Monday, October 18, 2010

10/18/2010 - Back to Reality

This is officially my last post of this blog.  Today I was back at work and it really feels strange. I remember feeling like this when I returned from Chile after a couple years.  Many people have come up to me and asked, "So how was India?" and/or asked "How was the CSC program?".  It's hard to answer questions like these in a brief manner so I've kept my responses relatively short.  "Yes, I had a wonderful experience" and "India was great." I suppose the best thing I could do is give them the URL to this blog, right? :-).  Take care everyone and thanks for following!!
The Blue Tigers - IBM CSC India9
Left to Right (Top) Chris, Mario, Patricia, Randy, Wolf, Joanne, Mariana, Natalia
(Bottom) Kohichi, Dan, Katja

Saturday, October 16, 2010

10/16/2010 - My Travel Day

Well it's arrived.  My return trip home.  It will be a grueling haul. 19 hours of flight time and 13 hours of layover waits.  Oh goody.  I'm practically the last one at the hotel now and it's a strange feeling.  I'm so used to having the team around.  It's eerily quiet here.  I really, really miss home now and can't wait to get back.  So that's it .. if all goes well my next and last post on my trip will be done from home.  Until then.
See ya at home.

10/15/2010 - Farewell CSC Team

Today the team ran around preparing for travel.  Since I'm one of the last to leave (tomorrow) I basically provided assistance to anyone who needed it.  We had lunch together at a nice place called Mint Masala. It's a very good vegetarian buffet.  After that I accompanied a few of the team members on a final shopping trip.  I volunteered to be an official bag carrier.  No one took me up on the offer though.  We got back to the hotel, had a quick dinner and said our goodbyes.  It was sad and I don't want nor need to add further details  I'm going to miss you team!!!
A final good laugh

10/14/2010 - Farewell PSI

Today was our farewell to our NGO partner PSI.  We started the day by adding some finishing touches to our deliverable.  At around 1pm they took us to lunch at one of the biggest malls in Asia.  We had an excellent meal.  Afterward the attending senior manager gave a speech honoring Chris and I.  It was great and in fact there was a moment Chris and I almost choked up.  We are really going to miss the team.  They made us feel like family.  We'll never forget the experiences they provided us.  

After we got back to the hotel we hosted our last farewell night party.  We did an Indian theme and all the men and women wore Indian attire.  The men coordinated a short Bollywood dance sequence and there is no way I'm posting that video.   It was a great night but the sadness is starting to sink in.  Tomorrow's going to be rough.
Our last lunch with PSI - We'll miss you!!!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

10/13/2010 – My First Cricket Match

What a way to start the work day.  Because PSI was so pleased with our work, they insisted we go to watch cricket for a couple hours before going to the office.  So that’s what we did.  And guess what? We got to see the national Indian team play Australia.  Chris and I were a little spooked walking around because we figured people thought we were Australian fans.  We remedied that quickly by purchasing some Indian flags and getting our face painted.   It was so cool and I actually have cricket semi-figured out.   We left the match at lunch time and as we were leaving a lot Indians thanked us for cheering for their team.  BTW .. The Indians blew away Australia.  

Afterward we put in a solid day of work. We are just about finished with everything.  We are really, really going to miss the PSI team.  I told Chris if he starts crying on our last day I will too :-).

At night we went out with the gang to get some Bollywood dance lessons.  How did I do? Maybe a D+, C-.  Fun, but difficult.  Later. 
Cheering for the Indians

10/12/2010 - A Day in Delhi

Today was by far the longest day of work for Chris and I.  We started our day at 4:30am.  Quick shower, no breakfast, pickup at the hotel at 5am and caught a 7am flight to Delhi.  We made it to the gate just in time, just like true Indians.

We arrived Delhi at 9:30am, grabbed a quick bite to eat and proceeded to PSI’s headquarters to chat with the managing director (president) and meet some other people.  Their headquarters were really nice.  They took an old mansion and converted it into office space.  We met a few other people and then around noon went on our field visit.

