Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Officially Old

Happy birthday (you old fart) to meee! I'm officially one week closer to 40 than I am to 30. Last Wednesday was my 35th birthday. Someone please tell me where the last 10 years went?!?! Wasn't I just 25?? *sigh*

Well, I'm definitely not 25 anymore. I proved it last weekend by traveling with three 25-year-olds and foolishly trying to keep up. By day two I was off for the old-timer's afternoon nap while the young 'uns went for beer and pool. By day three my liver went on strike. Day four I gave up and lost the ability to speak all together. I had a great time, but I seriously needed a vacation from my vacation.

Seriously though, it wasn't all party party party. Kerala, Kovalam in particular, is stunning. When it wasn't raining, my days were spent lying on beaches of the softest black sand I've ever felt between my toes. While fending off the beach-vendors can be challenging, it only adds to the charm of the place (she says while crossing her fingers behind her back - it's totally annoying!). There was an old-fashioned red and white striped lighthouse at one end of the beach, and at the other end of the arc, the beach disappeared into a swath of thick coconut palms. Add to that 4 hottie French surfers running around without shirts and you really couldn't ask for better scenery. Evenings were spent watching breathtaking sunsets like this one. My hotel room door opened onto the boardwalk, and I slept to the sound of waves crashing onto the rocks every night. Every morning, I woke up to the sound of the fishermen's chants as they hauled their gigantic nets in from the sea by hand. Talk about fresh seafood!! I had lobster for dinner twice, just because I could. It was damn near a perfect weekend, and exactly what I needed to get my head back on track.

p.s. I'll post more pictures later this week - I've got some pretty good ones.

Friday, September 15, 2006


I've had one of those "God-it's-so-frustrating-living-in-a-foreign-country" kind of days.

Incident #1: I got dumped by my yoga instructor first thing this morning (which is actually mid-afternoon for me, thanks to working nights). Because of my work hours, I couldn't actually make any scheduled classes at the local yoga studio so I hired a private instructor. I was paying him a boat-load of money to meet with me for 1 hour a day, three days a week. After three classes, he decided that it just wasn't all that convenient for him, and that he really didn't like missing his afternoon nap. He was firing me as a client. Boo!

Incident #2: Yesterday afternoon, I received a phone call from the local post office telling me that I had a package, could I please come down after 9:30 am today and collect it. I needed to speak to a man named Danayam. No problem. I went to yoga, got dumped, headed for the post office. When I arrived at the post office, I was told to go around back to collect my package. I don't want to scare anyone away from sending anything to India, because the system actually works, but what I witnessed was the most frightening thing ever. Stacks and stacks and stacks and bags and bags and bags of mail dumped into the middle of a large table with three skinny scruffy little men in sarongs sitting around hand sorting things into random piles. There was mail on the floor, on chairs, in cubbies, in boxes... utter chaos, just like the rest of India. Anyway, so I had gone around back to the package-place, only to be sent back around front to find the mysterious Danayam. Danayam was not in the office. Danayam would not be back today. Evidently this Danayam is the keeper of my packages and my packages only, because when he was called on his cell phone, no one used my name, only the lovely monniker "Madame", as in "Madame is here for her package." And he knew who I was and where my package had been sent. Shockingly, it had been forwarded on to the address that was on the package. Now there is a novel idea. However, if they were going to send it on to the address on the package anyway, why in the hell did they call me and tell me to come down to the post office to pick it up? It must have been one of those "Let's mess with the white girl" things. They do happen.

Incident #3: Shortly after my experience at the post office, I receive a phone call from reception at my office. I had a package. Unbelievable. My package had made its way from the post office to the address on the box. Funny how that works. "Great!" I said, "I'm not in the office today, I'll pick it up later." Then the receptionist asked me the oddest question. "What do you want us to do with it?" Evidently, in the history of the entire company, this was the first time they had ever received a package or piece of mail. The mail room had been completely unused up until this point. I politely suggested the unused mailroom, what the heck - give those boys something to do, until I was able to get around to pick it up. She said ok, and we hung up the phone. No worries, easy right? Welllllll... later on I decided to stop by and pick up my package from the office. My company has two buildings in this large business park 'campus' kind-of thing. I work in building A. My desk is in building A, right around the corner from the never-before-used mailroom in building A. The receptionist that called me was also in building A, so I assumed that they would send the package to the mailroom in building A. No. No no no. Of course not. They sent the package across the campus to the mailroom in building B. So after a ten minute conversation with the under-worked mail boy in building A, we finally determined that my package had indeed been sent to building B. I went to building B. I went to the mailroom window to request my package, knowing full well that I only had 10 minutes to collect my package and make it down to the basement to catch transport home, which only leaves every 30 minutes. If I missed this round, I'd be stuck sitting at the office with my package for another half an hour. I explained this very carefully to the woman in the mailroom. She nodded and smiled and head waggled all while talking on her cell phone for the next 15 minutes, then she handed me my package that was sitting next to her the whole time. I missed transport. I sat in the hot, un-airconditioned basement for 30 minutes waiting for the next round to take me home.

