One more time, with feeling!

After Agra, I spent the next day catching up on sleep. Some time Sunday afternoon the hotel desk called and asked when I was checking out. I replied “tomorrow” and the girl at the desk informed me that they only had me down for Sunday, and that they were sold out. I explained that I had arranged it through a travel agency that our company uses and that I was holding an itinerary that confirmed that I wasn’t checking out until Monday. She went to go check my story and called back an hour later to let me know that I wasn’t going to be homeless after all.

Sunday evening I went out to a club called Reverb at the Great India Place in Noida. We had a department party there. The music was so loud that you couldn’t hear anything anyone was saying, but that was a good thing. People pretty much focused on drinks and dancing and didn’t spend time talking about work. I had a few rum & cokes and spent the rest of the night on the dance floor as the DJ played everything from Punjabi to trance, house to American R&B, hip hop to industrial. Not necessarily the mix I would have preferred, but it was fun all the same.

Monday I slept until about 10, then got up and packed my room. Around 1:30pm I met up with some friends and we went to a market somewhere near Delhi to get piercings. The market was full of higher end US fashion brand stores and my friend explained that this area is famous for being a spot where wealthy people shop. She said that this was the place where she first saw a Hummer in India. Perhaps not surprisingly, this area was also bombed a couple years ago. Casualties near the bomb were relatively low, but many were hurt in the ensuing chaos. This made me a little nervous, but I figured that they’d probably pick a different target next time.

We went into a little shop where I picked out a Ganesha ring to bring home, and then decided on a piercing. I got my bottom lip pierced with about a 20 gauge wire with a bead on it. My two friends BOTH chickened out. Ah well, I thought it was a lot of fun anyway. After that we went over to KFC and I had a Zinger sandwich. (Nothing says “Welcome home, brand new piercing!” like hot spices.) The real zinger was that the bun was crawling with really tiny ants. I didn’t find that out until I was half through with it. I finished the sandwich anyway. The ants were really small, so I didn’t think they’d cause too much damage.

After that we went back to the hotel, where my friends gave me a container with some homemade paranthas in it. They’re like these little pancakes filled with veggies and spices. They’re freaking delicious. I’ll be sad if I can’t find an Indian place back home that makes them. I went back to my room, gathered my belongings and went downstairs to check out and catch a cab back to Gurgaon.

The driver on the way to Gurgaon was fairly chatty, so I spent some time listening as he explained about the local sports teams and the respective proficiencies of their various team members. I mainly nodded and smiled and watched out the window as the scenery rolled by. I saw several herds of urban cattle milling around the streets, riverbeds and hillsides. At one point we were blocked by a rather large herd that decided to cross the road. The driver explained that they’e the “kings of the road” here.

With a little help from the iPhone map application we found my new hotel. I have to say that I have been pretty disappointed with it so far. Everything I’d gotten used to at the other hotels is notably absent here. It’s much more like the experience of any roadside hotel in the states. The only upside I’ve found to this place is that they have a cafe that’s open 24 hours and has excellent food. This is particular helpful as I’m working night shifts while I’m here. There’s basically zero security here. There’s a metal detector but no one is really watching it. The last two places had vehicle checks, metal detectors and pat down. Here, there’s only one person working the front desk and he doesn’t have a machine gun. The other side of the coin is that its a very small hotel and I’m pretty sure they know all the guests by name, and know who should and shouldn’t be there. The room is small, there’s a scarcity of clean towels, and there’s no carpet. It’s clean enough, and the style is sort of funky/arty.

I called the front desk for a cab and an hour later I was still waiting, so I called my contact at the office and asked if he could arrange something. He decided to just come over and get me since it was close by. We arranged for transportation to be provided by the office for the rest of the week, since the hotel folks couldn’t seem to get it together for me. I may call my own car for the airport return trip. I don’t want to be waiting around for a cab if there’s increased security at the airport and I need to be there early.

Again, work seems to be heating up. I ended up not doing the job that I thought I was coming back to do. It turns out that my team needs the help more than the team I’d been reassigned to. This is perfectly fine with me. I like the guys on my team and want to help them be successful if I can. There are a lot of challenges though, like training limitations and timing. We have some milestones ahead that we need to be ready for and I’m just not sure we’ll get there in time.

I ate at the cafeteria at the office, and so far have suffered no ill effects as a result. The food is a little bland though. The office has undergone a bit of a facelift since my last visit (new paint, internet kiosks and a gym). From what I hear they had a little Dog’n’Pony show for some folks that came over from the States last week and wanted to make the place look a bit less run down. I’ve noticed a lot of ass kissing from the higher ups here and I wonder if it’s affecting the judgment of the people who are visiting to evaluate the site. It’ll take more than a coat of paint and some potted plants to fix the situation here. I’m hoping that anyone who’s risen to the level of management will be bright enough to see beyond surface appearances, but my confidence level there is hovering around 4-5 on a 10 scale.

I spent the rest of the night and most of the next night just walking around the floor, listening to people doing their jobs and jumping in to help whenever I felt like they were starting to lose control of the call. There are some folks here who are really starting to get it. I just hope they stick around. Ideally we should have someone here full time for the next couple months to mentor and really get things stabilized, and have someone in place to train the incoming folks. But that’s not going to happen, so I’m trying to devise alternate plans. We’ll work with what we’ve got and hope for the best.

Only a few more days of work, then a day off, and then I’m on my way back home. I’ve enjoyed my time here, and even when it was stressful it was still enlightening, but when it’s over I’ll be glad to go back home and see everyone again. I have a feeling that this won’t be my last trip to this part of the world. If I can manage to hang on to my job a bit longer they’ll probably ask me to come back here for another round later in the year.


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