Thursday, September 30, 2010


So it finally happened: the other crew got released, leaving me all alone with all these Indians.  We said all our goodbyes over the course of a few nights and more than a few Kingfishers...
Matt and Ben.  Did I mention we found a cheaper, better liquor store that sells Budweiser and Fosters?  Not delicious beers in any other setting, but compared to the KF, utter bliss.  
Ryan looking at Anna Kournikova in 3D.  Gotta love Maxim.  

It would have been fun if it weren't so damned depressing.  Oh, but Ben had to stay.  He was none too pleased about it, as you can imagine.  Also, we did, in fact, get two new crew members for Matt's unit - Chris and Andrew.  I have met Chris, he's nice, and British, so we call him Little Britain (he tried to retaliate by calling me "Big America", but I kindly asked him to stop as it brought up some unresolved weight issues).  
Shriram and Little Britain.  They were playing Tetris on that computer.  Ahh, gotta love engineers.

I have not met Andrew (he's on 12 hour days), but I will.  Soon and very soon.  Anyway, so now I'm all bummed out because I have no one to watch LA Ink with in the mornings after breakfast (a Sveta, Ryan and Caitlin ritual) because everyone works.  Bleh.  Working is soooo overrated.

In other news, pardon me if this makes me sound stupid, but I didn't know that after rainy season India gets blisteringly hot again.  Its been in the 90s every day for the past couple weeks, with no rain in sight, so I guess I can officially say goodbye to the monsoons.  Perhaps they will visit us just one more time, but I doubt it.  Today I went to to check the temperature in Baroda, and it said it was 93 degrees, and under the section where it usually says "Partly cloudy" or "Mostly sunny", today it said "Smoke".  Hmmm.  What do you suppose that means?  Is it a polite reference to the ever-loving pollution that blankets the industrial outskirts of the city day after day?  Or did the satellites pick up on a massive smoke cloud from some huge trash burn they were conducting in the city?  Who can know these things?  I guess I should mention that after checking the forecast, I went outside, and it did, in fact, seem smokey out there. There are always random piles of trash burning outside, so maybe I have just grown accustomed to it.  Maybe I don't even notice how the sun never shines through the big black ash cloud anymore.  Doubtful, but maybe.

While I was out sniffing the air and trying to keep busy so I don't fall into a deep and unsettling depression with my newly found loneliness, a funny thing happened.  I decided to cross the street early for fear of the big intersection.  As I walked towards the gap in the median, a small beggar child noticed my blindingly white skin from across the road and crossed over to get some money.  Lucky me, I noticed her at the same time she noticed me, so I waited until she got almost the whole way across the street (this is no easy task in India), and then I began crossing to the opposite side.  Just as I was congratulating myself on cleverly stranding the beggar child on the other side, she ran back across traffic twice as fast as before and pinched my arm!  I think she did it with actual malice this time for making her cross the street twice.  Can't really blame her, I guess.  No, wait a minute, I can!  Anyway, I knew it would be a long walk to the store if I couldn't shake her, so I quickly changed course and took the shortcut through the "potholes, trash and cows" road.  She did not follow, and I was left in peace.  Once you get past the beginning huge trash pile that always has cows grazing from it, it's really not a bad walk.  Also, there were several women carrying bowls of rocks on their heads and dumping them into the potholes to fill them.  I'm thinking about hiring them to come work in Chicago.  Is that offensive?  Probably.

What else has happened recently?  Not a lot. Last weekend was kind of a dud, but we did catch sight of a rare white-throated Kingfisher (the bird, not the beer) in the courtyard of the hotel.
White-throated Kingfisher.  Check out the beak on that one.  

I got really excited and pointed it out to several staff members, only realizing later (after Krishnan told me) that the Kingfisher is actually very common in India.  Thus the naming of the beer and the airline.  However, it seems to me that they can't be all that common if I've never seen one here before.  I mean, I have literally spent hours staring out that window looking at the birds and lizards.  Hours.
He's so regal.  

I guess that about does it for my update.  Fear not, faithful blog-followers... now that everyone is gone, I shall surely get right back into the swing of blogging about random nothingness soon enough.  Oh, but only for a week.  On October 11, 2010, I will embark on my Extreme Thai Roadwives Adventure (ExTRA).  I get so hopped up making plans for it that I literally start shaking in my seat.  It's going to be LEGENDARY.  But more on that later.  In closing, I would like to stay that No. 1, I got no comments, attaboys or otherwise, on my last blog topic.  Come on, guys.  Three miles!  It's a big deal.  Like me.

I couldn't not post this.  Katie looks so ridiculous.  