Our visit was an eye opening experience.  We visited a C-class neighborhood.  C-Class implies they are just above Indian poverty levels.  The streets were tiny and filled with people.  I didn’t get a sense that people were suffering.  On the contrary, people seemed to be generally happy.  I imagine a society based on the caste system will do that.   Anyway, PSI was teaching women about birth control (particularly IUD).  They put on a play that attracted quite the audience.  After the play they targeted a young Muslim woman for some 1 on 1 consoling.  PSI asked if we could join the discussion in their home and they said yes.  It was incredible.  Its experiences like these that can change a person for life.  

After the field visit we went back to PSI headquarters and did our presentation again for the president and his direct staff.  Once again Chris and I did a great job.  We’re pretty confident PSI will be adopting our recommendations.  At 5pm we went back to the airport, grabbed a 6:45pm flight, and were in our hotel by 11pm.  A very long day.
Field visit with PSI - IUD education

Monday, October 11, 2010

10/11/2010 - Finishing Up and the Bangalore Palace

Today Chris and I spent the day working on the finishing touches of our final, main deliverable.  At around 12 pm we found out that our partner, PSI, wants to fly us out to Delhi to present once again to the managing director and his direct staff.  So guess what? Chris and I have to wake up tomorrow at 4am to catch an early flight.  We'll be returning at 11pm so it's going to be a long day for us.

After work we spent an hour at the Bangalore Palace.  Quite an amazing place.  We took an audio tour of the grounds and it was interesting to hear about all the history of the place.

After we got back to the hotel we met with the team at 7pm.   We stayed up at the terrace and each team presented his/her situation with their respective partner.  The meeting lasted until 12am....meaning I'm only going to get a few hours of sleep.  Because of the trip tomorrow I may not blog tomorrow.  We'll see.
In front of Bangalore Palace garden

10/10/2010 - Movie Buff

Hello everyone. So it's 10 / 10 / 10 today and I heard this is the day where a big surge of couples get married at 10AM.  Strange.  Today was the first day during this whole ordeal where I felt I had some down time.  The morning started out with some shopping.  I can't tell you what I bought because it's a surprise to my family..but I can tell you I'm all done.  It's a good feeling.

After shopping I actually found myself with about 4 - 5 hours of down time. So what did I do? Caught up on my normal job's e mail.  Sent emails to friends and family.  Just plain relaxed.  At about 8 pm I met with the team and we went to another movie.  I've now seen three Indian movies in less than three weeks.  That's a lot more 'movie-watching' than I do at home.  This time we went to see the Indian mega-hit The Robot.  It stars some guy named Rajinikanth (who is a mega star).  The movie is also the most expensive Indian movie of all time.

So the $20,000 question is ....."Was it good?".   In my humble opinion I'd have to say no.  Way over the top. Instead of taking a comical approach like Daabang (first movie I saw), this tried to be serious.  There's one part in the movie where the robot wants to mate a human (female) and create robosapiens.  What the hell?  Below is the poster for your enjoyment since I didn't take any pictures today.  Take care.
No comment

Sunday, October 10, 2010

10/9/2010 - Bannerghatta National Park

Today the whole team (except one because of project commitments) went to Bannerghatta National Park.  It's the closest national park to Bangalore at 22 kms away. Still took us over an hour and half to get there though.   The park is really nice, they have a bear, lion and tiger safari, a very good zoo, and a recently added butterfly park. We did everything but the butterfly park (opting to eat lunch instead).   I took some really good pictures and experienced something for the first time; I saw a hippo.  They're just as ugly in real life and make a loud grunt that you could probably hear for miles. However, the most memorable moment at the park for me was not seeing the animals. It was when I briefly chatted with a group of girls from an orphanage.  They were there on a field trip and very excited about it.  Their headmaster said she takes care of about 120 girls.  They all looked so vibrant and eager to ask questions, etc.   I was both sad to see so many girls, but at the same time happy to see such joy in their faces.

