Friday, June 25, 2010

Two posts in one

Training sessions are always exhausting, but yesterday's in particular was mentally draining. We kicked off the morning with the Lego game, which I'd played before as a part of the interview process for ThoughtWorks. I'd enjoyed it then, so I came into the game with a pretty laid back attitude, confident that our team would do well because we had another TWUer who'd played before as well. Our first iteration went smoothly - we had been appropriately conservative with our sign-ups and were the only team that had all our stories approved by our "client" - and at that point, I was arbitrarily (RPS) assigned the role of Project Manager within our team in addition to being the only BA.

Shit metaphorically hit the fan during the second iteration. We signed up for a lot of stories. In retrospect, it was still feasible, but we didn't address the issue of how we would compile it all together in the last minute and I became very nervous. The second round began, and suddenly, questions were being solely at me instead of to the client - questions about decisions that we should've all been making together or asking the client. It didn't help that we were all trying to attach our individual pieces onto the Lego "torso" and that our creation kept falling apart while all this was happening. In fact, I think that's what elevated my panic the most - that in the midst of trying to meet the demands and answer the questions of my frenzied teammates, the very thing we were creating was literally disassembling before our eyes and at our fingertips.

After a pretty demoralizing retrospective, we started on round 3. We set some rules, like the fact that only one pair of hands was allowed on the creation at any point, and that we needed to engage the client and ask her questions/put pressure on her to make some of the decisions instead of guessing by ourselves/making me decide. We pulled through in the end and met all our stories, but I was pretty surprised and a little disappointed in myself for having basically freaked out when things didn't go right and in turn, freaking others on my team out as well. I received some very helpful feedback and definitely walked away from that session with a lot of new insight, though, which I suppose is the moral of the story here - you don't know how well you work under pressure and stress with others until you're attaching the sixth Lego leg of your creation with 8 seconds left on the clock...

I definitely needed a drink after all that, so that evening we headed out to Barbecue Nation, a relatively well-known buffet-style restaurant chain that features live grilling right at each table. Check out this video of us crossing Old Airport Road, this is how we get around town and it's always terribly exciting/frightening:

And some pictures a Barbecue Nation:

Overall, the restaurant was great. My Pina Colada was a little too heavy/frothy to go well with all the meats, which was a shame, but the delicious mud pie dessert more than made up for it. Remember that scene in Matilda where the misbehaved boy has to eat an entire delicious gooey chocolate cake? I started to feel a bit like him about halfway through this cake, it was that intense, man.

So yeah, that was all yesterday's adventuring. I spent tonight at the office eating chicken biryani and catching up on pre-course work with a few fellow TWUers. It's weird/awesome, you'd think we'd all get sick of each other from training, but we all manage to congregate at night and continue to enjoy each other's company.

The outside (sort of) part of our Bangalore office, where we enjoyed our meal.

This came in an aluminum foil-esque bag and weighed approximately three pounds. I got through maybe two cups of it before my stomach could take no more...but it was thoroughly delicious.

Duda (from Brazil) and Toby (from England...I call him "To-bay!") working on assembling a Ruby discussion for tomorrow's open space.

There's a Saturday trip out to Mysore coming up, and part of me wants to go, but another part of me just wants to stay in and sleep and do laundry and write e-mails and get over this nasty cough. Hope you enjoyed this XXL entry!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Trying this out

Above: Bangalore, at its most candid...

It's three in the morning. I cannot sleep. I have to get up in five hours and go to training.

I've tried everything...sleep aides, "sleep and stuff" iTunes playlist, earplugs + eye mask, counting sheep/mosquito bites, reading my Java book...all to no avail. I know in twelve hours I will be nodding off against my volition in our meeting room at the Royal Orchid, and that it will be embarrassing, like it was today. Curses.

Tomorrow (today...) will be day three of our ThoughtWorks University program. A typical day is made up of four 90-minute training sessions or lectures, with tea and meal breaks sprinkled within so that our heads do not explode with our newly-acquired wisdom and knowledge. Although most of the material is important and fascinating and our trainers are enthusiastic, fantastic role models, it is still a lot of information to distribute/digest and so everyone is inevitably mentally exhausted by the end of each day. It's also tough for me to adjust from campus life - running around to and fro - to staying under one roof for eight or nine hours a day (although to be fair, we still manage to do our fair share of to running around to and fro at TWU...)

I feel like I've been in India forever, but in a good way. I am starting to miss some things about Chicago though, like my Sigur Ros songs (WHY did I not bring those along!) and Hyde Park Produce and my roommates and the Point and the 2. Also, there is NO Mexican food that I know of here in Bangalore, which troubles me deeply.