Monday, September 27, 2010

I'm Kind of a Big Deal

I ran another 5k today!  Still only on the treadmill, and still only against myself, but I think that makes it only a little less impressive.  I also shaved 2 minutes off my time from before and did it in 30 mins flat.  Yes, I am that good.
This is where the magic happens.  Unfortunately you can't really see the mold in this shot but believe me, it's there.

In other news, nothing big has happened since my last post, which is kind of saying something in and of itself, considering it's been quite some time since I posted.  This past weekend we waited around for the refinery to finish the cleaning the reactor so Matt could go inspect it.  It was supposed to be ready Friday, so in true IOCL form, it was ready on Sunday.  The good news is, they started loading, which puts us one step closer to finishing up this bad boy.  The bad news is, because Krishnan is leaving (for Turkey, lucky bastard), and Matt's other advisor doesn't arrive until Tuesday, Matt has to work 12 hour shifts for a while.

Um, that's about all I've got for the moment.  I'll update again later on some of the more mundane details of the past couple weeks... I just couldn't wait on the 5k.  It's pretty big news.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Third Time's the Charm

False.  It is not.  It seems I was spot on in my prediction that there's nothing charming about Baroda.  Except maybe the cows... they're slightly charming - but only slightly.
Mason and Matt.  That's not an act; they're really fighting.  

We made it back in town on Wednesday morning, and Matt, like the good little worker he is, went straight to work after almost two full days of flying.  I tried my best to be supportive, so I only took an hour nap during the day.  And then I ran two miles and skipped lunch (not by choice... I just didn't have food, and the hotel food is too expensive). I feel like I atoned a little bit for my lack of work.  

Anyway, the trip home was fine.  I should take a moment to mention the complete and utter bliss we felt upon arriving at the international terminal of the Mumbai airport.  We went straight to the KFC counter and ordered chicken strips (there's no good reason they don't have these in Baroda, but they don't).  After ordering, the blessed man at the counter asked "And would you like a cold beer with that?" A cold beer! It was as if the heavens opened up and the angels alit on our shoulders, filling our world with song once again.  Needles to say, we had that beer.  Delicious.  Then we spent a delectable two hours in the executive lounge at the airport, where we drank all the alcohol our stomachs could handle... for freeeee.  It was a grand time in my life.  I believe at one point I used the words "nirvana" and "utopia".  All this grandeur mere hours after leaving Baroda.  It seemed almost too good to be true.  Of course it couldn't last forever.  However, after arriving in Chicago (on the way to Jackson) we saw none other than Jack Bauer himself.  That's right, folks.  Kiefer Sutherland was right in front of me in the security line at O'Hare.  He was wearing an all denim outfit, super trendy cowboy boots, and of course, sunglasses indoors.  Everyone knows that alone ups your cool factor by about 100%.  He looked good.  Real good. Very thin, actually, and older than I would have expected, but good nonetheless.  This is the second celebrity we've seen at O'Hare in the past three months... when leaving for India in July we saw Hulk Hogan.  He was wearing a yellow tank top and a bandana.  At first I didn't recognize him because I remember saying to myself "Oh, that guy looks like Hulk Hogan". And it was. Awesome.  My apologies for not mentioning this back in July... I don't know how I could have forgotten such an important fact.

Jen, Aura, Me, Mom.  Yes, that's Garland's old hat, and yes, I am pulling it off.  

Anyway, being back in Amurca was great, even if it was for a sad occasion.  Good to see family, good to eat food, good to drink unlimited alcohol, etc. etc.  A quick note to the family:  I got no less than three compliments from people on the plane about Garland's blanket.  Everyone wanted to know where we bought it... I just told them my grandpa was a big deal and he had big deal things.  I think they were impressed.
Aura, Mom and Matt playing croquet.  

In other news, Krishnan is still here (which is kind of awesome), but not for long (not awesome).  It's undetermined when he's leaving, but he is ready to go immediately.  It makes me feel slightly better that even Indians don't want to be in Baroda.

Last night, the refinery sent two cars over to take all of us downtown to the Dussehra festival.  I think.  Don't take my word on any of this stuff... people keep telling me the names of things, and I either forget, or I don't understand what they're saying and I get tired of asking them to repeat it.  Anyway, this festival (whatever it is) is really big in Gujarat, and the drivers took us downtown to look at all the decorations.  There were various statues set up of Ganesh and some other gods... of course I don't know their names.
God.  I don't know who it is, but look at the moons in the background.  Awesome.

 I apologize if this is offending any devout Hindus who might be reading this... you'll get over it.
Ganesh and his rats.  I know nothing about him or the rats.  Sorry.  

We also came across some sort of play they were performing on a big stage in the middle of the street.  I couldn't understand any of it, but there was lots of yelling and screaming, and it appeared to be some sort of horror/terrible/Nightmare on Elm Street sort of deal.  There was a projection in the back that kept flashing scary images, and at one point a scene from The Ring.  It was all very strange, but cool.
This is the best picture I got of the performance... it would be really good if that girl's head wasn't in the way.  