After the park we went back to the hotel, then did dinner and a couple drinks, and called it a night. Good day once again.  Time sure is flying  ... but that means things are going well :-).  Take care!!!
Hi from Bannerghatta!!

Friday, October 8, 2010

10/8/2010 - Final Presentation

Before I go into any details let me take a quick second to wish my beautiful daughter Tori and VERY HAPPY 9th BIRTHDAY .... I miss you little one and papi is coming home soon.

Today Chris and I gave our final presentation to PSI and they loved it.  I feel we were spot on with our assessment of their current organization (we did sort of pseudo SWOT analysis) and our recommendations were just want they needed.  After the presentation many people came up to thank us and say this is exactly what we needed to do and they needed to hear.  We're feeling pretty good right now.  The only thing we have left to do now is finish up our guide to building a management information system.  We're sitting at about 70% complete so we should be OK.  AH, BTW ...we also had the chance to do a couple field visits.  We visited another construction site where PSI was teaching workers about TB and we went to a TB clinic which PSI refers people to.  Very interesting.

After work Chris and I went back to the hotel and then joined the group for dinner at UB City (a posh upscale patio area full of different restaurants).  We chose sushi for the night and it was great.  He and I celebrated with a Kingfisher.  Excellent way to wrap up a busy but an extremely productive week.   Here's a picture of me presenting.  Until tomorrow everyone.
Giving an organizational analysis to PSI

Thursday, October 7, 2010

10/7/2010 - More Cultural Immersion

Today, at PSI, Chris and I did a practice run of our final presentation to a couple of the PSI staff members.  The feedback was excellent.  Just need to make some final, minor adjustments to the pitch and we're set for tomorrow.  I think they're going to like our assessment of their organization (even through there will be some tough criticism) and we feel they'll understand our recommendations.   Knock on wood ... should be a good day. 

After work I was at it again getting myself culturally immersed.  This time I went to a dance show.  It was quite good.  Apparently there were some very famous people there.  One of the dancers won best actress of the year in 2006.  For some info on the show you can click here.  The only criticism I have is it was way too long; lasted 3 1/2 hours. 

After the show we headed back to the hotel, ordered some food, and added some finishing touches to tomorrow's presentation.  I've attached a short video of one of the dances.  Enjoy!!!

10/6/2010 - Finishing Up Work, Shopping Night

Today Chris and I achieved a major milestone; we completed our first draft of the final presentation.  Tomorrow we are going to run through a practice run with our official PSI contact, Neeraj.  We're also advancing nicely on our final document and are confident we'll have everything ready by 10/14.   The only bummer about today was both Chris and I were not feeling well.  But PSI took really good care of us.  They brought us wholesome food and even provided us with coconut water which apparently helps ease a queasy stomach.   Nice.

After work the whole gang went to a store called Mother Earth.  The sell organic, free trade items.  Some of us spent a lot of money, while others were able to control themselves.  After the shopping extravaganza we went back to the hotel and had some pasta.  We also received a nice gift from our prework leader Martin from Switzerland; a nice box of chocolates.  Good way to end a good day.  Later.
Vacation or work? Who can tell?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

10/5/2010 - Work and a Movie

Today was an uneventful day.  Spent a full day at the office working on the final deliverable.  Chris and I are now under the gun to get our final presentation ready for this Friday.  Apparently PSI's managing director and main focal point from the US will be here.  They've asked us to present to them for about an hour and then assist the them on some field visits.  Should be a good experience and we're confident we'll be ready.

After work we went to a movie called Anjaana Anjaani.  It wasn't my favorite movie.  Not much dancing and the base story line was the typical stranger love story.  I was told it was supposed to be a comedy and it was much darker than I expected.  It was long too and there were probably at least a half a dozen scenes in the movie that didn't need to be there.  Oh well .. it was an experience.   Until tomorrow.
Movie Poster

Monday, October 4, 2010

10/4/2010 - Back to Work and a Nice Dinner

Mondays aren't my favorite days.  They're the days where I feel (intellectually speaking) at my low.  I actually avoid meetings at work and try to complete as many solitary tasks as possible.  Today however was a total exception.  I think that Kabini / Mysore trip charged me up.   Maybe I needed the fresh air or 5 minutes without hearing a horn.  Who knows.   Anyway .. I put in a solid day at work.  Chris and I are advancing nicely on our final deliverable and we should be set for the final presentation next week Thursday. 

