Jesse’s Blog

Monday, June 26, 2006

Bad news…

I think I may have gotten sick from the salad after all. It started bothering me after dinner on Saturday night and by Sunday my stomach was turning over itself all day long. I won’t go into details.

Still, it wasn’t bad enough that I couldn’t go out and about. After I met Raj for lunch to discuss some business, Garland and Esther joined us and we all went out to go shopping at Spencer Plaza (a really *big* mall in Chennai). It’s full of little stores and big stores, food vendors, service providers (like dry cleaning)… pretty much everything you’d need! Garland and Esther got some lunch at Mary Brown while I grabbed a smoothie at a juice store (they only use mineral water and “safe” ice as it says on their menu – they better not be lying!). After buying a present for Rachel (hmmm… wonder what it could be, honey??) everyone bought some cookies at Cookie Man. Except me… my stomach was getting worse.

Spencer Plaza, Chennai.
Picking out some cookies at Cookie Man in Spencer Plaza.After Spencer’s Plaza we hit up a street market where Esther wanted to buy some bracelets like the ones she bought on her last trip to Chennai. Garland and I wandered up and down the block looking at the various goods people were selling. Everyone was begging us to come and look at their stuff.

Raj helping Esther negotiate some bracelet prices at the market.Garland wandering around the streets of a Chennai market.I was pretty eager to get back to the hotel and take a nap. Esther was tired, too (since she just arrived late the previous night) so her and I conked out while Garland did some work. I slept restlessly until I had to leave for my flight.

I waited at the airport for about an hour and a half for Albert and Lara to deplane and get through customs. They had flown Lufthansa from Frankfurt, but one of their bags got damaged. After figuring out how to report it to the New Delhi Lufthansa office, we made our way to the domestic terminal to take our SpiceJet flight back to New Delhi through Hyderabad. I barely noticed the flight – thankfully I was sleeping the whole time. Mahindra picked us up from the airport and we went straight home and passed out after talking to Rachel for a bit on our new wireless connection with my PDA. It’s great to be connected at home. :)

Albert and Lara on the SpiceJet plane from Chennai to Delhi at 2:30am.
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posted by Jesse at 2:58 am  

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Here comes the cavalry!

I can’t sleep again. It’s got to be the jetlag, though I think I only woke up because I was hot (the power went out again). Fortunately this time it came back on a few minutes after I awoke with a loud click and hum. I think the neighborhood generator is right behind our house.

Anyway, yesterday was a really fun day with everyone arriving. The 2 Chrises and I got up around 9am and went out to grab some breakfast. We walked about 3 blocks before finding an autorick taxi. Whaley asked how much it would cost to take us from Sector 44 to Sector 18. 50 rupees.

“How about 30?” Whaley demanded, more than asked, with his usual tough negotiating tactics. The guy came back with 50 again. “Fine, 40?” Nope – still wanted 50. “Forget it, let’s go guys.” We piled out of the vehicle.

Chris was a bit ticked the guy wouldn’t negotiate. “If we were Indian we would have gotten that ride for 25.” I’m not so sure – but I’m more generous (perhaps foolishly) than he is. At any rate we found a manual rick-taxi who gave us the ride for our desired 30 rupees and we headed off to Sector 18.

Sector 18 isn’t much to look at that early in the morning, with most of the shops closed and people seemingly just wandering the streets getting a lazy start to the day. We tried to go to the mall, which is a huge glass building about 10 stories high, but it didn’t open until 10:30. Instead, we found a little coffee shop across the road (a chain, though the name escapes me). It was there that I was reintroduced to the stark contrasts of India. Walking in from the street, which is cluttered and dirty by western standards, I was surprised to find myself in a trendy little coffee shop that may very well have existed in San Diego. It was almost as if we had gone through some kind of portal that kept the inside in a pristine state of existence despite the world around it. I ordered a paneer wrap (I don’t even know what paneer is – some kind of vegetable) and a Gatorade. I also had some of Whaley’s coconut and chocolate breakfast treat. I enjoyed everything very much. As we stepped back in to the street and my grogginess from the previous night was subsiding, I felt myself on the road to comprehending this richly interesting country.

Back at the house we arrived just at the same moment Garland, Tony and Waylon were pulling up. We all greeted eachother and helped carry bags up. The servants tried to help but everything was just too heavy for them. I think those kids should be in school somewhere.

