Saturday, July 3, 2010

What a week!

Apologies for the lull in updates!

Our first week here in Bangalore felt pretty much like a vacation, but this week we made like Mulan and got down to some serious business...analysis. I'm fairly sure I'm not allowed to disclose our actual project at length, but what I can say is that we are expected to deliver a functioning application by the end of our four weeks of project sim, and that the pressure is definitely on...! *cue nervous laughter*

Work aside, it was still a fun week. Checked out a few new restaurants like Mainland China and Herbs & Spices (where we watched the Brazil vs Holland game), went back to Medici to fulfill my steak craving, enjoyed a rather rowdy TWU dinner/pub quiz on Wednesday, and continued with the delightful process of getting to know my fellow TWUers better and better each day.

This weekend, TWU XVII was supposed to go on an overnight camping trip. When I first heard about it I admit I wasn't exactly thrilled - sleeping in a tent when I can barely get in 1 REM cycle in a bed? Being exposed to the great outdoors just as I'm recovering from the latest blitz attack of mosquito bites? No Wi-Fi/showers/late night cookie-eating festivals in the kitchen? Nothxbai! It took me a few days to get off my high horse and shake the focus off all these relatively trivial discomforts (the cookie thing took a while to overcome), but by the time I became infected by TWUers' contagious excitement about s'mores and water games and sleeping under the stars!!...the trip was postponed, lol. To next weekend.

Then, Friday (yesterday) afternoon, we got an e-mailing telling us that a nationwide political strike is causing all offices across India to shut down this coming Monday, and that as a result, TWers are expected to work on Saturday. My first thought: awesome, strike/day off! My second thought: shoot, it's not actually a day off. In fact, it's a day on during the one day we need to have a day off so we can go camping...d'oh! Nobody really knows what the plan is at the moment...I'll keep you guys posted on how this one plays out. Fingers crossed for s'mores!

We're going to Commercial Street (for real this time) today. I'm both pumped and a bit apprehensive about going back there... pumped for all the cool wares & gifts I hope to buy, apprehensive about whether or not I can handle the massive throngs of staring, yelling, beckoning vendors. I Google'd "haggling tips in India" and apparently the best way of getting the price you want is by having a game face of sorts and always pretending you're marginally indifferent/disinterested in the item, which gives you the upper hand. Unfortunately, I don't have a game face. Or if I do, it's just a nervous smile exposing a piece of spinach caught in my teeth. I'll definitely take pictures and share what I do buy, but here's to hoping that I don't get ripped off too much...

P.S. If the time/date seem weird, it's because I just changed account settings to India time, which is 9.5 (??) hours ahead of central time. (Don't worry, this blog hasn't become a time-warp zone. You are not in the future...only I am!)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

This and that

Above: the only picture I took today...just a random cool-lookin house near the Corner House ice cream shoppe on 12 and Main, where our team treated ourselves after a long, toilsome day...

Today was our first day of splitting up into our roles (jobs, technically!) and starting to work on our project simulation task. We started off the morning with a lot of brainstorming and productive conversation, but I felt like the deeper we delved into the task at hand, the more anxious and less productive we became as a team. There were just so many unknowns and we only had a handful of tools at our disposal to make sense of a huge project. It was definitely a frustrating day and for the first time, I find myself dreading going back to our conference room a bit...

On a completely different note, I have been trying out all combinations of sleep-retaining tactics. Any Arrested Development fans out there who remember the prison scene with Kitty and Gob should know what I'm talking about ("Glasses on! Hair down! Oh god...lights off!"). Last night I tried fan on, eyemask on. Went to bed at 1, woke up at 6. The previous night, AC on, eyemask off. 6 hours of shut-eye. Tonight, I'm going to try fan on, earplugs in. I'm usually kind of nervous about sleeping with earplugs for fear of missing my alarm but it's honestly been so long since I've actually woken to my alarm that I stopped caring.

Another thing here kind of sucks right now: laundry. I spent pretty much half of Sunday morning grappling with our apartment's washing machine. Every time I pressed down on a button, it would crack under my fingertip and sometimes the pieces would just fall into a hole. It. Was. Awful. I managed to get it done eventually after making many a call and soliciting the help of my gracious roommmate, but it was such an ordeal that I am considering forking over the 35 rupees/garment to have everything done by maid service next time...

 Above: My Sunday morning
At one point, I managed to stain one of my favorite white shirts somehow with weird red splotches. I was pretty upset, but then I ran downstairs to the little market in our basement and bought some bleach and was able to remove it. A small victory, huzzah!