One thing that has caught me by surprise is the way people treat others on the streets. From what I can tell, there seems to be very little to no interaction between strangers (I found this out the hard way after smiling at about a dozen people while walking around Diamond District and only receiving confused stares back...) Friends or bands of people don't really stand outside and chat or laugh loudly at bars. Even the beggars seem quiet - many simply hold out their hands as you walk by, which somehow makes it all the more sad. It's quite different from the Midwest, where people smile and make eye contact easily and will sometimes even go out of their way to talk to you.

Another difference, this time not-so-subtle, is the dress code. The women here, both young and old, wear the most beautiful saris I have ever seen, and especially when a bevy of them walk by in a flurry of colorful silk and sequins, I cannot help but look on enviously. I can't think of any other culture in which women wear such beautiful clothing on a regular's quite a refreshing break from all the Longchamps and Zara and North Face that everyone and their mom wears in Chicago. 

3:47. Going to give this sleep thing another attempt, and if it fails, then I'm going to start making coffee. Black, black coffee.

Not really

I did not take any pictures/do anything particularly blog-worth today (unless you care to hear about the first day of training, or you want to know how my daiquiri tasted), so I will instead upload some random ones from days past and pass that off as an entry:

View from a balcony of the center area of Diamond District, where we TWUers are staying.

The lagoon-like pool gives it a very touristy feel, but I can't exactly say that I mind...

Oh, baby.

That, believe it or not, is actually a coconut. And I, believe it or not, have weird colored hair in this picture.

Stray dogs are relatively common here. I am perpetually sad that I cannot pet them.

One thing that kind of has been weirding me out thus far is the bizarre-o feeling of not having anything responsibilities in the evening (for the most part). That and the incredible purchasing power of USD make it horrendously tempting to go out every night, which I admit I have been doing thus far. The only problem is, we meet for breakfast at 8:30 in the morning, and it's just past 2:00 AM right now...and this is the second night I've done this in a row...yeah. I need to exercise some self control and learn when to end my night so that I don't wake up in bad shape the next morning, when I need to have my game face on.

Other than that, Bangalore is great. I will make a sincere effort to snap some photographs tomorrow. Til then, goodnight.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


Above: entrance to the temple of Nandi, the sacred bull who protects/guards Lord Shiva

Woke up too bright and too early this morning to embark on a pretty ridiculous tour of happening places in Bangalore. Our first stop was Bull Temple, where we observed worshippers throwing water, milk, and curd in order to cleanse and appease Lord Ganesha:

Above, center: I tried to take a picture of a man prostrating himself, but I felt weird documenting something that was obviously so spiritual and personal, so I half-heartedly and quickly snapped this photograph... and then lol'ed a bit in the shrine :(

Next was the main temple, which was constructed in the 1500's to honor Nandi. 

He was huuuuge! And his temple, very solemn.

After bull temple, we bus'ed over to Cubbon Park, one of India's many public parks. Lunch there was a boxed and somewhat messy affair. We then played a series of team-bonding games, which were designed to be slightly embarrassing (the first game was a relay involving tucking a potato between your legs, walking about 30 feet, and then dropping it into a bucket without any help from hands...) and were supposed to encourage us to ask silly or seemingly stupid questions during training because we'd never be able to out-dumb ourselves verbally than we already had through the games.

We spent the mid-afternoon playing a kind of scavenger hunt/Amazing Race-esque game where we were set off into two of the busier areas in Bangalore, Commercial Street and MG Street, and asked to solve a bunch of riddles/clues, find the locations, and pick up the next clue. My team managed to fail pretty miserably, partly because one of the managers at Amoeba  (a hip sports bar) had no idea about giving us envelopes even though we were positive we'd found the right place, and partly because I had to stop so many times to pee (it was hot! I had a lot of water!)

The race was exhausting, especially in the heat, so we cooled off with a ridiculous meal at...MKR? MGR? I don't remember too well. Basically, we all sat down at our tables and servers just came by and heaped various food on our places. It was ridiculous - every minute or so another barefoot guy with a pot would just show up and place a dollop of this or a spoonful of that onto my plate. The food was delicious overall, but some of the "dishes", if you can call them as such, were so ridiculously spicy that my lips started to go numb :( I was stuffed by the end but my plate was still pretty much 80 or 90% full, much to my chagrin.

We got back to the Diamond District at around 4, and I was so exhausted that I just fell asleep on my bed without remembering to turn on my mosquito light-thing on again, so I am the proud new owner of four more bites, all of them in semi-awkward places, huzzah!