The logistics of leaving….

Sorry it’s been a while since my last post, time is running away over here! It’s very true that the longer you leave something the harder it is to come back to so this is me making a concerted effort to get back on track with blogging!

We are now approaching our 8th month in India so it seems a bit weird to be talking about our move, I will catch up one day! As we like to make our life complicated (the free spirit in me says adventurous) we had a pre planned trip to Canada prior to moving to Bangalore – a 5 week road trip around Western Canada and a stop off in Seattle on the way back. It was probably one of the best trips we’ve ever done and our first long travel with the kids – I will write all about it in a separate post. The downside of this trip was all the paperwork we needed to be ‘legal’ in India, and all of this required our passports which were obviously happily residing in Canada with us. Add into the mix a business trip Robbie took to India that he arrived back from the day before we were due to fly out to Canada. Robbie also realised his passport was due to expire and he did not have the 6 months on his passport required for entry into the USA. I would love to be polite about this situation and say of course we didn’t have any heated rows about this ‘oversight’ but it was a BLOODY NIGHTMARE!!! It was resolved by multiple calls to the passport office, who were unbelievably helpful, 2 passports for Robbie and a lot of wine drunk by me!

We got back to the UK in time for the August bank holiday and went straight off to a festival, got terribly drunk and spent the day we were meant to be sorting our house out very hungover and eating curry with friends, oops. So our lovely packers arrived on a Tuesday morning to absolute chaos and Robbie disappearing off to the Peterborough passport office (again) to get Daisy a new passport. I did my best to look organised but it was painfully clear we weren’t. I can’t praise our packers enough, they rocked and packed us up in 2.5 days, 3 lorries and 360 boxes of all our stuff. That felt weird seeing it all be taken away to sail off into the sunset.

We now had 4 weeks till our moving day, at least we thought we did as we still needed all of our visas approving before we could even think about booking flights! It was a tense wait while we waited and waited for the green light. We got impatient and booked our flights once Robbie was approved but the rest of us weren’t. In hind sight this may have been an oversight as it was a little stressful only getting our passports back the day before we were due to fly out! We were basically camping in our house, sleeping on blow up mattresses and camping chairs borrowed from our sympathetic neighbours. After a few nights of waking up on the floor after the mattress had gone flat again, and trying to entertain our kids with all their friends back at school I decided it was probably a good idea to go visit my mum. The idea of an actual bed was too good to turn down (and seeing my mum obviously!) We had such a lovely week together, blackberry picking, geocaching, hanging out together but then we had to say goodbye.

It had some how worked out that we were to say goodbye to my sister and my 2 nephews, my mum and her husband and my dad and his wife all in the same morning, not a good idea really! Whilst it wasn’t a long drawn out goodbye it was like being hit round the head several times with a bus load of emotion. I recommend to anyone that spreading out the goodbyes is probably advisable!

We headed back to Bedfordshire for our final week in our empty house. We also had an important mission to accomplish ‘Drink the house dry’. One thing we had failed to realise was you are not able to take any alcohol in your shipment overseas, anybody who knows us knows that there is always rather a lot of wine in our house! There also seemed to be a lot of spirits and beers too, obviously we had to invite all of our friends to help us on the mission. So our final weekend was probably an apt farewell, surrounded by all our awesome friends, getting terribly drunk. There were also a fair few tears as well. We feel very lucky to have such an amazing group of people we have collected over the years and were very sad to be leaving them behind. There are not many photos I can publish here of that party but as you can see from this one it was pretty merry…

I’m not going to lie that hangover the next day was pretty awful and we did have to hand out a few bottles of wine that hadn’t been drunk (and tip some of the dodgy pear brandy down the sink!). It was time to pause our life in Bedfordshire and get on the plane to our new life in India, waving goodbye to our house and lovely neighbours was tough but we were on our way.

International Women’s Day…

I am jumping ahead here in my blogging journey as I’ve not actually written about our move to India, need to get myself sorted and write more!!

But it was International Women’s Day yesterday and I felt compelled to write about my experience taking part and how it’s really shaped my thoughts….

