29 September 2008

Congratulations, Welcomings, and Celebrations... oh my!

First of all, congratulations to Dr Matthew Carrillo who, on Monday 22 September, officially passed the Florida Bar. Stop by Gainesville Running and Walking and congratulate him. While you're there, get fitted for some shoes!

New Roommate
Dylan finally arrived in Goa last Friday (19 September). After such an exhausting trip from Seattle via way of Germany and then Mumbai, Dylan still managed to stay awake and share his experiences with Tony and me over breakfast at the Marriott. He has quite the teacher—having already taught me how to properly hold a guitar—and is already contributing to projects at work. Unfortunately, he has had some problems with his computers—blown capacitors and Blue Screens of Death (BSOD). Macs are so much easier. ;-) Regardless, our Goan triumvirate is now complete.
Dylan and Tony showing Chris their new iPod 3Gs

India's Coke
Yes, there is delicious Coca-Cola here. But, at one point, Coke was banned in India. Or maybe just parts of India. In fact, soft drinks have a rocky history in India. This is all anecdotal; I can't really find much on the inter-webs about it. Anyway, Thumbs Up is a popular soft drink that was bought by the Coke company. At the suggestion of my friend and co-worker, Wiebs, I decided to try some. It's very similar to Coke with a little bit more Indianness in it. I'm not sure what that means, but that's my opinion and I'm sticking to it. I probably won't ever buy it again, but you've got to try new things when you're in new places.
500 mL bottle of Thumbs Up

Birthday Extravaganzas
There were four birthdays this past week among our circle of friends. Two of which were celebrated in excellent style. There are photos on facebook as well as my Picasa page. One of them was catered by an excellent chef and had a full bar. I did manage to end up in the pool by the end of the night. It was an amazing Infinity pool which over looked the ocean. So it basically felt like I was on the edge of the world. Anyway, it would have been even better with all y'all here, so come visit soon!
Dylan and me in the Infinity Pool at the Edge of the World


07 September 2008


Panaji police station decorated for Ganesha ChaturthiPanaji police station decorated for Ganesha Chaturthi

It has been quite a week. Work is as fun as ever. I feel like I'm already contributing to the company. I'm safely navigating Goan roads on my scooter (yes, mom, I do have a helmet and yes, I do wear it). Of course, this doesn't mean the adventure is over. Far from it.


Lord Ganesha is an elephant-headed Hindu deity. To save you a trip to Wikipedia, here's a summary. As a young deity, Ganesha would protect Parvati, his mother, from anyone who would try to disturb her as she bathed in the river. One day, Shiva, Ganesha's father, returned from war and wished to see Parvati. Since Shiva had been away, neither recognized the other and so Shiva chopped Ganesha's head off. It was later replaced by an elephant's.

Anyway, so Ganesha Chaturthi is the annual celebration of Ganesha's earthly reincarnation. The length of the festivals vary from a day to seven or more days. At the end, Ganesha devotees return him to the sea.

Going Local
So around one in the morning, I heard people walking and singing in the streets. I took some video from my balcony and returned to watching anime, when it hit me. I'm in India, I need to get out there!

Ganesha devotees waiting for statues
I drove around for a bit and found the group of people huddled behind the back of a covered truck, waiting. Naturally, I had no clue what was happening, but waited around anyway; trying to get close enough to act like I was in the know, but far enough not to get directly involved.

There were about eight statutes handed out in total. Each one was given to groups of five to ten people. In a very organized fashion, as each group received their statute, they moved down towards the beach. Once everyone had their statues, I was alone in the road wondering what to do next. Just then, one of the participants looked at me and smiled.

I asked if I could follow through awkward sign language. He motioned me to follow, so I quickly ran up to him and said hello. His name was Chris. A friendly, hairstylist from Goa but currently working in Dubai. Chris explained to me what was happening (basically everything I wrote in the previous section). Afterward, we all ate some sweet, coconut desserts. Chris told me that everyone had abstained from eating fish and meat and would now go home and break the meat-fast.

I have plenty more videos which I would love to share, but don't feel like struggling with Blogger to upload anymore. The whole experience was quite interesting and I owe a special thank you to my Che-Guevara-t-shirt-wearing tour guide.

