Jesse’s Blog

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Shop till ya drop

Today we headed to Delhi to do some shopping at CP. I’d tell you what that stood for but I really have no idea! We made tentative plans to do this with a few of the people at iEnergizer, but realized that we didn’t know how to contact one of the girls (Christina). She doesn’t have a phone of any sort (house phone or mobile), so we decided to just drive by her place and see if she was there. We were a little skeptical about this attempt, since we didn’t actually know her last name or what unit number she was in (to tell the guards), but we were actually able to breeze right through the gate without talking to anybody.

Alas, to our dismay, she wasn’t home! As we walked back to the car it turns out we were followed by one of the guards (one of the old, senile-looking types who probably spends most of his shift guarding the chair he’s sleeping on). He said something to us in Hindi and threatened us with his broom handle, but we had no idea what he was saying.

We decided to check at the office to see if she was there, but she wasn’t, so we started to head back to Sector 18 with Chris now tagging along. I decided to give our other friend Saumya a call, who works the night shift. It was about 2pm by this point and she was just waking up. She said she would go with us, so we made plans to pick up her and her friend (Minnie) in Sector 19 (which is, believe it or not, right across from 18). Albert and Lara were really happy to finally be heading to go shopping since there was no way we would have survived without some locals to go with us.

This picture is actually from the end of the day, but how would you know?

I haven’t ventured in to Delhi much, especially in daytime, so it was good to see what I have been missing. In general, at least where we went, it’s a lot more organized and a bit more tidy than Noida. Noida is semi-rural – a booming suburb on the edge of the big city that has just as many animals as it does people. We passed by a few really nice parks (unexpected) and some interesting architecture before arriving downtown at our destination! I made a mental note to come back and check those places out some time.

We hopped out of the car and immediately followed Saumya and Minnie to a subterranean entryway. Odd. An underground mall. I was only able to snap this picture before they stopped me and said I couldn’t take any more! I bet it’s because of all the shady goings-on down there:

I didn’t really have a desire to buy anything, but bargaining is kind of fun. For instance, Albert was trying to buy a shirt that was “worth” rs. 500-600 but was on sale for rs. 300. I told the guy this was ridiculous and we’d only pay rs. 150 for it. He started to justify his price when Saumya chimed in and started arguing from a local’s point of view. The guy actually told her to stop talking! I immediately scolded him for telling my friend to shut up and said we were leaving. We barely took 5 steps before he was chasing us down offering to sell the shirt for rs. 150. That really cracked me up!

I did find something I wanted to buy, a camera case for my digi. I must not have bargained so well for myself, because Minnie and Saumya came in and asked if I had “gone mad” for attempting to pay rs. 225 for something that was clearly worth only about half of that price. They dragged me away but the guy didn’t seem to object this time. Maybe the price *was* good? Who knows… I still prefer Amazon.com for shopping but I doubt I’ll see that in India any time soon.

After a few more minutes we went up on the street where I was able to take some pictures. It was a pretty nice day despite the humidity and we shopped for another hour or so before deciding to head back.






We called up Mahender and waited for him in front of Wimpy’s. Wimpy’s sells hamburgers. Or so they say. Often when you see that here in India it’s not *really* a hamburger, but rather some substitute hamburger-textured but not-quite-tasting… thing. There were a few westerners inside (I resisted the urge to stare at the white people), so I walked in and scanned the menu. They did indeed serve “hamburger/cheeseburger”, along with “Aloo Patty”, “Bean Patty”, “Veggie Burger”, “Chicken Burger”… it seemed everything was covered and there wasn’t much else they could substitute in for beef/buffalo. I went and got Saumya and asked if this was for real. Her immediate response was “of course not”, that it wasn’t beef or buffalo. But as she scanned the menu I saw a gleam of doubt in her eye.

“Ask.” I said, and pointed at one of the workers. She sort of looked at me funny but she knew I was dead-serious. This was important. I was getting my hopes up, I could feel it. She popped the question as I held my breath…

DENIED.

Lamb. LAMB! Seriously, what the heck? Don’t call it a hamburger. It’s a lamburger for crying out loud! I tried to explain to Saumya, a life-long vegetarian, why it was so ridiculous to try to pass off a lamburger as a hamburger. She didn’t quite get it.

Next we headed to Ruby Tuesday’s for happy hour in Centrestage Mall. Ruby Tuesday’s is really expensive, so we literally got 2 beers and an order of fries. We thought we might go eat at the Raddison, but first decided to head over to a place called Ice Cubes in Sector 18 to meet up with some of Saumya’s friends. This place was pretty cool, a chill night-club like joint that had a nice decor and decently-priced drinks. We only hung out for a few moments before hunger compelled us to leave for some food, but Saumya decided to stay behind. After dinner Chris and I returned for an awesome time… dancing and singing Hindi songs to which we didn’t know the words (mixed in with the usual Western club thumping tunes). The DJ was actually pretty good and I was completely tired by about 11:30pm. Chris and I headed back to the house while our Indian friends continued their night of fun at a 24-hour place in Delhi. Maybe I’ll try it out some time when I’m not feeling like such an old man!

posted by Jesse at 3:37 am  

Sunday, August 6, 2006

Of all the Mahals, the Taj is the best!