I’m sure most people reading this blog have grown up in a Western society, I most definitely have spent all my time up until now in the UK, I have a good education and had a good career. I have been very privileged, for the most part, not to have experienced too much discrimination for being born a woman. I like to think my parents were overjoyed to have a daughter as their firstborn child and then my sister a few years later. Certainly when my daughter was born 5 years ago I felt the luckiest person in the world and although she can be challenging I am very proud of the feisty, stubborn (!), independent girl she is turning out to be.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I had never really experienced first hand the terrible inequalities women face simply for being women. The times that I have encountered discrimination I was able to draw on my own independence and self worth and fight back to challenge what I was going through and change the outcome. I also am lucky to be surrounded by men, my dad, my husband, my friends and family who all firmly believe in gender equality.

But what if all of this was not a given, what if I had been born into a family who did not want a girl, who thought about burning me at birth as I was a burden to my family. Hearing stories yesterday really showed what a stark reality this is for many women in 2018 in India and I’m sure in many other countries around the world. Women here are not expected to look men in the eye, they have to be subservient, they experience terrible domestic violence (often in front of their children which then reinforces to their sons the ‘right’ men have to beat their wives), they are denied a basic education and can be married off in their teenage years. Basic sanitation is also a major issue in rural India, villagers use the fields as a toilet – women can only do this when it’s dark and run the risk of being raped under the cover of darkness.

I am not saying there is not discrimination against women in the UK, there definitely is and this must change. The inequalities I see in India are so startling as they are on such a basic level and compromise the most basic of human rights.

Things are starting to change over here and there are amazing charities and NGOs fighting to give women the equality they deserve. The school that I volunteer at, Shanti Bhavan takes in 24 new students each year, always 12 girls and 12 boys. The girls are educated in exactly the same way as the boys, they work really hard at building self-confidence and self-worth, they play football, they are expected to go to college and secure themselves good jobs. Seeing the girls developing into confidant, highly intelligent young women is amazing especially given their backgrounds as children of the ‘Dalit’ caste, the so called ‘untouchables’. This school has already smashed the perception that poor children are some how less intelligent, less deserving of a good start in life and most importantly are bringing up the boys to respect women and see them as their equals. Especially powerful when some of these boys return to their homes in the school holidays and witness first hand the violence of their fathers against their mothers. The boys at Shanti Bhavan are defying their circumstances and helping to bring about a change in today’s India, respecting all human life whether male or female. If you want to learn more about this school there is a fantastic document on Netflix called ‘Daughters of Destiny’. There is also a book called ‘The Elephant Chaser’s Daughter’ written by Shilpa Raj, one of the pupils of Shanti Bhavan.

If anyone would like to help with the great work this school does we have set up a fundraising page with the aim of sponsoring one child for a year

Friends of Shanti Bhavan

We all have a massive responsibility to help drive this change, bringing up our daughters to believe they can be whoever they want to be, supporting our friends to overcome challenges, coming together to celebrate all that is female and bashing through the wall of gender inequality. I feel as a mother of a son I must bring him up with a healthy attitude to respect and believe in equality for everyone.

The Waiting Game…

So we returned home from Bangalore feeling happy that we were going to make it home for the next few years, exciting.

However it was at this point things become a reality – you actually have to tell people you are leaving, let your child’s wonderful school know they are not returning in September, for me it was also Daisy’s time to start school in September – the school she’d visited most days for the past 3 years picking her big brother up and the class she already knew very well. No more cycle to school runs instead we were scoping her up and moving her to the other side of the world.

It certainly seems an amazing opportunity to begin a new life in another part of the world but it is tough too (and no doubt for our family and friends we were leaving behind).

We also had a lot of uncertainty – were we actually going to get the villa we really wanted in Bangalore? Did Woody pass his entrance exam? Was there even a school place at TISB for him? In hindsight I think we began our ‘India training’ at this point. Well used to definite answers, when you rent a house in the UK the negotiations are over very quickly and then you either pass the reference checks or not, simple! India likes a more roundabout process, it took about 4 weeks to confirm our house as apparently our prospective landlord was overseas….we eventually found out once we moved that our landlord lived overseas so really had no bearing on rental negotiations!! We found this very difficult as Robbie and I like action and quick results!!! Something we were going to have to learn to find less frustrating (although think I’m still learning this lesson).

