Sep 22, 2012

An Indian Adventure and a Subservient Chicken

I wrote this one for work, prepping for an impending trek to Pune, India.

Boss fired a feeler to see if I’d squawk at traveling to India to train and mentor.  I gave a little grin and said sure, but inside, pumped a fist thinking adventure of a lifetime.

Working beside our Pune posse will be a 180° flip:  night becomes day (10.5 hour time shift), dollars to rupees, meat and potatoes morph into tikka masala and kaali daal.


Food is nearly the best part of tasting a different culture, I have questions:
  • How will the real deal compare to Indian restaurants in Des Moines?
  • TripAdvisor touts a Chinese restaurant as a top stop in Pune.  How will sesame chicken in India taste next to Iowa Chinese chicken?
  •  “Be careful, don’t eat street vendor food” is what I hear, but you probably know how that one will turn out.  Will Delhi Belly strike at 30,000 on the 21 hour return flight, a ball of Charmin, Pepto and a prayer my only allies? 
Those of you that haven’t been to India, what would you like to see, hear, and pet?  A Nikon D40 will drink pics by the gig, GoPro’s charged and ready for rickshaw and elephant rides.  Tell me what to do; I’ll be your subservient chicken.

Pune friends, what shops, day-trips and advice do you have?  A 3-day weekend will be on tap for longer excursions.  The Taj’, Jodhpur “blue city”, Hindu temples, Catholic churches, open air markets and fortresses hewn from rock are possibilities.  What else should I add to the list?

On the work front, I’ll see the home office from Pune's perspective.  Will there be ways we can tweak how we interact together to improve our ability to get work done?  I will dig and find out.

-Beard

25 comments:

  1. Don't forget to get your shots!

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    1. Done: Polio, Typhoid fever, Hep' A/B and flu, plus malaria pills and stuff to help tame explosive diarrhea.

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  2. Head south to Kerala region and trek or bike through the tea plantations or a visit to the Varkala Cliffs. Fabrics and textiles. My 'Dreaming India" pinterest http://pinterest.com/thimblefull/dreaming-india/

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    1. Amazing combo you recommend there, I'll head over to your Pint' page and take notes. Thanks!

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  3. Med student advice here: BRING PEPTO BISMOL. In a lot of cases of GI problems people will take Cipro (which you should get from the doctor for Traveler's Diarrhea anyway - sorry everyone for that image) but it won't work. Pepto Bismol is an angel. Take it with you!

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    1. Got it, the pink stuff's on my packing list. I suspect Cipro could make the squirts worse, since they can punk with your natural "good" bacteria in the gut.

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    2. Sorry I realize that sentence made no sense. Cipro will very frequently work. But in cases where it doesn't Pepto is amazing.

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  4. Anonymous9/23/2012

    Being a Non-resident Indian i would recommend you to buy mosquito repellent in India than carrying the well known OFF brand from here in USA.
    Look for 'Good Night' herbal repellent..It should be available in any medical/drug store.

    Drink only boiled water.Trust me on that.

    Kerala is a must-do.But there are amazing trek trails in Karnataka as well.
    Have a safe trip
    Jai Hind!

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    1. Hmm, DEET-less repellant, how well does it work? The 'quitos are patiently waiting to stick me with Malaria.

      Ha, doctor said be sure to keep my mouth closed in the shower, even a few drops of water on the tongue could initiate the launch sequence of a dirty gut-bomb. Bottled water it is, and I'll have to make sure the seal is intact, common to get a fast-one pulled.

      Kerala looks pretty, but is a ways south, would have to fly it in. I'll add it to the list.

      Dhanyavaad!

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  5. Just curious, who watches Pigtails when you go on these trips? India sounds amazing. I hope to visit one day when my kids are a bit older. Can you imagine trying to get a 3 year old to not drink her bath water?!? ha!

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    1. A cage and a bucket of Twinkies to contain Pigtails, right?

      Her mom is in the hospital at the moment, so I asked friend Curls to help with my daughter. I'd try and bring her with me if school wasn't in session...talk about a hands-on way to teach her about another culture.

      Ha, don't drink the bath water.

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  6. DSMama9/24/2012

    Yes, I want to hear about food, food, and more food. Also interested in perpective on the equality there!! Reading about it is one thing but experiencing it is a whole different cup of tea. What about school for the kiddos?

    I would love the opportunity to travel for work (think I can beg to come with you??). Very jealous :)

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    1. There is a pretty sharp and obvious dividing line between the poor and not-so-poor in India. Visitors tell me this is the #1 thing they notice right away after setting foot. I'll keep an open mind and will report it as I see it.

      You'd do a Pune visit the right way, hope you can go sometime. I'll bring you back some loot.

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  7. My grandfather was an envoy to India and Pakistan during the late 50's/early 60's...he was tasked with starting schools in the areas. Darjeeling is at the top of the list as far as Mom is concerned, as is the Taj, although be prepared to travel through quite a bit of squalor to get there.

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    1. Darjeeling is the land of mountains, tea plantations and steam trains. If you read this blog, you know I like all of the above. I hadn't planned on traveling that far from Pune, but now you've got me thinking. Thanks!

