Thursday, May 29, 2008

India - Day 10 (Thursday)

One of the cool things about the Bangalore office is its proximity to many different restaurants all within walking distance. There are numerous different cuisines, so it was not like I had to eat the same kind of food every single day. I think I only ate at the same restaurant, other than eating breakfast at the hotel, one time while I was there.

Today was probably the best food I have eaten so far. We ate at a restaurant called Serengeti that was like eating in a rain forest. The atmosphere was great and the food was even better. The only thing I did not eat were the prawns, which is something I would not eat back home. I tried them just to say I that I at least tried them, but I could not get past the chewing, leathery texture.

One of the items we order was a soup called Murgh Shorba Badami. It was served in a glass (this was the second time I have had soup in a glass, so I was not surprised this time) and it had a good balance of spice and sweetness to make the soup very enjoyable. I think this was Suzy's first soup in a glass, as she seemed a bit surprised as to what was being served.

A couple of different rices were part of the lunch. Both were vegetarian rices (Vamsi is a vegetarian) and both had flavors that did not require meat to make it taste good. I need to find a cookbook that shows me how to make rices like this.

I took a tour around the restaurant to see soak up the atmosphere. The whole restaurant was setup to make you feel like you were in the jungle including waterfalls and streams running throughout the restaurant. There were various semi-animated animals and birds in different areas, but the one that I thought was best was the elephant at the entrance; it was motion activated that would raise its trunk and trumpet whenever anyone walked by. My daughter loves elephants, so it was special to me because it made me think of her.

The rest of the CheckFree team that was touring the different India centers made it to our office later in the afternoon. Like the other sites they saw, they came to see what was happening at the Bangalore office with all the different groups. Each group had a presentation that they gave to the group.

After the presentations were over, we called it a day and went back to the hotel. The CheckFree crew was staying at the same hotel that Suzy and I were staying at, so it made it easy for meeting for dinner. We ended up eating at the cafe at the hotel where we have breakfast each morning. What was kind of interesting though, they seated us at the bar where all the breakfast items are set out, due the large number of people we had in our party.

Today is two days before the elections in Bangalore. The reason I mention this factoid is because starting two days prior to the election through the election day no alcohol is served anywhere in the city legally. This did not bother me at all, because I don't drink, but the majority of the other members of the party were definitely saddened by this. Suzy said that she was very happy she had her beers the previous night at the Hard Rock Cafe.

Dinners were somewhat optional while I have been here because I generally was fed extremely well during lunch that I was not overly hungry come dinner time. Today, was one of those days when I was not overly hungry, so I ordered a four-cheese pizza. The pizza used naan for the crust and there was no mozzarella used at all. The sauce was a light garlic olive oil. For not being very hungry, this was a very good pizza. Suzy was the only person at the table that ordered Indian food. The rest of the party tried their hand at Italian food and most of them found it too spicy to eat; a couple of the ladies sent it back (with a little urging) to get something less spicy - even at that, it was a bit too spicy for them.

Make someone's day and perform a random act of kindness. It could be as simple as asking the waiter to redo an order because the person is too shy to ask him/herself.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

India - Day 9 (Wednesday)

Today is the day we decided to really go out for dinner; we wanted to go to a place that was not in walking distance of the hotel. We decided that we were going to go to the Hard Rock Cafe. There was a minor problem - the driver had never heard of it and the people he was calling had never heard of it either. Suzy and I could not really figure out how such a big named place was unknown in such a big city. We were about to give up and just head back to the hotel when the driver found someone who not only had heard of the place but knew where it was located. I give Rambas, our driver, credit; he did not give up looking for the Hard Rock Cafe, just because a couple of people had never heard of it.

The Hard Rock Cafe was pretty much what I expected, as it had music blaring (note to self - you are not 19 any more and cannot handle music at decibels that rival a jet airplane) and musical paraphernalia hanging from the walls. The majority of the wait staff looked out of place, except for our waiter. He had the rocker-motif going and he looked like he was supposed to be working at HRC. He spoke with an Indian accent, which is what he should be speaking with since he is from India, but that is the only thing that seemed strange for him. I wanted to take a picture of him because he so looked the part, but I did not want to insult him, so I didn't.

