Sunday, September 29, 2002
I took two visiting clients shopping on Saturday for "local" goods, memories of India. Cottage Arts Emporium has a wide selection of jewelry, Kashmir rugs, silks, wood carvings & metalwork where one can reasonably bargin with the merchants ("I want to give you a special deal, I want you to remember me & India"). I was particularly fond of some hanging rugs: one done in embroidery, the other in silk (pictured below where the left character struck me as familiar).
On Sunday, the company held a team-building event at MGM seaside resort. There was music (lots of men dancing with men), Indian food, humorous contests, & awards (including the reincarnation in the righthand pic below).
I' ve been holding it for 3 months, trying to protect gentle readers from my scatological issues, but I need relief. I fully accept, if not seek, change from around the world, even Uranus, but I need to let go. I'm not trying to dump, I just have a load to share on the topic of Indian bathrooms. The floor is now open...
No, I didn't rent an apartment with porcelain troughs. Each bathroom is one continuous unit of sink, shower head, bucket spout, bidet hose & raised toilet. Throughout my 2-bedroom unit, the floors are marble & the bathrooms are sunk 2cm. There is no tub or shower curtain, the water goes everywhere in the bathroom when I shower. Water on marble is not a problem; forgetting to wipe down the toilet seat, however, is a thrill when I sit down, half asleep, in the middle of the night. This Indian bathroom has no toilet paper roller & I haven't mastered the bidet hose. I've found lovely TP in India (compared to the French wax paper) & place it on the floor next to Thomas Crapper's invention. I can't tell you the number of times I've turned on the shower only to scurry for the toilet tissue, let alone a book (hey, you do it too). The paper can stay dry on top of the medicine cabinet where it often remains during the aforementioned thrill, half asleep, in the middle of the night. I have mastered the duck-walk from the toilet to the cabinet; it's usually a desperate situation of the TP not being where I want it, when I want it. If I used a bucket to bathe like many Indians & likewise didn't use toilet paper, I'd be less challenged. Or, I could use one bathroom for showering & consider my 2nd facility a toiletroom.
BTW, when we have U.S. visitors at our Call Center, I remind them to not wait until the last minute & first check the bathroom for toilet paper. I also comfort them that a wet toilet seat may be from careless bidet hose use earlier.
Friday, September 27, 2002
Chic King, a franchise of Burger King, has become a nice diversion for me here in "veg" Chennai, India. Hell, I took visiting clients who had been in India for all of five days and they were impressed with plain, deep fried chicken. This is not KFC boutique bird: no Extra Crispy or Cajun Spicy. This is just a nice change from gravy & rice, vegetables & rice, yogurt & rice, rice flour flatbread, rice crisps, etc.
And I like rice! In fact, I'd like some wild rice with real butter if I ever get back to the U.S. Native son Pat "GPS" Webb could tell us wild rice is Minnesota's State Grain, but not rice, rather aquatic grass seed that comes to market at great expense. But I knew that ;^)
Now in answer to Mr. Webb's Thursday Question:
Sunday, September 22, 2002
I've posted India's first two NaviCaches.
Hi, my name there is,
hi, my name there is,
hi, my name there is,
Today, I went with visiting clients to Arignar Anna Zoological Park, SE Asia's largest zoo. AND, I wore my shorts, getting some sun on these pasty gams. The 2 1/2 month old elephant was cute with a colorful Hindu Tilaka painted on its ears & forehead. The snakes were cool (literally cold-blooded) as the one below wrapped four feet of green around my neck.
Afterwards, we went to the air conditioned, seats reserved, Sathyam Cineplex for my first Indian movie experience ('Signs', in english no less). I've never been to a louder movie, and yet, I haven't heard so much audience talking since 'Rocky Horror Picture Show'. Our Indian hosts attributed it to 1) many are afraid of the dark, 2) many don't speak english well & simply want to say they've been to the move. In the opening scene when Mel Gibson is getting out of bed, the juvenile delinquents started with "good morning". When the film's german shepherd barked, so did the animals sitting around us. There were many mobile phones going off (SMS is big in India) & one could overhear the cricket scores. The cone of popcorn was great (flavored with chiles) & it was the only thing that fit into the extremely small armrest cupholder. Add six sodas for our group & I was set back Rs. 170/US$3.40
These two clients leave Tuesday PM after two more arrive Tuesday AM.
Saturday, September 21, 2002
HomeBoy Steve checked in to taunt me with his upcoming Cape Cod shark & striper slaughter at Big Fish II. I hope he'll have his trophy pix transferred to floppy disk. Steve is turgid about Shortfin Mako. Imagine what he'll be like after a little shark-fin soup!
Lying here in bed, not going to work on a Saturday after finishing at 6AM (several times this week). Just added the "Gimme Some Backfill" feature to make this Blog more interactive. Kudos to Kris Klink for running a little .asp until I get my host stabilized.
