Saturday, January 26, 2008

Home Again ... For Now

Slept most of the India to Frankfurt flight (after all, it left at 2am India time). In Frankfurt, grabbed some kindereggs (candy eggs with toys inside) and (the original) gummy bears. For the kids, not for me. On the flight from Germany to DFW, I only slept for an hour or so.

Not sure I've written about this, but in India, all water is suspect unless its bottled water. If an American even brushes his teeth with tap water on his toothbrush, he'll very likely be sick. Or so the travel doctor told me. And since several of my colleagues have been sick already while in or returning from India, I take that pretty seriously. So no drinking tap water.

Now, honestly, that's not such a big deal ... except that it means you can't have ice in your drinks. None. Ever. I can imagine my older brother reading this and thinking, so what? But the problem is, if you order anything cold, it is typically delivered at just below room temperature. (Or 'luke cold', as my boss commented.)

So when I got on the American flight in Frankfurt, coming home, and ordered a Diet Coke ... it was heavenly. Ice in the glass. Cold can. Refreshing. Seriously.

And as a side note, I think I wrote about this already, but I've confirmed that I'm not a big fan of Indian food. I got some ribbing for a certain 'burning' experience I had at a restaurant over there, but that's ironic to me since I eat quite a bit of Tex-Mex over here. So its not really that I don't like the spice, I just am not a big fan of the flavor.

Anyway, I arrived home on Thursday afternoon, on schedule. Mostly stayed awake for the afternoon, playing with the kids. To bed that night just after 10pm, woke up at 5:55am DFW time. 8 hours, that's good, but I wished I could have gotten myself to sleep another 2 or 3. No dice though.

Friday grabbed a Chipotle burrito at lunch. OH MY. Oh yes.

I go back to Chennai this coming Friday (yes, 8 days after I returned from the previous trip). This next trip will last 3 weeks. The Indian folks I'm working with are really great, both kind and gracious. But I am not looking forward to this trip. I swear my kids grew in visible ways while I was gone for 2 weeks last time. This time I'll come back and they'll be driving or something. And my wife will be mumbling to herself, I'm afraid. Cursing the father of her children. Hopefully not, but we'll see.

More to come.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Notes from the Airport

Its 12:30am. I'm sitting in the Chennai airport. My flight
leaves at 1:50am. A few random notes.

The whole time we've been in Chennai our group has had the
same 3 drivers. The first driver was Abdul. If Mr. Miyogi
from the Karate Kid movie were an Indian guy, he'd be

Second, we had Karl Marx. Nice guy, actually. I'm as
surprised as you are. (Apparently Karl's dad was fascinated
by Marx, and decided to name his son after the guy. O...k.)
Karl is a very nice guy though.

And then there's Gopi. Or as I like to call him, Speed
Racer. Each day, whoever gets in Speed Racer's car is
pretty much guaranteed to reach the destination first. Its
not that Gopi drives recklessly -- honestly, all 3 drivers
are both very nice and very safe -- but Gopi seems to have
a way of anticipating where to be in the weaving mess of

In other news ... last night, in a fit of desperation, my
boss rejected the restaurant menu and described to the
waiter that she'd like some pasta, cooked with tomato,
garlic, onion, and lemon. And they made it. And it was
GOOD. So note to self: order off the menu once in a while.
You never know...

See you all soon.

Monday, January 21, 2008

A Thousand Words

Its late, but before I hang it up tonight, here are a few pictures I thought I'd share. First, here is a 3-wheeler (basically a motorized rickshaw):

Next up, here is a shot I took of a father and two children riding a cycle. I haven't managed to snap a shot of a family including a mom riding sidesaddle on the back while balancing an infant or toddler on her lap, but this gives you the idea.
And lastly, the following boulder is called 'Krishna's butter ball', and is located near the shore temple at Mamallapuram. It rests on a very sloped surface, and yet, despite the tsunami and another earthquake in the last number of years, the thing has apparently not budged.

I may post once more tomorrow evening before heading to the airport to return home -- it all depends on how long it takes me to pack. However, I have much more to tell, so at worst I can continue the Chennai tales from Texas -- for a week, after which I'll return to India for another couple of weeks.


Saturday, January 19, 2008


Apologies that this is only my second post. Turns out we work long days during the week, such that in the evenings I tend to drop into the sack. That's partly due to the fact that I have only slept a full night once this week. Weird, that.

The pic above is from last Sunday evening. I mentioned last time that we saw a performance? Well, those two ladies are dancing while balancing ... pottery I think ... on their heads. It really was fascinating.

The thing is, a lot of women here have developed a skill of balancing things on their heads, so as to carry them. I've seen large bags of trash, stacks of kindling or other wood, pots and bags and other things all balanced on womens' heads as they walk along the road. My boss commented that she actually saw two women who had stacked several layers of bricks on their heads!

Next up, traffic. My company rents from Avis on business trips, and in India that means you get a driver also. And its a good thing. Driving in India is like salmon swimming in a river. All the cars jockey for position, ignoring the lane stripes that are sometimes on the road, and working in and around and among one another on their way to their destinations.

Oh, but there is one other very notable vehicle on the road here: a motorized rickshaw, or '3 wheeler' as they call it. They're used as taxis, are open to the air on either side, and are about the size of a golf cart. The motor sounds like a go-cart engine (it probably is one). you probably can't look down a street and not see one. Even when we drove to the hotel from the airport in the middle of the night last weekend, they were out and everywhere.

However, while there are lots of small cars on the road here, and some mid-sizes, and of course the 3-wheelers I just mentioned, I'm pretty sure the motorcycles outnumber the rest. Its an affordable alternative for families who don't have a lot of money. They are perfectly suited for the kind of driving here, able to easily weave in and out and around to jockey for the best positions in traffic.

