March 2005

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March, 31, 2005: Well the trip to Delhi was a good one. We flew up there on Thursday evening and got into the hotel, Weside Inn, around 9:30 or so. The place wasn't that great, compared to the other hotel I was sleeping at, but who really needs hot water in the morning for a shower anyways! LOL, I DO! But didn't get :)

The next day, we took the 1.5 hour drive up the college where we received a warm welcome by the professor of the computer department and his staff. About 250 students from a few local colleges turned out to hear our presentation on Avaya. Afterwards, they took a technical/apptitude test to help narrow down our selection for the interviews. We got it down to about 70 candidates and then began interviewing. It lated about 7 hours (team of 10 of us) and we had about 10 candidates make it to the final round (good number!). Hopefully, w/in a few weeks, we'll have 10 new employees in our Pune office :)

That night we went out for a great dinner at a restaurant called Ichibon. They served a few different type of asian cuisine but we all had Chinese. The food and service were excellent and the entire meal for 9 people came to about 2500 rs (that's about $50 USD). Nice!

The next day, we did a little sightseeing in Delhi before we flew back to Pune that afternoon.

March 29, 2005:  Just to let everyone know that India was not affected by the earthquake in Indonesia. We didn't feel it here and that's a good thing because if this city got hit by a 8.7 mag earthquake, there wouldn't be much left!

Tonight at 7:30 PM, me and 8 other teammates are flying from Pune to New Deli. Tomorrow we'll be hosting a job recruitment fair that will last the entire day. We fly back to Pune on Thursday morning.

And then on Friday evening at 5:00 PM, I fly from Pune to Mumbai (only a 20 min flight). I'll check into the local hotel and hang out there for a few hours, having dinner, and then head over to the Mumbai airport where I catch my Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt, Germany. From there I have about a three hour layover before I catch flight back to San Francisco!

March 28, 2005: Well today I had a great experience. Santosh (our Pune based support manager) invited me home to have lunch with his family. For me, it was a great honor to be invited over to dine with his father, mother wife, & son. We arrived around 1:00 and after greetings and a glass of mango juice, sat at the table. Grandma was in the kitchen cooking up a storm, and soon the table was filled with lots of delicious foods!  Each dish was from Southern India and of course, everything was homemade.   We had:

  • Dosa: Santosh's mother was cooking these up in the kitchen as we ate so they were nice and hot! They are similiar to a very thin pancake and are used like pita bread to wrap around the food)

  • Mulgapudi (Chilly Powder):  This stuff was yummy! Freshly coarse ground chili powder that you mix with a bit of oil. A tasty spice!

  • Spicy Sambar: A spicy stew like dish of veggies. Very nice.

  • Rice

  • Sambar: Similiar to above, but less spicy :)

  • Rasam: Another stew like dish. Very tasty!

  • Curd rice: has the consistency of cottage cheese

  • Jelly papad:  thin rice cakes that look a bit like jellyfish. They are made the year before, sun dried and then enjoyed throughout the following year.

  • Papad: similar to above but similar to a very thing tortia bowl.

  • Mango pickles:  pickled mangos. Not too spicy.

  • Green pepper pickle: pickled green pepper corns in lemon. These were yummy (and spicy)

Looks like I'm going to be flying to Deli tomorrow. On Wednesday we'll be doing a recruiting seminar at a local university. That should be really interesting. On Thursday, there may be a chance to to see the Taj Ma Hall, as it's only two hours away from where we will be staying. We'll see :)

More updates to follow!

March 27, 2005: Today Andrew and I met up around 8:30 AM for a walking tour of the local Pune area. Let me tell you, if you want to get to know India, you need to walk the streets and experience it first hand. The sights, sounds, smells of the area can be pretty amazing. LOL, well, as far as the smell goes, for the most part I could have done without that (air pollution is pretty bad). We walked for about 4 hours and had a grand old time. We walked through some of the small neighborhoods where everyone was going about their business. The interesting observation of the day was that most of these people seemed to be very happy. No one came up to us to beg, everyone seemed to have what they needed, and life was 'normal' for them.  It was cool to see this.

We stopped in at a few shops. I didn't need to pick up anything, but I did end up picking up a small gift for Tim "Porky" Watkins that I think he's going to like :)  Heheh, I'm glad I took Ashish's advice and packed an extra duffel bag for all of the 'stuff' I'm bringing back.

