Sunday, January 27, 2013

Delhi Day

After a rough start this morning, I am feeling much better this evening. I still have a sore throat, but at least I can swallow and speak tonight. Went down to McDonald's tonight for a McFlurry thinking the cool soft serve would help soothe my throat. (At least that's the excuse I'm giving myself.)

I did not get to do everything I wanted to do today, India Gate was still cordoned off from yesterday's Republic Day celebration so we could not get close to see it and I wanted to do more shopping at the marketplace but my shyness took hold today--I know my coworkers are giving up their day off to take me around and they had to bargain for me at the market to get a fair price, and I did not want to monopolize their whole day. I know they said it was okay and that they wanted to, but I also know my boss had to bargain with them to be with me on their day off and they have family at home waiting for them.

Even so, I was still able to see some amazing things today. I'm a little bummed that the air quality was so bad today (who am I kidding it's bad every day and probably what triggered my sinus issues) because it makes my photos look washed out. I may spend some time trying to clean them up with Photoshop once I return home.

We started the day at the Baha'i Lotus Temple. It is a beautiful, perfectly symmetrical structure made to look like a lotus blossom. We had to remove our shoes near the grounds entrance, about a quarter mile from the temple, in order to go inside. No photos are allowed inside, but it is one huge room for prayers open all the way to the top with nice acoustics. I couldn't understand a word of what was being spoken, even in English, because of the echo, but the sung prayers were beautiful. The Baha'i welcome all faiths, and there was a mix of Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh worshipers inside.

Baha'i Lotus Temple in Delhi.

This is the conceptual model for the crown I will someday wear when I rule the world. Just so you know.

After the Lotus temple we went to Qutub Minar. I had though the Qutub Minar was the only thing to see there, but it is part of a larger complex constructed by a series of rulers and includes the world's oldest existent mosque (Quwwat-ul-Islam), the iron pillar of Delhi, a madarsa (seminary), and several tombs. The entire complex is not very well preserved and my coworkers were debating whether the structural damage was a result of age or some conflict in the past. (It was also their first visit to the Qutub complex.)

The iron pillar was created around 400CE and is important to archaeologists and metallurgists mainly because it is highly resistant to corrosion. The pillar was originally dedicated the Hindu god Visnu before being brought to the mosque. The Qutub Minar (built around 1200) is 5 stories tall, made of fluted red sandstone and marble, and has verses of the Quran carved all around it. It is the tallest minar in India and was used to issue the Muslim call to prayer at the neighboring mosque when it was still in use.

Qutub Minar from mosque.

Qutub Minar from madarsa.

You know who.

Classic redwood shot works with red sandstone too.

A close up of the first level balcony.

Detail of the Quran carvings.

Iron pillar of Delhi.

A jumble of pillars and angles in the mosque area.

A colonnade near the mosque.

The colonnade from another angle.

Arches in the madarsa.

Me in the madarsa.

After the Qutub complex, we went to Delhi Haat, a permanent open-air marketplace with lots of touristy, and not so touristy, stuff for sale. We had an Indian lunch from one of the stall vendors and did a little shopping. I ended up buying a touristy bangle bracelet, a pashmina shawl, and a painted box. All market purchases require haggling, and an outsider like me is sure to end up paying far more than a fair price. But, my coworkers were with me and bargaining on my behalf.

Turns out the vendor I was purchasing from was from the Kashmir region, as is one of my coworkers, and I noticed they were not speaking the same dialect of Hindi as the haggling became down to the wire. My other coworker was laughing as he listened to them slip into their native Kashmiri dialect. In the end, the pashmina shawl that would have cost me 1000 rupee came down to 350 rupee thanks to my skilled negotiator. I did not take many photos at the market because I was too distracted looking at all the items on display for sale.

Vendor stall at Delhi Haat.

