I've had no time to prepare lessons.... I end up just trying to survive with my sanity intact. But then, on the other hand, when one of the little ones comes up to me and gives me a hug, my heart melts and I'll forgive them anything!

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Eggs and Mould

This is how eggs are packed at the shop/shack next door. A piece of newspaper and two elastic bands. Very green!

And if I want to buy seven eggs, I simply go out and buy seven eggs!

This rotting book is actually my old filofax after sitting in my bedroom wardrobe for the last week!

Recently the humidity has been really high because of the rain showers, cloud and warmth. When I go to work I shut all windows and doors, and when I come home in the evenings I tend to keep them shut because if it's dark outside and I have the lights on then mosquitoes come inside. Most rooms have a slot just below the ceiling, about 80cm long by 6cm high, which gives a bit of ventilation to the house. However, if there's little wind then there's little ventilation and the mould proliferates. For the last few nights my bedsheets have smelt of it and have been damp to the touch which has made the bed quite unpleasant.

This house is typical of many - it's constructed with solid 9" brick walls (no cavity) and no damp-proof course. One of the walls appears to be an old garden wall made from stone on top of which a brick wall has been built. It has a lot of soil heaped up against it so it's particularly damp, but I fear that the wall needs it for stability. All-in-all this means that the walls are all damp; in places the salts in the plaster are coming to the surface and the paint is blistering.

The filofax was the worst affected and presumably that's because the mould grows on greasy fingerprints etc. But also badly affected are things made of leather - my belt, my lovely leather haversack, my fine leather wallet; they've all got mouldy blotches growing on them, and my wallet has also got raised dots all over it, as if there are creatures burrowing inside it. I'm not quite sure what to do about all this. Bleach would probably sort it but damage the leather too. Fortunately my clothes seem OK so far.

Today was spent airing the house, airing the mattress and washing all the bed linen. But again, it was a humid, cloudy, warm day with little wind...

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Tall, Short, Success, Failure

The last few days at SISP have been pretty exhausting. Today was better, partly because on Thursdays I only work until 1pm. The afternoon is Sports for the kids and, as I'm not the sporty kind, I have asked to be excused.

Yesterday was a bit of a disaster. The English teacher was away due to the death of a relative so his classes were rescheduled. I ended up with a double period with class E. These are children generally around the 11-13 age, but actually extending from 7 to 15. So, let's do "opposites", I thought. How can I spin that out for two hours? Hmm - well I could get their names, their ages, and measure the heights and weights, draw up a table, and then do "tallest", "shortest", "youngest", "oldest" and so on. Good plan in theory but in practice, as I was to find, ability ranges from barely able to write to "I can do this in my sleep" (in attitude, if not in fact). First problems were - I don't have a pen, my pen doesn't work, my pen can fly, my pen seems to be broken, my exercise book is full, I want a ruler, how do I draw a table in a book which is lined for handwriting practice....

No one knew their age, of course. Or how to use bathroom scales, or measure their heights. But somehow we struggled through.

Then they couldn't figure out that 37kg was greater than 23kg, or 138cm greater than 133cm. So I wrote down things like "J. is taller than T." for them to copy, but they didn't understand that tallness equated to height!

All the while there was chattering but worse: to attract your attention they yell "Saareee", "Saaray", "Teachereee" and "teacheray" - a whining sound that gives you nightmares. No matter how many times you tell them to be quiet and to stick their hands up, they ignore you. And the volume increases if you don't respond immediately, even if it's obvious you're in the middle of trying to explain something to some other child. The incessant chattering, giggling and shouting! It drives you mad, MAD I tell you! Really I was gasping for breath after that double period was over. I was literally reeling from the frustration.

Thankfully it was followed by a 20 minute break in which I managed to calm myself a bit before the computing lesson. That was with Class A, the oldest of the students, with ages from 15 to 20. That was easy - I just let them practice with Photoshop or Powerpoint. They end up doing things like sticking the Queen's torso in a savana landscape with Zebras and penguins. Or writing "Vargees Loves Lakshmee" in rotating, fading, zooming, flashing garish text, with flying hearts or flowers. Subtle, it ain't.

In the last quarter hour I let them play computer games which won me some Brownie Points!