I also took an inventory of the clothes I brought, and this is what it came out to:

The good news is, this is conducive to avoiding laundry by shopping a lot...

Another silly: while in Mysore, after touring the epic awesome-encrusted palace, my friend Sam and I both needed to go to the bathroom, so we left the perimeter of the park and paid three rupees each to use the "nice" bathroom. Afterward, we wandered around the chaotic market square, where vendors packed all sorts of elaborate bobbles and gizmos and diamond sparkle beauteous sandals into their stalls and yelled at us to buy their goods ("please, master!"). I stopped once and only once to look at a chess set, but it wasn't really anything special so I told the vendor it wasn't what I was looking for and walked away. About ten minutes later, we left the square and headed to the parking lot, when we heard someone yelling behind us...I turned around and saw chess guy running after us, waving a couple of travel chess sets in his hands and shouting at us to buy them.

"Please! Excuse me! Just look! 300 rupees!"
"No thanks." (We keep walking)
"Please! It is good for travel! Just for people like you miss, travelers!"
"No." (Still walking. By this time I am ignoring him completely, and Sam is politely declining as the man nudges him with the chess set)

This continued for a few minutes until he stopped following us and just yelled at us from afar ("200 rupees!") until we couldn't hear him any longer :/ I think I felt equally amused, harassed, and well, kind of bad for the guy. Can't say he didn't try.

And, just to bring some closure to this completely non-sequitur post, here's some footage taken on our party bus. I filmed the rickshaw ride we went on today but am way too lazy to deal with YouTube's antics right now, perhaps that will be a task for tomorrow.

Most random post ever, but I don't mind, I don't mind.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


Above: entrance to a temple at Mysore Palace.

So a friend and fellow TWUer, Ankit, talked me into signing up for the Mysore trip, and boy am I glad he did.

According to Wikipedia, Mysore is the second largest city in the state of Karnataka and serves as a cultural and historical centerpiece of India. It's located about 90 miles away from Bangalore, so we hired a driver and took the Indian equivalent of a party bus to get there...

About two hours into the first leg of our trip, we stopped at "GRS Fantasy Park", a small area off the side of the main road, for breakfast under some pavillions. I wasn't feeling particularly well so I didn't eat much, but the park was really lovely and we even spotted a couple of monkeys who seemed to have honed their food-snatching skills...

(I lol'ed so hard at that sign.)

Next, we saw Tipu Sultan's Summer Palace, which is actually still in Bangalore. Tipu Sultan, aka the "Tiger of Mysore", was the de factor ruler of the Mysore Kingdom during the late 1700's. He fought against the British, erected all sorts of churches and establishments, and basically seemed like he was a BAMF.

Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take any pictures or videos inside the actual palace. Most of the walls (protected from the sunlight by these green bamboo sheets) were covered with huge, intricate murals depicting battles against the British, all with Tipu Sultan riding a giant white horse and looking like a baller among his faithful troops.

We stopped for lunch at another Royal Orchid hotel, where I had the best vanilla ice cream of my life, before hopping back into the party bus with our tour guide and driving up a mountain to get an incredible view of the city:

We also stopped and saw another Nandi sculpture...if I remember correctly, this is the second largest one in India (the one in Bangalore was fourth-largest). Instead of being "rinsed" with water, this Nandi was covered with tributary gifts in the form of honeysuckle chains, ornate beads, and silver coins.

By the time we got to the Mysore palace, I was already thoroughly exhausted. Again, we weren't allowed to take pictures inside the palace, but I don't know that any would really do it justice anyway. Every inch of every panel of every wall of every enormous room was covered in gold or silver or wood of some sort, imported from all over the world and painstakingly carved, arranged, or painted in an overwhelmingly beautiful way. I found a few pictures from Google Images to give you an idea of what it was like in there...

...yeah. I started to feel like I was in a dream sequence, walking through each of these ridiculous rooms. And if that's not extravagant enough, the outside of the palace is actually covered with 100K lightbulbs that light up on special evenings. We didn't get a chance to see them being lit up, but you can imagine how glorious it must be... (or you can Google Image Mysore Palace)

We got back to the Diamond District at around 10 PM, thanks to traffic, and then a friend and I embarked on an epic journey in search of KFC. Indian food is wonderful, but it can seriously overload your tongue/taste sensors, and fried chicken was the perfect compliment to the US/Ghana game.

Today will be devoted to laundry and work, but hopefully I'll be able to squeeze in a trip out to Commercial Street to buy some scarves/gifts/leggings...