contradictions in India

For me contradictions abound in India.
I am in a fascinating new place, on the other side of the globe, but I hardly have time to see it. Outside the average office building where I work [and work and work] in is an encampment of shacks. 'Temporary' homes for construction workers and their families completely primitive.
I am here in the monsoon season but there is a drought.
When it does rain [heavily] there doesn't seem to be much drainage planned and the water just piles up.
Being in India is an intense experience. To be fair, I would probably find training for 4 solid weeks, noon to 9pm, working 55 hours a week intense no matter where I did it. India though just adds it's own twist on everything.
There seem to be temples and shrines everywhere and all in use, I asked one guide how many temples there were in the city of Hyderabad and he seemed floored. There must be thousands I guess he finally answered. I bet he is right, it reminds me of Rome with a church or a ruin on every street. There is a level of poverty that is stunning along with an amazing level of devout belief. I wonder if these 2 things often coincide?
There are many things to laugh about, usually at myself when I rub up against a cultural difference that just strikes me as funny. One can get so used to security that one is amazed to enter a restaurant and not go through a metal detector first
There is an amazingly expensive hotel. The hotel had a smokey kitchen fire the night of a big storm, when the doors were opened to let smoke out water rushed in flooding the lobby. Now the lobby smells, as far as we can tell the area rugs were never picked up for drying or cleaning. Could it be that smells are just to be expected during the rainy season? I have no idea, it's India and things are just so different from anything I knew previously.
People have a hard time saying no, some people even say yes when they mean no, for the life of me I can't figure out when yes means no and when yes mean yes. Except by results. It can be totally bewhildering.
I am in awe, at how people work, at how they eat but stay so tiny, at how they laugh and share, I am amazed at all the sameness. I have 9 more days in India and I can't even imagine what will happen next. Except I'll be working a lot.

saris and uniforms

Although I seem to blog in my head constantly I am having trouble getting online to do it. The internet connection, even from this large hotel, is very very slow compared to what I am used it tends to make work take longer which cuts into blogging time.

Attached to the hotel is a large convention center where many weddings happen. One of the weddings last week was 7000+ people and there is suppose to be another as large on the 15th! There was so much traffic we got out and walked to the hotel once we could see it. It was much faster. I have been told in the south here, 500-800 people at your wedding is considered rather small. It seems in the North weddings are not quite so large.

I frequently observed the women enter for the wedding in their most elegant saris. I have never seen fabric like that before and each one seems to more beautiful than the next. It is like the most wonderful fashion parade in the world. And it also seems charming to me to see the sari uniforms that are worn by flight attendants or staff at the center. A sari as a uniform is wonderful. There also seem to be lots of other types of uniforms. The spa workers wear brick red silk tops with pearls. The clerks are all in black. The doormen/security are all in khakis and straw hats.

I have read and been told that workers in India frequently get allowances for food, clothing, housing along with their pay which does not get taxed. I am guessing that these uniforms are part of the complicated packages.

Of course as hotel employees I am sure they are trained to be courteous to guests but it is nice to say good morning and smile at everyone. I enjoy greeting people that way, and most of the time it does help your day be better.

first day kinda

So my 'first day' in India. The jet lag is really something. So hard to feel like it is day when your body is screaming at you that it is night time. Sunday morning, after a safe arrival in the hotel I felt like I had been beaten with a stick. It was so intense and unreal. I showered [which was bliss] and ate then feel into a weird intense sleep for a good 5 hours.

Why is it that I always feel so incredibly dirty after travel? I am not really doing much at all, just sitting around for the most part. But I get so incredibly grubby, or at least I feel that way.

