If you visit only one political parody site today, please make it this one. You won’t be disappointed regardless of which side of the fence you’re on.
Archive for July, 2004
Didn’t the Amazon Warriors cut theirs off?
One final thought before I go. Over the last two nights I’ve discovered that the women here have odd names. I’ve met Gretchee, Hershey, Sugar, and Happy among others. I’ve never been at the sites at the beginning of the shifts, but I can’t help but wonder if they march in single file while singing, “Hi ho, hi ho… It’s off to work we go!”
Now try to get that song out of your head… You’re welcome.
We are DONE!!! I was sucking life through a straw for most of the company visit tonight. I felt a little sorry for our hosts. They were trying so hard and they really had some great things to show us, but the bunch of us were sitting there looking like extras from the remake of Dawn of the Living Dead.
Now I just have to survive the flight home. It’s only halfway around the planet. I sure hope I get a comfortable seat with some slim and freshly washed neighbors. Which reminds me, I have time for a shower before going to the airport.
You know… after 42 hours without anything more than a couple of naps, you really start to hit your stride. I honestly don’t even feel tired right now. I expect I’m just numb.
Uncomfortable seats aside, I might have gotten more sleep on the plane except I was sitting on a packed plane next to the Stinky Triplets. At least that’s how I came to refer to them as I was muttering throughout the flight. These were three guys in matching white robes and purple turbans. The one next to me seemed to be having trouble with his outsized lid. Every few minutes he’d reach up to adjust the headpiece, and every few minutes my nose would try to scrunch up inside my face to get further away from the air. If I’d have had a roll of duct tape on me I swear I’d have taped his arms to his sides.
We are in Manila. It’s been a long stretch. We’ve been over 30 hours since we last saw a hotel room. Even now, we’ve just got time to have a desperately needed shower and check email before going to work.
I was surprised by the level of security here. Our car to take us to the hotel was manned by two security guards and they had a flack jacket in the front seat. When we pulled into the hotel, the car was inspected for explosives before we could get in the lot. We had to pass through metal detectors to get into the lobby, and our luggage had to be inspected by a dog. I think this is supposed to make me feel safer, but I think it’s having the opposite effect. Then again, maybe we just checked in to the Paranoia Inn.
Off to work…
And the Confident Sales Award goes too… a young boy in Delhi. He approached me on the street as many do, but his product was unique. He was selling fake beards. And like a good salesman the 10 year old was wearing his product. At his insistent pitch, I protested that I already had a beard. He remained undeterred, pointing out that his was at a great price. I noted that mine grew for free. He considered that briefly… and offered me a discount.
Oh my… I think I found Jesus, or Allah, or maybe one of the 16 odd Hindu Gods whose names I can’t pronounce. But someone was clearly watching over me on my way to the Delhi hotel from the airport. It went down like this.
We wound up on an earlier flight but weren’t able to rearrange our ride from the airport prior to leaving Mumbai. We tried again once we got to Delhi, but ultimately opted to just take a couple of local cabs over to the hotel. Sounds simple, right?
Off we go to the cab stand. We have to split into two cars. Now the other car is a 50 year old vintage English something or other made of way to much iron and steel. Let’s just say that a lot of chrome wouldn’t have looked out of place. On the other hand, my cab, was made of tin foil and in all probability was a gas conversion of something that was originally pedal powered. There are three of us in this thing, plus the driver, plus our luggage. I’m pretty sure that the people and luggage outweighed the vehicle. Oh, and lucky me, I got to sit up front. To build our confidence, the cabbie took off with the back hatch not latched and would have launched our luggage onto the tarmac were it not for Chris’ quick reactions and sticky fingers as he dove over the back seat to grab the bags. Then we headed into traffic.
Have I mentioned that Indians aren’t real big on traffic laws. Lane markers, where they exist, are treated more or less as suggestions. I’ve seen a few traffic lights, but most of them are not actually powered. Turn signals, brake lights, etc. are pretty optional. Driving is basically like one big game of vehicular Chicken. Turning right (which is across traffic as the Indians learned to drive from the British) is accomplished by nosing into traffic while cheerfully tooting your horn until someone decides that denting their car on you is not worth their effort.
So I’m in this turbo’d Schwinn-mobile. My knees are pressed against the plastic panel which passes for a dash. The dash is warm because the headlights are warming it from the other side. Were there no windshield, I could have literally reached forward and touched the vehicle in front of us. I’m even in closer proximity to the cars beside us. So of course we go hurtling through traffic, rushing up on vehicles, trying to intimidate larger vehicles (which included everything except the occasional scooter), and generally just seeing if the one nerve I had left was still functioning.
It’s good to be safely in Delhi.
We had a spectacular dinner this evening. We did it as a family style meal and got to try a variety of local dishes. Also, I did finally have a chance to try the local brew – something called Kingfisher. This beer pretty much confirms my theory that countries close to the equator don’t make good beer. I miss Canada.
Our first night time site visit went well. That is to say, we all stayed awake. To cement our new upsidedown schedules, we returned to the hotel at 7am for a well deserved beer. Then it was off to bed. Afterall, we had to get up early (1pm) to catch our next flight.
The people here are friendly and helpful in the extreme. Sometimes the translations don’t work out so well though. Yesterday, Mark had arranged for a friend and former colleague to show us about the city. We were to meet that afternoon, however the schedule changed and Mark wanted to let the whole group know. The concierge desk agreed to forward the message to us all. This morning, 15 hours after we met for the outing, I found a typed note placed in my room. The note read, “This is to inform you that Mr. Mark had left the message that Mr. Ride has arrived.” I guess it’s the thought that counts.
