India email #2
Originally sent 25/03/2004...
(at least I think I mean 'Namaste'. I'm pretty sure it means hello.)
Been thinking for a few days that I've been pretty slack, and that its about time I got around to writing another email... So, surprisingly, this is it.
The only problem now is that I cant remember what I've been doing for the last three weeks. (...hold music while Matt tries to remember...)
Paul and I flew to Goa for one weekend - we had planned to take Friday afternoon off, and fly out just after lunch, and come back Sunday night, but our boss instead wanted Paul to go to another site for a few days, and come back on the saturday morning, so gave us the entire monday off instead. We didn't complain too much. Goa was very enjoyable. Its a small state, with only about a million people. There's lots of land there, but everyone seems to be jammed in towns - there's apartment buildings in tiny towns - towns that you'd can drive through in about 30 seconds...
Anyway, Goa is a coastal place, and is said to be the Bali of India. After seeing it, I must say that I agree. Its definitely a place that's easy to relax in. You could quite easily spend 4 or 5 days there doing absolutely nothing. One thing about Goa is that its full of tourists from England (I'll let you decide if that's a good thing or a bad thing <IMG alt=":)" class="emoticon" src="/images/emotions/emotion-1.gif" border=0> ). It was good to be able to talk with someone who spoke English as a first language though. On the Saturday night, we splurged a bit, and had one of the best meals I've had in a while. A nice Indian wine, and one of the best steaks I've ever had. Actually, I think that the whole weekend was a bit of a splurge - we stayed in a 5 star hotel. Definitely worth it.
On the Sunday morning, I went for a scuba dive, with the dive mob there. It was the most enjoyable dive I've ever done - not that I've done that many. The water was beautiful and warm, but a bit murky. We dived on a wreck just off one of the islands there, and it was surrounded by lots and lots of different species of fish. It was great. Enjoyed it heaps. Only problem was that on the way back, one of the Indians offered me a drink of water, and as I was swallowing it, realised that it was local tap water. So, spent the rest of the day feeling pretty crook. Wasn't much fun.
Before we left, we also checked out one of the 'famous' beaches - it was definitely a beach I could handle visiting again. Cheap, decent meals at shack on the beach, beautiful water - great. We also did a bit of sight-seeing as well - explored a very old Portuguese fort, which was quite interesting. I've got some photos, but I still haven't got around to uploading them to anywhere.
A couple of days after that, Paul left for Melbourne, leaving me all by my lonesome. To 'celebrate', we went out to dinner at the restaurant at the Taj West End (which is the most expensive, high quality hotel in Bangalore). A few drinks, a nice meal, and some excessive taxes later, we got the bill for 6000 rupees (about AU$200). It turns out that imported alcohol has a 70% tax on it. So, what was already an expensive drink (a very nice scotch), turned out to be unbelievably expensive. But, I think it was worth it. Think I'll go back there at some point, but I'll be a bit more careful about what I order <IMG alt=":)" class="emoticon" src="/images/emotions/emotion-1.gif" border=0>.
The next evening, Irma arrived down from Pune (for those who don't know, Irma is another person who was sent over from Melbourne for this project). So, I didn't have to worry too much about getting lonely <IMG alt=":)" class="emoticon" src="/images/emotions/emotion-1.gif" border=0>. I was able to take her out and show her some of the 'sights' of Bangalore. Didn't get much opportunity to see much, as 3 days later, we both left to go to Mysore, which is about 3.5 hours drive south east of Bangalore. It was in a taxi, which was alright, but still painful.