The menu was set to cater to Americans as there were hamburgers and other meals that had beef. The oddity about ordering a hamburger was that it was either 7 ounces or 10 ounces instead of half-pound or 3/4 pound. I ordered the Hickory BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger (7 oz.). It was a very juicy burger and very messy. It ended up being a burger that I ate with a fork and knife. I was barely able to finish the burger - it was very big and very tasty; because it tasted so good is why I finished it.

You can't go to a HRC and not get a t-shirt. Remember when I mentioned in a previous blog that I towered over the majority of the people every where I went? They did not have an XXL t-shirt there. When I asked the attendant, she thought I wanted 2 shirts size XL. I did end up buying an XL shirt, as it looked like it would fit me, as long as I never put it in the dryer.

We were done with dinner and my souvenir shopping so we called Rambas to pick us up. He came by shortly thereafter and drove us back to the hotel - all of about 10 minutes away.

Well, after a little research, I found out why no one had heard of the Hard Rock Cafe - it had only been in Bangalore since December 29, 2007. HRC had only been open about 5 months when we went.

Make someone's day and perform a random act of kindness. It could be as simple as taking them somewhere they would really like to go.

Friday, May 23, 2008

India - Day 8 (Tuesday)

What a difference a day makes. I feel tremendously better today than I did yesterday.

The trip to the office was uneventful, which was a blessing in comparison to the 2-hour trip back to the hotel last night.

No matter how well you try to plan things out during the day, things don't always go the way that you want them to happen. An itinerary was planned out for a couple of days and it was off schedule from the first day.

After work, Suzy said she had some energy and was willing to check out some of places next to hotel. Walking the streets in Bangalore is a challenge as the pedestrians do not have the right of way like they do back home. Fortunately, the walk to the mall was very close.

We checked out the various different restaurants and decided on a Chinese restaurant called Noodles. I think it served Cantonese-style food, as the food centered more around the sweet tastes rather than spicy. Most of the items on the menu I have not seen at the Chinese restaurants back home, but the food was tasty. One idiosyncrasy that I have yet to grow accustomed to at the local restaurants is the staff serving you food all the time. You are not supposed to serve yourself.

We completed our dinner and made our way back to the hotel without anything eventful happening. Suzy says that I am her protector on the streets; I am big enough to scare most people off and since I survived the car accident earlier in the year, the small cars here don't stand a chance.

Make someone's day and perform a random act of kindness. It could be as simple as having dinner with someone who would normally have to eat alone.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

India - Day 7 (Monday)

Today is the first day that I won't be the only Hillsboro person here at EDC. Suzy, one of my big bosses, came in this morning at about 1:30 AM and we are going to be at the office at 9:00 AM this morning. She gets the same sleep, or lack there of, that I got on my first night in Bangalore.

To the left is a cow walking the streets of Bangalore that I saw from my hotel room window.

Getting to the office was the easy part. Getting back to the hotel was the challenging part. The average time to go from the hotel to the office was about 20 minutes, when there were no special events or cricket matches. Today, there was a cricket match in town. It took us 2 hours to get back to the hotel from the office. And we even left a little earlier than normal; if we left at the normal time, I think it could have taken 3 hours. I don't think this was exactly the experience that Suzy was expecting.

Up to this point, my visit to India was uneventful when it came to health. All was good. Until late this morning. I did not do anything out of the ordinary for me. I ate breakfast - and the only thing that I tried new from any of the other days was an apricot danish. A custodial crew came walking through the office spraying an air freshener today and it was overpowering. By 10 AM I was starting to feel miserable. I was hot and nauseous. The watermelon juice that I had at breakfast was the only thing I could taste. The boss at the office took Suzy and I out for lunch, but I could not eat more than a couple of bites. The waiter brought cool towels for us to wipe ourselves down, but came by to pick up the towel before I was ready for him to take it back. I had to ask for another cool towel so I could keep myself in check. I was able to make it through lunch without tossing my cookies.

