Day 9 - Sunday December 11th, 2005
It has now been one week since my arrival in India, and only 6 days to go, which will go fast as there is a busy work schedule. Today is my last chance for shopping during the day so I have planned to go to the large mall called spencer plaza.
As per yesterday, theres no possiblilty of leaving until about lunch time, so I am in the hotel watching Dunstan Checks In...and reading the paper.
Which leads me to, what do Indians think of Americans? The land of hopes and dreams? utopia? hell no!
If you are too lazy to click, the headline reads,
'Bird flu is the latest scam perpetrated by the American government and pharmaceutical companies'
and just when you thought that was good enough, the main text starts as such,
'Money makes not just the world go around but turns it topsy-turvy all the time. America needed a war to keep its armament companies happy, especially since the vice-president, Dick Cheney, himself had headed one of the largest government contracting companies. So they invented the Bogey of Iraq. They destroyed Afghanistan before that, complaining that there were not enough "targets" to shoot at from the air (so they bombed schools and hospitals). But the most money in the world does not come from just armament sale. It comes from creating scares of epidemics. Then the world's purses open up readily.'
Whilst my room is being cleaned I go for a wander and meet a white fellow, Stephan, who is a German working for an American oil company who utilize the port of Chennai. It seems he has been recruited specifically for the task of working in Chennai, as the company was struggling to find people prepared to come here.
Stephan speaks good english, and tells me that he has been here since the start of November and will go back to America for 3 months in January before returning to Chennai again.
This is his first 'tour of duty' and he has so far been hospitalized 3 times! This has me concerned....Stephan has moved to this hotel as he was previously at a 5 star hotel in the center of town which is having issues with their water. Stephan believes he is getting sick from the shower water, I decide to be more careful even though I have been concious not to swallow the shower water.
For breakfast I decide I am sick of bread products (which includes cakes, muffins, crossaints) and opt for an omlette, a chef prepares while you wait and you have your choices of what you want in it.
This is purely for non Indians - it seems South Indians consider egg products to be meat. The 'eggs to order' section seems to be the favourite of the Chinese, never the less the Indian chef does a very good job, I have observed him the last few days before trying, I am not usually a big fan of omlettes, but it is palatable.
I am very much relieved that my laptop seems to be working properly, but also a little dissapointed that the cleaning staff must have spilt something in it! It will soon be time to depart for an afternoon of shopping, who knows what I will find.
My car arrives with vaigunth happy to see me, he has been to a wedding at 9am until now, he assures me it finished at 11am.
We drive to some stores selling what can best be described as Indian antiquites, carvings, rugs, cloth, statues, furniture - the sales people are very pushy, and it seems it was the drivers idea to come to such places.
Things seem cheap, especially furniture, but how am I supposed to get a chest of drawers back to Australia? The standard answer is, 'no problem sir, we arrange shipping at very good rate', Im sure it is a good rate, but its still going to be an enormous very good rate!
I buy a few things, I wont mention what as they are gifts, I also buy myself another shirt, a finer quality shirt this time, costing about $15.
Eventually we move onwards to Spencer Plaza, parking is an ordeal, I get quite anxious as we head further and further underground, at least 5 floors, a boy jogs in front of us as security blows whistles and directs the car, it seems its the boys job to listen to their instructions and we follow him.
The concerning aspects are, the poor ventilation, the pools of water and loud pumps in operation, some of which emit black smoke, and the extremely tight space between parked cars - our driver seems unconcerned.
Eventually we find our park and make for the lift, which takes a good 10 minutes to arrive, I am looking around for the stairs in case of fire/tsunami, but cant see any!
I am thinking to myself its a good thing we are at the front of the line to get the lift, so we dont have to wait again, but no, its no problem for everyone to fit in the lift, which on the inside says 'maximum 20 occupants' - I dont dare to count.
And then, there we are, like a mirage, a megamall!
The mall is constructed of 3 phases, and 5 stories high, the phases are large circles, but running off these circles are narrow alley ways, as depicted above.
They had shirts here that changed colors depending on the angle you view them, I resist temptation.
Phase 3 of Spencer Plaza
An Nvidia theme store! Nearly everything in here is Nvidia branded, cases, clothes etc.
