No Mumbai

Quick update and then I have to run. I’m scrapping the Mumbai and Ahmadebad stops. Sunday, I’m flying directly to Udaipur. I’ve arrange it with my tour company to meet the group there when they arrive on Tuesday.

As of now, I’m off line until who knows when.

Love to you all!!

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Cliff Hanger

Well, I’ve been watch NDTV, India’s English-speaking news channel, and things are looking a little dodgy in Mumbai. There have been more landslides. There is some trouble with food supplies. And, worst of all, a crowd panicked when two incorrect rumors spread: that a dam had burst and that a tsunami was coming. 18 people were killed in the stampede. The good news is that the airport is open and some trains are running.

I’ve talked to the tour rep and she says that the tour is still a go. I’m still debating whether or not to just skip the first two days of the tour and fly Pune->Mumbai->Udaipur and catch up with the group in Udaipur on Tuesday. The extra flight is only $190. So, I might just book it and then I can decide at the last minute whether to stay in Mumbai (once I get there, look around, and talk to a local tour rep in the flesh) or go on to Udaipur that evening.

I hate to leave you all with a cliff hanger, but this is the last day I’ll have my laptop with me. It’s getting shipped out tonight. And so I’ll be pretty much unwired for the rest of the trip (unless I decide to sit in one of those cramped, hot internet cafes and send up smoke signals). My parents will get the essential updates by phone, so somebody will know where I am.

Imaginative Traveller 24 hour emergency number in India: +91-93-2611-5681
I’m on the “Indian Trails” tour.

If I have time later this afternoon, I’ll write more updates. I had a sweet, little moment with a tall Texan last night and again this morning. 🙂

Rules of the Road

OK, I think I’ve figured out the traffic rules here.

Big vehicles (like cars and busses) aren’t expected to look out for the little guys (pedestrians, bikes, mopeds, rickshaws) aside from giving a pre-emptory “Here I come, stay/get out of my way” honk (to which the little guys comply). The little guys have to just fit around the big guys on the road. The big guys are, however, gracious towards each other, accomodating vehicles that are equal or greater to them in rank, allowing them to cut in or pass without challenge.

Compare to the USA: The big guys have to, by law, look out for the little guys. If a car runs over a pedestrian, there is hell to pay (legally and socially). But if another car, equal or greater in size, tries to overtake us, we generally consider it a impingement on our personal space and may even get aggressive about it.

What might this say about our different social orders and psychologies? Discuss.

Thursday

Poor Mumbai! They got drenched last night: the biggest downpour in a century (950 mm, that’s like 3 feet of rain in one of those little rain gauges in just one day). The runways at the airport are covered in water. The highway from Pune is closed. Mudslides around the train tunnel between Pune and Mumbai. People stranded in their cars or at work. About 100 people have died (drowning and mudslides). And now an oil rig just off the coast is on fire.

The Pune airport is open. The rain isn’t so bad here. Officials expect the Mumbai airport to open today or tomorrow. I don’t fly in until Sunday morning and I’m staying only one night and there wasn’t anything in Mumbai that I was burning to see or do. I sent an email to the tour company rep to ask for a back-up plan. In my head, I’m thinking that, if necessary, I’ll catch a flight to Ahmadebad instead and meet up with the group there on Monday.

I’m trying to decide what I want to do with my Saturday (my last free day in the area). I’m done with shopping in this town. I’ve had my fill of temples for a bit. I could go for a hike in a wet, foggy hill area. I could go back to Maher, which sounds pretty appealing. It’ll be my last chance for inactivity for two and a half weeks, so I could also stay at the hotel and go to yoga class, get a massage, sit in the steam room, and lay around in a fluffy robe and watch movies. Tough call.

Hardship, Reflection, and Gratitude

Monsoons

Well, it has been raining cats and dogs here (and, since this is India, you might say oxen and goats as well). Light to heavy since Sunday night. The dams are so full that they had to let some of them open, which only added to the chaos downstream. Trains and planes running within the monsoon-affected areas have stopped (expected to restart tomorrow or the day after). Roads are flooding in places. Some schools are closed. And, if the potholes in Pune weren’t already bad enough, they’ve now become swimming pools. My office mates and I went out to lunch yesterday and drove through standing water up to the doorway of the car!

The monsoon is big news here. (It was on page 1 through 5 of the paper today, whereas the labor riots in Delhi were on page 6 and the shuttle launch made it only to page 12.) One reason is because, of course, the destruction it causes. (Down in Kerala (pronounced CAIR-eh-la), about 600 miles away, they have resulted in mudslides where over a 100 people have been buried alive). The other is because they fill the dams that provide the water for the whole rest of the year. Plus, there is a crazy imbalance of irrigation water here. The rivers might be overflowing, but an hour and a half away (which amounts to about 60 km), crops are suffering for lack of water. No water means no reaping which means no work for many people. (About 70% of India’s population makes a living off of agriculture.) The monsoons are really a mixed blessing. Just another of India’s pairing of extremes all in the same locality.