Got a haircut yesterday. I asked a co-worker where I could get a "local" cut (as opposed to a 5-star hotel). The answer was "3 Coins" and my driver took me thru neighborhoods I recognized (always a good sign). While not the cleanest of barbershops, a few hand signals resulted in an average cut, beard trim & shave. Next came the head massage with Himani Navratna oil. The masseuse was wonderfully firm & had the bags under my eyes flopping. At one point, he was playing my gourd like a bongo. Sometimes he would pull the pressure points to the top of my skull & other times onto my calcified C4 & C5 vertabrae (WOW, that spot came alive after 17 years and still throbs tonight). Yes, fans, the 240v. vibrator came out next as he continued to work my noggin, face & neck. I slumped forward only to have the vigor continue on my entire spine, arms & hands. They poured me out of the parlor & into my waiting car. For a change, I felt pretty good going into work!
Sunday, September 15, 2002
It's 26C/79F this early morning, Winter is nearly upon us!
Yes, folks, I took Sunday off. All of the "guests" (3 Indians who had been to the client in Idaho, 2 clients from same, 1 trainer from San Diego, and moi) packed into a van driven by a champion horn honker. We headed south to Pondicherry. The 100 mile drive took about 3 hours down a coastal highway past empty acreage looking to the sea that prompted thoughts of bungalowed retirement. While Pondicherry enjoys the nomenclature of Union Territory (there are several in India), we did not see the chic Mediterranean aura of a former French colony other than red, gendarme-like caps on the Indian police (and I wonder what Portuguese influence remains in Goa). We first saw the beach with a monument to Ghandi. We also saw Hindus continuing the Lord Ganesh celebration by throwing model statues into the sea. We had lunch at the recommended seaside hotel "Seagull" (thankfully, there were none) that served excellent Indian food with a heavy dose of flies (they were drowning themselves in our drinks). No escargot, no truffles, no croissant...for that matter: no paneer palak (Indian cheese with creamed greens) or deep fried brinjal (eggplant). We next went to the spiritual commune of Auroville. We were told to be silent & remove our shoes, no cell phones or cameras were allowed, and we were marched single file to the Matrimandir, a gold geodesic dome of worship. We passed, but were not allowed to visit an orchid garden nor a huge banyan tree (the Tree of Life). We wormed our way up a spiral staircase to the top of the dome where there was an air-conditioned meditation room that we passed thru in all of 10 seconds. As we marched back to the van, I noticed antennae on top of the dome & a farm of solar panels to the side (Auroville calling Uranus, come in Uranus). It rained on the 5 hour trip back to Chennai: we got a flat tire & after stopping for gas, the van had to be pushed to restart. Our visiting clients also noted the driver's speed & aggression as "ridiculous, someone is going to get hurt", so I had someone translate the cease & desist. All in a day!
Saturday, September 14, 2002
After 7 months of dropping hints to Indian management, I was finally invited to the Madras Race Club (thanks to member & recently promoted Program Manager Bhanu). We also celebrated Ganesh's promotion to PM. The Club is a relic from colonial days when the British called the city Madras, later renamed to Chennai by the local Tamil natives. Secondly, there was no racing. There is a track somewhere nearby, but the ponies don't return until next month. With the approach of 40C. weather in April, the mucilage-to-be mares relocated to the Summer season in cooler, higher elevated Bangalore. The white stucco, fortress of a Club did feature drinks, dinner & a bingo-like game called Tombola. While in the middle of the city & hearing the roar of trains close by, I did enjoy the rare feeling of grass under my feet. We sat outside under a bug-free half moon. If needed, there were canopies or an indoor hotel. The waiters were very attentive with a mixture of Indian & Chinese cuisine.
Friday, September 13, 2002
From MSNBC News: Scientists create glowing green mice. Can we just get back to cancer? Perhaps, organ enhancement? I'd love for Marie to get a new Wurlitzer!
A friendly shout goes out to Irving & Treg on their little piece of heaven near Locke, NY. After they recently divulged their addy, I subjected them to this Blog. For any readers in the Ithaca area, the expertise of this ageless couple runs the gamut of accounting services (Irving & Assoc), insurance (Tregaskis Agency), tender beef cattle (pounded daily with stock market advice), trailer re-location (as in double wide or "quick country living"), and general tomfoolery.
Back at the front (not the Maginot Line, but our Contact Center), I put our visiting client on a plane out of India after his parting shot: "I feel for you. It seems that last training class was about to unionize". I was tempted to respond that I don't fear what they can't pronounce. Thank you & goodnight ... Elvis has left the building!
Wednesday, September 11, 2002
Two days of bowing my head...what the hell, pretty soon I'll be going to church & won't see any of my friends.