Incident #4: The ride home in transport was uneventful. Never mind that no one offered to help me load the medium sized, heavy box along with a backpack and two bags of books that I was struggling with, into the car. I managed. No big deal. I was used to this day going badly. When I got home, I got out of transport and tried to get my things out of the back of the hatchback. I walked around the back of the car, and for some reason, without looking behind him, the driver threw the car into reverse and began to back up.. over me. I started backpedaling as fast as I could and beating on the back window of the car. Only then, did he actually check his rear-view mirror to see if anything was behind him. Seeing my panicked face did not immediately stop him. It was the other person in the car literally slapping him across the back of the head and yelling at him that got him to stop. I had already jumped clear at this point, realizing he just wasn't going to stop. When he stopped I stepped to the back of the car, opened the hatchback, removed the backpack and two bags of books and put them on the side of the road. As I stepped back behind the car for the second time, to get the box out of the back, the idiot starts to back up AGAIN. If I could have reached him to smack him myself, I would have. But the other passenger managed it for me. He stopped. I got the box. I went home.

It was all worth it for the contents of the box. Care packages from Mom are always good. I was expecting most of the contents, since I'd asked for them... but she always manages to sneak some little cool surprise in there too. This time it was a beautiful Japanese style cast-iron teapot and yummy gourmet tea. I'm sitting here finishing the last of a pot while writing this. Thanks, Mom! You turned an otherwise yucky day around.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Trying Really Hard to Like India

I read this article about India today that made me laugh out loud. Probably because, even after the very short amount of time I've been here, I can totally identify with it. In part 4, Seth Stevenson writes:

Back home in the States, it can feel like we've got life figured out, regulated, under control, under wraps. But here in India, nothing seems even close to figured out. Nothing seems remotely under control. You're never quite sure what will happen next, and you're working without a net. Terrifying? Yes. But also invigorating.

I couldn't have said it better myself. Take for example, the simple act of walking down the street here. It seems like something you should be able to do in peace, without conflict or disaster raining down on you from above. It seems so. It's not.

The Indians have a fondness, shall we say, for the horns on their vehicles. Cars, motorcycles, buses (these beauties sing entire songs for your listening pleasure), scooters, autorickshaws, even crusty, rusty lame-ass bicycles with pink baskets, all come equipped with bull-horn type honkers. These are used for everything... to say hello, to signal the approach to an intersection, to notify other drivers of your existence, for passing, for turning, for going straight, for going in reverse, for approaching another vehicle (which in a city of 8 milion people and nearly as many drivers is fairly constant), and for letting pedestrians that a car is there. All of this leads to a pretty noisy street scene of 8 million drivers, one hand on the steering wheel, the other hand on the horn. Chaos. Pure, unadulterated chaos.

The other morning, I was minding my own business, strolling along the nice quiet side streets of my neighborhood on my way to yoga class, enjoying the peaceful atmosphere and thinking to myself how happy I was to live far enough away from the main drag that I didn't have to deal with all the noise all the time. As it was mid-afternoon on a weekday, there wasn't much traffic at all. I was actually marvelling at the fact that I had the wide, tree-lined lane all to myself. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, and as I was exhaling, I damn near had a heart attack because the driver of the only car on the road waited until it was less than two feet away from me and mashed on the horn as long and as hard as he possibly could.

