A Travellerspoint blog

How deep is your love...

No reason for the title other than the Bee Gees song has been on my mind since dinner and I figure if I have to suffer... so should you.

sunny 70 °F
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Well, I'm down to my last 5 hours in India and I'm repacked and tired but keeping myself awake by updating my blog and watching the Lord of the Rings...it's been awhile since I've seen the movies so I'm not sure if it's the second or third installment... (Return of the King - is that the final one?) - but I suppose you're not reading my blog to hear about movies, so I should catch you up on my week!

Let's see... the beginning of the week began slow enough, but by Wednesday everything was a rush. I was up early to fly to Pune, a city just outside of Mumbai. Admittedly I was a little nervous given there was a terrorist attack over the weekend, but being of the firm belief that "if it's my time, it's my time" I braved the trip anyway. Turns out all was fine and I survived the trip to our Design Center. For those of you who didn't hear, there was a terrorist attack at a Germany bakery in Pune over this past weekend.

From Pune we flew to Bangalore, which is officially the furthest south that I have been in India. I knew this not only because of the map, but because of the HEAT! Ha ha - we landed at about 8:30pm and it was still about 80 degrees out. Thursday was actually not too bad, though, which was a nice surprise. We started the day visiting my previous employer (and the company that first took me to India) before heading to our Bangalore office. The best part was lunch - our team there took me and my travel companions to a traditional South Indian lunch at a BEAUTIFUL hotel. It was very filling but quite tasty. Not as spicy as I expected it to be... We had a late flight back to Delhi and I was to the hotel a little after midnight.

Today was my last day in the office and I spent the day having some great conversations with colleagues and saying goodbye to new friends. The HR Director gave me a book on India - an in depth overview of the history of the country from the beginning of time through Independence. We've had some healthy debates and conversations over the last couple of weeks and I'm looking forward to reading up so that when I return in the summer I'm able to have a more educated stance to take! :) God knows I hate to lose a debate.

All in all it's been a great trip - I've learned so much about the ever-changing Indian economy and also had quite the education on my company. Since I've only been with the company for 3 months there is still a lot to learn while on these trips and I'm looking forward to continuing this journey in China.

I have a full day of travel ahead on Saturday (I'm struggling to understand the logic of flying 4 hours West to Dubai before flying 7.5 hours East to Shanghai, but who am I to question a free upgrade to first class on Emirates Air?) and have to fit in shopping on Sunday! Keep an eye out for Chapter II of my Around the World: China!!

Posted by rubywheels 23:38 Archived in India Tagged business_travel Comments (0)

"Very Special For You"

Shopping, sightseeing and random monkeys

sunny 80 °F
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Well, I finished my first work week yesterday feeling very fulfilled. I've learned a lot this week - which has been very exciting! The workforce population here is fascinating... and wealth is still a "new" thing, which explains some of the challenges companies have here with retention, compensation strategies, etc. But, rather than make this about work, I'll tell you about my first day off since I arrived. :)

(please refer to my photos for a collection of pictures from the day)

So, I began my day at the Lotus Temple - which is the Baha'i House of Worship here in Delhi. As you can see from the pictures, it is quite beautiful. (For those of you in the Chicago area this far outshines the Baha'i temple in Evanston... which is also a beautiful building!) A service was going on when we got there and while I didn't fully understand the singing they did recite The Lord's Prayer, which I thought was odd. That said, I don't know ANYTHING about this religion going in so to hear such a familiar prayer seemed out of place. I referred to the brochure that they gave me to gain an understanding of the faith and for those of you interested in learning, here are their fundamental principles:

a. The Oneness of Mankind
b. Independent investigation of Truth
c. The common foundation of all regions (This must be where the Lord's Prayer comes in)
d. The essential harmony of Science and Religion
e. Equality of Men and Women
f. Elimination of Prejudice of all kinds
g. Universal Compulsory Education
h. Universal Peace

It was quite a peaceful experience... except for the millions of children that were there on school holiday. Millions.