After Dellhi Haat we went to Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, the most famous Sikh temple in Delhi dedicated to Guru Hari Krishna, who became the eighth guru of the Sikh in 1661. When Guru Hari Krishna visited Delhi, he stayed in a palace that stood where the Bangla Sahib stands today. While he was in Delhi, an outbreak of cholera and small pox swept the city and Hari Krishna walked the streets feeding the sick and providing water from the well at the palace, and aid as he could.

Today, the water from the well is considered holy among the Sikh and believed to have healing properties, and in continuing with Hari Krishna's selfless deeds, the Sikhs feed anyone who comes to Bangla Sahib needing food.

To enter Bangla Sahib, we needed to remove our shoes and socks again, and cover our heads in respect. We also needed to wash our hands and feet. Let me tell you, the marble stairs and courtyard are dang slippery with wet feet. Before entering, you get a small pie dish of what tastes like a corn meal porridge and take the dish to a stand where a Sikh scoops out a little bit of the porridge. You then keep the rest and enter the temple. Most people knelt and either placed their foreheads on the marble steps of the entry way or touched the steps, then either their hearts or heads.

The inside is under reconstruction, but is layered in gold leaf with a dazzling chandelier and carvings. throughout the entire complex you can hear the day's verse being recited over a PA system; the singers and drummers are seated in this entrance area. A verse is chosen from the Sikh holy book as the daily lesson and is recited for 24 hours. I am told the verse is chosen by what would be the Sikh Vatican and all Sikh worldwide recite the same daily verse at their temples.

People offer their prayers in this entrance area, then move to the sides to sit on the carpet to meditate, or contemplate, or just rest. Upon leaving the temple, you receive a scoop of porridge, equivalent to what was taken from your pie dish before entering, from a communal pot. I am not sure why this is done, but it seems very symbolic as a melding of many individual pieces. The wife of one of my guide/coworkers is Sikh and offered a lot of insights, though he, himself, is Hindu.

Testing out the covered head look. (The whole reason I've been wearing a scarf, because I don't know where I will be required to cover up.)

Gurudwara Bangla Sahib.

Bangla Sahib interior. The Sikh holy book rests on a pillowed stand under the gold canopy in the center.

Bangla Sahib exterior.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Day at Agra and the Taj Mahal

It has been an incredibly long day and I am definitely fighting a sinus infection. I drank 5 cups of herbal tea and a huge bottle of water last night, skipped dinner and went to bed early hoping I would feel well enough to go to Agra today. Thankfully, I did feel much better this morning, but started losing steam around 4pm. (I just got back to the hotel room around 8pm.)

So, I am going to keep this short and sweet so I can take a hot shower and get to bed early again--I have another day of sightseeing planned for tomorrow. We'll just call this a photo essay of my day at Agra. (I have lots of pictures of my coworkers, too. But since I don't have their permission, I won't be posting them here.)

Cute little Ganesha on top of the welcome center.

Taj Mahal's north gate. There are 22 little domes on top (11 on each side) for the 22 years it to build the compound.

Me and the north gate.

First view of the Taj Mahal, passing through through the north gate.

Me and the Taj Mahal.

Taj Mahal, full frame.

Taj Mahal domes and trees.

Taj Mahal domes.

Taj Mahal marble inlay. A total of 28 different precious and semi-precious stone from all over were used for various inlay designs, including lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, carnelian from Arabia, malachite from China, and turquoise from Tibet.

Me in front of the inlay work.

Taj Mahal tomb chamber. (Actually not supposed to take pictures of this room, but our guide told me to.) Each of the screens are carved from a solid marble slab and the most intricate inlay work is in the tomb chamber.

One of the 4 minar surrounding the main building.

Taj Mahal from the east courtyard.

The Taj Mahal mosque to the west. An identical red sandstone building stands to the east.

Red sandstone screen.

A couple of views of the Taj Mahal through arches.

Taj Mahal with reflecting pools.

A colonnade at the east gate.

More inlay work.

A close up of one of the minarets on top.

Aerial roots of a ficus in the Taj Mahal gardens.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Like White on Rice

If you're keeping track, I'm winding up day 4 in India, and loving it. I've decided Indian food tastes immensely better in India and I actually like it.