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Wet wet wet

The electricity has been struggling to remain on this evening. There were a few power cuts during the day but this evening it's as if something keeps tripping. It will come on for a few seconds and then drop out. Five minutes later it will retry and then fail again, and so it goes on. Right now it seems that the faulty load has been identified and disconnected. Fingers crossed.

There was the usual "load shedding" period, which was 20:00 to 20:30 today. It will advance 30 minutes next week and then the same again the week after. Eventually it will go back to 18:00 and start again. This is an intentional rolling power blackout which "they" have introduced because of inadequate generation capacity, inadequate distribution infrastructure and ever-increasing loads. I imagine that increasing demand for Air Conditioning must take a big part of the blame.

As I write this the electricity has tripped again.

I was told that this is the dry season in Kerala. Hmmm! It has rained most days this last week. Today, when it was time to go home, it absolutely threw it down, and continued solidly for an hour. It's still raining now, more than four hours later, but not quite as heavily. The roads and tracks were rivers of orange mud. Soil here is not like in the UK - I haven't seen anything here nearly as rich and brown or near-black. It's like compacted orange dust with very little organic matter in it. Things do grow, presumably mostly due to the heat and the moisture, but I think the soil is quite poor quality. It certainly gets washed onto the roads very easily and negotiating the resultant muddy puddles is part of my daily life here.

Anyway, faced with a wall of rain, I wondered how to get home. If I walked, even with an umbrella, I'd get drenched. If not from the direct rain then from the unavoidable soaking from the relentless vehicles. I could phone for an auto-rickshaw but I wondered if any would dare to run in this amount of water. They'd probably float away! Or perhaps a taxi... but I'm a bit tight with my money and it's a hassle. Teacher Ajith offered me a lift on the back of his motorbike and I jumped at the chance. So, clutching my umbrella, we somehow made it back here in one piece. We probably averaged about 10km/h so the umbrella didn't get blown away. It kept our heads dry at least, though my back and anything below waist height got a thorough soaking.

Indian drivers can be so bloody impatient! At one point we got stuck behind some small car which was crawling along, likely because of a no lights or no wipers, or both, and an auto-rickshaw tried to overtake but couldn't get by. Then a small bus tried and failed. Then a big bus came ploughing through, blasting it's horn, and forcing us onto the verge - we had a rickshaw and two buses all abreast of us on a sharp corner, in the pissing rain, on the flooded road, in the dark! Absolute madness! There's definitely a philosophy of "might is right". God help you if you're on foot.

Oh, the temple is playing what sounds like "three blind mice" again and the hour is "chiming" electronically over the tannoy. And it's followed by a female voice, presumably prescribing time for bed. Night-night campers! Don't forget to set your alarms! But even if you do, we'll wake you at 5am anyway with another F'ing announcement and the mellow sounds of cats being strangled!!

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Jesus and the Grandmother Problem

How can I put this politely? An online dictionary suggests "bowel movement" for the word I had in mind so you can guess what I had originally intended! So... this morning I had a good, very satisfying "bowel movement". Only, when I'd finished and looked down, there was a lizard in the pan. JESUS! I nearly had another "bowel movement" all over the floor!!

Just one of the many "WTF WAS THAT??" moments.


I have a bit of a problem with the grandmother next door. In a way it's a nice problem to have but still, I wish I didn't have it: she keeps giving me food! They're a poor family and I'm not related nor a close friend so I feel bad about accepting it. I've told her "No, you shouldn't". I've told her I've just eaten. I've told her I'm too fat. I've tried every excuse I can think of. I protest but accept it, assuming that it would be more rude to return it. But, when all else failed, I resorted to sending it back. That worked for two days! It's not that it's horrible food - in fact it's rather good, and the occasional sweet thing is especially good. It's just that I feel awkward taking it. I've heard that rejecting it is like an insult, that it would make them feel inferior, or that it would seem I'm trying to be superior. But they can't afford it! So, what to do? Accepting it but binning it is NOT an option - besides it being wasteful and a "sin", the old lady empties my bins! She picks over everything. If there are food scraps then they go to the goats. If anything can be reused then she'll re-use it. And if not, she'll burn it.

My latest plan was to protest but accept it, saying that I'd eat it later, putting it in the fridge and yes, eating it later, but then returning the pots a few days down the line. That way, if she kept giving me stuff, her kitchen pots would all end up in the fridge so she couldn't give me more! Cunning, huh? Well no, actually. Food has now started arriving in banana leaves or wrapped in newspaper...

