Wednesday, October 31, 2001

I'm sick. Damn! I have a sore throat and general body ache. I slept until 4:30pm today, pretty much straight through.

Tuesday, October 30, 2001

I went to Bankok over the past weekend! It was good fun, the basic itinerary was played out as we went through the weekend rather than being planned in advance but ended up being as follows:
  1. Friday -- arrive in Bangkok at around 6am. While at the airport we notice a woman who seems to have many, many credit cards and is taken turns with people using the ATM machine and rotating her cards in to take out large sums of money, seemed pretty sketchy so we tried to alert security unfortunately no one could really speak english. Interesting start. We spent the majority of the rest of the day taking a "boat and barge tour" of the city of Bangkok. The tour was a good introduction to Bangkok. In the evening we made the mistake of signing up for a "traditional Thai dinner and dancing". What a tourist trap! The dinner was very below-average Americanized Thai food and the dancing was from a poorly training group. I suppose the dancing may have been traditional but I'm sure Thailand wouldn't want this show to represent their dance tradition.
  2. Saturday -- since this would be our only full day we took the opportunity to do travel outside the city on a all day tour to the old capital city of Thailand ... can't remember the name of the city right now. We toured several mosques, took a short elephant ride, another boat ride, and finally had a great Thai meal.
  3. Sunday -- didn't do a damn thing of consequence. This was according to plan. I woke up late, got a message, read a book, took a nap, ate some Sushi, took another nap. We left to the airport around 6pm and flew back to Delhi.

Wednesday, October 24, 2001

Angie and Tucker came over to our place last night and we met two cooks who might replace Shanta at the end of the month. The first cook, Thomas, came with his wife Mary (who works as the housekeeper) and their 18 year old daughter ... they seemed great! Very warm and Thomas has lots of experience. The problem? Well, there are two. One, the servant quarters are too small for the family but they have a car and so that might not matter. Two, they're expensive. 11,000rs a month for both Thomas and Mary and then another 3000rs for their rent (since they can't stay here). Ouch. We were only paying 4000rs a month for Shanta. Jeez. Well the reason that Angie and Tucker were here is that we're thinking about sharing them (and the costs).

By the time that the second cook (Rosy) arrived I knew that I already wanted Thomas and Mary. She was good too but not at the same level ... not the same amount of warmth, less experience, and overall the costs weren't significant enough to really consider her too much.
So I think I'm heading to Bangkok this weekend! Looking forward to getting outta Delhi for the weekend, it is a 3-day weekend for us. I'm not sure what the Indian holiday is but right now I don't care. :^)

Monday, October 22, 2001

Amy returns to India a week from Sunday ... I can't wait

Sunday, October 21, 2001

I went to Bangalore over the weekend for a hiring event. Bangalore is a city in the southern part of India and everyone I've talked to -- bar none -- seems to love Bangalore. The weather is very much like the Bay Area in the the US (although warmer at night), the air is very clean, is known as a great pub and restaurant city, and has the largest concentration of technology companies (it is India's Silicon Valley). Unfortunately for me the weekend was largely spent doing work (e.g., hiring people) but I was able to go out to dinner and have some amazing food and the weather was fantastic. Once Amy gets back out here I'd really like to go back and spend more time.
On Friday I went to a cross-cultural training course. Sapient has brought in a 3rd party company to teach these classes and expects all expats to attend. It was interesting but the focus was a little too much on "I know you're really struggling to adapt, it's scary, you are not alone" type crap instead of where I think almost everyone is which more just "so I've noticed people do this, what does that mean? what should I tip? etc." One of the things that was probably the most useful was they brought in a father and son to talk about different generations experiences with India. The son, who was about 25 years old, was working in the IT consulting space which was nice because IT in India is more westernized than other industries. One of the things he mentioned is that companies that are Indian owned versus multi-nationals have a very different polical environment. In Indian companies, your first priority is to please your immediate superior and to make sure that he/she looks good; after that the next goal is to do the right thing. Multi-nationals are more competitive and encourage more openness. Since this difference is so well known it is self-enforcing, most of those who believe they can compete effectively against their peers prefer the more open environment where movement within the organization is closer tied to capability. When talking about gender differences both the father and son said that woman in India today "have something to prove" and therefore are very motivated to play roles in all parts of top Indian politics, IT, and other power positions. The father made the claim that 7 out of 10 top graduates from IIT (the top Indian university) were women these days. I asked a co-worker and he said that he thought that was exagerated but still it is clear that the "glass ceiling" in non-traditional industries (and some traditional like politics) has been removed and women are doing great things here. On other force that helps women here is that corruption is considered a problem in government and most people believe that women are less likely to be caught up in corruption. In one case a couple of years ago one of the Indian states dealt with corruption by firing all the men in top government positions and replaced them with women! As always though, India is a case study in contrasts. With all the progress that women are making there are also clearly areas of industry and parts society that women are not treated equally.

Tuesday, October 16, 2001

For those of you interested in the current status of India, here's a report from SOS International:

SOS members are strongly advised to monitor events in the media and to avoid all demonstrations due to the potential for violence. Refrain from travelling to Kashmir - whether to the Indian or Pakistani side. This area is not only a scene of fighting, but large demonstrations, which often turn into violent clashes. Be more aware than usual when travelling in India and avoid rural areas. Maintain a level of awareness when visiting public places around Delhi.

