India email #1
Original sent 02/03/2004...
Thought I should finally get around to writing a big long letter about what I've been up to here in sunny old India… Especially seeing that I've been here for about 3 weeks now <IMG alt=":)" class="emoticon" src="/images/emotions/emotion-1.gif" border=0>
I've now pretty much settled in, and I'm used to this place, but I think I much prefer my good old Melbourne…
Paul and I arrived here late one Tuesday night, just after midnight local time, after travelling about 14 hours. Walking out of that airport was a bit of a shock to the system - hectic, smelly, and… different. We managed to find the taxi driver that was taking us to our destination - a destination we hadn't been told about prior to boarding the plane. We found ourselves at the Bangalore International Hotel - a hotel that sounds a lot more impressive than it is… <IMG alt=":)" class="emoticon" src="/images/emotions/emotion-1.gif" border=0>
The next day we got a taxi to the Infosys campus, and that was an experience… Traffic here is unbelievable. There's lines on the road, but no-one actually pays attention to them. If there's a gap between cars, people will try and squeez into it - none of this nice driving in lanes like in Australia. I think at one point, I saw 5 vehicles side by side on a two lane road. There's a lot of motorbikes here, and also autorickshaws - a small three wheel taxi with no doors… Here, owning a car is a status symbol, even though the traffic would drive anyone insane. Petrol here is more expensive than in Aus, so it’s a bit wierd - owning a car is very expensive. Drivers use horns a lot - so much so that many trucks have 'sound horn ok' painted on the back of them (don’t ask me, I don’t know either <IMG alt=":)" class="emoticon" src="/images/emotions/emotion-1.gif" border=0>) The thing is, the horns are hardly used in anger. If it was in Australia - there would road rage cases every day. If I was driving - I would definitely go insane. Driving with the windows open is a bad idea - you get smog, pollution and dirt in your eyes and nose. Not a nice feeling. So, we've been catching air conditioned taxi's all the time - our boss wasn't too impressed about that. So, we're just going to continue, but pay for them ourselves, and (hopefully) get reimbursed when we got home. They wanted us to catch the Infosys bus, which is pretty cheap - about AU$3 per month, but we've been told (by some other Melbournians) that the dirt and the smog and pollution get in the bus and swirl around in your face, so I think we'll pass.
Generally, India is very dirty and polluted. I think this is what makes the Infosys Campus such a serene place - its clean, new, beautifully landscaped, and so calm, compared to the outside world. Step out the gate, and it’s a whole new world. Its very strange. There's a big (electrified) fence around the place, and there's guards at every gate - armed guards. Just a little bit scary. You have to get your bag searched when you enter and leave, and I have to sign my laptop in and out every day. If you think about it, its not that surprising that they want to make sure that no one walks out with a laptop - it'd be worth quite a few months wages to someone here. There's a section of the grounds where they've got quite a few trees planted, each with its own little plaque in front of it. It turns out that they're all planted by famous people… There's a Bill Gates tree (its very small, and pretty ugly <IMG alt=":)" class="emoticon" src="/images/emotions/emotion-1.gif" border=0>) A Tony Blair tree, and quite a few other famous people as well (I just cant think of any of the others at the moment…)
The working environment is pretty similar to Australia - its probably a little more cramped together, but it’s all fairly similar. The people at work aren't all that different from home, they just speak a funny language <IMG alt=":)" class="emoticon" src="/images/emotions/emotion-1.gif" border=0>. However, I must say they are doing better than I am, as they are all pretty fluent in English, as well as their native tongue, whereas I only know one language. You do realise that you take some things for granted though - for example - a fast net connection, or non spicy food <IMG alt=":)" class="emoticon" src="/images/emotions/emotion-1.gif" border=0>. As for the work I'm doing, its still very disorganised - they don’t know what they are doing - sometimes I wonder if its worthwhile me being here at all.
As for food, I'm not finding it too bad at all. Every now and then, I would kill for a steak, or a nice burger, or plain old meat and 3 veg. Nearly everything is spicy, and just plain old strange. Now, I don’t mind a good curry, but its something I'd eat once every now and then, not every day. There's a domino's pizza shop at work, so I have that sometimes, and occasionally go looking for the most non-Indian food I can find. I got a little sick one night - woke up with stomach cramps at about 2 am, but some tablets soon fixed that, and I was right as rain the next day. So, it hasn't been too bad at all. The strange thing is that we've been eating out pretty much all the time. We've checked out quite a few of the restaurants around here, found a few nice ones. Its going to be strange going back to Melbourne, were I have to cook and clean up...
The weather here is strange. Its between 29 and 31 every day. Perfect blue skies, and nary a cloud to be seen. Its odd, but its getting to me, I'd definitely prefer to have a cold day every now and then. We complain about Melbourne weather, but I for one am missing it.
We went on a autorickshaw tour the first weekend we were here, and took in all the sights of Bangalore. Its definitely a business city, not a tourist city, but we managed to find a few things to look at. I think we managed to see most of the sights within the metro area, and visited way to many emporiums -- the autorickshaw drivers get a commission if they take you there, so they all want to take you. Oh, and yes, the prices they charge get hiked up to cover that commission too. This is definitely a place where the prices are variable, and you have to bargain to get a reasonable price. That said, everything is extremely cheap here, so sometimes you feel cheap haggling them down, especially when its only a dollar or two that you are saving. Oh, and emporium is a gift shop/craft shop, hand carved things out of wood and stone, and silks and carpets and stuff.
Just last weekend we flew up to Mumbai (used to be called Bombay). It’s a much nicer city, much more enjoyable than Bangalore, easier to enjoy and relax in. Its also much more of a tourist place than Bangalore is, so we felt a little more at home. The only problem was, all the beggars knew that it was a tourist place as well, so they are everywhere. Its hard to figure out how to deal with them. We found Tendulkar's restaurant (Sachin Tendulkar - the cricketer), which was one of the best restaurants we've found. If you're ever in Mumbai - check it out. Oh, and walking down through the street market, I was talent scouted! I was asked if I wanted to play a British officer in a Bollywood film! They took one look at me, and saw the talent, the ability… Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) I didn't have the time to go there. Oh, and we found Macca's there, so we had to try it out, but there wasn't any beef burgers. I wasn't impressed. A cheeseburger would have gone down well, but all they had was chicken and fish. Not happy.
Oh, this weekend we are planning on another weekend away, this time up to Goa, a place on the west coast, that's is supposedly a lot like Bali. The diving there is pretty good, so hopefully I'll get some of that in while I'm there. It'll be good to sit down on the beach and just relax. Looking forward to it. Our 'boss' here has given us Monday off, so we get a 3 day weekend - yay!
Still currently in the hotel; they tried to get us to move to the Infosys accomodation, but they wanted to jam the two of us in a small room together with another two strangers in the other room. We politely declined - I'm not going to share a room with someone for 3 months - I like my space. So, we're just hanging out in our hotel until we get told to do otherwise by HR in Melbourne.
I think that I've just about covered everything that’s happened - I'm sure there's lots of other stuff, but I think I've written enough for now. I've taken lots of photos - about 388 to be precise. I'll get round to uploading them to the web at some point - when I've got about a week to spare <IMG alt=":)" class="emoticon" src="/images/emotions/emotion-1.gif" border=0>.