Yesterday was Ganesh Chaturthi, Lord Ganesh's birthday, a time for beginning. "Auspicious" times for puja (prayer) are usually in the early morning, but for this Contact Center import, Noon translates to the holiest of times. I cracked the bell-laden door to my Prayer Room, lit the sandelwood oil lamp & some incense (this is the part where my Mom says "if there's incense, there's pot"). Being not-exactly-Hindu...OK, not-at-all-Hindu, I pondered for what I should ask Ganapati, son of Lord Shiva. I quickly remembered "asking" was what I could have done on my birthday 3 weeks ago while now was probably a time for giving. Coming full circle to my hayseed foreign-ness, I equally pondered what this whiteboy had to offer a GOD with 4 arms & an elephant trunk. The lightbulb went on, clarity seeped into my being (or was it the incense?): offer what is rare, precious, & unique in my imploding world. Yes, friends, Romans/Batavians & countrymen, I declared that whatever (if any) "successes" I had that day would be in honor of the tuskered one. Damned if I didn't get lucky within 6 hours: I was successful at getting our visiting clients dinner & a safe ride back to their hotel. Compare this to the previous night when they waited 4 hours for "Chinese" food (actually Nepalese) before giving up, having nothing & asking to return to their hotel at 11PM. Our visitors then waited another hour for an incompetent driver who got them lost & exposed to India's finest mosquitoes.
And today, I bow to those lost a year ago (and all other senseless times).
Saturday, September 07, 2002
My current "throne" reading (yeah, that's about all the time I get) is a travel anthology dating over the past one hundred seventy years from the likes of van Gogh, Proust, Hemingway, Orwell, Kafka, Simone de Beauvoir, MLK Jr., Hunter Thompson, David Livingstone, Joseph Conrad, Gore Vidal, etc. I was captured by the prologue from 'The Life of Buddha' as it appears in the Pali scriptures: "House life is crowded and dusty; life gone forth is wide open." While no bodhisatta, I'll take a dose of that enlightenment. The editor is exactly my age from my favorite part of Australia, Queensland. She won the 1980 Thomas Cook Travel Book Award for 'Tracks', her epic journey across the Australian desert with 4 camels.
Yesterday's examination of my elbow by an orthopedist resulted in 5 different meds for gout & infection. I felt better today and an xray confirmed no chips in my elbow from the last six months of wedging thru the throngs of humanity. Hmmm, why couldn't that have been "...selected thongs"?
In today's "Indian Express": '3000 students ill and treated in Pondicherry after they developed symptoms of giddiness and vomiting after they consumed milk and bread supplied under the Rajiv Gandhi Breakfast Scheme launched by the government on 14 AUG'. Here in India, the word "scheme" is preferred over "plan", as in the appropos "insurance scheme". Back to the matter, I seem to recall from my college pharmacology daze that it's ergot, wheat mold, from which in 1938, two Swiss researchers, Hofmann and Stoll, dervived d-lysergic acid diethylamide. I would prescribe lots of vitamin C and R. Crumb comix for coming down.
Thursday, September 05, 2002
I woke up this afternoon feeling like I had slept on the sidewalk like so many here in Chennai, India. I've got swelling (not where you think) & severe pain in my right elbow. It wasn't that way when I went to bed at 6AM. I suspected gout, but my eating habits haven't changed (I had papaya & beer for dinner this morning). My right hand is also feeling numb, so I finally got my driver to understand that I wanted to go to a "cliniq". Office visit (Rs. 250 = US$5) was prompt with a great english speaking doctor. Blood was drawn for sugar (Rs. 60 = US$1.20) & uric acid (Rs. 145 = US$2.90) testing which was reported negative within 45 min. Anti-inflamatory Dolonex for 3 days set me back Rs. 22 (US$0.44). When I received 5 tablets, I questioned how I was to split that over the 3 days. The pantomine of me breaking meds into fifths was probably amusing. I'm scheduled to see an orthopedist tomorrow afternoon. I wonder if masturbation could be affecting my elbow?
On the way back to the office, I stopped for groceries (I make use of daytime forays as nothing is open at my normal 3AM). Orange juice with sugar included a free loaf of bread (Rs. 12 = US$0.24). I rudely discovered that the same brand sugerless included nothing. Yes, another pantomine involving discrimination against diabetics. I should be good at parlor games soon, in fact, here they call "charades" as "dumb shards".
Tuesday, September 03, 2002
We have a client that just arrived from Boise, ID (now, go do your homework). Simultaneously, we have two of our Indian staff training in Boise for the last month. I'm hearing great stories from the client where everyone benefits & learns of each other's culture while ultimately getting a better service product. It seems our Indians have been introduced to a cornucopia of food products: Idaho beef, potatoes (they love french fries), fried chicken, & Thai. They were taken river rafting. While it was guided & somewhat tame, one Tamil took to water like a kayal (fish) & enjoyed the swimming. They were taken trout fishing & outdid their hosts catching a 17 inch lunker. They also went to an amusement park, not quite a Six Flags, but possibly like 'Dizzy World' that is rumored here in Chennai, India. When (or IF) these trainees return from Idaho, I'll add to this great experience, maybe with stories of Starbucks, baseball games, iMax movie theaters, & fresh corn on the cob.
Monday, September 02, 2002
Seen on the billboard of a bus stop here in Chennai, India: "Stairway to Hell. Avoid footboard travel".
Was it some perversion on Led Zeppelin or 'The Crow'? I can't say that I've seen skateboarders hanging onto the back of busses, ala 'Back to the Future'.
In truth, it has to do with the shear volume of riders on the antique motor coaches. They're CROWDED, people hang out the windows or ride on the open stairway (footboard). I hear it's the same on trains; people die every day.