I also got to take my first ride in one of the million motorized scrimshaw taxi's that crowd the streets. The best way to describe this is to image the freakiest amusement park ride you've ever been on, take it off the tracks, and let it loose on a street where there are no traffic and safety laws. LOL, it was amazing!!! The whole world is right around you and sometime it feels like that it's actually going to enter the vehicle (and because we're so close to other vehicles, sometimes we do!).  All in all, it was the best 30 rupees (about $0.80 US) that I spent on this trip.


A shot of a motorized rickshaw. Basically a 2 cylinder moped with a shell around it.

After we got got back to the hotel, we went back to our respective rooms, freshened up and then met down at one of the restaurants in the hotel for Easter brunch. They put out a pretty nice spread and for 650 rupees (which is about $12 US), we had a great meal. After that, Andrew took the afternoon/evening to himself. I ended up going to the gym and spending 45 minutes on the treadmill, desperately trying to burn off a few of the many calories that seemed to be making a permanent home on my frame :)  After the workout, I spent about 10 minutes in the steam room, another 10 in the sauna, and then back to my hotel room where for the past 3 hours, I've been listening to music on iPod and typing up this journal entry :)

And with that said, I think I'm going to try and figure out what I'm going to do for dinner tonight. I'm going to try and find something light (yeah, good luck w/that!) and get to bed early.

Tomorrow, it's back to the office. T-minus 5 days and counting until I leave India...

Penz

March 26, 2005:  Wow, it's hard to believe that I've been here in Pune for over a week now.  I've got to say, my view on this place has changed for the better since I've gotten here.  The main reason for this is that I've slowly been learning to not apply US values to this land and to not keep comparing it to 'back home'.  The best way to describe how I've gone about this is that I've come to realize (with some help) that India is a lot like the US was about 150 years ago. I'm time traveling right now. I'm seeing this society develop and grow, as others have done. It's just that it's happening a little later than some (and a little earlier than some other countries.  So, with that in mind, my perspective on my surroundings has changed. LOL, I'm still not 100% adapted to my environment, but that's ok too :)

I just did some major updates to the journal entry below, so be sure and take a look at the pictures (for all of you without broadband, let me apologize now :)

Friday was a holiday here known as the festival of colors, so most people where working. I went into the office for about half the day and then met up with Brian and Joe. We then headed off into a part of town known as Koregan Park. This is a pretty busy part of the city.

At the left here is a picture of Ganesh at a local roadside temple. He is one of the more well known Indian Gods that the locals worship.

We had lunch at a local restaurant called Malalka Spice. The food was very good! We had a couple different types of Indian and Thai dishes. All were very tasty.

We tried to visit the Osho Meditation Resort, but all of the tours were sold out (we'd get to visit it the next day).


Penz outside the Osho Medication Resort

After lunch, we met up with Deepti, who is the local administrative coordinator for the Avaya Pune location. She was kind enough to offer to take the three of us out shopping so that that we could pick up some souvenirs of India. Our first stop was at Ranka Jewelers (located on Karve Road in Pune). Oh my.. I've never seen such a large display of gold and silver items. From jewelry to sculptures, if you wanted it, you can find it here!  LOL, any married man who brings his wife here better be prepared to for a shopping from hell experience! LOL, Joe and Brian picked up some cool trinkets for their wives and I picked up a few small items (new silver earrings for myself plus a couple of other small trinkets) which cost me a total of  about $14 US.

After we left there, we hit a store that sold cloth, silk, etc.. as Joe and Brian's wives both sew. They were all excited to pick up raw silk for about $4 a meter (goes for about $27 back in the US). After there we hit the Westside store (small department store) to pick up some clothes. Here is picked up a white Kurta (long shirt) which I planned to wear out the following day. Heheh, I figured since it was the festival of colors and that the chances of me getting doused with colors water/powder was pretty good, I better be dressed for the occasion.  Our last stop was a souvenir shop to pick up some more trinkets. 

We finished up around 7:00 PM, dropped Deepti off and then headed back to our respective dwellings to crash out. 


Penz dressed in a kurta enjoying a moment of Zen at the local zoo :-)

On Saturday, Joe, Brian and I met up around 8:30. They were loving the fact that I decided to wear the Kurta and pajama bottoms I bought the night before. Made of light cotton, they were very comfortable to wear, even in the 100 degree heat. 