Tonight I was fortunate once again to go out with the IBM India team.  They took me to a place called the 13th floor (located on the 13th floor of a building) which had a spectacular view of Bangalore.  We sat out on the balcony and had a very enjoyable meal.  They also presented me with a gift.  A rosewood sculpture of a deer and a fawn.  My daughter is going to love it. Later.
(Left to Right) Thiru, Dan, Priyanka, Rajesh, Bobi

Sunday, October 3, 2010

10/1/2010 – 10/3/2010 – A Weekend Getaway

I’ve just returned from a very enjoyable and relaxing weekend.  I feel rejuvenated; ready to put in a good week of work.  So here’s the summary of the weekend...

Friday > Left Bangalore for Kabini at around 2pm and drove straight there without making a single stop (it's over 5 hours).   Good thing I went to the bathroom beforehand.  We arrived roughly at 7:30pm, checked into our rooms.  We then met a the dining area and had an Indian buffet style dinner and  watched a movie on tigers.  We called it a night early.
Road trip!!!!
Saturday > 6AM rise and shine.  It’s safari time.  I was sharing a room with Chris and it took every ounce of our will power to drag ourselves out of bed.  I just don’t do 6AMers.  Anyway, we had some coffee and made it to our safari truck.  The safari itself was great; my first one.  We saw a lot of deer, birds, monkeys, bison, squirrels, and of course elephants.  In fact, we were charged by one.  It was scary.  After the safari we did breakfast and got to hang out with some school children which was very cool.  After that we went to our rooms and just chilled out for awhile.  At 2pm we met for lunch and then at 3:30pm we did the evening safari.  Saw the same as the morning except for some wild boars.  No tigers or leopards L.   Dinner after that followed by a team gathering over some drinks.  It was a really good day.

Grumpy elephant

Sunday >  6AM again.  Yippee.   Instead of a ‘land’ safari, we went on a boat trip around the lake.  We saw all kinds of birds.  But the best was seeing a herd of nine elephants.  After the boat ride we had breakfast, checked out of our rooms and proceeded to Mysore.  At Mysore... we visited a temple which is considered to be South India’s largest.  After that we hit / toured Mysore Palace (very cool) and after the tour we gathered on the bus and went back to Bangalore.  
At Mysore Palace entrance

Again, it was a very relaxing trip and the bond between our team is even stronger.  Until tomorrow.

Friday, October 1, 2010

9/30/2010 - The Verdict and an Indian Pasta Night

Well the verdict is in.  They plan to split the land in three different ways.  Looks more like a win for the Hindus than anything as the Muslims immediately said they would appeal to the supreme court. It's been relatively calm here too.  I've heard nothing about protests or violence breaking out.   I imagine it helps that India is hosting the Commonwealth games in a few days and no one in this country wants India to be perceived as an unstable country.

We did spend the day at the hotel where Chris and I put in some good hours.  We were able to complete the outline structure of our final deliverable so now it's just a fill-in-the-details exercise for the next couple of weeks. 

In the evening we held a team pasta night.  The hotel provided us cooking supplies, a stove, plates, etc.  A few of the team members cooked and we enjoyed our first home cooked meal in 2 weeks. Tasty.  We had a really nice time and I must say (again), this team really, really gels well.  

Tomorrow we are off to Mysore (see ancient temples) and Kabini.(go on an elephant safari).  I won't be bringing my laptop so that means I won't be blogging for the next few days.  I promise to take many pictures and stay the hell away from a mama elephant and her child.   Take care everyone!!!
Pasta Party on the Terrace