I got back to the office and the air freshener smell was still strong, and I started to feel bad again. We had a meeting in a different room a few minutes later and the lack of smell in that room made me feel a little better. Lucky for me, jet lag started hitting Suzy and she was ready to leave early.

I got back to the hotel and food was not sounding appealing at all. I went back to my room and laid down to try to shake this feeling. I kept going between hot and cold and used the shower to try to regulate my temperature.

I was never so happy to see the end of a day as I was today.

Make someone's day and perform a random act of kindness. It could be as simple as providing a cold towel.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

India - Day 6 - (Sunday)

Yesterday was a full day and then some. Suman said that we could go see a movie or something today and I was hoping that it would be later in the day.

I ate breakfast at the cafe Lido at the Ista Hotel, where I stayed, most mornings, both because of its proximity to where I was and because the breakfast buffet was good. Lido was not considered to be their restaurant, but the staff was always waiting on you and willing to get you whatever you wanted.

Being Sunday, things were not like they were during the week. There was a brunch rather than a breakfast - which started at noon. I figured that I could wait until noon and just have a long meal; the food was very good, so I am glad I did. The best part of the meal was the lamb shank with a rosemary au jus. There was live entertainment, which I really like. There were only two guys - a guitar player and a saxophone player and they played songs from mostly the 70s, but were good enough to keep me entertained. I found that people in India were not much on applauding the guys, but I did anyway.

After eating brunch and taking a nap, Suman and I went to the mall to see a movie. We saw Death at a Funeral. If you like British humor, this is the movie for you. If you are not into the Monty Python type humor, you had better skip it.

When you go to see a movie, there are always snacks. Not only did I find normal popcorn at the theater, but there was also sweet corn that you could get seasoned in one of many fashions. I decided on the black pepper corn and sweet butter. It was pretty good, but it does not compare to regular popcorn. One of the other oddities at seeing a movie in Bangalore was that they created an intermission about half way through the movie so you could take a bio-break and buy some more snacks. Not a bad idea.

Make someone's day and perform a random act of kindness. It could be as simple as taking them to the movie when they could really use it.

Monday, May 19, 2008

India - Day 5 - Part 2

We left the 3 rivers and it was time to get lunch. We did not just go anywhere to get lunch, we went to a hotel whose slogan is, "We're not a palace, but we'll treat you like a king."

This hotel, Lalitha Mahal Palace, pictured on the right, was built in 1931 and is humongous. It was built by the Maharaja of Mysore to host the Viceroy of India. If you decide to eat here, make sure to bring your credit card (or take out a second on your house), as it is not cheap. The food is very good though.

We finished lunch and made our way to Mysore Palace - one of India's best kept secrets from the rest of the world - albeit it is very well known in India.

Now the Mysore Palace made the Lalitha Mahal Palace Hotel seem average size. This palace was built in 1912. Before you can enter the palace, you must turn in your camera to a camera room, very similar to a coat room. You also need to take your shoes off prior to entering the palace, but your shoes go to a different place than your camera does. There is a standard fee charged for shoes here - 1/2 Rupee. I think I got more than my money's worth this time as they had a watch my size-15 shoes.

I got a kick out of walking around the palace and watching the reactions from kids and a few adults as I meandered the hallways. I already stood out from the crowd because I am white and it looked like I had not been in the sun for months - I live near Portland, Oregon, what do you expect? - but I towered over the majority of the people there as well. The little kids would look up and me and I would smile at them and they would smile back. The adults, on the other hand, looked like they were a little worried. The average height in India is about 5'5". The average height at the palace was doing good if it were 5'. There were many people shorter than than that, so those people were having to look up at least 18". My height was an advantage as I could look over the top of the majority of the people to see whatever there was to see in any particular room.