I think she's won.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Metal Market

Chalai Bazaar Road in Trivandrum, Kerala's "capital", is an experience in itself. It is lined with shop after shop spewing out onto the narrow road. There is a huge number of gold merchants and shops selling household items, basic hardware, flowers, vegetables, scents and incense, textiles and clothes shops, paint, plastic utensils, snacks, medicines, ... but no luxury items. There are shops that sell metal and there are Metal Markets. The latter are not what they sound - you don't go there for sheet copper or lead pping. They're where you buy containers like the one here, but in every conceivable shape and size. From pots less than 50mm in diameter to bowls greater than 1500mm in diameter, no exaggeration. Made in aluminium, tin, pressed steel and brass, the range is quite staggering. At the weekend I wandered into one of the smaller shops. On the counter lay a three year-old child, sound asleep. I eventually selected the container pictured (it's just for boiling water in). When I went to pay for it I was amazed that the owner popped it on the scales, got out a calculator and worked out that I owed her Rs68! This is also precisely what they do in the gold merchants where they will put a necklace or bangle on the scales to cost it. Only for the very fancy ones do they take into account the workmanship.

Incidentally, I brought the pepper and salt mills with me from the UK because I couldn't remember seeing them in the shops. The reason could be the high humidity here. The salt mill has become unusable because salt is hydrophilic or whatever the word is - it attracts water, so the salt crystals are now salt slush! The pepper mill is marginally better but the corns are definitely on the soggy side.

Sunday, 23 November 2008


Yet another huge advertising hoarding going up. This one, at Kovalam Junction, must be about 24 metres long by 10 metres high. I thought the guy was welding but he might be using an angle grinder. Whatever, there were sparks flying!

At the bottom right of the large photo you'll see a sign to the SISP centre which is about 500 metres down an un-surfaced side road.

The owner of the "High Speed Internet" cafe boasts a broadband speed of 250 kbps. The connection speed I'm using right now at home is 50% faster!

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Scary Spider

This little fella has no need to spin webs, he just scares the hell out of his prey! I was working in the gloom when he appeared on the wall over my right shoulder - yes, I did jump! He was a good 115mm in diameter (about 4.5 inches) and moved like lightning. He stayed long enough to pose for me but when I turned around he was gone...

Wildlife abounds here. Ants vary from nano (1 mm), through micro (2.5 mm) and normal (10 mm) to monsters (25 mm). The micro ants are the biggest pest in my house and are often on this table that I'm sitting at. I dread finding they've got behind my laptop's screen and died.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Jellyfish and Arrivederci

I found out today that yesterday's jellyfish were as a result of being caught in local fishermen's nets - they sort the catch at sea and anything unwanted is tossed over the side. Result: lots of dead jellyfish on Kovalam Beach.

Today was Alessandra's and Silvia's last day at SISP. Pity. I liked them and their English was good so I could converse with them. They were good for the school too - they were only here for two weeks but had many creative activities planned beforehand, had come prepared with materials, and were very kind and tolerant towards the kids. They came from the Italian organisation "aiutare i bambini" (Help Children). They gave the children a little party before leaving, there were speeches, and the dance group put on an energetic routine for them.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Shirt Askew and Paddling with the Kids

Yesterday I walked up the road, visited the chai stall, and then walked to the school. I passed dozens of people and said hello to 10 or so. When I finally arrived at the school I was asked if my shirt was a new fashion statement... and looking down I discovered it was buttoned up all askew! Urgh! The loose shirt, baggy trousers, sandals and sun hat were obviously complimented by this new style!

In the afternoon we took the kids swimming at Kovalam Beach. They always hanker to go on their sports afternoons and I can now see why - it's great fun! I imagine we had 40 children and six adults (three teachers, two volunteers and me) all splashing about, jumping in the waves, jumping on each other, and occasionally managing a stroke or two. I couldn't resist joining in!

Some kids mentioned stings and I found my legs were stinging too. At first I thought it was just the sand but there were definite raised red lines across my legs. Then the kids were showing me wool-like threads in the water and then we spotted the huge purple jelly fish. They were presumably dead and being washed ashore. The kids handled them like experts, sticking their fingers in the centre of them and pulling them onto the sand. I guess they must be harmless enough... they certainly didn't spoil the fun!