Yesterday we got up super-early (6:00am is super-early for us) and headed to the Tajmahal. As you can see, we were all very happy to be awake and on the road to the “eighth” wonder out of the total seven wonders of the ancient world (nevermind that it’s not exactly ancient – but that’s modern marketing for you).

Our trip took us through all sorts of Indian countryside and smaller cities that we had never seen before. The trees and open land were nice, and at our first stop (a restaurant on the border of Uttar Pradesh) we actually got a beautiful view and some nice fresh air.

I also got to hold a wild snake, and sit down with a cobra. Yeah, that’s right. I’m a regular Indiana Jones. Beat that. I didn’t eat a big spider though, because that’s pretty gross.

The man was actually more scary than the cobra. And you thought dancing fast food mascots were bad…

We stopped at an interesting fort that looked a lot like a temple of some kind. This is when we got our first taste of the price difference in foreigners and locals when it comes to visiting the national monuments. Our price of admission was 110 rupees, but an Indian Citizen’s was only 20 rupees.

Some guy’s tomb in the fort.

The fort had a lot of repetition in its architecture which inspired me to take this photo. Now, if everyone could play an instrument, we might have ourselves a band:

Albert is way to cool for school. It’s kinda like a… fort…

At Agra (the city the Taj is in), we picked up a guide at a local crafts store (more on that later) and proceeded to the parking lot area to take an electric bus up to the Taj. As usual, we were first greeted by throngs of natives peddling their over-priced wares to the tourists on our way to the bus.

The bus ride was short and there was no line at the ticket counter so we quickly purchased our tickets for the price of 750 rupees, which is about $15 USD. Out of curiosity I checked the Indian price – 20 rupees, or a little less than 50 cents. Wow. I felt… cheated. Yes, I’m a foreigner – but my salary isn’t much more than a lot of Indians while I’m in this country. Sheesh!

We went through some security guards and metal detectors until we got to a plaza area where our guide was pretty insistent on giving us his spiel. He even insisted we wait to take a picture we wanted to take until we got to another place and we said “No, we want to take it now.” Ridiculous!

We took some more pictures and listened to the guide talking about a lot of things but mostly he liked to talk about the marble and how unique and beautiful it is, etc. There was something fishy about all of it but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

After the Taj we went to the Hilton and had probably the worst 5-star meal I have ever tasted. I won’t go in to details, but we complained and got everything for free.

The guide had stuck around through lunch because he wanted to show us the place where the marble is still made today, inlaid with semi-precious stones. We didn’t want to see it, but he practically insisted – saying he had waited 1.5 hours for us to eat lunch and if we weren’t going to go we should have said something earlier. So we went, and I immediately smelled “sales pitch”.

Sure enough in this 150-something year old shop where they still make this stuff they were trying to get us to buy some of it. I really was flat-out completely uninterested. I think the stuff is gaudy and unattractive, but we pretended to look around and be interested anyway. I was so annoyed by the tour guide’s actions at this point – everything had fallen in to place.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, he had overheard us talking in the car about how we didn’t pay for lunch because it was so bad, and called the hotel manager to try to work out some deal where he would hold us here until he came to give us the bills and collect the money. Fortunately Ruchika saw right through his plot (he probably wanted some of that money for himself), so we paid him the absolute minimum (rs. 200) and went on our way.

The drive back seemed to take forever. I was tired and my stomach was upset from the bad food we had at the Hilton. I got some sleep in but I never thought it would take 5 hours to go 200km. Crazy! We didn’t get home until almost 10pm.

View all of my pics here. You don’t have to sign in, just click the picture frame.

posted by Jesse at 8:45 am  

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

SO SORE!

Wow, sorry for the radio silence. It’s been almost 2 weeks since I posted. A lot has been happening lately, but things move slowly here as always. Everything is on IST (Indian Stretchy Time) which basically means multiply time limits and deadlines by about 3 to get the actual result.

We started playing in the iEnergizer Soccer Mania competition this morning, which pits 8 teams from the company against one-another in something that mildly resembles a tournament. Our game was supposed to start at 8am, but true to IST form, it didn’t actually begin until 9:25. The teams that played before us were really good – so we were a bit intimidated. They had jerseys, cleats, and shin-guards. These guys were serious!

I haven’t played soccer since high school, where I was on the varsity team for 2 years. I think I did pretty well today – I was able to outrun nearly anyone and get the ball around defenders with a relatively high rate of success. But boy am I not in soccer shape at all! I was getting really tired by half-time and was pretty winded by the second half. We were playing a full 90 minute game on a full field. I told you this was serious business!

The end result is that we lost something like 7-1. But the good news is that in the second half they only scored on us twice because we replaced our original goalie with Chris Efford who actually played goalie for 2 years. Instead of having a bunch of stupid goals scored on us the 2 that were scored in the second half were legitimate goals – truly awesome kicks that barely snuck in under the top bar from outside of the goalie box. Here are some videos of the game:

Soccer1.wmv
Soccer2.wmv
Soccer3.wmv
Soccer4.wmv
Soccer5.wmv
Soccer6.wmv

All the sun exposure gave me a bit of a burn and my entire lower body is completely sore. I think I won’t be able to walk tomorrow, and perhaps not the day after that either. Speaking of which, they really need to install an elevator in this building…

posted by Jesse at 12:06 am  

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