My first impressions

Since I have been here for 3 weeks already, I have already sent a few e-mails to friends and family back home detailing some things that I have done. Realizing that there has been some duplication of effort telling everyone what I have been doing individually, I think this blog would be a great way to keep friends in the know. So while I will make a post about some recent stuff, here is an edited e-mail that I wrote home after my first week at work (2 weeks ago).

Got my home internet working! It tends to flicker on and off, but with a little patience I managed to skype my friend in China. The irony of it is that after waiting all weekend to get my internet working (b/c the guy I had to talk to was gone during the weekend), the moment I got it fixed, the power went out!  The power tends to go out for 5-10 minutes once or twice a day, but its nothing too major.

Flying in- loooong flights but the lufthansa staff was friendly enough and the plane food was tolerable. The frankfurt-delhi leg of the trip was nice b/c I was in the front row and thus had some legroom and I also had my own private t.v. screen to watch movies on demand. I am a bit dissapointed that the flight attendants don’t wear lederhosen though. Arriving into Delhi went well, I didn’t see the town from the plane though, nor did I leave the airport, but I will get a chance to go to Delhi on the 27th of Jan for a namechecking course and consultations. However, the delhi airport was fairly crowded (considering I got there at 1am) and I had to hang out there from 1am to 6am, so i had to kill time watching all the security guards and the big elephant statues. I don’t think I ever went through customs… but thats fine with me. Not like I had anything to declare, and if they took my nori I would have thrown a fit.

Landing in hyderabad the temperature was an amazing 70 or so degrees, maaaybe a little warmer, but really just a perfect day. My social sponsor and her driver met me at the airport after I got my bags (without a hitch), and drove me to my place.  Similiar to Claire’s place in New York, the sound of traffic is incessant. Apparently you don’t pass someone, change lanes, or brake without hitting the horn here. Did I say change lanes? They don’t really have lanes, traffic is best described as water, it just fills up the road and drifts downstream with cars somehow changing positions left to right at will. Really the first major shock you get upon arriving here is the traffic. Its not bad like standstill traffic, its just such a crazy amount of vehicles that you wonder how they aren’t standing still. I suppose if that many cars in the U.S. tried to go around following our traffic rules, i.e. obeying lights, respecting lane lines, respecting cars personal space, it just wouldn’t work, so instead Indians have devised their own system of driving which seems to work for them. Unfortunately, it is very noisy, and TERRIFYING to cross the street. Still, I haven’t seen any accidents nor been hit by a car in my 5 or so road crossings to date.

I should post up a video tour, but for now, take my word, my place is pretty awesome. Compared to DC the place is HUGE, with 3 bedrooms 3 bathrooms, a giant living room and a kitchen. It is actually temporary housing until maybe the end of February. I was content with what I have, but once I saw what the permanent houses are like, I was bowled over. they are suuuper nice. You don’t really realize you’re in the dumps until you see how good some other people have it. Anyway, this place has a freezing, ice-box pool up on the roof, and a tiny better-than-nothing gym too, which I have been trying to use. Every day the staff here can make me breakfast, a huge meal consisting of like 6 peices of toast, fruit, an omelet, cereal, and milk. A giant breakfast that since they can only make it by 7:30am, I have to scarf down in 15 minutes before I have to leave for the consulate. maybe I will have them pare the portions down… They also clean the place whenever you want them to. All of this without any tip or anything, b/c its worked out in the agreement when the place was procured for the consulate, I think…

Work has been a whirlwind of training and getting up to speed. My telugu is slow to come back to me after the holiday break, but thankfully the locals will give a white boy a lot of leeway and credit for even mustering together a ‘nenu bagunanu’. My bosses are all extremely cool, today Jeremy and I sat in on a consular chief meeting (the heads of the consular section) and it became clear that they were really just generally good people that don’t take themselves too seriously. They were even good sports when I cleaned them out in low-stakes poker last weekend (ignoring advice to let the consulate general win). The training schedule is intense but very complete and has great attention to detail. Some of the officers that left before I got here spent a lot of time honing the training program and it seems like in the next 4 weeks I will be getting a lot of valuable experience. The local staff, which outnumbers the Americans by four times or so, is very friendly and competent. Their english is amazing and since they are from a diverse array of religions and areas of the country, tons of them dont speak a lick of telugu.

Socially, yesterday night i went out to a concert with 100 snake charmers playing in a snake-charmer only orchestra. It was a remarkable venue, an outdoor stage with a fort in the background that had a dazzling colorful light show going on the entire time the snake-charmers played. And no, there were no snakes. The snake charmers instrument sounds a lot like a bagpipe, which as you can imagine, isn’t too appealing, however I appreciated it from a cultural standpoint. They played traditional snake charming music, some bollywood songs, and even attempted Amazing Grace. The best part was seeing the way they moved their bodies while they played their instruments. Apparently charming a snake isn’t really about the music, the snake gets entranced by the movement of the musician. Sort of like how in bullfighting bulls dont see the red, they just dont like the movement of the flag. Since snake-charming is usually a solo-sport, each artist had his own way of moving around and for the most part the cues of the ‘conductor’ were taken more as guidelines. I have also been to a few of my co-workers houses and eaten delicious food, played board games, video games, and poker. Jeremy and Gloria actually live in my building just down the hall, plus a couple of other officers too.

Did you notice? Hyderabad is #19 on the NYtimes top 40 places to visit in 2011…
pretty impressive! I’m not sure I agree just yet, its still a lot to take in and certainly isn’t the same sort of vacation as a trip to Italy or France… hopefully the longer I stay here the more I will get a sense of what people might like to see when they visit. I still dont have a car or driver, but I get one in mid-Feb so from there I can do some exploring. Food is super cheap here, but I did put in an order to the commissary for some beers (carlsberg no less, a blast from my past in Copenhagen).

Just a couple of hours ago I walked to the Taj Deccan hotel (Taj Krishna is also nextdoor, both super posh) and attended a presentation on contemporary Indian art. The presenter was an Indian lady who worked in Academia but is now an art critic and she spoke well. It was interesting to see modern art with slightly Indian twists to it, and the audience was very well-to-do, plus a bunch of artists as well. It didn’t hurt that they served dinner too.


4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Claire on January 30, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    More pictures!


  2. Nice! Keep it up.. and btw why does it say your post was posted on August 26th, 2009… I don’t think that’s right … =p


  3. Posted by kk on January 31, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    you cannot really like Prabhu Deva! noooo way!
    keep the diaries coing…I am having so much fun reading them sitting in my cold cubicle with the Poinsettia to keep me company 🙂


  4. Posted by Chloe on February 5, 2011 at 1:15 am

    Sounds like you’re enjoying it so far, Chappy! Can’t wait to read more and see more photos. =)


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