Thursday, December 21, 2006

12.21.06, 9:00pm – Rain Tree Hotel, Chennai, India.

It’s my last night at the hotel. Finally. It didn’t come a moment too soon. Today was a long day at work and I'm ready to come home. I even checked into my flight already on these here newfangled internets tubes. It’s actually going to be pretty relaxing to have nothing to do on the plane for 18 hours or however long the trip is. I can just sleep, watch movies, and read.

Today we ate lunch at the restaurant downstairs in the office building. Senthil and Ram told me the place served up some mean fish as their specialty so I ordered it. The entire fish came out. Head, tail, eyeballs, the works. I suppose I should have expected it. For as unappetizing as it is to have the vacant stare of a glassy, crispy fish eyeball on you while eating, the fish itself was delicious. The sauce’s flavor knew no end of scrumptiousness.

A vegetable vendor with his product.

Four ladies ate at the table next to us. Their 5 little kids (probably between 6 and 8 years old) ran around the restaurant with reckless abandon. Being hungry and cranky I found myself thinking, “Control your freakin’ kids already!” I mean, they were running around and screeching and causing major havoc. Two waiters carrying trays laden with food almost bit it on the pint sized hellions. Culture, schmulture. Rein in your damn kids.

Every day the taxi drives by a construction site on the way to the office. Today I saw a bunch of people in normal Indian dress but with bright yellow hardhats on working there. They didn’t look like seasoned construction workers and many of them were women. They were moving a pile of sand or small stones from the front of the site to the interior. But, instead of using wheelbarrows or buckets, they filled bowls and carried them on their heads. The hardhats had cylinders (roughly 5 inches in diameter and 3 inches high) sticking straight up from the crown of the hat. These women balanced bowls full of sand on these cylindrical protrusions and walked through the construction site over piles of debris and uneven ground, without using their hands to steady the load. Amazing.

A typical Indian construction site.

The elevator at the office stopped working today between the second and third floors. Luckily I was not in it at the time. I took the stairs down after fruitlessly waiting for the tired old thing. Halfway down I passed the repair crew working on it. Seeing the actual components of the elevator exposed and being worked on my barefoot repairmen, coupled with the fact it had quit working entirely, further eroded my already dubious faith in the dilapidated transport.

Clothes ironing services.

The power went out at the office three times today. Again, not inspiring a great deal of confidence here. On the way to the store at lunch I walked past some guys repairing the electrical substation. They were climbing all over the metal structure and fooling with the insulated connectors and capacitors and whatnot. Again, as with the guys on the runway, OSHA would not be pleased.

I made the mistake of trying to put the flowers Manickam brought over the other day into water. I unwrapped the paper and plastic case only to realize the job of the plastic and paper is to hold the arrangement in place. Once I removed the wrapper it became obvious that the stems of the flowers did not all reach to the bottom of the wrap as in a typical bouquet. The flower stems were all about 5 inches long but the flowers were carefully arranged throughout the entire 24 inches of the piece. This story is the long way of saying I took off the wrapper and the thing fell apart. One good thing came from it though; some of the filler turned out to be an evergreen of some sort so it smells like a Christmas tree in my room now. A random bit of unexpected Christmas spirit.

Speaking of Christmas, I’ve seen some random Christmas decorations. Mostly I see these glowing hanging paper stars. But mostly it’s a halfhearted attempt at decorating. A scrap of tinsel or a bedraggled tree haphazardly decorated in perhaps 5 minutes. There’s even a slightly leaning gingerbread house in the hotel lobby. I did see a group of 15 or so Santas on the back of a flatbed truck. They all wore plastic Santa masks instead of fake beards. It kinda creeped me out.

A clash of religions.

While having a drink at the rooftop bar I saw more denim in one place than I’ve seen here yet. No, I didn’t see Dorothy (inside joke for Kevin and some other Navis people). Very occasionally will I see someone here in jeans (and it’s usually a woman). The entire serving staff at the rooftop bar wears jeans. Strange. Is it some way of communicating the western image of “casual and relaxed” since we’re at a rooftop bar in a hotel that caters to westerners?

A sugar cane juicing machine. Diesel powered.

Speaking of the rooftop bar…I was told to expect rain during my stay. I’ve been here 12 days and nary a drop have I seen.

Coming home tomorrow!


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