 Our first stop was at the Osho Meditation Resort. This place was pretty cool and is world renowned. There's a ton of information on their website, so just go and check it out. Let's just say that after the tour and watching the introductory video, I was pretty tempted to check myself in for a few days. I think it would be a wonderful experience, but, I'm not sure I'll have the time do to that on this trip.  I guess I'll just have to save it for my next trip out here :)

After visiting Osho, we headed off to the local zoo which we heard had a large snake display, as well as a white tiger, cheetah and some other cool animals.  Here are a few pictures from the visit:


Yep, that's a lot of snakes!


Open up and say "Ahhhh!"


Feeling horny? :)


A gorgeous white tiger. He was a bit camera shy, but I was able to zoom in and get a good shot of two of him.

After the zoo, we headed out for lunch at Mainland China where we had a kick ass meal. They were doing a buffet lunch and for about $5 each, we ate like kings!  After lunch, I headed back to the hotel while Brian and Joe headed back to their place to get Brian's luggage since he was flying home that afternoon (luckily for me, Joe is here until next Friday :)

Once back at the hotel, I cleaned up/changed and headed up to the roof top pool to get some sun, read and relax. After a couple of hours, I ended up meeting a really nice chap by the name of Andrew Bell, who was out here on business all the way from Scotland. He and I struck up a good conversation. This was his third trip out to Pune for his company and  during his trips out here he knew the area pretty well. Well, we ended up spending the rest of the evening hanging out together. It was really great to make a new friend (and for your curious minds out there, no, he's not gay :)  We ended up having a later dinner together at the restaurant located at the top of the hotel. It was great! We had some excellent Indian food (gee, imagine that), and shared some great conversations. He offered to take me for a walking tour of the local area the next morning which sounded great to me. So after a cup of chai, we parted company and crashed out.

March 21, 2005:  Friday, I met up with a couple of my co-workers who flew out from Redmond, WA the week before. I was psyched to meet up with them, as they wanted to hang out/do some sight seeing this weekend. We decided to take a road trip down South to see the Ajanta & Ellora Caves.

On Saturday morning, Joe and Brian's assigned driver, Ganesh, came to pick me up at the hotel. Then we picked up Joe and Brian and off we went on our 5 hour drive to Aurangabad.  

The ride out to the hotel was a long one. The reason for this is that we were on a two lane road the whole way there. This road meandered through many small towns along the way, and was shared by cars, two wheelers (mopeds/small motor bikes), trucks, and ox pulled carts! 

small watering hole along the way.. no we didn't drink from the well!

Remember now, NO TRAFFIC RULES what-so-ever exist, so that made for an interesting drive. More than once, I said a silent prayer to anyone of the many Indian gods which may have been listening to me, hoping that the 20 ton truck on an imminent head on collision with us would pull into the other lane before he hit us! Luckily a honk of Ganesh's magic horn seemed to save us :)


Roadside fruit stand out in the middle of nowhere. Very common in the countryside.


A temple being built in one of the small towns we passed through.


common scene of road side stands

 


One of the many colorful Tata trucks that we played chicken with

After about 2 hours we stopped at a road side rest area called The Smile Stone where we picked up a couple of Pepsi's, chocolate bars. They tasted so good!  As we walked around, stretching out legs, we were of course stared at by the others who had stopped there for a rest. We were the only American's to be seen, and I was the only person there wearing shorts (which I don't get since it was about 103' outside!).

Oh my god, Brian wanted to use the rest room, so we started to walk over towards it.

A cool looking garbage can at the rest area

I was driven back by the ripe aroma wafting from the building. Let's just say I'd rather crap in the car than go in there. LOL, no one had to use the facilities that bad, so we turned back.

Then it was back on the road. 6 times stopping for directions, 5 "sorry sir, U-Turn!", and 3 hours later, we arrived at the hotel. 

The Taj Blue Diamond was a very comfortable place to stay. On premises was a very nice restaurant where we would have lunch and then dinner.

LOL, of course, there was a fine selection of Indian food on the menu, and since my intestines where still happy with me, I tried everything extra spicy! It was all very good.  

