March 16th, 2005

self portrait

Arrived Chennai

Got here safe and sound. Am ensconsced in the hotel. It's 2:30 a.m. and I'm going to see about getting some sleep. Plan on going into the office tomorrow afternoon and will likely work 2nd shift here for the remainder of this week and then go on 1st shift next week.
  • Current Mood
    happy happy
self portrait

The getting here, as it happened.

Mistakenly took my winter coat, embroidered with "Sahib Story" with me on the flight from Mpls. I meant to leave it in the car so that I wouldn't be saddled with a heavy coat in Chennai, where it will be in the 80s or so during my entire stay. Ah, well, it could be worse.

I was the entertainment in the security theatre leaving Mpls. as well. When instructed to remove my shoes for the X-ray, I responded, "No, thank you," and was directed off to the "Red Line" where I was made to stand on the "Red X" until my bags came through then the very nice man explained the manual screening process, wanded me and wiped my shoes with the explosive-detecting paper.(I remember when they used to wipe your bags with those.) And here I had gone out of my way to not have anything metal on me, wore my canvas sneakers and complied with all the carry-on theater (laptop and camera in a separate bin, no knife, never mind it's 2.5" blade, etc.). But no, it would have been quicker to take my shoes off and put them back on. Sigh.

The flight to Chicago was uneventful and I was glad of my coat on the plane. It was a tad chilly, so having a jacket to curl up in caught me a couple of minutes of snoozing time without having to track a flight attendant down for a blanket.

It's now 1:03 PM Monday. My flight from here to Frankfurt leaves in a couple of hours. I've had a quick bite of lunch and have hunted down what seems to be the ideal place to plug in my laptop for a quick update: on a bench next to the gate desk. They have a power outlet on the front and I have a place to sit that isn't the floor. I'm amused by my fellow electronic travelers who are either camped on the floor or who trail cords around corners to get to the few outlets available. I wonder if they think that connecting to power at the gate desk is doing something wrong, of if they just didn't spot the outlets. (It took me a bit of walking around before I spotted them.)

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The flight to Frankfurt was pretty packed and there was the minor competition between the screaming infant and the screaming toddler that went on just a tad too long. Other than that, though, it wasn't bad. Both the kids finally fell asleep, which let me fall asleep. I was awake through most of "Finding Neverland." When we got to Frankfurt, I successfully navigated my way to my gate but was surprised that I didn't hit customs. I guess if I'm not leaving the airport, I don't count as visiting the country. Drat it all. Maybe on the way home, I'll wander outside so that I can get a stamp on my passport.

The Frankfurt airport is a study in austere. Severe lighting, that appears to be halogen, is directed on to the polished metal strips of the ceiling. An effective way to scatter the light, but one that looks severe.

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I curled up on a semi-comfy pair of seats and caught a bit of a nap in my gate area. I figured that when boarding time came about three hours later, that the crush of people and PA announcements would wake me, if nothing else. I woke up about two and a half hours later, a bit confused that there were not very many people in the general area and no plane at the gate. I poked around and there were not gate agents either. And the signs saying where a flight would be going were dark. Very odd.

So I trapsed down to where I knew there were departure listings to discover that my flight had changed gates. Ah, that explains it. Oh, and they're boarding now! So a quick walk back to the correct gate this time and I'm one of the last few folks on the plane. Kind of nice, that, actually, as you don't have to muck around with people wanting to get past you or shoving your stuff around in an overhead bin.

The business class was half vacant on the flight from Frankfurt to Chennai and I was half-tempted to sneak up there for a more comfy chair to snooze in. After flying Lufthansa from Chicago to Frankfurt and Frankfurt to Chennai, I'm convinced that the Germans are, as a group, fat-assed people. That's the only way I can see how they would be comfortable in those seats. Oh! my aching coccyx.

Arrived at Chennai in the dead of night and breezed through customs without so much as a second glance. Got to baggage claim and waited. And waited. And watched fully three-fourths of the people on the flight get their luggage. Began to worry about if my luggage made it. Waited some more. Spied my bag, grabbed it and made for the exit!

I was accosted by people looking to book me into hotels on the way out, but told them off politely as I knew someone from work would be there to pick me up. They were and a mildly-harrowing ride into town later, I was placed safely in room 3027 of the Park Hotel.

It's 2:50 a.m. now and I plan on going in to work in the afternoon. First full day of work will be Thursday. So it's off to bed for now.
  • Current Mood
    awake awake
self portrait

The being here, day 1

So my first day has been pretty quiet. I didn't actually get to sleep after I'd posted earlier in the morning and stayed up watching movies on the hotel cable system until 6:00 AM or so. Finally got a couple hours of sleep and then headed down for breakfast.

As I'd been told the prior evening during my whirlwind tour, the main restaurant has a breakfast buffet. It gets billed to the room so I really have no idea how much it costs. I left a 20-rupee tip. (I was able to do that because the front desk changed money for me. Probably not the best rate, but darned convenient.)

Breakfast had a boring selection of western items and I was offered eggs. I opted, instead, to try their Indian selections. There were some crunchy golden things that looked like mini-donuts that went nicely with the coriander chutney. I also liked the things that seemed to essentially be banana pancakes. The tomato chutney was spicier than I expected for breakfast but went well with the dish that appeared to be mashed potatoes with a few vegetables and the plain roasted potato wedges.

After breakfast, I headed back up to my room for more sleep. I was awoken by the fellow from St. Paul who met me at the airport, Rick, and we shared a car to the office. Interesting and surprisingly effective security at the office: You sign in with your name, who you're visiting and why. If you are carrying a bag, a person takes a look through it. Things not allowed appear to include recording media of any kind (CDs, disks). (Though they do allow cell phones, but that seems to be because no one here can function without one.)

The building is all Office Tiger, the company we have a joint venture with. One floor is dedicated to our team. One floor up is the cafeteria and smoking lounge. The whole building used to be a parking garage but has been renovated nicely for this new use. (No slanting floor or other oddness to be seen. I suspect they gutted the main structure and rebuilt it.)

The "business formal" I was informed was the dress code is a bit off. No jackets are required. So I could have gotten away with a selection of button-down shirts and ties. There's a big chunk of luggage space wasted.... In any case, the people were really nice. Those that I'd met in St. Paul came up to welcome me to their home city. I was given a local log-in to the computers and was able to check mail. I even did a bit of "official" work in the few hours I was there. My main task will be clarifying copy for the team as they work on preparing documents. Though highly skilled and possessing very good English, they lack some of the cultural clues that would allow them to decipher the messy handwriting that accompanies so much of our work or an understanding of how our clients might make errors that would allow them to interpret confusing data. (Such as when a row of numbers in a table are not all entered into the same row, due to a missed click or such.)

Had lunch there for 20 rupees. Big bowl of rice, vegetables and four small bowls of accompaniments. All were tasty. Throw in a Sprite for 6 rupees and that was the extent of it.

After lunch, the associated lethargy set in and I started yawning in my seat as the colleague that I'm replacing and I investigated a problem with a job from yesterday. So when my colleague returned to the hotel (she works first shift, as I will next week), I came along and crashed.

Paid for another hour of 'net access here in the room and posted updates. Now planning to change into something casual and go get some food. Don't know if anyone else from my group is up or not but I'm not at all adverse to eating alone, so that won't stop me. Probably won't venture out of the hotel tonight. There's a couple of restaurants to try and I need to check out "The Leather Bar," which is attached to the lobby.

Then to bed and a normal working day tomorrow.
  • Current Mood
    awake awake