Birthday Bumps
Now I knew my co-workers were as crazy if not crazier than I am, but I was in for a real surprise on Tuesday. Once a month, RZ2 Games has a party for everyone who had a birthday that month. To quote our company president, "In India, on your birthday, you get your ass kicked and have cake smeared in your face." Can't wait til December!

Here's how it works: four guys pick you up by your legs and arms and everyone kicks you. Then, you cut your cake and instead of getting to eat the first piece, it's placed on your face.
What's the number for 9-1-1?
In America, when you are in trouble and in need of help, you call 9-1-1. In the UK, 9-9-9. So what's the fire/medical/police hotline number in India. Ha. Are you serious? No.

UPDATE: Actually, the very next day after making a note to mention the lack of such a number in my next blog entry, Goa announced that it had a number to dial in the event of an emergency. It's 1-0-8. A little harder to remember than 9-1-1, but still, nice to know it's there. Given the ubiquitous nature of text messaging here, I think one can even text HELP to 1-0-8 for assistance. Probably.

Oh, and I added a bunch of pictures to my Picasa Web album.


01 September 2008

Everyone loves Bob Marley

Just a quick note, everyone loves Bob Marley. When we're chilling by the beach, sippin on some tropical drinks, and the DJ puts on some Marley, you know you're in a good place. Everyting aiight, mon!

Kya (pronouced like Kia, the car company) means what in Hindi. My friend Rinan offered to give Tony and me Hindi lessons. Thursday was our first lesson. We went to a local, Portuguese restaurant called Venite. We ordered barbeque pork chops, beef pepper steak, and some salads with advocados and prawns. I was shocked that they actually have advocados here as I haven't been able to find that, black beans, or romaine lettuce. Rinan has assured me that all of these are obainable here, so I'm really psyched.

Wake-up call
I've been in Goa for a little over two weeks now. For the most part, this place is great even during the off-season (also known as the Monsoon season which can last from April until September). If you're planning a visit, however, it should be sometime between late October and early March as you are guarenteed perfect weather.

So, the wake-up call? It's a rooster. You know the domesticated bird that cock-a-doodle-doos at sunrise to welcome a new day? Apparently, the Good Lord didn't see it fit to equip our neighborhood alarm clock with a brain, so it can be heard crowing at 3:30 in the morning, around 5, again at 6ish, 7, 8, noon, 4 in the afternoon, or whenever it needs to breathe.

On Friday night, Tony and I were tired of all the drinking we'd been doing and the dancing and the karaoke, so we decided to take it easy and caught "Wanted" at the local INOX movie theater. Surprisingly, the theater was much nicer than most places in the States that I had been to. The tickets were Rs 180 (~$4.12) each, the drinks were cheap (no ice of course), and we were checked for weapons at the door.

India is very patriotic. So, before the previews started, the Indian national anthem was played. Also, intermission. That's right, half way through the movie, there was an intermission. But if you're one of those people who try to see a double-feature by returning to the lobby after the movie, you're out of luck. They have staff stationed to prevent anyone from re-entering the lobby.

We're going to the fair!
Just kidding. I mean, there was a fair. Complete with a Ferris wheel and boat-pendulum ride. In addition to these death traps, there was a variety of vendors selling cloth and jewelry.

Jesse met Vicky at a pool party in Delhi last week. She's from London and was on her way to a wedding in Bangalore, but was first stopping in Goa. Jesse volunteered Tony and me to act as her tour guides, which was fun. We met at Britto's Restaurant right on Baga beach. The food and converstation were interesting. We met some guys from Germany who were on vacation as well as a family from the UK who were moving to Pune, India where the father was helping start a school. How great is that?

The next day we hung out at the Marriott. We ordered some margaritas and cheese burgers and enjoyed a full afternoon of lying poolside overlooking the delta. Vicky's into sunsets, so we had two nice ones this weekend and she was happy. I hope everyone from the UK is as cool as she is.

Final Thoughts
India has many problems to address. Like the US, India's education system is in need of much improvement. Unlike the US, however, not every child is given the opportunity to get an education. At the risk of exposing my naivety, I failed to make the mental connection between the lack of opportunity and the hundreds of child-beggars I've seen here. It's scary to think with a country of over three hundred million children, that most of them aren't getting educated. Just imagine the chaos that can be caused by someone's ignorance and multiply that by a couple hundred million.

Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of intelligent, educated Indians. These are the ones that have been fortunate enough to afford an education. I think education should be the top priority of not only India, but the United States as well.


18 August 2008

First Week, No Sleep

New Thangs 'n' Thangs

My new Nokia phoneRZ2 Games is a great place to work. On Monday, I met just about all the employees. Of course, I remember only two names, but I'll be improving that over the next few weeks. I received my new Nokia 2630 phone, which is a newer model than the phone I had in the US (Nokia 2128i). Besides making and receiving phone calls and text messages (called SMS here), it has a camera and syncs up with my MacBook. 

Me on the rental scooter
I've also rented a Honda 100cc scooter to get around. Driving in Goa is fun; you never know what will happen! For example, on Tuesday, I hit the door of a bus trying to avoid running into an auto-rickshaw. Shortly afterwards, what I think was a Tata Sumo moved into my "lane" and would have ran us off the road if it weren't for Tony knocking on their window. Needless to say, Tony doesn't ride with me anymore. 

The story doesn't end there. After work, I was retracing the path we took to work because it was the only one I knew. Unfortunately, I was heading down a one-way where two police officers on a motorcycle were. They pulled me over and demanded I pay Rs 700. I later learned the fine for traveling the wrong way down a one-way is only Rs 100. I told the officers that I only had US dollars and couldn't pay. They took my International Driving Permit and told me to drive back (without a license, mind you) to my office to get 700 rupees if I wanted to get my permit back. After I was back at the office, I stashed the Rs 3000 I had on me and headed to the traffic police office with our staff assistant, Pragosh. He explained to the officers in Hindi or Konkani that the fine was too high and that I didn't have Rs 700 because I just started working the day before. After threatening to call his relative in the police department, the officers agreed to accept Rs 100 each.

We got back to the RZ2 office and I was getting advice on how to deal with police corruption from everyone. Chris, who is a fellow scooterist, offered to show me how to get home. I followed him until I ran out of gas. My phone wasn't calling out for some reason so I started walking my scooter past a group of children-beggars (one of whom was carrying a baby) and futilely tried to explain that I had no food on me and that I wasn't having the best day. Chris circled back to find me and he then asked a shop owner to siphon a liter of gas from his car for which I paid three-times the cost. Eventually I made it back home where Jesse had fallen asleep waiting for me to go work out.

It's not all bad
My workstation at the office
Fortunately, the rest of my week has been much more positive. The projects I'm working on at work are challenging and fun. Plus, one of the perks of working in the game industry is that you get to play games! At the end of the day, most of the office stays and plays Call of Duty, Unreal Tournament, or Warcraft. Also, I've been able to meet plenty of fun people by hanging out with Tony. My bedroom

Just a few notes

Haircut, Rs 75 (~ $2). They use sugar to make the Coke here and it's pretty good. Also, they use quotation marks seemingly at random. For example, "Contains Caffeine". There are always extra buckets and facets in bathrooms as well as extra switches on the walls. There are some things here that you just can't get in the US. Cuban cigars and Absinthe to name a few. Not such a big fan for either, but I had to try them. I taught Lucky, the bar tender how to make an Irish car bomb using his "home-made Baily's cream".

Check out more pictures at my Picasa Web Album.

If y'all have any questions or want to read more about something specific, let me know via the comments, email, or facebook!


17 August 2008

Moved in... sort of

I don't even know where to begin, but I'm sick so this is going to be 12 pages shorter than it should be.

15 August is Independence Day in India. I got my luggage back after two hours of paperwork, waiting in lines, and running around Delhi International Airport. Let me give you a sample of the level of bureaucracy in India. First, someone called Jesse about my luggage and told us to come to the airport to pick it up. No one was at the office, but we eventually got someone there who explained the first part of the process of getting my luggage back. It was a basic three step process, but each step had 50 sub-steps. The first part involved going to the Terminal Manager's Office. Okay, so here's the sample: I first had to have my baggage claim card approved by an inspector. Then, that inspector had to sign off on the card which allowed the manager to inspect it. Upon the manager's inspection, he signed off on the card which approved the first inspector to give me a day pass which allowed me to enter the airport. I signed it, and took it to the manager for final inspection. I then signed it again and, finally, the manager signed off and I was able to enter the airport.