The room was very nice and comfortable. The shower was great! I could have put 4 people in there with me (but unfortunately, didn't have anyone to share it with :)

After checking in and having some lunch, it was off to Ellora Caves.  It was about 100' outside, and hot. 

A little history on the Ellora Caves:  "Nestled in the crook of the Charanadari hill in Deccan is a series of ancient temples and monasteries hewn out of the moutainside. Situated on the ancient north- south trade route or the dakshinapatha, the tiny mountain village of Verul - mutated today to Ellora was a well known stopover for traders, priests and pilgrims who plied the route to the western ports. 

Beginning sometime in the 7th century, when the Chalukyas (AD 553 - 753) ruled the Deccan, these wayfarers decided to make their presence permanent. And excavation started on a number of Buddhist chaityas and viharas. The place found favor with missionaries of other faiths as well, and over the next five centuries, Hindus and Jains also built their temples in the rocks there. 

A path often tread upon.... Unlike the caves at Ajanta, the Ellora caves were never 'lost'. Largely because it lay on a more frequented route, Ellora remained in the public eye. In fact, Kailasa Temple remained a practicing shrine until the 19th century. Several travelers to India including the 10th century Arab geographer Al Masudi and Niccolao. Manucci in early 17th century mention the caves in their accounts. 

The Caves:  There are 34 caves, of which 12 are Buddhist, 17 Hindu and 5 Jain. The caves all face west, so are best seen in the afternoon. The Buddhist caves are to your far right as you face the curve of the Charanadari Hill, then come the Hindu ones, and finally, the Jain cave temples to the far left. 


Ellora Caves - Charanadari Hill


A very cool and ancient Buddha


Ellora Caves


Joe Suggs and Brian Johnson, coworkers and fellow adventurers!

Kailasa Temple - the largest monolithic structure in the world

The other Buddhist caves as well as the first few Hindu caves are fairly unremarkable and do not prepare you for the magnificence of Kailasa Temple or Cave 16. Believed to have been started by the Rashtrakuta king, Krishna.

Its excavation must rank as an architectural wonder. Two great trenches some 90 meters long were dug into the hillside. They were connected at the deepest point by another trench 53 meters across. The temple was meant to appear as though rising from a vast courtyard at ground level. 

The great block of residual rock, rising 30 meters, was then carved into the three- storied vimana, the main mandapa, two giant dhwajasthambas or pillars, and four sub- shrines. Beginning at the top, the mass of rock was hewn into shape, and as each layer was shaped, the carves began ornamenting the structure. Each layer was thus hewn and decorated completely before moving downward, thus eliminating the need for any scaffolding.

The temple is dedicated to Shiva and named for his mountain home in the Himalayas, the snow- peak Kailasa. The main shrine and the Nandi mandapa are built on a plinth, over 7.8 meters high, with its entire vertical surface carved with mythical animals and gargoyles.

The Main Temple: This is flanked on either side by two free- standing pillars, soaring some 15.9 meters high. These gracefully proportioned pillars are believed to have once borne the trishul or trident of Shiva.

Two stories of corridors have been carved into the mountain, ringing the temple on three sides. These corridors are studded with small alcoves, all containing a wealth of sculpted figures telling the tales of the great Hindu epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Among the narrative friezes is the descent of river Ganga, and one of Ravana shaking Mount Kailasa. The architectural style and intricate sculpture is similar to Virupaksha Temple at Pattadakal that had been completed a decade before.

What staggers one at Ellora is the realization that all that beauty one beholds was fashioned by human hand, more than a millennium ago!


Victory monument with elephant in the foreground.

Tower of knowledge and wisdom


A close up of one of the scenes on the victory tower. Out guide pointed out the figures having the 'unnatural sexual act' all the way to the left. Needless to say, I got a chuckle out of that :)


A shot of the temple (right side)


Close up shot of the top of the temple. You can see this structure in the picture above at the top center to the right.


Back right hand side of the temple. The elephants which are symbolically providing support to the structure.


These monkeys were so cool! This mother and child were at my feet when I took this picture. Most of them were located in the parking area as you enter/leave the park.

After visiting the caves, we headed back to the hotel where we grabbed some dinner (a very tasty and spicy dinner at that!) and then crashed out.