At this point Robbie started making a lot of lists, I am categorically NOT a list maker – all those words sitting there, shouting in your face how much you actually have to sort out – lists freak me out. Robbie on the other hand finds them an oasis of calm in chaos and takes great pleasure in crossing things off – marital bliss, not! The lists also seemed to be getting longer, rent house, find new tenants for flat, inform council, inform utilities and the other million people that seem to want to know if you are leaving the UK, insurance, sell cars, get approximately 25 million passport photos of each of us blah blah…. It was never ending. The wine consumption was definitely increasing!

An interesting complexity to this situation was that as we were moving for Robbie’s work it was his company that were orchestrating the move i.e it was mainly coordinated through Robbie. Every question, request for information had to come through my husband. In our relationship I am the organiser in the household, I get holidays booked, manage our tenants, sort out utilities as Robbie hates all this. All of a sudden he had to manage this scenario with me asking constant questions as my lack of control over the situation also freaked me out massively! I think we have both learnt from this situation that I should retain my role as family organiser, it had served us well for 18 years and worked for us!

From Bedfordshire to Bangalore….

It was a typical Wednesday evening, I was trying to juggle bathing the kids and answering my work email, Robbie came home amongst the chaos whipping the kids up into a frenzy just before bedtime as Dads do!!! We finally got them into bed, and after Daisy’s usually shouting for an hour ‘I bit my finger’ ‘mummmmmyyyyy’ they were asleep, phew!

Collapsed on the sofa Robbie casually asks me if I wanted to move to Bangalore…..’what, of course, definitely’ was my immediate response, demonstrating my usual just make a decision don’t think about it style. Robbie looked a bit shocked, oh I said no!! We’ve always had a vague idea that we might want to live abroad so it didn’t take long to decide that we would take the opportunity and go for it. Fast forward a few weeks and we were sat on the plane off to Bangalore to go check it out. Robbie had been on a few business trips so he knew what to expect but it was a journey into the unknown for me and the kids. I really hoped we liked it as we had kind of committed already! We made the decision to take the two mini Daggers with us, at 4 and 7 we thought it would make the concept more real to them and took the gamble they wouldn’t hate it!!

15 hours later we were bouncing our way along the Bangalore roads to our hotel, I had my eyes closed most of the way! I’d been warned about the traffic and crazy driving but wow, overtaking into oncoming traffic, no apparent rules over any sort of lane system, cows in the road, it was madness. Any how we were in Bangalore and had 5 solid days of visiting schools and house choosing so opted for an early night to try and ease our jet lag.

Next morning, we were most definitely not bright eyed but feeling rather jet lagged. Woody had woken us up at 5am with the worlds biggest nose bleed that had sprayed over most of our hotel room, white sheets….you get the picture. After politely explaining to house keeping we had not massacred our child over night and our bellies full of dosa we were off to visit two potential schools.

This was a great experience we really liked both of them although they were so much bigger than the tiny village school Woody already attended. We decided to ask the kids which school they liked best and they choose our favourite one too – great start to the day! By this time it was well past lunchtime and we were all getting a little grumpy so off for a late lunch and then house hunting. We knew we wanted to stay in a community with other expat families as well as locals so that narrowed it down to 4 areas. After looking at well over 30 villas the jet lag was well and truly settling in so we headed back to the hotel, brains totally overloaded! Daisy took the opportunity to wear her new ‘Indian princess’ outfit and attracted quite a lot of attention at our hotel!

We had narrowed it down to two communities one with a very established population, lots of activities for the kids but older style villas versus the brand new community with super modern, light, airy villas but no one really lived in. Robbie liked one I liked the other! We decided to go back and visit them both the next day and ended up going for the newer community- Prestige White Meadows was going to be our new home.

The school we had chosen required Woody to sit an entrance exam, something we had not really considered. So off we all went back to school – we got there and Woody was taken off for an hour to sit the assessments, I was terrified for him but he just wandered off and seemed happy about it. An hour later he returned smiling saying it had been fine, phew! We just had to wait a week or so for his results. If he passed the next stage was an interview with the school Principal. In true Indian style we were not exactly sure if the school actually had a place for both of them but we were learning to go with the flow – it’s never black and white!

So we had survived our first 5 days in India, we were all very tired but all wanted to make Bangalore our home for the next few years. I think the kids were persuaded by their ride in an auto rickshaw, they thought it was awesome.

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