Anyway I woke up at 1:30, determined to stay awake until evening. It was not easy but I did it. A coworker and I decided to get a driver and go out into the city. We at first thought to use a hotel driver but they wanted to charge us 2000-4000 rupees for a few hours which I knew was way too much. I have read that you can hire a driver and AC car for Rs 100 [or less] for a whole day. I'm not sure if the hotel always charges high because it is a very expensive hotel, or is they thought we were suckers. We lucked out though, one of the drivers assigned to our group was available and showed up speaking excellent English and we were off.
Hyderabad is a large city with a lot of traffic. He took us around. He took us to his friends' lovely shop even though we assured him we would not be purchasing today. It was nice to have our first peek at Indian crafts. It was also odd to be in a store where 4 people are hovering around anxious to be of service. I, not surprisingly, fell in love with an all silk rug.

My in-laws brought back 2 of these gorgeous rugs from their trip. But they are expensive even in India, and I cannot help but think what happens the first time one of the animals throws up on it? Or has another kind of 'accident'? That is what would happen in my house [probably]. So we'll see if I succumb in the month I am here.

Then we drove to visit the Birla Mandir temple.,_Hyderabad
They do not allow cameras [or phones or shoes] there which seems reasonable since it is an active temple and people are at their devotions there. Cell phones are legion in India and the ringing is probably not very conducive to meditation. There are a legion of pictures to be found online though. Not only is the temple itself beautiful but the views from the top over the lake and city are stunning. We saw 2 men cleaning a wall with water and pumice, certainly a full time job since the entire thing is made of marble. Since no one wears shoes, even the security guards, your feet don't get too dirty.

I can't even describe everything that we saw on that drive. The Muslim graveyard with it's brightly colored markers. The cows all over. The amazing way they drive. Surely Indians are the leaders at merging while driving. The incredible way 4+ people fit on one scooter. The dogs I saw all seemed large and long legged. The incredible amounts of new construction, the boulders and ruins and shacks of people right next to new office buildings.

India is so large. In fact this is the first time this week I have thought about missing Mich Fest. India really fills your senses.

Exhaustion and drinking fountains

It will be interesting to see how many mistakes I make in this post. I am getting slammed with some serious jet lag. It's making things seem harder than they are, making me feel crowded and overwhelmed. Like my comfort zone is nowhere to be found.

The leg from Amsterdam to Mumbai was not as nice. It was a much older, less comfortable plane. The airplane food was occasionally edible. The attendants very nice, and I got about 3-4 hours of real sleep which was certainly needed when we got to India.

I wish I could really describe what happened at the Mumbai airport but I can't because I don't understand it. We needed the check in ticket counter for our next leg so that we could get our boarding pass. But there was no signage like 'airline ticket counters', I can't even think about how many mistakes we probably made. But in the end we made it onto the proper plane full of attendants in saris. In fact we found out later the entire crew for that flight including the captain and pilots were females. They announced this at the end of the trip and everyone applauded.

Hyderabad was smoother, although we went down the international hallway which since we had entered the country in Mumbai was an error. They all just looked at our entry stamp and waved us through. Everyone was so patient and nice. Which was wonderful especially since I felt like crying there mostly just because I was so short on sleep and energy. A couple of people with 3 cars met us at work and we had a 45 minute trip to the hotel. Everything was a breeze at that point.

I saw a drinking water stand in Mumbai and I got so excited then I remembered I am not suppose to drink non bottled water in India. The exact same thing happened in the Hyderabad airport. I was proud of myself for managing to remember, then later on today I wet my toothbrush at the tap all on automatic. ah well.

I am following my doctor's regimen of one pepto and one probiotic a day. So far so good. But buffets full of food you don't recognize but try leads too much food. I may start ordering from the menu some times.

airport lounge

So the first leg of my journey is done and I am sitting in the lounge at the Amsterdam airport. We came in with a beautiful sunrise. The flight over the Atlantic was pretty sweet in business class. Of course when I am again traveling on my own dime it will be hard to get used to coach.

Everything is going well although I am so tired. I guess I have been so excited that I have not slept well.

Currently in the airline lounge where one of my mates pointed out that Ted Nugent was in the next group of seats. I didn't even notice. The woman with him looks like a blond starlet, glamorous even under these circumstances.

Although there is a waiting list for the showers it still nice to know the option exists. But I still have another 9 hour flight ahead of me so no shower yet.