SOS members are advised the following:
1. SOS does NOT advise evacuation from India
2. SOS advises that normal business travel to India should proceed but travelers should be briefed on the security environment and met by colleagues on arrival.
3. SOS advises that members minimize activity on the streets of New Delhi today

Overall status remains green ... the US and Indonesia are orange, Pakistan and Afghanistan are red.
I had to leave work early today due to "Delhi Belly II". It's not too bad this time -- no fever or hot/cold spells -- and I'm just trying to figure out what it was that I ate that got me here. Weird.

Sunday, October 14, 2001

I went to see "India Gate" and Indira Ghandi's old house yesterday. It was fun. Along the way I got a chance to see some street vendors have monkey's dance for me (even had one monkey sit in my lap while another climbed on my back). While I was playing with the monkeys another guy came over with cobras and put one around my neck. Of course, what better time to negotiate how much I should pay? He suggested 1000rs! No way! I told him to get the snake off of me but I think it probably did have an effect on my negotiating skills ... I ended up paying 200rs.
Shanta came and talked to me this morning ... due to the problems with the guard and the lack of space in the guest quarters she is going to quit at the end of the month. She said she was sorry but her daughter really needed more space. Makes sense ... well I guess you we'll know more about what to expect from a cook/housekeeper by having a second one to compare with Shanta. I wish her the best of luck and I'll talk to our operations lead -- Sanjay -- and see if we can start the search for a new person.

Saturday, October 13, 2001

Talked to Shanta and told her that we needed her to not be on the terrace but if she could live by this rule then we'd like to keep her. She wasn't too happy but she's thinking about it.

Friday, October 12, 2001

So I'm in the middle of a household dispute and it all started before I even had any coffee! Jeez. Our cook was making breakfast and then started to explain to me that the security guard had done something and then started to cry. About five conversations later and at least as many cups of coffee later I think I have most of the story ...

1. Shanta (our cook) has both a husband and a daughter who stay in the house. They were supposed to stay in the servant's quarters but they've been -- sort of without asking -- using some of the roof deck to sleep/live in. Whenever I come up they leave me alone up there but it doesn't feel like our place anymore. I've been trying to figure out how I should feel about this for some time with no solid conclusion (and therefore no solid conversation with Shanta).

2. Since we've had furniture delivered in many batches, had electricians and plumbers, dry cleaners and others up into our apartment it may appear that Shanta & Company have had TONS of people visiting. Our ground floor neighbors were concerned about this. Shanta claims -- and there's really no way to know for sure -- that she's only had her sister and her daughters school friend over. No one else. I want to believe her and I did this morning. I'm not sure where I stand now (read on) ...

3. The security gaurd -- and this is what Shanta was so upset about -- apparently comes out to the roof deck and stares them down every morning around 5am. On at least one occation he has told Shanta "you are a very bad woman" and raised his hand as if to hit her. He is apparently mad at her for all the people too.

4. I talked to our ground floor neighbor (Anil) on the phone and he confirmed that he was concerned about the amount of people coming and going. He also told me that because Shanta & Company are using the roof deck his servant was wondering if he should also be able to use it and felt some resentment toward Shanta. I sort of noticed that this morning because he is usually such a cheerful guy. Anil is Indian but has never really lived here before (he's an expat from Toronto). Since the whole "servant" thing was new to him too he asked friends whether the servants occuping the roof deck was normal and said that everyone thought it was highly unusual.

5. One interesting thing ... apparently Shanta's husband doesn't get along with the security gaurd at all. He yelled at the security guard for not soluting him when he came in and the security guard said "you are just a servant, I will not salute you ... I only salute the people who live here". Then there was some complaints about loud music being played from the roof and even food being thrown from it at one point ... not a lot of details here.

6. I talked to our operations guru -- Sanjay Solenki -- and he said he'd noticed that they were occuppying the roof and thought it looked bad. I explained the scenario of events and he thought it made sense to get rid of Shanta. He went on to explain that Shanta had tons of relatives living in the neighborhood (also as servants) and that was not so good because they could easily swap groceries, eat food, have social get-togethers, etc. I pushed back some because Shanta really seems very trustworthy and I've gotten used to her but I'm feeling less sure now.

Decisions, decisions. Well we're not going to make any final calls until next week but Sanjay's going to do some investigating and we'll see what we come up with.

So I went to an islamic rally today. Didn't mean to actually. The protest took a different path than it was supposed to and ended up near the restaurant district of the city (CP for those of you who know Delhi). We were in a car and drove by quickly, guess I should start being more careful.

Sunday, October 07, 2001

Seems like there world has been filled with so many pieces of bad news, it was nice to to wake up this morning to two very good pieces of news: two new happy babies have been born into the world! The proud parents are Keith and Maria Kay and Winslow and Kara Taub. The Taub's welcome a baby boy named Gavin, the Kay's have a baby girl! Congratulations to all six of you ... made my day.
I have lots of photos to share here but I need to get some sleep too ... here's one of Becky & Carlos right after the wedding. I'll make sure other pictures get up here soon.

Ok ... so I'm back in India. Watchin' CNN @ 2:30am ... looks like phase two of this "war" has just started. I was in a plane when it started, maybe even over Iran at the time. My heart goes out to all of you in the US right now -- even London, where I was only 12 short hours ago -- that nothing goes wrong tomorrow.

Thursday, October 04, 2001

Ok, this one's going to be really quick. The wedding in the US was great! London is very cool too. I'll post a few of the wedding pictures on the blog tomorrow.