From there I revisited my past relationship with India with a trip to a place called "Delhi Haat." Shopping got me into some trouble last time I was here but I did end up with some beautiful jewelry... and pashminas... and jewelry... Anyway, Delhi Haat is a state-run Handicraft store presenting the best of India and in what I can only describe as the luckiest day ever, everything that I found was "Very Special for Me." Now, those of you who have traveled in India are likely chuckling at this point... for those of you who haven't let me fill you in. This is the phrase they use to encourage you to buy. How could you pass up the pashmina when it is very special for you? Made just for you. Miss - VERY. SPECIAL. FOR. YOU. The high pressure sales in Indian Handicraft stores can be described as uncomfortable by some and quite enjoyable by others. I am somewhere in the middle...admittedly in my 2007 trip I was uncomfortable, so at least this shows a progression. I'm not sure I'll ever fully enjoy this experience - they take you to a special room and proceed to unwrap just about everything in the store so that you can see - this first part was textiles, so pashminas (of varying quality), bed coverings, table runners, etc. Imagine a small room with walls filled with packaged fabrics and them pulling them at rapid speed to display for you. It's difficult because only about 25% of them catch your eye and you don't want to be mean... but today I fully embraced "Nahi" - which means no. (The art comes with saying it in a disgusted way.) The other problem, though, is that at least every other one is 'very special for you.' And how can a girl say no? Well, fortunately I did... not to nearly enough, but I am proud that I talked them down by 6000 rupees on one pashmina (that's about $129! only ended up paying approx $30 for it!!) and down by 4,000 rupees on a bracelet ($90-ish off... I will not disclose the actual buying price on this one though...). All in all, I was exhausted by the end, basically tired of arguing and haggling ("I don't care how much it costs I really just don't like it" - wish I knew how to say this in Hindi).

Since I had seen a lot of the major sights of Delhi in 2007 I went from shopping to another touristy destination that I hadn't been to before: Humayun's Tomb. This tomb was actually the inspiration for the Taj Mahal and you will notice in my pictures quite a few similarities. While it doesn't compare to the Taj (nothing really can) it was actually really cool. Humayun was the second Mughal emperor and the tomb was built in 1565. Buried with him at the tomb are his wives, part of his court and also his favorite barber!

After this my driver took me past India Gate (built to commemorate Indian and British soldiers that dies in WWI, as well as those who died in battle in the North-West Frontier Province AND the Third Afghan War.) This is located very near the Indian Parliament House and Presidential Palace, and we drove down the Avenue of Embassies (my term) on our way back to the hotel. This area had a surprising amount of monkeys. (Not much to say after a statement like that - see my pictures for proof.)

After a nice and refreshing shower in the Kohler waterfall (note: product placement) I've spent the evening talking to family and friends on Skype, watching American Idol and the last season of Lost on TV, and writing my blog.

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day which is a surprisingly popular holiday here in India. Between the commercials on TV, decorations in the office and "Valentine's Day Specials" at the hotel I feel like I'm in some extreme version of the US. It's a new holiday so they're still very excited about it... except for those who think it's too Western and protest it. So, in addition to the bracelet I mentioned above that I bought for myself today I'm going to take myself to the spa tomorrow to celebrate the Love. I'll be accepting gifts and phone calls as well if anyone would like to take me up on that. ;)

After an exhausting day and what is sure to be a relaxing day tomorrow, I'm looking forward to another great week here in India! Mid-week I'll be in Pune (right outside of Mumbai - our Design Center is there) and in Bangalore. Back to Delhi on Friday before flying out 4:30am on Saturday to China. More to come!!

Posted by rubywheels 18:55 Archived in India Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Guest is God

How to make even a Diva uncomfortable with attention...

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So... for all of you out there who have accused me of thinking I'm the center of the universe (you know who you are) I'm here to tell you (again) that it isn't true! My proof is how incredibly uncomfortable I am with the amount of attention I'm getting here. I was told by my driver from the airport that the saying here is "Guest is God"... which, as an aside, was right before he asked if he could touch me because he'd never touched a white person before. That aside I thought he may be exaggerating. That is until...

1. I had a hostess actually accompany me to my room to check in rather than have me wait in line at the front desk
2. Everyone bows to me
3. The floor hostess (that's right) called down about dinner last night to the restaurant to forewarn them that I'm a foreigner (apparently they couldn't tell by looking at me...). This meant they not only went easy on the spice, there wasn't any at all. :( As a fan of spicy food this honestly was a little disappointing...
4. I have been asked about 15 times (remember it's day 2) what I am doing this weekend with many suggestions when I've said that I'm not sure yet... so much pressure!
5. When I called with an internet connection issue tonight they sent a technician to my room rather than trying to solve over the phone
6. People won't let me get to the office on my own. They come to pick me up, they walk me home... I think I finally convinced them that I can walk myself tomorrow (we'll see - I half suspect someone will be waiting in the lobby).