Words cannot describe the architecture and craftsmanship that was put into the building of the palace. Built way before the time of power tools, remarkable is not a strong enough word to describe it. I have no idea how they built the structure as tall as they did. If you ever go to India, I do recommend going to see Mysore Palace.

Our last stop prior to heading back home was to see St. Philomena's Church. The Gothic structure was built in 1956 and is a marvel to the eyes. While we were there, a wedding was happening. It was rather cool to see a historic building actually being used for what it was originally intended.

The trip back to Bangalore seemed so much longer than the trip to Mysore. I think the reason was that we were tired from our adventure and that we did not have any stops along the way to entertain us as we made the stops on our way out.

Make someone's day and perform a random act of kindness. It could be as simple as showing someone the sites around your area.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

India - Day 5 - Saturday (Part 1)

Today we went to Mysore. Mysore is noted for the grand palace that is there, but there are also wonderful attractions to see while on your way to Mysore. Now to travel to Mysore from Bangalore by car is no small trip - it is not an hour and a half like some tourists are lead to believe - it is about 3 hours if traffic is good.

The day started out at about 6:30 AM. My Driver Rambas came by the hotel and we went out to Suman's place to pick him up as he was going to show me around so I would not get too lost.

Our first stop along the way was to get some breakfast. It looked similar to a rest stop on the side of the highway back home, but then you went a little ways back there were at least two different outdoor restaurants and both were extremely crowded. We sat down at the first one and found out that they were not serving breakfast, so we decided to go to the next one. It seemed to be more crowded than the first, but it was a buffet, so people were constantly moving around giving it the feeling of being overly crowded. The food was good - so it was understandable to why it was so busy.

Our first official stop was in Srirangapatnam (don't even think about asking me how to pronounce the city name). The picture at the top of this blog is of Tipu's summer palace. Its grounds were so peaceful filled with many very colorful red trees. This is also where the Tipu Sultan is buried next to his wife and son. There are also numerous other tombs around the grounds; some are adorned with silk covers. We could not figure out exactly why some were and some were, but our best guess was that they ones covered were those of women. Before you can enter the palace, you must take off your shoes. No big deal. I take off my shoes and one of the guys manning the shoe area hands me a red token with a number on it. Suman takes off his shoes and does not get a token. We go touring and when we are done, we go back for our shoes. Suman walks out without any problem. I try to walk out and I am blocked until I give them some rupees. I can just see the headline - Man heald hostage for his size 15 shoes. I give the man 10 rupees and I go on my way. I tell Suman and he says he must have gotten lucky.

So we start on our journey again and we make a stop at a park where the three rivers all meet and flow into one. It is well off the beaten path, but it is definitely not unknown by people, because there are vendors and people everywhere. There were organized vendors with some facsimile to booths and others who tried to solicit business by going person to person. If you did not pay attention to them they would yell either Hello or excuse me or both. I felt like I was being rude to them by not turning back around, but I did not want to buy what they were trying to sell. The coolest attraction I saw at this park was the river rides (pictured to the above left). They would take people on short rides around the river on the disc-like boats. Suman and I both decided that it probably would not be a good idea for us to go on a ride on a disc for two reasons. Firstly, the disc probably could not support my size and weight. And secondly, the drivers probably would not know how to balance one with someone my size on the boat and then everyone on board would end up going for a swim. I did not exactly feel like getting that wet and having to remove leeches from my skin.

I must stop for now as I need to get ready for the day. I will continue the trip on my next blog.

Make someone's day and perform a random act of kindness. It could be as simple as showing someone the sites around town that they have never seen before.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

India - Day 4 - Friday

I have not been able to tell what time the sun rises here in Bangalore, as it has been overcast each morning. The sun did come out for a little bit, but it turned to rain later in the day.