The rain is supposed to stop tomorrow. And I don’t expect any problems for my flight Sunday morning from here to Mumbai (also affected by the monsoon), where I join the tour group. Monday, I’m headed North and out of the rain and towards the Thar Desert. In the meantime, I’m not concerned. I’m in a major urban area in very clean, stable, quiet working and living conditions. In fact, I wouldn’t even know it’s raining if I didn’t have to drive (or rather, be driven) between the hotel and the office.

In other news, the Immodium AD improved on my diarrhea but didn’t clear it up. Fortunately, I had discussed this potentiality with my personal physician (who is also a travel doc) before I left and he said that if the OTC drugs didn’t clear it up after two days then to break out the antibiotics (which he prescribed for me and I filled before I left). I really didn’t expect it to come to this because what I’ve got hasn’t felt like a bacterial overgrowth–I mean, I haven’t been feverish or tired or nauseous or even had to be glued to the toilet–but last night, I hit the two day mark and followed doctor’s orders and, this morning, things seem to be back to normal. So, there it is. My stomach, however, seems to have shrunk (which is, interestingly, what happened when I went to Jamaica for 3 weeks), which might partially explain the stomach cramps I was having. I mean, I have an appetite but seem to get full really quickly. But don’t you worriers worry, I’m drinking lots of bottled water and I’m not wasting away. According to the scale in my bathroom, I’ve lost only 3 kilos since day 1. Plus, I’ve been taking a daily multivitamin since I arrived and certainly haven’t lost my affinity for chocolate. 😉

Minor Indiginities and Small Joys

Hooorah! On the way to work today, I stopped by the trendiest superstore in Pune. I figured, if anybody is going to have tampons, it would be them. And, lo and behold, they had one kind and it was a brand I recognized and felt good about.

Last night, I was thinking, as I went to bed and was down to my last provision and imagining the indignity awaiting me and had no idea how to resolve the situation, that this is just the kind of thing that I used to beat myself up for having let happen and then nearly panic over trying to control the situation. But I chose not to and, because of all of the work I’ve done on myself over the last years, that choice was not even hard. And it all worked out fine.

Even if I never learn another thing in this lifetime, I’d say that this incarnation still wasn’t wasted if all I learned was to not worry and unlearned trying to control everything damn thing. I’m proud of me.

Delhi Belly

Everyone at work has been amazed that I haven’t gotten sick. They said that every Westerner that has visited so far has each ended up with a very disagreeable digestive system. For some reason that made me a little proud, which is silly, because it’s really just dumb luck … and I was only lucky until this weekend. Yup, I have finally been initiated by Delhi Belly.

The nasty details

Thanks, everyone, for your loving support in my last post. I went into work the next day and took the approach that and others suggestions. I switched to saying stuff like, “You can look at this code and figure this out yourself.” I also was less gregarious and kicked back when my talkative team mate walked all over me while I was speaking to her question. Yesterday afternoon, things turned around. I saw light bulbs go on over their heads. And today was productive and ended on a friendly note and a group laugh.

So, let me bring you up to date on my life outside of work …

The weekend at Maher Ashram…

Can I go out and play yet?

Hi, friends.

Sorry for the pause in updates. My job has been consuming, unsatisfying, and stressful over the last few days. Recall that I was sent here to, what shall we call it …, “train” 4 engineers on a piece of software I know only partially. I’m not the expert. But there is no expert. No one still left at my company has ever worked on this code long enough to become one. I’m not, in my opinion, even the best person for the job. But I was the most knowledgeable one who was available in a mutually agreeable time frame. Of this, I was clearly upfront to all involved before I came and still I was chosen. So, here I am.

I gave probably 15 or more hours of lectures last week, complete with slides. I personally thought they were pretty damn good. At least, they were more comprehensive and cohesive than the “training” I was originally given. This week, we were to sit down and walk through code in the debugger. But we have hit the point where their questions exceed my knowledge and I haven’t figured out how to get them to transition out of thinking of me as their teacher and into me as a useful resource for them to use as they start trying to answer their questions themselves.

I came here unconsciously thinking, “Hey, won’t they be pleased to get so much attention and background! Even if it isn’t expert, it’s a helluva a lot more than I got.” But noooooooo. Our sessions have turned into them asking me the same questions over and over again and me saying, over and over again, “I don’t know but here’s how to find out,” and them wearing grimaces in response. It seems like a small thing, but after 8 1/2 days of it now and you could slice the frustration in the room with a knife. I’m clearly not popular here.

Not only does the lack of warmth and comradery feel shitty, but it kicks in my performance anxiety. I haven’t felt this anxious since I was in Comp Sci grad school in 1993. Back then, I got so depressed and hypersensitive that I couldn’t concentrate. Fortunately, I’ve aged a little and have a thicker skin and more stable sense of myself. So, although I’m uncomfortable right now, I won’t be scarred by it. My teammates back at home gave me a pep talk last night, and reminded me how valuable I am, and promised me that, no matter what these people end up thinking of me, I’m not going to get scapegoated if their disappointment becomes a political matter.

Blech. Thank God its almost Friday.