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Fever? Maybe, Maybe Not!

Last night I got home, had a few bananas and a cup of chai, and then suddenly felt very dizzy. I thought I was about to be sick but it passed and after a couple of minutes I was feeling OK-ish. Then a little while later it happened again, and then again several times after that. Eventually I decided to go to bed with a bucket beside me, just in case.

I slept pretty well, apart from being awoken by a dog which had decided it was actually a wolf and was howling to all the neighbouring dogs! Eventually it went away and I could just make out its howls in the distance.

When I woke at six this morning I felt really great, as I often do after sickness, and thought I'd shaken the dizziness off. But, as soon as I moved, I felt sick again and grabbed for the bucket. Yet again the feeling subsided... and was left with a bit of a headache and feeling hot.

At SISP many staff and kids are going down with "Fever". That is what they call it, and don't qualify it with a name. The symptoms are that they feel a bit hot and sweaty but no one mentioned the dizziness and feelings of nausea. Perhaps this is what I've caught. I'll go to work at the school anyway and see what happens.

I paid the rent this morning and, as a special Diwali gift, I told the owner to forget the Rs 2,000 loan I'd given her to fix the kitchen fan. I'm not certain but I think she might have lost her job so every Rupee must count. She seemed happy!

...later, same day....

The dizziness feelings went away early morning and I've been fine since then. Very odd, and apparently not the symptoms the other teachers have been having.

Had a tough day at work and, regrettably, ended up losing my temper with the kids and shouting at them. In the evening's tuition class they were noisy, inattentive, silly little sods. When you're trying to do your best and no one's listening, no one's looking at you, and they're talking amongst themselves, or worse - talking to passing kids in the corridor, it can be so bloody frustrating!

Monday, 17 November 2008

Noise has Stopped. Finally!

The deafening squawking trumpets started up again - 05:30 this time instead of 05:00. I suppose I should be grateful for small mercies but it still didn't put me in a good humour I have to say. I left the house early to get away from it. Thankfully, when I returned home at 18:30, the noise had stopped and the speakers had gone. I will have to have a word with the temple's "committee" to persuade them to move the speakers next time.

Not the best of days at SISP - it ended with me trying to give tuition to R and Y, two 9 year old little horrors. To my question of "What year is it?" I got replies such as "105", Wednesday, August, 11..... Each copies the other, even if the other's answer is ridiculous. They titter at each other, even if I separate them, and they incessantly chatter and don't pay attention. God, they're hard work!

I found it difficult to believe that when I asked them their dates of birth they had no idea, and couldn't even identify the year. Later I was told by the teachers that this was not uncommon.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Temple Noise

Right now it's hard to hear myself think. The Hindu temple, which is perhaps a kilometre away, has slung up two PA speakers in the palm tree across the road from my house. My bedroom is about 10 metres from them. The whole house is echoing with temple music which is at near-distortion levels. It is bloody torture. I hadn't seen the temple before but I followed the wires, hoping to find some point low enough to cut them - which I'm seriously tempted to do. The noise started at 8:30 last night and went on until 10, then it started up again at 05:00 this morning and it's been on and off all day. I'm told it's to celebrate a festival but no one has been able to tell me which one. They also tell me it will end tonight. God I do hope so. Drums, ankle bells, finger cymbals and squawking "trumpets", chanting men and wailing women. It has no melody and is just noise. I can hear it over loud music on my headphones so I can't drown it out. I have ear plugs meant for working with machinery and I can still hear it with them pushed fully in. In fact I push them in so far I wonder if the vacuum caused by pulling them out will damage my ears. I can't block the noise out of the house either - all the rooms have long slot ventilators at ceiling height, all windows are single-glazed, and the door and window frames are warped and don't seal. Trouble is, if I complain then I'll probably be lynched by the Hindu nutters, and if the police get involved, it might reveal that I'm "working" on a tourist visa and so I'd get kicked out of India. The kids next door tell me that it's especially bad in January to March. Oh great.