Yesterday I needed to go to the company's other building in Noida-Sector 62, the building I am based out of is in Sector 16. While I was there I met with the boss's boss, and the team members of the other team I am working with. The work I do with the 62 team is mostly letting them pick my brain for Western design aesthetics and making suggestions as to which items in a book could be made interactive.

After meeting, we went out to dinner at a restaurant called Binge. I let my coworkers do the ordering, so I am not really sure what our dinner items were named. We had a tomato and basil soup that was yummy, spinach kabob (I believe it is pureed spinach, dal, garlic, chilies, and spices, formed into patties and then roasted, palak kabab?) also delicious, along with butter naan, and pineapple raita.

Today, I continued my training at Sector 16 and 2 of the women on the team took me out to lunch at Punjabi by Nature restaurant. These are the 2 people I have been, and will continue, working most closely with, so I was glad to get some time outside of the office together. The restaurant seems very close to the office on the map, but it took us hours to take our lunch because of traffic. It took over a half an hour to find parking once we got there. But it was very worth it. Again, I let my coworkers order, but this time I paid attention to what we were getting. (I should have taken my camera.) We had paneer tikka, butter chicken, dal makhani, butter naan (again), and something sweet that sounded a lot like jelly beans but was nothing like jelly beans.

Every time I eat out with a coworker they always seem very concerned that I eat some meat, even though most of them are vegetarians. I've tried explaining that we usually eat vegetarian several nights a week at home and I like vegetarian food, but they are constantly sneaking a lamb or chicken dish onto the order. My boss ordered me a lamb Big Mac yesterday at McDonald's (even though I'd already ordered Filet-o-Fish) and today they sneaked the butter chicken onto the order.

Today I surprised a coworker, and myself. She was asking the coworker driving to turn on the air conditioning in the car, so I reached over and did it thinking I did not want the driver distracted while driving in traffic here. The only thing is, she asked in Hindi. This happened several times today where people around me were speaking Hindi but I was sort of following along or would anticipate what they would ask for. (I've noticed I am also starting to use the head wobble-bobble. It probably helps that I practiced the motion before I got here :)  )

I ended up working late tonight and ordered dinner in from Swagath once I got back to the hotel. I decided to chance it and call in the order myself. By the end of the call, I wasn't sure if I would actually get what I ordered or not. The the restaurateur was apparently as confused as I was because he called the front desk and had someone come to my room to verify the order.

Dinner from Swagath

What we have here is vegetable kebabs, what should have been tandoori khumb, and plain basmati rice accompanied by the ubiquitous spicy green sauce, small round onions, and thinly shaved onions. Food here is very heavy on butter and oils (no wonder I am liking it so much!) and I desperately needed a break from all the buttered naan. The person at the restaurant was very insistent that I wanted naan and it took some convincing to get him to believe otherwise. He was also very concerned that my order was too dry. The tandoori khumb was also a dry dish, so when the hotel clerk came up to confirm he suggested the dish that ended up coming instead--khumb (mushrooms) and mutter (peas) in curry gravy. It was very yummy and I have leftovers for tomorrow!

It's hard to believe it is already Thursday and half of my time here is nearly gone by. I have confirmed I am going to Agra on Saturday and a few of my coworkers are coming along. I've learned that my coworkers usually work on Saturdays (6-day work week), but since this Saturday is Republic Day they get the day off. Sort of wishing it were a work day so they could get to play tourist on a work day instead of their holiday day off. I'm hoping my boss hasn't forced them to come on their day off, although he is coming too.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

India--Day 2

This morning I had to choose which car to take to the office; a coworker, my boss, and a hired car were all arranged for me. I guess they really wanted to make sure I didn't walk again today.

A room with a view.

And the busy street.

Work was good. I met with the group managers for the teams working closely with the team I am on and learned what they do as part of the process. And the comedy of errors that has been my laptop continued. I still could not log onto the main repository server I need in order to start working at full capacity, so the other team members got me logged onto the local server and have rigged up a way for me to get to what I need. Only problem is, it is just a temporary fix. Once I leave I'll have the same problem I had before.

