Thursday, December 14, 2006

Hello to everyone from Chennai, India.

This first post is going to be a long one, as it includes my entire travel log up to this point, spanning several days. Oh, and sorry for the lack of photos. My computer isn't recognizing the camera and I didn't bring the camera software with me. If I find a solution I'll start posting pictures.


12.13.06, 5:30am – Rain Tree Hotel, Chennai, India.

Jeez, what a long trip to get here. The flight from SF to Seoul was loooooong, Seoul to Singapore was longer than I thought it would be (like 6 hrs). Walked around Singapore with Dave (in the middle of the night), slept a few hours at his place, showered, then back on a plane to Chennai.

The Chennai airport was a stark stark contrast to the Singapore and SF airports. Low-ceilinged, dingy, muggy, smelled like my Grandma’s basement. I was pretty sure my bag was not going to show up since it had to hang out in Singapore for 7 hours and make the transfer of airlines. But, after waiting only 15 minutes or so, there it was. A quick trip to exchange a traveler’s check (involving some sort of phone call on the guy’s part) and I was off to figure out…Red Zone or Green Zone?

I had no idea which customs line to get in. I decided I was going to attempt the Green Zone figuring if I was wrong someone would let me know. I walked up to the customs official and handed him my declaration. He barely even looked at it or me so I just walked by him and out of the airport. Why would anyone subject themselves to the Red Zone? I don’t know. I suppose if you have something to declare? Chalk this up to my relative ignorance of international travel. At least I didn’t wait in an unnecessary line.

First impression of Chennai? Third world. For some reason I thought it would be more modern here, but it’s not. Some things are, like the internet, my hotel accommodations, etc. But, really, it’s a far cry from my western comforts. I’m sure it’s just a matter of adjustment, but, wow, what a shock. I guess that’s why it’s called “culture shock”. Oh yeah, I forgot. After we landed and we were taxing to the gate I saw, in the shade of the navigation signs next to the runway, what I thought were monkeys. I don’t even know if there are monkeys in India (I don’t think there are). Nope, it was people. WTF were two guys doing hanging out in the shade next to the runway? Seeing who could go deaf first? I thought I imagined it but then I saw another dude in the shade of a different sign. I need to ask Girish about this.

I found my taxi driver (hired by the hotel) among the throng of other taxi drivers. He was holding a sign with my name on it. That’s a first for me. He offered me bottled water (seal intact!) and we were off to the hotel.

It was about a half hour drive to the hotel and wow, what a trip. I now understand why my mom does not like to look out of the taxi windows when she’s in India. The traffic is just crazy. Tuk tuks (small, motorized, three wheel taxis), motorcycles (almost all with two people on them and very few helmets), taxis, buses, even an ox-drawn cart, all sharing the road. And the lane lines? Why they even bother to drawn them on the roads is a mystery to me. They’re not even guidelines, they’re completely ignored. Even the center stripe (when present, which is seldom) is routinely ignored. Just don’t hit anyone, that seems to be the rule. And these drivers know the dimensions of their vehicles to the inch, or even millimeter. I found myself very surprised that the car I was in didn’t have any scratches or dents on it.

My hotel is nice. Very western, which is comforting. God forbid we should shock all of Eric’s delicate western sensibilities.

I called Girish, we had lunch at my hotel, then we went to the office. I met the QA guys, Senthil and Ram, and the rest of the staff in the office, checked emails, talked a bit with Ram and Senthil, then at about 4:30 I hit the wall. Hard. I went back to the hotel and could barely keep my eyes open.

I miss my wife. Tremendously. Last night was tough. I slept from about 6pm to about 1:30am (with a call from Manickam at about 9:30, welcoming me to India). Then I was up from about 1:30 on. Not good. I watched 2 Barclay’s Premiere League soccer matches on whatever ESPN channel they have here (yay, western culture) and dozed intermittently, when I wasn’t missing my wife or feeling lonely or stressing about work or just being here. It’s kind of stressful being here. Can’t drink the water, can’t eat salads, fruits, dairy. I have to rely on other people to get around. Even something like getting more bottled water…I guess I just go into the store next to the work building. Where's the darn 7-11? It’s just so different here it’s stressful. I’m sure I will settle in but this first chunk of time is tough.

I wish my wife was here. She and I are a good team.

My “wake up” call should happen any minute. I guess I’ll go down and eat breakfast. The hired cab is coming to pick me up at 8:30. I think I’m going to hit the wall early today. I may have to go back to the hotel and nap at some point.

Time to get dressed and go eat some food.


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