Inside 'landmark' a popular department store which is mainly a bookshop but now seems to have everything
Lunch! yes, I had lunch at subway in India, my friends are keen for me to have 'non veg' as they call it, and the line is shorter here than pizza hut, you cant get beef, but chicken, lamb and turkey are OK. At the subway here there are 2 seperate lines and 2 seperate kitchens, one for veg, one for non veg. It tastes similar to Australian subway, I have salad despite the warnings of health department officials in Australia.
I probably spent a good 3 hours at spencer plaza just wandering aimlessly, I bought many things, which shall remain a secret....
I dont feel that I even saw half of it, I did however buy a Dream Theater CD which I did not own (the latest one) for 300 rupees, it is new, not pirated, and under $10, perhaps I can ebay it to some die hard fan who wishes to collect the releases from every country.
We make the journey back to the hotel, stopping at food world, where I purchase 7up and some chilli cashews, the journey is very quick surprisingly.
There are weddings on everywhere, apparently it is a very fortunate day to get married, according to astrology.
I am back at the hotel quite early, 6pm, and tonights movie is.....titanic.....
Day 10 - Monday December 12th, 2005
Busy day today! Full day of meetings, I speak most of the time, lots of whiteboard action.
This will be the case the rest of the week, the day went by very fast indeed.
For lunch, we had...pizza! from pizza hut, now you cant get any beef or pork products, but one 'non veg' pizza was ordered which had chicken, along with a half a dozen veg pizzas
The bases are identical to pizza hut in Australia, not that thats a good thing.
The toppings seem a bit different, larger pieces of onion and capsicum are used, but the flavours are somewhat the same, however, you get many extras with your pizza. Chilli Flakes, Chilli Sauce, Ketchup, Oregano, Basil, fresh cheese, pepper - all in pizza hut branded packets.
We also got garlic bread, it is toasted somewhat more than it is in Australia, but the best thing is, each individual slice of the small subway style of bread roll, is double wrapped, first in foil, then in paper with a color pizza hut logo, and stacked neatly inside a cardboard box with a metal handle - all this for garlic bread!
It is now raining steadily, but not too heavily, the journey home is made in a small Ford focus, not a 4wd, and for some reason the driver decides that both lights, and windscreen wipers, are optional in the dark whilst raining.
I cannot see a thing out of the window, and to make matters worse they are fogging up, perhaps from me getting concerned. The horn action seems to be more than 'normal', but this could just be because without sight, my ears are highly tuned to the environment!
The best part though is, we are at the front of the queue at an intersection and the driver cant see whats coming, so hes sitting there and people around the car are going crazy at him, and then one guy gets off his bike and opens the drivers door and yells at him! Soon after we tear off through the intersection, I am hoping the driver didnt just close his eyes and hope for the best!
Evenutally I arrive safely back at the hotel, relieved.
Today I have just one photo...but its a good one!
My team and me! This is a large printed glossy photo I have taken a shot of with my digicam, hence the flash spot (couldnt find anywhere bright enough to not use the flash). I can probably name two thirds of the people in the photo, but that would take up too much space
Day 11 - Tuesday December 13th, 2005
Unfortunately the wifi internet is not working, so I am unable to upload this to the internet until its fixed...of course you (my faithful readers) wont know that until its fixed.
This morning at breakfast there was an african couple, at least I think they were a couple, she was dressed in traditional colorful dress with matching hat, he was dressed quite plainly, so he may have been a servant. But the best part was how she spoke to him, she spoke only english, very loudly at this poor fellow 'GET ME MY JUICE..NOW' and the fellow would run over and get it.
'THIS IS NOT WHAT I WANTED, GET ME WHAT HES HAVING!' and she points to another table and the fellow has to go over and enquire what it is and make arrangements. It was quite comical, and went for quite some time, in the time I was there the woman had 5 plates on her table and had eaten basically nothing.
Another long busy day of work, not too much to report, I have south Indian for lunch with some lower ranking team members, and they remain silent the whole time unless I ask them a specific question, very frustrating.
Unfortunately, no photos today, it was dark by the time I left.