So they created this work around only to discover I do not have Acrobat Pro on the laptop, which I need to perform the backbone on my job. I guess I had copied the training files to my desktop at home to do the work (I wanted to use the larger monitor) and I have Acrobat Pro on that machine, so I didn't discover until today that I did not have the software tool I need to do my job. But the IT department got the software installed at around 5:00, just in time to go home.

I am debating about trying to crank out some work from the hotel room. Part of me really wants to use the time to relax and sleep to make sure I shake off the rest of the jet lag, but part of me also wants to get down to work so there will be plenty of time for sightseeing later!

Since I was awake until 3:00am this morning, I spent some time browsing the guidebook I brought along, so when my boss asked me this morning what I would like to see or do, I had a list ready. I've found now that the getting here is done and I am here, I am really excited and looking forward to exploring. We talked about going to Agra on Saturday, which would be awesome! But it is almost 3 hours each way and there is a ton to see closer to Delhi, so we'll play it by ear.

Saturday is also Republic Day for India and there will be a huge military parade and celebration in the heart of the city at India Gate. But we won't be able to see the gate that day because the event is invitation only. I am hoping to go to Nizamuddin Dargah around sunset on Thursday to hear the Qawwali (Sufi devotional music), but my boss indicated the performance schedule may have changed. I would also like to see Lal Qila, the Red Fort built by Shah Jahan (who also commissioned the Taj Mahal). If we can go to Agra, I would skip Lal Qila since it is farthest away from the other Delhi sites (it takes about 30 minutes to travel 3 miles in the city) and the forts in Agra are in better condition.

We will definitely be going to the Baha'i Lotus Temple, and ISKCON Tower and a local marketplace are very close to it. My boss seemed very pleased that I wanted to visit Gurudwara Bangla Sahib. I had also suggested Kalkaji Mandir, but he said it would be very difficult to see as is very small and very popular. Instead he suggested an alternative Hindu temple that will offer more opportunity to explore.

So I have Muslim, Sikh, Baha'i, and Hindu temples on my list. I know the architecture and art will be astoundingly beautiful and I am really looking forward to it, even if we can't get to Agra.

Monday, January 21, 2013

India--Day 1

I think I may have mentioned I am not a huge fan of Indian food. Well, my adventures with the cuisine began on the flight over when the airline served Indian food for the in-flight meal, snack, and breakfast. The flight itself was about what I expected--long, crowded, and uncomfortable seats. I now understand why my previous boss coveted aisle seats for long flights.

I ended up having to check my carry-on bag both on the regional plane from Raleigh to Newark, and again on the flight to Dehli. Once we landed in Delhi I felt a little overwhelmed at the airport because I just didn't know what I was doing. I knew I needed to go through immigration (and of course, I filled out the forms wrong) and pick up my bags, but there were only signs for baggage. So I just followed the crowd and made my way to the general area for baggage, and immigration was there too.

I wish I had dug through my laptop bag for my camera at immigration. There was a beautiful wall sculpture of huge brass discs and hands in various mudras poses. Luckily, I found a few online, but trust me, immigration was way more busy than this when I passed through.

Next came baggage claim. I really should have tied something easily identifiable to my bags. One has a fairly distinctive pattern and was easy to pick out, but my carry-on looks pretty generic. Granted, as a carry-on I never intended to need to pick it out on the carousel, a colorful ribbon or strap would have made finding my new bag a lot easier. I actually took it off the carousel, looked at it, and put it back because I thought it had more zippered compartments than mine. But after it came around 2 more times I decided to take a peek, and sure enough, it was mine.

Next, I needed to find the driver hired to take me to the hotel. The only problem with this was there were several designated areas where the driver might be waiting. My flight had landed early, so I wasn't too worried when I couldn't find him right away, but after a half hour of searching I started trying to figure out how I would get to my hotel on my own. Luckily, an airport staffer noticed I'd been patrolling the pick up area and stepped in to help me find the driver, and I immediately outed myself as a tourist and an American by trying to get into the driver's seat (passenger seat at home).

