Friday, September 21, 2012

Blog world problems


I got a Tweet from a lovely co-worker who kindly informed me that the images from my last entry on Commercial Street appeared to be broken. Weird - I'd sourced the HTML from my brand spankin' new Flickr Pro account (yes, I caved to Flickr. I know, I know - burn me at the stake) and they were appearing perfectly fine on the blog for me.

I immediately vetted this with my Maryland-based best friend, who confirmed that the images were not appearing.

Then came words that I dread hearing my whole life:

Apparently a lot of the standard fonts (and images, it seems) here in India aren't so standard in the US and do not render in their intended form on US screens. And of all typefaces they had to revert to - it ended up being the one I loathe the most, comic sans. Ironically enough, I've probably made mocked comic sans a dozen times in the time span that I've unknowingly had it plastered all over my precious blog. Oh how the gods-I-do-not-believe-in have a sense of humor.

Here are screenshots of what my blog looks like in the US ("Your blog looks bad. And you should feel bad." - Yoyo) and in India, where I labored over every last typeface, color, and arrangement for hours on end.

The worst part? I'd even tweeted about my new, "prettier" blog. In retrospect, I probably made many a toe curl and a hair rise (especially those belonging to a ThoughtWorks XDers who likely muttered to themselves "Well, I'm never gonna ask her to help with any wireframes.").

I'm going to spend a chunk of this weekend hopefully restoring the original look and feel of my blog + fixing the broken images. It'll be tricky not knowing what a US version of the screen would look like but I'm relatively sure that switching to more universal web fonts and using Imgur again will do the trick for now. Sure - I'll lose some of the styling effects, but at least it won't be comic sans. Anything but comic sans.

For now, enjoy the travesty that is my blog! Oh, and thank god for honest best friends.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Commercial Street

9/22 update - relinked the pictures. Hoping Flickr and Blogger play nice together this time.

Commercial Street two years later doesn't seem to have changed all too much. On my first Saturday here, I ventured out there with two of my fellow trainers. While we didn't have many items on our shopping list - just some kurtas - we wanted to get out of our corporate apartments and enjoy the bustling streets filled with the sounds of lively haggling, the displays of colorful wares and the ever-so-tempting smells of street food.
We stopped for lunch at a Chinese restaurant before heading out. I've found that South India has surprisingly good non-Indian food, especially of the Chinese and Italian varieties. Mexican...not so much.

A candid shot of one of many street food vendors we encountered. I think these might have been peanuts? The rolled-up paper was the vehicle for these presumably tasty snacks. I haven't worked up the courage to try any of the street food yet.

One of the main intersections of Commercial Street. Contrary to its name, Commercial Street actually encompasses many different side roads, nooks and crannies in addition to the main street.


On display: traditional women's kurtas. These come in varying lengths and sleeve types.
This fellow saw me with my camera and gestured me into his store and asked me to take his picture. Maybe one day he'll encounter this blog and see himself here.

An interesting toy - sort of like those blow toys you see at birthday parties, but on crack.

An artfully displayed pomegranate.

The temptation of chicken nuggets haunts me even in India...

Almost everything here can be found in a masala flavor. It's basically synonymous with "a shitload of tasty spices."

A bovine friend I encountered on the walk home. He was furiously licking his side and back the entire time.

Although we spent a good three or four hours there, I ended up buying only two things: a kurta and a small jar of foot cream, both from Fab India. The kurta was the simplest one I could find - short-sleeved and cropped at the waist, basically a t-shirt - and the foot cream was to pamper my piggies a little bit (they sure have taken a beating recently with all the open-toe shoe walking and the Peruvian hiking and such). I can feel how these past two years of being largely on the road have made me much more of a minimalist. Last time I remember being in awe of everything on Commercial Street - I'd gawk at/want to purchase every last sparkly bauble or girly gizmo my eyes landed on. This time around I passed by colorful bangles ("unnecessary clanging"), intricate saris ("will drag on floor"), and shops lined wall-to-wall with shoes ("already have all the ones I need") without even stopping to bat an eye. I was much more interested in capturing some photos of my experience this time around. And eating at KFC. And taking a nap back at my apartment afterwards.

In conclusion, I am slowly but surely turning into a fat grandma at the ripe old age of 23.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

First Week Down!

I can hardly believe it's already Saturday - these first days in Bangalore have had me caught up in a jetlagged maestrom of colors, tastes, learnings, and above all else, honking. So. Much. Honking.