Once I was able to breathe again, I pondered what could possibly have been the motivating factor for that action. Let's look at the scene... it was a wide street - plenty of room for 4 cars to pass each other side by side. It couldn't have been that the driver needed space. There was not another moving vehicle within miles. He wasn't warning another car that he was coming. There were no intersections nearby, so that wasn't it. I was the only pedestrian within sight. Granted, since I was on my way to a yoga class I hadn't showered yet and wasn't looking my whole-hearted best, but did I look like I had a deathwish? Like I would suddenly and inexplicably turn and hurl myself in front of the only moving object on the road? Obviously. The driver must have decided to save me from a slow and painful death from being run-over in favor of a quick and shocking heart-stoppage instead. For that, I thank him for saving me from myself.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

What a week it's been...

Congratulate me. I've not had a cigarette in 10 days now. My intention was to quit after my birthday anyway, but circumstances sort of forced me into it a bit early. Remember that last little nasty post about the sinus infection? Well, it kinda never got better. Actually, it kept getting worse... and worse... and worse. It traveled from my head to my throat & ears and eventually settled into my lungs, landing me in the hospital for a week. Don't worry, Indian hospitals aren't as scary as you would think - at least not where I was.

Last Tuesday morning I went in for my 4th doctor's appointment in as many weeks. They finally determined that the course of drugs they were trying wasn't working and that I needed serious help or I would be pneumonia bound. I didn't even get a chance to go home to pick things up. I was immediately whisked to a private office labled "International Patient Registration". I knew right then that I was getting rooked. However, I didn't really care, since insurance was going to pay for it. Once all the paperwork was signed, I was shuffled off upstairs to the 11th floor. When the elevator doors opened, you had two options: turn right to the old, chipped blue tiled, poorly lit, scary wing OR you turned to the left and sunshine and happiness awaited you through frosted glass doors. It was like a 5 star hotel. I had a private room with an incredible view (unfortunately, the central point of that view was my office), satellite TV, a personal dietician who visited me every morning to discuss my menu for the day, and I could get just about anything I wanted with the push of a button.

The nursing staff was so incredibly sweet, and sympathised with me completely when I threw myself a pity party because I wanted my mom. I may be 35, but I still want my mama when I don't feel good. The nurses are all living here in a hostel far away from their families in other parts of India, but it's the best place to work - so what to do? They even offered to sleep in the room with me if I wanted. I may be a bit of a baby, but that was pushing it. Finally, they threatened me with a BIG injection, if I didn't cheer up. By the end of the conversation, we were all giggling instead of crying.

Basically, I spent the next four days being pumped full of antibiotic IVs, steroids, nebulizer breathing treatments, sleeping pills, cough syrup, and fever reducers. By Friday, it was time to go home. FINALLY. Unfortunately, the story doesn't end there. It seems I have a bit of a mold problem in the walls of my apartment, and that was probably what was exhasperating my condition.

People from work were so incredibly kind. The Prince of Perth came to visit everyday, bringing me contraband cookies, chocolate and such. :D A couple that I work with really came to the rescue with a little care package of clothes to go home in, toiletries and whatnot. They also managed to get my consulting company to step up to the plate, as they were being a little slow on the response of their end of the bargain. I don't know what was said, but within an hour of his visit, the whole team was in my hospital room, had paid the deposit, painters were being sent to my flat and my leaky boiler was being replaced. I spent the weekend at a friend's house while they replastered and painted my flat, covering the mold in a temporary fix. The fella who lives upstairs has a leaky pipe or something, and if he doesn't fix his problem, I'll never be able to fix mine. The paint job seems to be helping though, I haven't had any issues since I've been home.

As for not smoking, the doctor made me swear not to start again, but he didn't really need to. After 5 days of not being able to breathe, and being forced to be smoke free, there's really no point in going back. It's been a breeze so far. I've had one or two little urges, mainly in habitual situations, like after a big meal. I just drink a glass of water instead. I was a little worried about going back to work because EVERYONE smokes. Going to the 3rd floor balcony was a major social event 3 times a night. However, when I got back to work, the 4 people who sit near me had all quit over the weekend, just for kicks. YEAH! Moral support all around.

Anyway, now that I finally feel like a human being after a month of being sick, I've been nesting like a mad woman and finding all the things I've been wanting to do since I got here. I've started going to the gym, I found a yoga studio, and I've been cooking again. I bought beadspreads and curtains and new dishes. I've rearranged furniture and reorganized cabinets... now that I think about it, it sounds a little more like I've gone crazy than like I'm getting settled. I think a big part of it is finally having energy again. Whatever it is, I'm glad to be BACK.

How's things with you guys? It's been a while....