Then there was the drive to the hotel. Think of any movie scene you've ever seen about driving in India, it's really just like that--lane markings are merely suggestions, making left turns from right lanes is a well-developed skill, and flashing red traffic signals? Those just provide ambient lighting, because no one stops at them. I apparently wasn't too worried, though, seeing as how I kept drifting off during the drive.

And the horns! Everyone always seems to be honking at something, and it seems more of a Morse Code form of communication than the you-dumbass-you're-about-to-cause-an-accident way we use the horn in the US. Drivers here mostly honk when they're over taking something, whether it's a truck, a car, a rickshaw, a pedestrian, or a cow--it's sort of like saying "I'm here, I'm here, look out, I'm coming through." Except that there are just so dang many cars, someone is always passing something, so there is always a cacophony of horns.

Pretty accurate, including the music. Just put a couple of huge stickers in the front window so you can't really see where you're going, and picture it on a 6-lanes expressway.

I am so thankful I had a driver, but the experience did help me understand why drivers in Fremont, CA (with a high percentage of Indian and Afghan residents) drive the way they do. It also made me realize how much of an effort those foreign residents were making toward following American rules of the road.

This morning, I looked up my work office online and realized it was only about 2 blocks from the hotel, so I decided to walk it rather than get a cab. On the one hand, I'm glad I decided to venture out on my own, on the other hand, I came to realize how woefully unprepared I am for doing just that. When I first decided I would walk, I was picturing a city like any other city. Maybe it would be bigger and busier, like New York City, and maybe it would be unorganized, but I was not fully prepared for the chaos.

The first thing I noticed when I set out to walk to work (in heels, low heels, thank goodness); there are no sidewalks. The berm is overgrown and something of a trash depository, so all foot traffic walks in the street with all the car traffic. I passed someone feeding a bull in the streets. I wanted to take a picture, but I also didn't want to stop on a busy street to do it. So, no photo. I bought a vada for breakfast from a street cart.

While I was buying the vada, I showed the cart vendor the address I was trying to find and he indicated it was back the way I came and kindly communicated on my behalf to arrange a rickshaw.

English is not nearly as widely spoken as I previously believed, and every time I would try to speak English to someone who spoke Hindi back to me, I would switch to speaking Spanish, the only other language I speak with any fluency, which most definitely did not help communication at all. I am learning, though, that the Indian head wobble-bobble means "I understand" or "yes," and I just hope that they understand what I am actually trying to communicate. It would be very helpful to know some basic Hindi phrases, though, everyone has been patient and helpful as I muddle along.

People at the office seemed very surprised that I got to work in a rickshaw. At first I thought the look they were giving me was because it must have a touristy thing to do, but when I told them I had started out on foot the look changed to more of an "are you stupid". I've been told, under no uncertain terms that even though it is only a couple of blocks, I am not to set out on foot to or from the office; they will provide a car to pick me up every morning at the hotel at 9:15 and will arrange for a car back to the hotel in the evening. If I want to go anywhere else, I am to let them know and they will make all the arrangements.

Part of me does not want to be shielded from getting out and experiencing daily life in India, but as a woman traveling alone, the other part of me appreciates the concern.

Jet lag started setting in around 3:00pm and I called it a day just before 5:00 and went back to the hotel. My plan had been to stay up until evening to try and reset my internal clock, but I ended up napping for a few hours. I also ended up at the McDonald's downstairs to get a bite for dinner. Oh, it has been sooo long since I've had McDonald's fries. And there is no beef to be found on the menu--the Big Mac is instead made with chicken, the Chicken Maharaja Mac, and most sandwiches have a veggie or paneer option. I ended up getting a spicy chicken wrap and learned that McDonald's spicy chicken is way spicier in India than in the States.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Hermione's Purse

I finished up the laundry last night and just started pulling together all my clothes for packing. And after what Cheri said in the comments yesterday, I decided to try everything in the carry-on, just to see. (Oh, I've also gathered up all my prescriptions and vitamins. Just looking at the assortment makes me feel old.)