It's the girl next door's birthday tomorrow and I'd arranged to take the kids to the zoo in Trivandrum. This meant that I escaped the noise for some of the time. The auto-rickshaw arrived at 9:30 and it was a great relief to get out of the area. We met up with Alessandra and Silvia, two Italian lady visitors to SISP (they came from SISP's aiutare i bambini sponsor organisation there), and had an enjoyable time walking around in the quiet and trees surrounding the enclosures. The environment for the animals is not especially good and very far from the standard of London Zoo for example. I would hate to be a big vulture, couped up all day in a cage too small to fly in. There was little in the way of greenery in a lot of the cages, many cages were empty, and there seemed to be a lot of peacocks making up the numbers. There was a limping lame stag deer which was in obvious pain because it kept licking it's swollen foot but the keeper just wiggled his head when it was pointed out. Anyway, the kids tell me they liked the zoo, which was the main objective.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

One month in India!

It's one month since I arrived in India and things for me at SISP are starting to improve. I feel more accepted by kids and staff alike. I imagine they're used to people coming and volunteering for a few weeks at most and so you are treated accordingly. I was invited to a team meeting on Friday and, although you can't expect permanent staff to change from speaking Malayalam, at certain points they spoke English to ask my opinion or find out information from me. Also I have run two full classes now and am gradually getting the kids to cooperate without having to resort to shouting. I'm trying to get accepted more as a regular teacher - volunteers are not all about fun and games! I'm also learning tricks to keep the kids engaged and occupied - it's a two-way learning process.

Last night my friend Phil Morgan (from JET) and his wife Jackie arrived at Hotel Samudra at the end of their tour of Southern India. I caught an auto-rickshaw over to see them and we, with their tour group, spent a very enjoyable evening having dinner at a beach-side restaurant with a refreshing breeze and the waves crashing a short way away. Nice to relax, hear their stories and catch up. Very pleasant! Today we got together and I showed them the coast from Samudra Beach to the fishing village of Vizhinjam. We happened to bump into Shajila, a young Muslim girl from SISP, and I discovered that she hadn't been to school recently because her mother was ill in hospital with Dengue fever. As she has no father she is having to cope keeping the home running. I'll have to let the guys at SISP know. Phil, Jackie and I then caught a small and rickety bus into Trivandrum. To be honest it was so bumpy, and with the normal Indian driving standards of involving swerving all over the roads, that I was a feeling a bit queasy by the time we arrived. But that soon eased and we did a spot of sight-seeing at the temple, the museum and Bazaar Road near East Fort. It was great to have decent conversations again and also not have to stop every five seconds to interpret!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Bats at Kovalam Junction

I went up to Kovalam Junction at dusk today, around 18:15, and saw the massive bats again. Their wingspan must be around 4ft, or 125cm, HUGE! They were roosting in a colony in one large tree at the junction itself and actually making quite a racket, unperturbed by the people and vehicles beneath. A few were flying around and landing back in the tree - I imagine they were just about to set off to feed somewhere. These monsters could be the "Indian Flying Fox" which is the largest of all bats and feeds exclusively on fruit. There was also one little bat - 15cm or so. It looked minute in comparison but would probably be considered large in the UK!

Monday, 10 November 2008

Lorry and Lightning

On the way to work a lorry had broken down on the busy road to Vizhinjam on a near-blind bend. There were a few bits of branch at the front and the rear to indicate that it was going nowhere - no cones, of course. It was a metre or so out from the side of the road and a few motorbikes were passing on the inside, and the other side was just wide enough for cars to pass yet they were trying to squeeze through two-abreast with pedestrians on the road too! Drivers could see one end of the lorry or the other from some distance yet they were still trying to overtake just before it. I saw a bus miss a 4x4 literally by an inch. The lorry has been there two days and an axle has been removed, presumably for repair. No tow-trucks here! There was a guy watching over it but that was all he could do - watch. It would need two people to coordinate the traffic. Madness!

Outside, right now, it is night time, with rain pouring down and thunder and lightning overhead. There's been thunder for much of the day and, as usual, it's been hot and very humid, but the rain only started this evening. As I write this there was a hell of a bang and flash overhead and I jumped out of my chair. I've now disconnected my laptop from the mains and from the cable modem, just in case! Christ!! Two more hellishly close cracks - I thought the ceiling was about to come down! And now the power's failed. Think I'd better call it quits for tonight!

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Updating the Blog

A fair number of hours were spent today in getting my Blog up to date. Without an Internet connection I had just been keeping notes which I have now copied to the blog and fiddled the post dates to make them look as if they were posted without delay.