We walked around there for a couple hours, and then when we'd had enough, the drivers took us back to the cars... except the cars were blocked in by a big truck....

which was blocked in by a huge group of people dancing.
This is a different dancing group, but you get the idea.  

I didn't mind so much as I was enjoying watching the locals dance, and so when they invited me to join, you better believe I jumped right in!  Katie and I were the only two courageous (and unabashedly ridiculous) enough to dance to the weird and ever-changing drumbeat.

Mostly we just jumped around.  At one point someone gave me a stick with a chain hanging from it that I jangled around in the air.  At another point, a man came up and started teaching me dance moves.  I got a little nervous when I noticed a striking resemblance to the Dirty Dancing moves I know so well, but I did them anyway.  Until the driver came and grabbed my arm and dragged me away.  Perhaps I was embarrassing him or myself.  Or both of us.  Who can know?  Anyway, while Katie and I were dancing away, Ivan had taken it upon himself to do a 100-point-turn and free our cars from behind the truck, so we went home.  All in all, a pretty good night out in Baroda.

In other news: we got new neighbors across the hall.  They leave their door open all day and are very loud.  They have a 4-year-old child.  And that's all I'll say about that.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I'm Going on a Trip, and in My Suitcase...

I'm taking an adapter, a book, and... a carpet!  Yes, we bought a carpet, and yes, I know that's silly.  It was expensive, but beautiful, and everyone else was doing it, and we got all wrapped up in the excitement, and we lost our heads a little bit.  Also, we have all this cash in rupees that we can't get rid of.  Also, we had to buy it now so we can take it home today and not have to worry about it in six (or eight, or ten) months when we finally leave.  Also, don't be surprised if we buy another carpet at some point in the future.  We've grown quite fond of them.

Ain't that fine?  It's a 4x6, silk on silk, intricately-detailed, hand-made concoction.  
I wish we had some grand excuse for buying it, like that time in Turkey when a simple cup of tea forced us into buying that other carpet (that made for a better story than this one, but this makes for a better carpet), but we don't.  We just really liked it.  

In other news, we are, in fact, leaving today for Amurca.  Don't worry, we'll be back in less than a week.  Should be an interesting and exhausting trip.  Our old friend Krishnan (from Dushanzi... well, he's from India, but we worked with him in Dushanzi) finally showed up here last night to cover Matt's work while he's away.  It was really good catching up with Krish and watching him chug a couple nasty Kingfishers.  It should come as no surprise that he doesn't want to be in Baroda any more than we do, even though it is his native land.  He just got off a six month job in Osaka, Japan, where he ate enough sushi and drank enough sake to kill a small horse.  Consequently, he is now stuck here, with the rest of us lowly creatures.  

In other news, Baroda still sucks... possibly even worse than before.  The rainy season, which I thought was ending, has somehow re-started, right back from the very beginning.  It's been raining every day, all day, just like before.  Bleh.  However, I did see the most marvelous sight on Monday.  Four grown Indian men squatting down and cutting the grass in the courtyard - by hand.  Don't ask me why, but this brought me so much joy and comfort.  They have been at it for three days and are still not finished.  Naturally, I took pictures.  I still get tickled looking at these.
Human lawn-mowers.   
Before you all get all offended, let me tell you that yes, I see what a demeaning and terrible job this is, especially when I hear the hotel has an actual lawn mower that they won't let them use.  Maybe the ground is too wet?  Also, I seem to recall paying a 10-year-old boy $10 to cut our grass when I was a sophomore in college, which didn't seem too awful until one day I looked out the window and saw him on all fours plucking the blades with his hands.  But that was only around the corners and edges where the mower couldn't reach... I think.  Also, I was a sophomore in college and very poor, and $10 was all I could afford.  
I think they're probably discussing other job prospects.  
Not much else going on.  We played snooker on Sunday in the "Billiards Room".  At one point a hotel worker came in, sniffed the air suspiciously and said "Beer?".  We assured him that no beer was on the premises.  Obviously it was whiskey.  Before you judge me, I think I remember explaining at some other point that the only way to get through a game of snooker is with alcohol.  It is otherwise virtually impossible to do so.  

Katie and Ryan.  I know it looks like it here, but they're not dating.  I don't think.

That's me, showing off my unparalleled snooker skills.  I think I may have scored once.  It definitely wasn't this time.  

My artsy Matt picture.  He only scored once, too.  
I guess that about does it for this installment.  More information that you could have possibly wanted, as always.  I'll post again when I get back from Amurca.  You can expect that to be a quite dismal one, as I'll be returning to India for the third time, and in this case, I'm pretty sure there'll be nothing charming about it.