An amazing amount of stuff can fit in my carry on! It's almost like Hermione's purse! I would have zero room to bring anything extra home with me (not like Hermione's purse), but still, I am amazed! It's all the "work related" stuff that is making things a tight squeeze—extra charger/adapters, power supply, shoes, files, planner that I would not travel with for pleasure.

I am really tempted to pare it down and make it all fit. That would mean leaving out:
  • a pair of dress shoes—if I do that, my feet will be killing me. If I wear the same pair of heels everyday for 2 weeks, I will be hobbling when I try to walk.
  • my camera—if I squeeze everything into the carry-on, some things will need to shift into my personal item (laptop bag), which will bump out my camera.
I think that is really all I would need to leave out to make this a carry-on only trip! (Which would mean I bought a large suitcase for no reason.)

But, I really cannot fathom not taking my camera. I suppose I could get by with using the camera on my phone. But the photo quality will not be the same, and even though I may return to India in the future, I'll never again see it for the first time like I will on this trip. And I know if I don't take another pair of shoes, I'll be worthless after just 2 or 3 days and trying to find painkillers.

I think for this first trip I'll go with better safe than sorry and risk taking too much. I have no idea what the dress code is like at the office, so I'm taking a suit jacket and more conservative clothes. After the trip I will have a much better picture of what I "really" need, which will make packing for the next trip much, much easier.

If I go back during the warmer months, I can trade out some of the bulkier clothes and swap closed-toe heels for sandals, which will take up less room, too.

Okay, I'd better get back to packing. I still need to find my swim suit.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Countdown to India

I feel like the countdown for my trip to India started today. I've been feeling twitchy and unfocused all day. Of course, it doesn't help that the cats have been crying like teething babies today, either. I can't for the life of me figure out what they want. They have food and fresh water, I've cuddled and played with them both, but lord help me, they just won't stop. They're probably just picking up on the mood in the house.

Scoob came downstairs for lunch today and just held me. He said it just became real to him that I'm leaving and how much he is going to miss me. And as much as I want to cuddle with him and wrap myself up in that sentiment, I just cannot turn off my brain and I'm thinking about laundry and packing and customs and visa/passport and power supplies and FedEx deliveries and all this stuff that needs to happen or get done before I leave. And of course, I'm expecting 3 FedEx deliveries tomorrow; the one day I need to be away from the house this week.

Add to that the fact we're trying to get through the one-year punch list with the builders and I'm thinking about lighting and plumbing and drywall and nail pops and paint and trying to remember again exactly which cabinet drawers are rubbing so they can be fixed Thursday morning when the cabinet guy comes over. I'm actually kind of thankful the lighting vendor did not get our order placed—it's one less thing to try to squeeze in before I leave. I'm hoping I can postpone that appointment until after I get back.

After much wrestling, a little cursing, and a blood offering, we finally managed to get the Christmas tree packed away today. The pieces just did not want to come apart and I was tempted to make it a permanent fixture. But it does feels good to complete my first goal for 2013—get the tree put away before February.

We made one last pre-travel shopping trip this past weekend. At one point I wasn't sure if I needed a rolly carry-on in addition to my laptop bag because the bag is large enough for a change of clothes. But then I put the laptop and iPad in the bag and realized how heavy it was going to be once I added the power brick and adapters, plus the clothes. And then started thinking about all the other items I usually keep in my carry on—prescriptions, make up, hair brush, curling iron, toiletries. You know, pretty much every thing you would need in order to function for at least one day should your luggage get lost.

Even though I may have been able to scrunch everything in the laptop bag, it was going to be very heavy by the time I was done. And it would be so filled to the gills, I could forget about trying to open it to get anything out of the bag during the flight. So I ended up getting a rolly carry on. So much for traveling light—I'll have my laptop bag, a rolly carry-on, and a spinny checked bag—but not hurting my back is more important to me. At least I know I'll have room if I find some great souvenirs/gifts to bring home.