Other than that, it's only been two days but honestly feels like I've been here longer!

Work is going well - my favorite part of the office itself is that we have 'office boys' that bring us drinks to our desks. That's the best... a cultural phenomenon that I'd love to take back with me to the US! I've had some interesting business meetings and I'm learning quite a bit already. Such a cool experience.

I haven't had much time to take pictures, but I have included two:

1. The view from my hotel room
2. A picture of my shower... OK- this may seem silly but remember I work for Kohler and also, well, once you've experienced the rainshower you know that it's worth taking a picture of.

More to come later this week!

Posted by rubywheels 19:54 Archived in India Tagged business_travel Comments (0)

At the airport...

Experiencing of the business lounge.

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So, after much drama I'm packed, checked in through security, and am down to only an hour before I board the plane and head off on my adventure. Perhaps my favorite part of the day so far is when the man behind me in line at the airline check-in counter looked at my bags and said "Geez, do you have a toilet in there or something?". (As a side note, I'm hoping the toilet reference was used because he saw my Kohler tags...) ANYway, that should give you all an idea of how my bags looked. Big. And Heavy. Yup - that about sums it up (and yes, I said bags plural).

Since the subheading is "experiencing the business lounge" I feel I should explain what is going on around me here:

1. People leave their bags unattended and walk away... for a long period of time. I find this a little troubling but tempting all the same. I really need some water, but am nervous that I will be the one person who either gets their bags stolen or ends up with an unwanted item in it. Which brings me to point 2:

2. Why don't they have someone walking around the lounge to bring us drinks?

3. No matter what class of lounge, there is always the likelihood that I will end up sitting next to people who are having a silly conversation that I can't help but listen to. Exhibit A: I don't like Loreal lipstick but I really like this shade. Exhibit B: That is a great color of nail polish - is that a hint of pink in it? Exhibit C: It's actually a 2 carat diamond - we were looking at the 1.5 but this one was just so much better. It's a lot of weight but the setting is just, well, just beautiful. (another side note: yes, I admit that I am jealous, but to be fair it's been 10 minutes and they are still discussing the ring). I could go on, but, well, that may make it worse.

4. They have a "buffet" that is comprised of sun chips, kit kats and cheese. Random...

5. I'm not sure, but I think I just saw George Clooney. (OK, just kidding, but that would be a good celebrity sighting...)

And on that note, time to put on my headphones and relax to some of my favorite tunes. I wish you all a good weekend and I'll check in next week from Delhi!

Posted by rubywheels 16:57 Archived in USA Tagged business_travel Comments (0)

Getting Ready...

(or... how to avoid packing like only a professional procrastinator can)

So... preparing to leave the country for 9 weeks in the world of me... TV on? Check. Suitcases UNpacked? Check. Lists prepared? Check. Items crossed off the list? Well.... that's another story. I've always been good at making lists, I just usually get tired of the items on it after I write them out. Not my best quality, I guess. ;)

Seems as though I haven't really made much progress over the last few weeks despite all of my talk about pre-planning. I suppose since I'm still somewhat organizing my apartment after moving in 2 1/2 months ago I shouldn't be surprised. How is it that after years of writing papers at the last minute and finishing projects at the final hour I still have not grasped that preparation is the key to lowering stress levels?

Although as I sit here typing on my computer, watching an episode of Criminal Minds and chilling with my cat I suppose we couldn't fairly describe my stress level as anything other than... 'meh'. I seem to be operating on the theory that I can buy anything that I forget to pack. (As a side note, this is a theory that more often than not gets me into some trouble while traveling...)

With that, I'm going to finish up this episode and then try to pack something. Or not... I wonder how else I can procrastinate tonight?

Ha ha! More to come as I return to India, continue on to China, France and the UK to embrace the adventure of seeing new places, new countries and making new friends!

Posted by rubywheels 22:12 Archived in USA Tagged packing Comments (0)

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