Today I went to lunch at a different style of Indian restaurant - don't even ask, I have no idea, other than it was not a place that I had been to yet. Suman ordered a green salad for an appetizer (known as a starter here). I expected lettuce for a green salad, but it was cucumbers, carrots, red onions, and what I thought was a snow pea. I really like snow peas, but it looked like there was just one snow pea, so I left it for a while to see if Suman was going to eat it. Well, after sometime, he did not eat it, so I decided that it was fair game so I ate it. After about 30 seconds, I found out that what I ate was not a snow pea. I started sweating like someone opened the dam gates. I told Suman that I ate something hot. He asked what I ate, and I told him the snow pea, and he said that was not a snow pea but a green chili pepper. I tried eating the chips, drinking the coke and eating more cucumbers and carrots, until the heat finally became bearable. Then our main meal came. With the meal came naan, which would have been really great to have had to get rid of the heat of the chili.

Back at the office, it has been enjoyable to see how fast the team - Vamsi, Suman, Mrinalini - has been catching onto everything I have been trying to teach them.

Make someone's day and perform a random act of kindness. It could be as simple as getting them a couple of pieces of bread if they happen to eat a chili thinking it is something else.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

India - Day 3 - Thursday

Today is a holiday here in India - Labor Day. Since the Ness office is closed, I worked from the hotel so I could try to catch up on my regularly assigned work. My hotel room has a broadband connection - and they do not offer it free here - so it is almost like working from home, but not quite as fast. The power outages are definitely a challenge here.

The picture above is the pool at my hotel, Ista. The hotel and people are very nice.

I did see something very strange to me though. A car was smoking very badly in front of the hotel and I saw that a person was putting the smoke into the car - at first glance, it looked like the inside of the car was on fire. I found out the reason for the smoking of the car was because a mosquito was found in the car. Mosquitoes are carriers of Malaria and they were doing what they could to get rid of the bugs.

I ate lunch at the hotel restaurant. I had a minced lamb and coriander soup that was really tasty. On the whole though, I prefer the restaurants that Vamsi, Suman and Mrinalini brought me to eat.

Jet lag hit me today. I think I am over it now.

Make someone's day and perform a random act of kindness. It could be as simple as holding the elevator door open.

India - Day 2

I got to go to two different restaurants today. China Pearl was the first place we went. The menu had lots of items on it that I had not seen before. One of the interesting traits of the menu I thought was the quantity of different soups. Suman and Mrinalini asked me what I wanted to have, and I told them I would like to have something they would normally eat, so we each selected an item from the menu to have. Other than chicken and fish, I have no idea what we had, but it was good.

Then later in the day, Vamsi and Suman took me to an Indian restaurant for a snack. Unlike the Indian restaurant that I went to on the first day with Vamsi and Suman, Vamsi and Suman were not the only Indian patrons at the place. This place today had lots of Indian patrons and I think I was the only non-Indian patron. Vamsi ordered us what he called breakfast for snack time. It seemed like a cross between a pancake and a crepe filled with curry potato. There were a couple of dipping sauces for it as well. I would eat them again.

No more mugging attempts today, so it was a good day.

Make someone's day and perform a random act of kindness. It could be as simple as asking them to go to lunch or snack with you.

India - Day 1

After having breakfast at the hotel, which had lots of fruits, including mangos and papayas - I found that I like mango juice - I was driven to the EDC office.

I thought the drive from the airport to the hotel was an experience - the experience going from the hotel to the office was much more of an eye opener. Two inches seems to be too much room to have been vehicles, motorcycles, bicycles or people.

The folks at EDC are very nice and accommodating. Suman is in the picture to the right. When we went to lunch, we walked the few blocks to the restaurant. On the way back, there was this little girl, about 8 or 9 years-old, carrying a small bamboo basket. She starting speaking in her native tongue, needless to say, I did not understand a word she said, and was gesturing with her free hand like she was saying someone was talking a lot. Suman shooed her away. I asked him what that was about. Suman said that she said she had a snake in the basket and if we did not give her all our money she would let the snake out to bite us. He said he told her to go away because that trick does not work on him. My first day in India and I nearly get mugged by a little girl who was not even as tall as my waist. My wife got a good laugh after I told her.

Make someone's day and perform a random act of kindness. It could be as simple as saving someone from getting mugged.


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