Adventures in Chennai, Day Four

If you own a car in India, you are considered wealthy. A few of the people at the office have cars – the VPs and Directors. The vast majority of the rank and file only own a motorcycle or scooter. And really, motorcycle is probably the best way to get around in this traffic. Much faster than bikes and more nimble than a car.

Today I got to experience first hand what its like to be on a motorcycle in this crazy traffic. Bala gave me a ride back to the hotel after work today. It was a short trip, but definitely intense. The horns are louder, the dust and smog more suffocating and the other vehicles – so much closer! It was pretty fun, but I definitely had to hold on tight. I had my camera with me but as I was taking my first picture, the bike lunged and from that point forward I was locked down with both hands.

It seems like my sleeping patterns have normalized. I’m able to fall asleep right away at night and sleep soundly all night. Last night, I actually dreamt – the first time since I got here. So, my body is adjusting just in time for me to come home and get everything out of whack again.

When I was talking to Gavin on the phone tonight he asked me what my favorite food has been so far while I’ve been here. Besides the breakfast buffet at the hotel and the room service french fries, I can’t really say. Not because there wasn’t one, but because I don’t know remember the name of it. It was a sauce over some rice. It was at a place we ate at in Pondicherry. All the sauces and rices seem to blur together after a few days, although many of taste really good. I will be glad to get home to some home cooking soon, though.

Bennett blogged about me earlier today. That makes me miss home even more. I love that Bennett.

Some guys were telling us that national security in India isn’t really up to snuff. Proof of this is the odd security measures we face every time we come back to the hotel. Before entering gate to the hotel parking lot, the driver has to stop and turn off the engine. Then two guards do a bomb sweep, which consists of a flashlight/mirror combo to look under the car. He also pops the hood and looks in the engine. Another guard opens trunk or back hatch and has his police dog sniff all the luggage. Seems like pretty good security, right?

Well, the next step is when we get out of the car, we have to hand our backpacks, hand bag, camera bag, etc to a guard and then walk through a metal detector while the guard “inspects” our bags. Every time I’ve walked through that metal detector, it has beeped and they just smile and wave me through. Also, the baggage guard opens the zipper of my backpack, but doesn’t even look inside, then closes the zipper and hands it back to me.

It just seems odd that they would go to great lengths searching for a car bomb but then not be concerned at all with items being brought into the hotel. I can remember what it was like a week after 9-11. It doesn’t seem like there’s much panic or urgency, even given the attacks in Mumbai last week.

Speaking of last week. It has been exactly one week since we left. In many ways its seems like it was just a day or two ago and in other ways it seems like I’ve been here for much longer than a week.

This evening, we did some team building activities. We had a conference room at a hotel reserved and we had some food and played games. I wasn’t sure what type of games to expect when I first heard about the idea, but turned out to be really fun – we played Pictionary and Guesstures. Most of the Indians I have met while I’ve been here are very quiet and reserved (except for this one guy, Rajesh – he’s the class clown). But getting them all together and breaking them into teams to play Pictionary, that’s a different story. They really opened up and were loud, animated and raucous. It was a fun time.

I’m trying to get this done before midnight, but it doesn’t look like I’ll make it. I’m really looking forward to sharing pictures. When I get back home and get settled, I’ll definitely post several pictures on this blog and maybe even a couple of the short video clips I’ve snapped with the digital camera. That way, everyone can finally associate an image with the scenes I’ve been describing.

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