At Mysore, we met up with a workmate from Bangalore who'd come down for the weekend, and we went and saw the sights. Mysore used to be the capital of one of the old kingdoms - the richest king in India. I think I'd believe them, cos the palace there is definitely impressive. There's a flag on top of the building, which is made out of 7kg of pure gold. There's also an impressive museum inside.The building is covered with light bulbs (about 100,000 of them), and they light it up on Sunday nights. It looks amazing. I've got some pretty good photos of it (which I will get around to sharing at some point). We also went and visited Chowmundi hill, which had a pretty big, historical Hindu temple on it. It was alright, but after you've seen 3 or 4 temples, they're all the same. The thing that made it worthwhile for me was the fact that I got to see a snake charmer! It was pretty cool <IMG alt=":)" class="emoticon" src="/images/emotions/emotion-1.gif" border=0>. Also got to see a huge sculpture of a bull, which was carved out of stone, which is also sort of a temple. Also got to see lots of monkeys - including a monkey family, with a cute little baby monkey.
Oh, and in between all these trips and stuff, I was occasionally doing some work. No, really, I was.
The following weekend, we went to Ooty, which is a 'Hill station'. Personally, I'd just call it a town in the hills, but never mind. We caught the bus there - took 5.5 hours, which was pretty painful. We had a bit of a look around the place, visited some (very) dodgy restaurants, nearly got attacked by monkeys, saw lots of tea plants, visited a tea plantation, visited the botanical gardens, wandered around town, and generally did the sight seeing thing. It was a typical Indian town - dirty, crowded, hectic, but the mountains around it were beautiful. Almost as good as Australian mountains <IMG alt=":)" class="emoticon" src="/images/emotions/emotion-1.gif" border=0>. Irma and I went with some guys that we met at Infosys Mysore, who sort of adopted us, and looked after us while we were there. Meeting these guys was quite interesting - we had lots of discussions about Indian culture, and about Australian culture, and all sorts of things. I learnt quite a bit about Indian culture there, but I also learnt a bit about Australian culture - something that I wasn't quite expecting, but it was good. They looked after us well - made sure that we enjoyed our stay there. Oh, the other thing we did while at Mysore was go to the gym a few times. Wasn't too bad, but wasn't too good either... Just being able to get some exercise was good. That said, I didn't really need to get more exercise there, as the campus is huge - it took about 15 minutes to walk from the guest house to the office. They have bikes there so people can get around the campus. Scary.
The weather is definitely getting warmer. I don't think I'd like to be here in the middle of summer (about May/June). But, while the heat is rising, so is the breeze, which is good, though its still warmer than I prefer. Going to Ooty, which is at about 3000 metres above sea level, the weather was great - just like a great spring day in Melbourne. Coming back to Mysore was a bit of a shock to the system. I wonder what coming back to Melbourne is going to be like - my body is not going to know what's going on... Leaving an extremely hot summer, and coming back to late autumn...
I'm currently typing this sitting in the back of the taxi on the way from Mysore to Bangalore (Irma is fast asleep). We're both heading back there for a few days to do some (more) knowledge transfer, then heading up to Pune. I think we managed to get enough done in our short time at Mysore - at the very least, we taught our two 'volunteers" lots and lots of stuff, so they should be able to know where to start now (either that, or we just completely confused them). We supposed to stay in Pune for at least a few weeks. The accommodation there is supposed to be pretty good, and its onsite, so no hassles with traffic. There's also a gym there, so I'll have to make an effort to get there a bit.
All in all, I think I'm ready to come home. I've been describing things to a few people who may be sent over here at some point soon, and I've scared them a bit I think. But, I have recommended to them that they take the opportunity, as its definitely something I'm glad I did. I don't know if I'd call it an entirely good experience, but I think overall, its taught me a lot. Definitely worthwhile. If I could go back and have an opportunity to decide whether to come to India, I would still come, but probably only for a month or so. I think that's about a good length of time. The other thing is that I don't have all that much work here to do (for various reasons), so that makes it a bit frustrating. The good thing is that my boss in Melbourne (Tanya) has said that there's some stuff that needs doing back home that I'm the best person to be doing, so she's trying to get me back early. I'm definitely not complaining.
Anyway, I think that's enough for now. No, that's more than enough for now. I'm not even sure that anyone will keep reading this up to this point... Hello? Anyone there?
That'll do. That last bit sort of showed how tired I am I think...