The good news is that I've managed to get my bearings about me and am feeling relatively adjusted to everything from the food to the weather. I'm currently staying at Lotus Suites, a corporate apartment/hotel building that's about a five minute walk from the ThoughtWorks India office. I don't think I've ever stayed somewhere within five minutes of work. It's divine. The extra hour each day that is usually sucked into commuting back and forth is now mine to use as I see fit! (and usually amounts to playing lots of cribbage on my phone)

Round-two Bangalorean musings, in no particular order:
  • The streets are as chaotic as ever. Cars honk constantly (so much so that it hardly remains effective as a safety mechanism), sidewalks are er, varied in their completeness, and there is still little rhyme or reason when it comes to rules of the road. I've been getting around by myself much more frequently this time around and find that I have to be more alert and street-savvy. Oh and did I mention that crossing the roads here is basically real-life frogger? 
  • The food (still) tastes incredible. I remember being tired of it during my last weeks in 2010 and I was worried that those feelings would carry over immediately this time. Not so. I look forward to every meal with gusto.
  • I'm loving the weather here. On average I'd say the temperature is between 75 and 85 degrees and relatively humid - perfect for a top knot, short sleeves and a long, breezy skirt. The temperature rarely fluctuates out of that range and there is never a need to worry about anything other than occasional rain. It certainly makes getting in the morning a whole lot easier than when in Chicago.
  • I'm fascinated by the dichotomy of being treated like a foreigner at certain times and like a member of the family at others. On one hand, me being not Indian makes me constantly wary about being ripped off; on the other, I've found that my Indian colleagues treat me like a sister and look out for me far beyond the norm among most US colleagues. For example, on my very first day here I bought some oranges from a street vendor near the office and was told later by a local TWer that the vendor had charged me about twice the usual price. I felt annoyed for having been so easily ripped off. Then at lunchtime, I met a fellow business analyst TWU coach from India who was kind enough to walk me to the bank during lunch. While crossing the busy streets she grabbed my hand without hesitation and guided me across. Such a small, simple act was startling to me, as in the US we have such strong walls that form the boundaries of our personal space. Other locals have done similar favors for me - offering to take me to the grocery store, lending me their electric cookers, etc. When I try to express my gratitude for their kindness, they wave it off and say that is they treat all people who are new to India.
  • The following things still baffle me: the dozens of light switches in my apartment, cows in the road, and my body's ability to accumulate mosquito bites despite the fact that I almost drown myself in bug spray every day.

My room: ta-da! The window looks out into a rooftop garden. Also, it may or may not have taken me upwards of two days to locate the switch that would turn off the light pictured on the upper left.

My bathroom's ridiculously complex shower system. The bottom knob controls pressure and temperature while the top dictates which spigot the water comes blasting out of - usually in arbitrary combinations of the seven surrounding little doodads before I manage to fiddle it to from the shower head.

How can there be twenty light switches in a room that only has ten lights? HOW??

Stray doggies are everywhere. They're very friendly and they never bark at people - in fact, I reckon most are better behaved than the average dog in the States. I'm always tempted to pet them but then my mother's horrified expression comes to mind and I refrain.

Definitely not a good idea to text and walk at the same time on these streets.

See previous caption.

Oh yeah - since I'm here for ThoughtWorks University, maybe I'll talk about that too. I work! For real! Sometimes.

The past week has been mostly orientation time for us trainers. Our time has been divided between attending Train the Trainer sessions, familiarizing ourselves with the pre-course material, reaching out to our coachees (I have coachees!!!) and best of all, observing and sitting in with the current TWU class and their trainers. The energy in the room is simply amazing - it's filled with constant laughter and excited chatter in so many different accents. And the current coaches seem so at ease and natural in their leadership. In between sessions, they joke around (and one occasion, even wrestled each other) and are so casual it's hard to tell who's a coach and who's a coachee. But when it's classroom time, they get down to business (to defeat the huns) and it's clear to see from the coachees' rapt expressions that they admire their coaches deeply. It's intimidating to think that soon I will be up there in front of the whiteboard, influencing a whole new set of young minds.

Coaches' corner, where I sit every day.

Current TWU 28 coaches explaining ThoughtWorks' software delivery model. Are we multicultural or what?

One relatively nifty thing about ThoughtWorks India is that breakfast and lunch are provided every day by the company. It's all served under our canopied roof. I gotta say, sitting outside with my colleagues and chatting over free Indian food twice a day is pretty darn enjoyable. It's not the same as lying in the grass of Millennium Park with a Chipotle burrito but it comes close.

A typical lunch with bread, veggies, and various curries all made with yumsauce.

After work, my favorite place to pick up dinner or have drinks with colleagues is at a bar named Sathya's that's literally ten paces from the office. I almost wish it was farther because every time I go there I consume at least eighty thousand calories. I'm relatively certain that they make the most delicious butter chicken in the world. 

After work butter chicken heaven.

And that about wraps up what I've been up to this week! Overall, I'm quite happy to be here and the homesickness/burritosickness isn't as bad as I thought it would be. I'll have some more posts coming soon, including one on today's shopping trip to Commercial Street and another on how I'm attempting to stay healthy and fit here in India. Stay tuned!

P.S. It's 1:42 A.M. This is the latest I've stayed up here! Huzzah!