The ride home today is in a special Indian car called an ambassador, its large, made of cast iron it seems, and runs on diesel, on the inside its luxurious, big seats and what seems like a 12 speaker hifi system, it however has no suspension that I can tell.
The driver tells me he loves the Ambassador, as when he hits motorbikes with it, they dont even leave a dent! Surprisingly it has only one horn and no tricky switches for light systems.
I get back to the hotel quite late, and am dissapointed and annoyed to find out that there is still no wifi! I get the manager to call up and apparently it will be working tomorrow morning, it is down for the entire city.
I then negotiate to use a wired connection in the hotel office to upload this page - which I will go do right now!
Oh yeah, tonights movie is, seriously, Chupacabra: Dark Seas (I am guessing its a sequel to the box office smash, Chupacabra).
Day 12 - Wednesday December 14th, 2005
At the risk of becoming repetitive - another long full day of work...so no big adventures, instead, let me discuss the process of going to the bathroom where I am working....
Step 1: The bathroom is guarded by a security official, who opens the door for you.
Step 2: As the door opens you are expected to hold your RFID tag up to the bathroom sensor, to let the human tracking system know you have entered the bathroom
Step 3: The bathroom is manned by 3 bathroom helpers who greet you upon arrival, more about them shortly.
Step 4: You actually go to the bathroom (yes, the toilets are the same as western ones, except they have infra red tech to flush automatically)
Step 5: Bathroom helper number 1 turns the tap on for you, and you wash your hands and he turns it off for you.
Step 6: Bathroom helper number 2 hands you a fresh white hand towel, these are single use then wash, theres a big neat stack of them, this bathroom helper wears plastic gloves
Step 7: You observe in amusement as bathroom helper number 3 sprays the sink area and mirror you have used and uses a squeegee to remove any water you splashed as well as the cleaning spray
Step 8: The towel guy opens the door for you, you register that you have exited the bathroom with the RFID big brother system (which probably deducts the time from your 'working time')
Step 9: The security guy on the outside salutes you, so you salute back
And then you are on your way! Now the thing here is, every time I move rooms, I am presented with a fresh bottle of aquafina water and I feel obliged to drink it, so I am getting to know the staff of 4 people who are on bathroom duty quite well!
Lunch today is chinese, and it is not too different from chinese food in Australia, although it is all 'veg'.
Some of the dishes are vegetables in black been sauce, battared and fried baby sweet corn in sweet and sour sauce (which was really nice), vegetable fried rice (no egg, egg is meat to South Indians), Some thin vermicelli type noodles with julienne carrot and bean shoots, and snow peas in some sort of sweet sauce. Like all meals so far, a number of additional sauces and extras such as sliced chilli are provided, and heres where I shine! No one else dares eat the sliced chilli and I just eat it on its own.
Eventually it is time to go to the hotel, and today I have another new driver in a new ford, but for some reason he insists on braking only with the hand brake (emergency brake...if you are reading from America).
Once we reach the hotel, something amusing always happens, as soon as I get out of the car my glasses completely fog up and I cannot see a thing, this sometimes happens in Australia and clears in 1 second, not here, it takes minutes to clear.
To complicate matters, as soon as I get out of a car people are offering to carry my laptop case, since I cant see whats going on I cant tell whos who, or whats going on, so I must look quite ridiculous as I grip my laptop and stumble about.
I decide to go to the hotels bar, called Geoffries, and much to my surprise, its great! It seems to be a bar designed for me, theirs an extensive menu of non alcoholic drinks, I choose a juice combination which comes served with bottled mineral water, and a fresh lime and lemon on the side, it comes in a huge glass - cost for this, 50 cents.
Theres an extensive menu of bar food, some indian things and some stuff like fries, chicken burger etc, I choose 2 of the 'starters'
Stuffed mushroom caps crispy fried with green chilli and onion served with a chilli dipping sauce, and this is really really good - cost $2
Salt and Pepper fried prawns and squid with sweet chilli sauce, also excellent, also $2, perhaps I shall go again tomorrow night, I havent been feeling like eating in the evenings due to the massive lunches.
In keeping with tradition, tonights movie is Chralies Angels 2