Sunday morning, we got up, had breakfast and then headed out towards the Ajanta Caves, which are about 107 km (about a 2 hour drive) from the city of Aurangabad. The rock-out Caves of Ajanta are nestled in a panoramic gorge, in the form of a gigantic horseshoe. Among the finest examples of some of the earliest Buddhist architecture, cave paintings and sculptures, these Caves are comprised of Chaitya Halls, or shrines, which are dedicated to Lord Buddha and Viharas. As monasteries, some of these caves were used by Buddhist monks for meditation and the study of Buddhist teachings. The paintings that adorn the walls and ceilings of the Caves depict incidents from the life of the Buddha and the various Buddhist divinities. Among the most interesting paintings are the Jataka tales, illustrating diverse stories relating to the previous incarnations of the Buddha as Bodhisattava, a saintly being who is destined to become the Buddha.

We to the site around 9:30 AM and it was about 85 degrees outside. By the time we left (3 hours later) it was about 100 degrees.


Penz at the Ajanta Caves


A good view of the Ajanta caves


Another very cool and ancient Buddha (he's everywhere! :)


Inside one of the caves, a cool shot of the carvings which lined the wall and the pillars supporting the chamber. This is in the same cave as the Buddha pictured above.


Penz and Brian at Ajanta


An ancient Buddha deep in one of the caves. It was pretty dark & you aren't allowed to use flash photography. All in all, a pretty good shot.

We left Ajanta around 12:30 PM and it was was a very long drive back to Pune. We arrived in Pune at 7:00 (so a 6.5 hour drive). I wish they had 4-6 lane highways out here!!  One day, they probably will :)

We grabbed dinner at a restaurant called Main Land China (very good authentic Chinese food). Afterwards, we crashed out.  For my first weekend in India, it was a pretty productive one and I'm glad I was able to share the adventure with Joe and Brian :)

March 17, 2004:  

It was about 80 degrees and humid in Mumbai. As I worked my way through the airport (which looked pretty dingy compared to SFO and Frankfurt), I started to realize that I was truly somewhere other than North America. The air was hot, sticky and smelled industrial. There were lots of people from India around! (imagine that) and I knew that in my shorts and t-shirt, I wasn't fitting in.  Remembering that the United customer service agent said he checked my luggage all the way to Pune, I figured that I didn't need to claim my bag, so I went though customs, found my driver for the hotel waiting outside and headed to the Leela Hotel for a few hours. Well, I got checked in at 2:15 AM and was in bed by 2:45 AM. At 3:30 AM I got an urgent call from the front desk. Apparently Lufthansa tracked me down to tell me my luggage needed to be picked up at the airport! It seems that you need to pick up your luggage once you enter a foreign country..... so, it was back to the airport to get my bad and deal with that whole fiasco. Happily, Lufthansa took good care of me and within an hour,  I was back in my hotel room trying to fall asleep.

At 8:00 AM I got up, showered and headed back to the airport to catch my flight out to Mumbai. This was my first exposure to India during daylight hours and oh my, I was not prepared for what I saw.

India is truly an emerging third world country. In my travels, I've only experienced this level of poverty in small amounts. I've never experienced it on the scale of an entire nation. Basically, 70% of the people here live in squalor.  The live hand to mouth each day, just trying to survive. Most live in shacks, tents, boxes, garbage dumps, etc... getting the picture?  It's horrible!  The other 20% live pretty well. They have clean clothes, food, water, housing.... and somehow they are able to live in an environment where they are surrounded by poverty and filth.  It's unreal....  I'm going to try and get some pictures to put up here of the environment, but they won't be pretty...  Just a few examples, it was common to see:

  • People living in conditions not suitable under any standard I know of

  • People defecating and urinating in public

  • People who are malnourished/starving

I wasn't able to identify any type of public sanitation. The city is littered with trash, extremely dirty, run down, and unkempt. In most areas I've seen, there was no sense of taking pride or care in the surroundings they live in.


People living in tents (made of refuse) along the roadside are common dwellings for a large percentage of the population...

Now with that said, I did see a lot of construction efforts going on. They seemed to be trying to improve some of the roads in the area and new apartment/office buildings were going up in many places. So within this mess, there is some type of growth trying to emerge, but I tell you this, it's going to be a long time before the new wipes out the old....

And all of these impressions were obtained on a 20 minute ride from the hotel to the airport in Mumbai...