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  8. Anonymous9/24/2012

    Hey Beard,
    Na-mas-kar is how you say Hello in Marathi (native language of Pune) and Hindi (the official language of India along with English).
    Off course no Indian or Chinese food there will taste the way it does here (Indian food here is Americanized and Chinese food in India is Indianized!!) Off course we have all possible chains that you guys do here like McD, KFC, Pizza hut, Papa Johns, Dominos, which are a backup option for ya but beef/pork products maybe hard to come by. But make sure you visit Barbeque Nation a very popular 'grill on table' bbq place in Pune (again I dunno about beef/pork). Also try maharashtrian food at hotel Shreyas (served in a big steel Plate to be eaten with fingers, right hand preferably)
    Like my fellow NRI mentioned be sure to drink boiled water (or atleast buy a good quality bottled water with seal intact)!!
    If you dont want (or get) to venture very far away from Pune, there are Lonavla, Khandala, Mahabaleshwar, Panchgani within a few hrs driving distance from Pune, they are good scenic places. Weekend hiking is a very popular activity in Pune so if you get a chance to go out with yr co-workers you can enjoy some of the country side around Pune (dont forget tht repellent), off course you will go to Sinhagad which is a fort on the outskirts of Pune once owned by Shivaji Maharaj (a brave warrior and Maratha Ruler in that region before the British).
    I am very excited to hear about India from your perspective.
    Good luck and safe flight
    Saturated Fat Champion!!

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    1. Yum, can't wait to taste authentic Indian food, along with Indian Chinese grub and maybe a slab of veggie-style McD's. Home-cooked meals is what I most look forward to, sitting with a family around their table seeing how they live.

      TripAdvisor ranks BBQ Nation near the top in Pune, hot skewers of random veg/meat, yes please. Bookmarking the weekend trips you suggest, will research and check them out. Co-worker has some hiking trails mapped out, I'm building a tripod thingy for they GoPro to capture sunny stop-motion shots at elevation.

      Thanks for you help, sFat Champ!

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  9. Anonymous9/25/2012

    As an American Asian Indian who's been back a few times, don't drink water. I've gotten sick every time due to bad water/food. Not pretty. Besides that, India is gorgeous and so busy. There are tons of people everywhere. The food is the best in the world (I may be partial) and the people are kind. The poverty is always jarring. May I ask what you will be doing in Pune?

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    1. Agree on the food being the best in the world, and I'm hoping it will taste even better than the Indian eats I do here at home. Will careful with the water, #underpantexplosion.

      An IT nerd, I'll be doing training/mentoring/coding in India, as well as looking for improvements in the cogs between remote and home office.

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  10. Not India, but maybe this advice will work for you. While my husband and I were in Ethiopia, we met a German couple who teach at some University. Prior to their travels, they spoke with some other professor of Biology? Chemistry? -something in the sciences and he recommended they take a shot of whiskey before eating or drinking anything. Supposedly it raises the PH in the stomach to a level which many bugs cannot survive/thrive long enough to do damage. I'm not sure if that is legit, but it was pretty fun doing shots at all times of day or night. I still remained rather cautious, but they were not and seemed to get off without any problems.

    I want to see some of Mother Theresa's Sisters in action...

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    1. Got it, whiskey has now been added to my packing list.

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  11. Anonymous9/27/2012

    I was born and raised in India, lived there 25 years before I moved here. And I must say that even as a returning native (to the north), I have gotten sick every time I go back (echoing the comment above). If the water does not get you, then its the food. Just make sure that everything you eat is piping hot. Yes, do avoid roadside vendors. don't eat the cold sauces that are offered with food, don't eat salad. But DO enjoy the local food. You may not find tikka masala...but you will find great chicken! And great vegetarian food.
    Also, if you can make sure you talk to your local office in Pune about seeking emergency medical care before you go. Ask them where you would go if needed, especially late at night.Or check with your hotel to see if they have a doctor on call. (I remember getting really sick at night during my last visit, a bad case of upper GI tract infection...pretty painful)
    India is a country of extreme contrasts..you will either love it..or not so much. I hope you do!!

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    1. I found a helpful forum that talks about the types of things you mention; IndiaMike.com. Useful advice from people that live and travel to India, such as don't board a rickshaw or cab unless the meter is on and running or you'll get ripped off. Some sellers will feed you the bull line of "no change", so carry extras of small bills. Restaurant reviews and recommendations for how many rupees to stash each day and where to reload on groceries.

      Your comment about "India is a country of extremes" made me think of this post on IndiaMike: http://www.indiamike.com/india-articles/8_the-india-confusion

      Thanks!

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  12. aaroohii10/04/2012

    Hey there..I`m another American-Indian or Indian-American, whatever the heck we're called so confusing! But you get it, so moving on, since Pune is close to Mumbai I suggest you experience that culture as well. I have never been to Mumbai so your colleagues in Pune might give you better recommendations about places to see there.
    I have a friend in PUNE, just shoot me an email aaroohii at yahoo dot com if you need any help. Btw if you want to experience how families live, eat etc then you better mention this to your colleagues else they'll probably always take you out to eat.

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    1. Here's the excursion list I sent to the host, we'll see how much we can squeeze in while there:

      -Visit a fort
      -Visit a temple
      -Attend a Catholic Mass
      -Visit an open-air market, I’d like to purchase a sari for my daughter and souvenirs for co-workers back home
      -Attend a Bollywood movie
      -Eat street-vendor food
      -Attend a classical Indian music or dance concert
      -Eat dinner with a family at their home so I can see how they live
      -Run with the Pune running club
      -Mountain hike
      -Motorcycle trip

      Mumbai if we have time, thanks Aaroohii.

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Thanks for the note, check back for my response!