The food here is wonderful, despite the well justified fear of it. It takes awhile to get used to doing a risk assessment of the food on the table prior to judging what looks or smells good.
Mark’s friend also had us back to his house for “high tea” after the city tour. It amounted to a light supper and was a quite tasty repast. It was also interesting to see where and how he lived. While he was in a corporate position equivalent or higher than our group, his home was a very modest and small apartment. Kudos though. His wife and two children were delightful, and we couldn’t have asked for better hospitality or a more cordial host.
Another tidbit: I had the chance last night to sit in on a bit of an accent neutralization class. The Indian instructor was doing excercises with his Indian students to teach them how to say words like native English speakers. He stops after a bit and asks is there are words they would like us to pronounce so they can hear what a native speaker sounds like. On my right is a British guy. On my left, an Austrailian. Who were the three of us to tell them they had an accent?
Wish you were here…?
India is a place of both incomparable wealth and unimaginable poverty. The scene above is a very common sight as you pass through all but the most upscale neighborhoods in Mumbai. People actually live in these shantytown structures of plastic and corrugated metal. I really can’t even fathom how a disturbing portion of the population lives. Still, the people we spoke with here (who arguably aren’t the impoverished ones) absolutely love their city and wouldn’t trade it for the world.
It’s off to Delhi soon… which reminds me, I could really go for a good sandwich.
One more update. The sun is up and from my hotel I can see the huge Hyatt hotel not a five minute walk away. Between here and there is a shanty town of sorts. Little handmade shacks and lean-tos, probably 50 of them. Lots of mud. Animals wandering around with the people as they amble between the makeshift buildings. Abject poverty. So I guess what I’m saying is that there’s still ample room to build more call centers over here.
I’m in India. I arrived after midnight local time, so I can’t say I’ve really seen much of it. There are lots of “helpful” people here who want to carry your bags, your friend’s bags, your friends, wash your feet, or pretty much anything else you might give them some rupees for. Speaking of rupees, I’m feeling rich. I traded $20 U.S. for over 1750 rupees. Okay, so it isn’t worth much, but it feels cool to be wandering around with $500 bills in your pocket.
The hotel is very nice. Quite a step up from the Holiday Inn Express in Belfast. You know, I waited all day for some crisis to come up which I could fix and claim it was because I stayed in a Holiday Inn Express last night, but I got nuthin’. Anyway, back to Mumbai. We went down to the dining room (which was still open at 1am) and had some food. (I’m reluctant to label the meals as keeping track of the time is increasingly difficult.) Oddly, we weren’t alone. There were quite a few people there. To be in the lobby of the hotel, the activity level looks more like 9pm than the middle of the night.
Oh, and the weather. I will never complain again about the humidity back home. Okay, that’s probably not true, but this is a whole new level of wet air. It’s thick, with palpable moisture. Walking through the air is like walking through a light rain – without the refreshing coolness and the desire to sing and splash in the puddles. I can hardly wait to walk outside tomorrow once the sun comes up.
Well, what the Spanish lack in airport securlty, the Irish make up for. This morning, I endured the most thorough carry-on search ever. Every bit of my laptop bag was extracted. Every device had to be turned on. Every notebook riffled through. Then when she was done, she individually swabbed everything for explosive residue. Good thing we weren’t running late for the flight! In the end, I’m sure it was for the best. She did confiscate a tiny 1″x 1/2″ multi-tool. In the wrong hands this could easily have been used to puncture a seat cover. We’re all a bit safer now.
I’m considering a plot for a made-for-TV movle. The plane experiences mid-flight mechanical problems. The dashing young pilot is worried he’ll lose the plane. Right after the touching flashback where he thinks about his beautiful bride and the baby he’ll never see born, the haggared old vetran in the tower radios up the solution. Just remove that panel and cross-connect those wires. And this is where the tension builds. The camera zooms in on the panel, and to everyone’s horror, it’s affixed by two (key dramatic music) screws.
With nary a nail clipper on board, the flight attendants scour the cabin begging passengers for anything small and sturdy enough to remove the fasteners.
Meanwhile, the plane wanders near restricted air space, and Dick Cheny orders it shot down.
Oh, and there should probably be a small child on board who is awaiting an organ transplant.
Some other tidbits about Ireland:
I learned this morning that a snug is a small confessional sort of wooden cubicle found in pubs. They used to be there because it was deemed improper for women to be seen in a pub. So they’d come in and be squirreled away in a snug. Now they just seem like really great places to have a Euchre game or six with a ready supply of beer.
I also learned that “snog” is slang for making out. It occurs to me that having a snog in a snug would be bloody brilliant. Unfortunately I’m one beautiful blonde from the opportunity and the motivation. Maybe next trip.
I’m also growing weary of being reminded that bathrooms are properly called washrooms here. It’s hard to argue that “wash” is more accurate than “bath”. And I suppose both are more accurate than “rest”, but none of them really get to the heart of the matter at hand now do they?
Well – it’s time to hit the road again. About the time most readers will be going to bed tonight, I’ll be heading to the airport to fly to India. Which reminds me, I need to take my Malaria medication tonight. I’ll also be trying to get my body clock upside down. We’ll be spending the rest of the trip visiting centers at night, which is when it will be day in the U.S. This should bode well for when we return home, but it’s gonna be tough to sleep all day for the next week.