And besides, there's nothing like squeezing a family of four on a motorcycle. No, that's not a type-o. Over and over again, I've seen whole families on board a single motorcycle -- mom, dad, and a couple of kids all crammed on. The moms ride side-saddle, and sometimes with a baby or toddler on her lap -- pretty impressive (or perhaps scary) since many of the motorcycles don't have anything for the moms to hold onto.

It occurs to me that, between the pottery dancers and the motorcycles, there seems to be a lot of balancing going on over here.

That's probably good for tonight. Buckle up out there, kids. I'll write more again soon.

Monday, January 14, 2008


Trying this 'post via email' functionality on my blog. Hope it works.

Hello from Chennai, India.

It is Monday here, noon local time, which means its 12:30 am Sunday night in Texas.

The flights were very long, but considering we flew Business Class, I have no right to complain. The first leg on American to Frankfurt was an absolute dream, to be honest. Each seat reclined to a setting called 'flat at an angle', which just means the seat is completely flat but not level with the ground. Good enough for me, I slept for a few hours. Also watched a couple of movies On-Demand on my own personal screen, built into the seat-back in front of mine. Ate American food for the last time for 2 weeks. They gave my order of dinner to someone else, so I picked something else, and I was rewarded with a second helping of ice cream later in the flight. Like I say, no complaints there.

The second leg was from Frankfurt to Chennai via Lufthansa. The crew on the plane were very nice, but the food was sending strong signals that I wasn't in Kansas anymore. They also had on-demand movies, but only some of them were American or even in English. I think I slept 3 or 4 hours on that flight, and read a book part of the time.

We arrived in India late Saturday night, after a solid 24 hours in transit since I left DFW. Got to the hotel at 1:30am or so Sunday morning, and then slept till noon. There are 7 of us here from the US, 3 from Texas, 4 from DC. We killed time Sunday afternoon, watched ManU play Newcastle. (ManU stomped them.)

Then around 4pm we met up with several folks from India and went to see a ... well, a little show I guess. The show was in celebration of a national holiday relating to the harvest of rice. First, a group of people played a (rather lenghty) song with drums and cymbals. Next another group played, this time adding a couple of instruments (similar to clarinets), and while they played, two ladies did a dance while balancing a very tall piece of decorated pottery on their heads. This was actually quite impressive. I'm pretty sure I couldn't have balanced the pottery on my head if I were sitting still in a chair, and these ladies were happily jumping and jiving. Fascinating, Captain.

The show was in a sort of rural area outside of Chennai. Read: mosquito fest. Made me glad for my deet, and my anti-malarials. (Side note: say anti-malarials 3 times, really fast. It's funny. Well, it is at 3:55am. When you're jetlagged.)

After the show we all went to dinner at a hotel near ours. We were able to sample a lot of different dishes, curry chicken and lamb, pepper chicken, some kind of hushpuppy-like ball made from lentils I think, another lentil concoction with the consistency of mashed potatoes but big-time spicy, naan (bread), etc etc. Naan is good, btw; think deep-dish tortilla. At the end of the evening, someone ordered desserts for us to try, and one was ice cream ... but it had some sort of spice in it, so it tasted like ice cream with sage in it or something. God bless Blue Bell.

Anyway, got back to the hotel at 10:30 or so last night and crashed into bed. Woke up this morning at 3:55am, not sure why. Never really got back to sleep. Met the others for breakfast at 7:30am, and meetings started around 8:30 or 9.

I won't keep up this play-by-play thing -- the next couple of days will be meetings here in the hotel. So I'll plan to write tomorrow about general items of interest. Traffic. Motorcycles. Cows. Overturned buses. You know, stuff like that.

I miss my wife and kids. A lot. If you see them, hug them for me.

God bless, Brian

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Road to Chennai

So tomorrow I leave for Chennai, India (formerly called Madras, for you geographers out there). Chennai is on the southeastern coast of India, on the Bay of Bengal. According to Wikipedia, Chennai is a city of 4.34 million people squeezed into 70 square miles -- that is, the population density is about 14 times what we have here in the DFW metroplex.

I won't bore you with other stats and figures (for now at least). But suffice it to say I expect this to be a wholly different experience than what I found on my single trips to Australia and the UK.

I'll take an American flight to Frankfurt, Germany, and Lufthansa from there to Chennai, about 22 or 24 hours from here to there, including a 3 hour layover in Frankfurt. I'm told that the American flight will be somewhat more enjoyable than the Lufthansa flight, if only for the familiar food, so I'm thinking I'll mainly sleep on the second leg. So why not stay up a bit tonight and post a blog entry, right?

The trip will last a couple weeks, then I'll return home. After hearing the discussion on a conference call today, it sounds like I may not be home long before I go back. Not sure how long the second trip will be. Could potentially be longer than this one. As much as I enjoy an adventure, though ... I think 2 weeks is the longest I'd want to be there in a single stint.

After all, my wife has no interest in being a single mom (even temporarily). And my kids seem to be changing very fast now -- for the first time ever, Piper read books TO ME tonight (rather than the other way around). Granted, the books are easy readers with a handful of pages, and all the words are 3 letters or fewer, but it's still very, very exciting! And Christian is really developing a fun personality of his own. I hate to miss any of this.

Of course, my preferences don't determine how long or how many trips I'll take. There is work to be done, and someone has to go do it. And it's something new and different, which is the very kind of thing I've been wishing for and praying about for some time now. I just wish it were a little closer to home...

Ok, I'm done whining. Watch this space, as I intend to post from time to time, sort of a brief travelogue. Blessings to you.

Friday, January 04, 2008


Just have to brag on my daughter. Last night I watched her sound out a word, and figure out what it said. All by herself. 4 years old. Very cool.