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