Jesse and me at the clubAnyway, Jesse showed me a good time in Delhi. Let me just say again, India is weird in that money is not invested on outside appearance. All the money a company spends is spent on the interior. So, there can be a five-star restaurant right in the middle of a slum. You just have to walk through an alley or two and up a few flights of narrow stairs before you get there.

After staying out until 5:30, we woke up at 9 to catch our flight to Goa. Goa is lovely, but it's not like the pictures on Wikipedia. There is still poverty in abundance. Stray dogs, pigs, and cows roam the streets and people can be found sleeping in the dirt off the sides of smaller roads. We were able to get a cheeseburger for Rs 400 (about $10) at the Marriott resort. Later, Tony would show us where we could get an even better steak dinner for just Rs 220. 

We went out again on Saturday 16 August. This time we walked for a couple of miles looking for food before finally giving up and headed to a fashion show. Judging by the look of the surrounding area and the path we took, I thought this was going to be a joke, but sure enough it was a full on fashion show and post-party. This is going to be quite the adventure indeed.


15 August 2008

In the beginning...

I'm in India. I have to remind myself of that fact often as it still seems unreal. I was telling Jesse that it feels like a dream because nothing seems quite right. There is something off about every part of daily life here from the decentralized water heaters to the excessive amount of locks on doors and windows.

Getting Here

I've never travelled outside the US before, so moving to India for 2 years is like jumping into the deep end of the pool to learn how to swim. This is a trip of first for me: first time I leaving the US; first time being randomly selected by the Transportation Security Agency for additional screening; first time an airline has lost my bag (I only took the one, which basically left me with just my electronics).

As my itinerary states, I had three non-stop flights from Orlando to Charlotte, Charlotte to New York, and New York to Delhi. During the 14-hour flight from New York to Delhi, I enjoyed some Indian music and Bollywood films. They served three meals including a breakfast an hour and a half before we landed in Delhi at about 5PM Indian Standard Time (IST), which is 9.5 hours ahead of EST. Yes, 9 hours and 30 minutes.

First Impressions

Jesse picked me up from the airport. Before I could get out to see him, I had to walk through several military personnel who were nonchalantly holding automatic rifles while chatting with each other in what I assume was Hindi. The part that made this frightening was that I didn't understand what they were saying, but they were holding automatic rifles. As I walked by them, I wondered if they had notice my miniature American flag sticking out of my backpack.

Driving in Delhi is nothing like the United States. I had seen pictures and videos from Jesse of cows in the roads and drivers weaving across lanes, but until I saw it with my own eyes and lived it, it didn't sink in just how crazy it all is. Posted speeds are rare, but are usually about 50 km/h for smaller cars and 40 km/h for larger cars and trucks. Drivers usually go twice that fast or about 60 mph on every road. Car horns and lights are used frequently to alert another driver of a cars presence. Turn signals are used rarely and mirrors aren't used at all. Furthermore, from what I can tell, you aren't required to have either on your vehicle. Rickshaws, bicycles, and pedestrians of all species share the roads with cars and trucks.

The Food

So far, the food has been very tasty. I'm thankful that Jesse has been here for two years and knows where to go. Food and drinks are much cheaper here, but I'll have an Indian salary so some items will still be too expensive. I am drinking bottled water and Gatorade. Believe it or not, I still haven't tried the Coke. After eating some traditional Indian food at a fancy, chain-restaurant called Swagath, we did stop by McDonald's for some ice cream. It was 12 Rupees (Rs 12) which is 28¢. At Swagath, we ordered some fresh lime soda and butter chicken. Jesse didn't notice, but all the employees were checking out our cameras as we were snapping pictures. It took me by surprise that people would just stand around someone and openly stare, but I suspect that is going to be one of many surprises here. 

Unfortunately, smoking is allowed in restaurants and bars and so many people smoke. Also, the restaurants and shops we visit are very nice and clean once you're in them, but from the street everything looks dirty and buildings are covered in advertisements much like a Qwik Stop in the US. Sadly, while walking back to our vehicle, several children approached us and were begging for money or food. This is India; a strange mix of wealth and extreme poverty as well as of tradition and modernity