Tony and Waylon looked a little shell-shocked. They said they were just hungry but it was obvious they were taken aback by the ride across the city and the arrival into Noida. We hung out on the roof for a bit while waiting for the car to come pick us up and take us to the office. We were going to eat at the cafeteria and explore the exercise and sports facilities before setting up our computers and getting settled in.

The company we are partnering with is very large – about 4 lac people (a lac is a thousand). Most of them work from 4pm on to be closer to the western working day. Even so, the exterior fortress-like walls were already lined with literally hundreds of motorcycles. We got some visitor badges and went to eat. I got the guys to try some Indian food instead of pizza and they liked it.

I was really happy because I got to talk to Rachel for a few minutes on Skype Video. She had taken the Wong Nuggets to the Del Mar Fair earlier that day and shared pictures. So cute! It will be nice when we have internet at the house so I can communicate with the U.S. more easily. Now I’m restricted to doing so at work, when everyone is asleep.

We did a few things around the office but didn’t have any monitors, so we took off for the local mall which is mostly a food court and some entertainment (a lounge and arcade). Chris Efford was complaining about his hair and disappeared to get it cut. The rest of us got some Baskin Robbins ice cream while Whaley got chinese for lunch (he hadn’t eaten earlier). The ice cream was tasty, especially the mango/vanilla I got. It was vegetarian ice cream, not made with cow milk. Maybe soy milk? I’ll have to find out.

Efford had been gone awhile so we took off to find him. We passed by a salon clearly marked “ladies only” with heavily frosted windows. Despite these obvious deterrents, Whaley pulled open the door and peeked his head in. I half-expected to hear screams of surprise coming from within! Typical rude American.

The guys found a nice billiard hall and bowling alley at the mall.

We found Efford in the unisex salon in the back corner of the top floor. Suddenly I felt like I needed a trim, too. I asked the price and it was 100 rupees! That’s a little over $2 USD. Literally 1/10 the cost of my San Diego haircuts. But that isn’t the amazing part. This was the most thorough haircut I have ever received in my entire life. This guy was good, and dedicated. He could have used clippers but stuck with scissors the whole time. For about 30 minutes he went over the same spots on my head, seemingly making sure that no hair was even a millimeter longer than any other. The end result could have only been achieved with clippers, or so I had previously thought. I was thoroughly amazed and tipped the guy an extra 20 bucks (rupees, that is – it’s weird saying “100 bucks” when it really means a little over 2 U.S. bucks).

When we left the mall it was pouring rain, but we still hopped on manual rick-taxis back to the office. We had meetings about cell phones and monitors, but didn’t end up with either (we’ll try to take care of that today). We talked about work stuff for a few hours before calling a car to take us to dinner.

Piling into the car 30 minutes later would have been pretty uneventful had my toe not been crushed under the latch for the middle seat when it slammed down. I don’t think anything is broken, and no skin was pierced, but now I walk with a limp and have some nice swelling.

We headed back to Sector 18 for dinner. I picked out a very nice-looking Indian restaurant for us to eat at (I had been threatening an Indian dinner all day). It was really expensive, about 550 bucks per person ($12 USD), but the food and atmosphere were great with a talented band and nice décor. I ordered my old favorite “butter chicken” with naan bread, as Waylon and Efford followed suit. Garland got Chicken Tikka and Whaley and Tony got a lamb masala and vegetable dish, respectively. Everyone loved their food and it was a huge success!

After dinner we tried to go shopping for monitors and phones but the stores were closed. Even so, Sector 18 really came alive at night with lights and people everywhere. It actually felt quite fun!

We explored the huge mall for a bit but found the Nokia store closed and the other stores in the process of doing the same. We called the car and headed back to the house after buying 6 bottles of water at McDonald’s for 14 bucks each. Get this: an ice cream cone at McDonald’s is only $0.15 USD. Pretty crazy.

I conked out right when we got home. When the power went out around 2am I went outside to take some pictures. The power outages here never seem to effect the lights or fans, so there must be some limited backup capability. The landlord is supposed to install a huge generator to power the house in the event of a power failure, mostly to keep the AC running.

Now it’s about 9:30am and I don’t think anyone is awake yet. I slept another 3 hours since I started writing this but I was awakened by another power outage about 30 minutes ago. I’m going to take a shower and see about getting some breakfast, though it’s raining lightly. Today I’ll pick up a cell phone. I’m excited to go out and about – staying cooped up in the house is the worst!

posted by Jesse at 3:34 am  

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