I also realized I would need an electrical outlet adapter/converter, so we picked up one of those along with what seems like a never ending list of things. One of those things was a Smashbook. My bestie got one recently and was talking about it on her blog, so I'm going to give it a whirl. I've never been interested in scrapbooking; it always seemed far too fussy. But the whole premise of smashbooking is you just smash it in there, who cares if it isn't perfect.

I've taken several trips—Mexico, Chicago, Washington DC—where I picked up items here and there to save, but then I never did anything with them when I got home because the idea of creating a scrap book was just to daunting and I ended up throwing out most of the things when we moved. Too much time had passed since the experiences to even hope of being able to create a meaningful memory book.

It felt like a frivolous expense given how much preparations for this trip have already cost and the bills will come due before the reimbursement checks arrive, and the fact that Scoob is still out of work and I hadn't received a paycheck yet (paychecks arrived today!!). But Scoob thought I should give it a try, too—he saw how upset I was when I threw away things that should have been made into memories when we were moving. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Shields Up

My US passport arrived last week and I did not want to part with it to send it in with my travel visa application on Tuesday. Funny how having my passport in hand makes me feel more worldly even though I haven't gone anywhere with it yet.

I've booked my trip to India—I fly out of RDU 1/19 in the afternoon, catch a direct flight out of EWR around 8:30pm, and land at DEL on 1/20 around 9:30pm. (Even though that looks like a 25 hour flight, New Delhi is 10½ hours ahead of Eastern Time, so it's really only a 15 hour flight. Still stupid long, though.

This first trip will be for 2 weeks; I leave New Delhi just before midnight on 2/1 and land back at RDU around 10:30am on 2/2. But, the company has requested I have a 5-year, multi-entrance visa, so I don't think this will be my only India adventure.

I had my appointment with the travel clinic at UNC yesterday and I am still sore from all the vaccinations, and more than a little grumpy because I did not sleep well last night (I'm a side sleeper and they gave me shots in both arms, so I was tossing all night) and I just feel "off" today. Here's what is floating around in my system:
  • Hepatitis A & B
  • Typhoid
  • Measles/Mumps/Rubella
  • Polio
  • Influenza
  • Tetanus t-dap

I envision my vaccinations as an impenetrable deflector shield.

Though the reality is probably more like this deflector shield—
I'll still end up with plenty of gross stuff on my windscreen.

Thankfully, I'll be in northern India and it's the cool season, otherwise there would have been vaccinations for Malaria and Japanese encephalitis, too. The clinic also gave me prescriptions for Ambein (to help recover from jet lag) and Azithromycin (for the inevitable Traveler's Diarrhea, and yes, I do need to avoid the local water, even in the western-style hotel).

I had no idea they now recommend an adult booster for Measles/Mumps/Rubella and Polio, and I'll need to go back to the clinic in 2 months and 6 months to finish the series for Hep A/B. If I return to India during the transmission season for malaria or Japanese encephalitis, I'll need to get those too, and possibly rabies. Luckily, these vaccinations should cover the cocktail I'll need for travel to Manila since they've said I'll eventually go there too, and they should cover any travel required to their Sri Lanka location, as well.

Now that I know my trip will only be 2 weeks, I'm wishing I had purchased a smaller piece of luggage that I could carry onto the plane, but I thought the trip was going to be 3+ weeks so I got a larger piece that I will need to check. Live and learn. At least the bag I got for the laptop is large enough for a change of clothes.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Hello, 2013

I feel like my New Year began around mid-December with the start of my new job, but I'd started thinking about the dreaded "resolutions" even before then. I have a love/hate relationship with New Year's resolutions—I enjoy the exercise of self-improvement, but usually lack the desire/drive to pursue something throughout the year.

My first goal for 2013 is to get the Christmas decorations down by the end of January.