I do wonder if any if this will be of interest to anyone!

Catching Up with Friends and Family

The last few evenings have been spent catching up with friends by email. I have been able to connect to JET, read my old Inbox, and deal with a few problems there.

I've just had an hour-long Skype chat with my daughter. It was great to hear her voice again, hear her news, tell her mine and to "connect". I was also able to order some CDs from Amazon for my son's birthday which is imminent. Isn't technology wonderful? It can also be very time-consuming. Dealing with the backlog of emails has meant that I'm feeling quite tired as a result because I'm not getting to bed as early as I'd like.

Went for a walk and discovered just how inaccurate Indian maps can be. Incorrectly named beaches, wrongly drawn roads - all very confusing. The online maps aren't much better. Still, it meant that I chatted to a few people to get directions. I'm trying to find the best way to Samudra beach, where Phil and Jackie, friends of mine, will be staying briefly at the end of next week. Looks like one of us will have to use an autorickshaw if we're to meet up - just too far otherwise.

Discovered fresh pineapple today - absolutely delicious! 22Rs for a medium-sized one, that's about 28pence. I cut it all up and ate half, and put the other half in the fridge. It was as much as I could do to restrain myself from eating it all!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Internet At Last

Asianet came and fixed the fault today so now I have an Internet connection. It feels great! Now I can email friends and deal with the many emails in my Inbox ...

Monday, 3 November 2008

Modem Arrives - Doesn't Work

At the school today I seemed to do little other than help the youngest write their numbers over and over again. I suppose this allowed the teacher to focus on the more able kids - getting them up to an equal standard she said - but I have to say this part of the work is becoming repetitive. The spectrum of ability in this bottom group makes it tricky to set work that challenges them all. I will just have to try to be a bit more inventive I suppose...

The modem arrived today, Monday. I found it connected when I got home, though I'm not convinced it wasn't the boy next door who'd undone the box and wired it up. The packaging lay strewn around the place. Needless to say the connection didn't work and customer support seemed to comprise a guy reading from a fault-finding flow chart. After getting me to try the web address of the modem, which worked but reported no connection, he then asked if the modem was powered up! Of course it bloody well was - the web address had worked, hadn't it?! I'm getting a bit impatient with all this - it seems to have taken ages to get the Internet connection, and every job takes several people. On the other hand, I was impressed that the help line told me where I was in the queue and how long each complaint was taking to process. However, if processing a job consists of forwarding a fault to another person rather than fixing it, then who know how long a fix takes? In my case I was told it must be a cable fault and someone would look into it.

Much as there was evidence that someone had ripped the modem's packaging open, there were signs that someone had been fiddling with wires and insulation tape for the fan. I later found that the electrician had visited and confirmed the fan's demise. The neighbours had returned it to the shop for a replacement after the original was proven dead in the shop. So much for Quality Control! It was later attached to the ceiling, wired up, and thankfully it worked. I felt a bit guilty about all this - a lot of effort for something that's just for my comfort. Still, it's nice to work in a cooler kitchen.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Trip to Police Commissioner

I set off early by bus to Trivandrum today to visit the Police Commissioner's Office to register with them because my visa is longer than 6 months which means you should register within 14 days of arrival in India (making the deadline a couple of days ago). Using my map and asking a few people en route I managed to navigate my way from East Fort to the Office without too much difficulty, though the map was wrong in many places. Amazingly, the guy told me that because my visa is marked "Special Endorsement" I don't need to register with them! I don't know whether I caught him on a good day, whether he didn't fancy the paperwork, or if it was true that I didn't need it - whatever, I was mightily relieved!

The rest of my time in TRV was spent buying a second sheet for my bed, to replace the fleece blanket which really is too hot, and buying various bits and bobs for my kitchen. I had a look at the bikes in a cycle shop. They sold Hercules cycles, some of which have the ancient rod brakes! Even the modern ones are still pretty ancient technology with heavy frames and single speed. I wasn't too inspired. And I'm not sure I need one anyway - I seem to be managing pretty well on foot and bus.

When I got home I found that the Asianet folk had been and extended the cable, so now I have a neat coil of cable sitting on the dining table in the hall of my pad! I phoned them about the modem - they said either later today or tomorrow. Well, it's not going to be "today" now. Tomorrow will be great - but did they really mean that? It is, after all, a Sunday.