more eating, more friends

The day before yesterday I chose to “order out” for lunch, something I was told I could do if I didn’t want to eat the cafeteria food. So, My second day here, I thought I’d try it. I asked the admin assistant if I could order out. She said, “Sure John, what would you like? Pizza? Burgers?” If I was really perceptive at this point, I might have thought something like, “Gee, I guess that’s what the other guys from the states must have eaten.”

So, eventually lunch time rolls around, and I go to find the food. It was set up in the cafeteria, and one of the nicest tables. But, the Pizza Hut box was not the only thing present — there on the table was a gilded paper placemat, a gold-edged china plate, fancy silverware, a Coke and bottled water. Now, the bottled water is kind of a requirement for people from the States, because the biology of the water here could make me useless for a large chunk of my expensive company-sponsored stay, so that didn’t bother me. What bothered me was that, unlike yesterday, my team didn’t sit with me. I felt like I was being treated like the lord of the manor, or something, a role I am very uncomfortable with, and the lunch separated me from from them in ways beyond the culinary and into the social. I vowed to myself not to order out again for the remainder of my stay.

Yesterday, I ate in the cafeteria again, using the plastic plates, etc. My team sat with me again, with questioning smiles. I had some awesome korma and other Indian food. I was asked several times how the orderd-out food was, and if it was to my liking. I said the veggie pizza was very good, comparing favorably to that back home, but that this lunch food was really much more to my tastes. This brought a more relaxed easy smiling to their faces. The food was more spicy than last time, but well within my chile-loving tolerance. In fact, I must have passed some spicy food test, because they all looked at each other as I cleaned my plate and then said that if I liked that, they would like to go to dinner with me and take me to a nice spicy Punjabi restaurant. I felt more like a co-worker and friend after that meal, for the first time since arriving.

Needless to say, I ate at the cafeteria again today with my new friends. Thanks be to God!

initial india

I ate lunch in the cafeteria here in Bangalore today. Others from Denver had warned me about it from a gastronomic concern point of view. So, of course, I had to try it. It was good, nice spices in the food. The guys here say many from US think it is too spicy, but really, it wasn’t all that spicy. . . I had dosas (kind of like a rice flour pancake with seasonings) with a chutney, soup, spiced beets, some spicy dal like thing, and so on.

Another important finding: the coffee at the hotel this morning was kind of unusual, but very good. Must be some varietal I’ve never had. They also have a nice Gaggia espresso machine, but I haven’t had one yet. (I know, I know, shock-inducing, jaw-dropping information). The thing is, there hasn’t been a person at the machine, and, well the portafilter isn’t in it, which means it is not at the right temp, so unless I tell them how to use their machine, or get permission to do so myself, the espresso will probably be very bitter. The coffee at work, now… well, it is coffee powder, add hot water or hot milk. I’ll leave it at that.

The internet connectivity is very good at the office, and the hotel has an “Executive Club”, which means a couple internet PCs I could blog from. I “belong” to this club because I’m in an outrageously expensive room by Indian standards. This “club” also entitles me to a free breakfast buffet, which includes a variety of Indian dishes, ceral, pastery, pancakes, fruit (fresh figs, papaya, mango etc), and smoked fish and lamb roulade. (Hey Jeb, that there’s French for rolled lamb meat).

So, just how outrageous is the room rate? Well, suffice it to say that the nightly rate is almost more than the average annual salary of someone who lives in rural Karnataka, the state Bangalore is located in — or about $230 per night.

I went walking about Bangalore my first day here, trying to get the blood back in my leg muscles after 20 hours on planes and then sleeping. I was out a couple of hours. The few roadside shops in my area are about 10′x13′ and sell a few items. I bought a 600ml Kingfisher lager (local) for 50 Rupees — about a buck, and a 600ml Pepsi for 15 Rupees — about a 34 cents. When I stop at them, it was all ‘sir’ this and that, it was odd to see the atmosphere change visibly when I stopped somewhere. The walk was mostly nice, although I saw a person or two urinating on walls near the streets. The buildings all look a little run down on the street I walked down.

Anyway, I’m still trying to pick up a vibe for the place. I forgot to bring my USB cable to the office, or I’d upload a pic or two. Perhaps later. Bye for now.

mea culpa

I left the office late yesterday, as I had to make sure that everything was ready for me to leave, and that I had everything I needed. As I was heading home late, I saw the line of cars streching out in front of me for an entire block — a half hour of waiting, stop and go. I wanted to get home to see my little ones (since I was leaving for India and wouldn’t see them for three weeks, I thought selfishly), so I did the dubious thing… I went up the right lane (which was empty) and at the last moment cut out of the right-turn-only lane across the solid white line, cutting another car off and making it through the intersection. Without waiting for any light. Mission accomplished!

Then I notice the flashing lights behind me. Yes, a motorcycle cop had caught me in the act. Yes, officer, I knew it was a turn lane, I knew what I did was wrong. Yes, I received a ticket. My first one in — almost ten years. Really, I drive pretty sanely 99% of the time.

The real irony is the for the last two years, I’ve often been cut off by someone at that very spot, and self-righteously wished that there was a police presence there to catch “those guys.” I’m sure the person I cut off drove by quite smugly, just as I would have.

And I forgot my laptop lock at the office, and have to go back today anyway. Sigh.

to india

I will be leaving Friday (as many of you know) to head to the other side of the world, to Bangalore, India, for a three week business trip. I am both looking forward to going and dreading being away from family for so long. Far away — 8,742 miles as the 747 flies. It will be two nine-and-a-half hour flights to get there — I’m taking Lufthansa, so my layover is in Frankfurt, Germany.

Since the trip is for work, I will have access to the net every day via the office, and I hope to post some observations on India while I’m there, and perhaps a few photos. I’m sure it will be nothing at all like I expect. Really, I’m not sure what I expect, anyway.

My primary concern at this point, in my own addicted way, is whether I will be able to find a decent espresso. I’m not counting on it, but that quest will certainly figure into the adventure of being there.