Yes, I want what most people want—lose weight, get fit, exercise more, eat healthier, go to bed/get up earlier. But, let's face it, I do not want to focus my energy on or obsess over these things, and if we're being honest, these are also the most frequently broken resolutions.

I've tried years of just not making New Year's resolutions, and while there's no disappointment when I break or don't achieve a resolution, there is a degree of disappointment in the fact that I didn't even try.

So this year, instead of trying to make sweeping changes to my behavior that I would need to maintain through the year, I focused on events.

In 2013, I want to get out and DO more and EXPERIENCE new things. So my New Year's resolution for 2013 is to do 4 things I've never done before. I am perfectly happy being a homebody, so I guess I am trying to alter a behavior, but my resolution feels like more fun than work.

Some possibilities:
  • travel somewhere new
  • take a gun safety or conceal & carry class
  • take a cooking class
  • go kayaking
  • go white-water rafting
  • go skydiving
  • take an archery class
  • take a self-defense class

When I first started thinking about my resolutions, I thought traveling to a new place would mean going to Charlotte, the Outer Banks, or the Smoky Mountains for a weekend, but now I know my new job will most certainly require me to travel—to some familiar places, like San Francisco, and to some new places, like New Delhi, India. I did consider turning down the job due to the intense amount of travel involved, but, it will get me out of my comfort zone and ensure I experience new things (not to mention keep a roof over our heads and the bills paid). Is it cheating to count a work requirement toward the fulfillment of my resolutions?

Actually, the new job has done a lot already to help me achieve some of those other behavioral changes too. I go to bed and get up earlier now since most of the co-workers on my team are in India and I have a lot of 7:00am phone calls. (It only took a week for me to start waking up at 6:00am without an alarm.) Knowing all the travel I'll be doing has spurred me to getting more regular exercise, since I know if I don't take better care of my body and overall health the travel will wear me down quickly. And even though it hasn't resulted in any significant weight loss, I can feel my body changing and stamina increasing.

As for the gun class, guns make me nervous, and living in North Carolina means living in a more gun-friendly culture than what I was used to in the Bay Area, for example, personal firearms were supposedly not even permitted in our city of Fremont (not that it prevented the guns from being there anyway). Given how many people in our circle of friends here have conceal & carry permits, I know I'm around guns even when I don't know I'm around guns. (?) Anyhow, I don't think it would be a bad thing to be more comfortable with guns.

I've fired guns before and while I'm something of an ace with a shotgun, I can't hit the broadside of a barn with a .45 or 9mm. And even though I know the basics of gun safety, like don't ever point it at anyone and clear the chamber, I don't know the first thing about maintaining a gun. And as I was always told, if you catch it, you clean it, or you've got to pay to play, which essentially means, you don't get to just do the fun stuff (shoot), you'll also have to do the work (maintenance).

As for the cooking class, there's a specialty grocery store not too far from us that has several cooking classes a week and it would be a good way to meet more people in the area. Some of the classes are more than a little frou-frou, but they also offer a lot of regional cooking classes (Low Country Cuisine), some basics (Southern Biscuits 101), and dressed up basics (Mac 'n Cheese Three Ways: Cheddar and Poblano Mac 'n Cheese, ComtĂ© and Bacon Mac 'n Cheese, Smoked Gouda, Fontina and Ham Mac 'n Cheese). Most of the hands-on cooking classes run $35–50 per person, but when you figure you're getting dinner (and sometimes wine) at the class, as well as learning something, it seems more reasonable.

Kayaking and white-water river rafting are just things I've always wanted to try and never did. I think I would really enjoy kayaking, and now that we live within 10 miles of a lake, I do really want to try it.

Just typing skydiving gives me the willies. I do really want to do it, I just don't know if I want to try it badly enough that I could step on a plane knowing I planned to jump out of it.

I've always thought archery was cool, but I remember trying to shoot my step-dad's compound hunting bow and I couldn't even pull the string back because of the tension and I never really tried again.

As for the self defense class, given the amount of solo traveling I'll be doing, this seemed like a good one to add to the list.