I got to the airport, checked my luggage and boarded my Jet Airways flight to Pune. The flight was only 30 minutes long. As we landed in Pune, I saw about 10 F-15 and 6 F-18 fighter jets along side the runway. There also was an active anti-aircraft battery there. After claiming my luggage and finding my driver from Le Meridien Hotel, we were off to the city of Pune. The ride from the airport to the city is through the country. Here, I was able to get a better taste of the transportation system. The 2 lane road is shared by Ox-led carts, pedestrians, mopeds, cars and trucks. There are NO traffic laws what-so-ever. Driving seemed be a game of chaotic chicken where traffic accidents and imminent death seemed to be a heartbeat away, yet miraculously, people seemed to get where they are going. It's a perfect example of chaos theory!!!  You need to experience it to fully understand it....

Well, 30 minutes later I found myself in the city, at the front door of my 5 star hotel. Le Meridien is a very nice place to stay and is comparable to any other hotel of this stature. I checked in, showered up, and then back down to the lobby to meet my new driver (the one who would be w/me for my entire stay) at the front door.  It was a 20 minute drive from there to Cybercity.  This is a new development that is totally modern and rivals any other tech park that I've seen. It's clean, modern and nice. Big names such as Sybase, John Deere (building a new building here), and Travelocity are on the office buildings.  Kinda weird.....

Upon my arrival, I met up with my co-workers who were all very happy to see me! LOL, of course, I was exhausted, sweating like a pig, and worn out, but I tried to make a decent first impression (hell, I was dressed up :-). Heheheh, ahh well. I spent about 5 hours in the office that day (Thursday) before I called it quits and headed back to the hotel. I grabbed a light dinner, made a call or two back to the US to let everyone know I got in safely and then crashed out.

March 16, 2004:  On Tuesday March 15 I was all packed up and ready to head out, so around 9:00 AM Justin, Gini and I headed out to Oakland Airport where we picked up Justin's brother Christopher. Christopher flew out from CT was going to be in town for about a week which was good timing as he and Gini would end up being able to hang out together.  From the airport, we headed into San Francisco and went to our favorite breakfast spot, Savor, for breakfast. 


Justin and Christopher Allen enjoying breakfast at Savor

And after breakfast, it was finally time for me to head out. So it was off to SFO. After a lot of hugs good-bye, I bid farewell and headed into the terminal. I checked my luggage through on United and then headed through security. Thirty minutes later, I'd find myself on the upper deck of a 747, checking out the Business Class seats and getting settled in.  It's pretty cool being on the upper deck, because it's just you, about 20 other people and the cockpit up there. It kind of eels like you're on your own private jet!  Heheh, and that feeling is added to by the 3 stewards who are around to take care of your every need. LOL, nice touch!

And so at 2:00 PM PT, we took off out of SFO and headed East towards Frankfurt Germany. Our flight time today ladies and gentlemen will be about 10 hours :)

Business Class rocks!  No doubt about it. If you have to  be stuck on plane for a 10 hour ride, this is the way to go :)  The seats are awesome. Heheh, as you can plainly see, there is a big difference between this seat and the one in coach.  And you actually have great service! I was wined and dined throughout the whole trip. We had a nice choice of three entrées for dinner , 4 different types of wines to choose from (I drank about 1/2 a bottle of an 02 Australian Cab Sauvignon that was pretty tasty), and ice cream served up with 10 year old port wine for dessert. Ahhh, this is the only way to fly! :D

The actual flight was pretty unremarkable, which is always nice. I was able to get some sleep on the way, which was good because that's really the whole point of flying business class. You want to try and be as rested as possible when for when you finally get to where you're going (at least that's what I was told :)

We got into Germany about 10 hours later. At the airport, I was able to get into the United Red Carpet Club room where I was able to relax pretty comfortably. I wanted to use their shower there, but there was a long wait, so I just had a couple of Pepsi's and hung out. Before long, I was off to board my Lufthansa flight to Mumbai.

Lufthansa was just as nice as United for business class, though I was on the lower deck of the 747 (top deck is reserved for first class).  The flight was good and I slept for about 1/2 of it.  We got into Mumbai, India at 1:30 AM local time. Time difference between India and California = 13.5 hours!

March 15, 2005: So, LOTS has been going on over the past few weeks so much to the extent that I can't believe I've crammed in so many events over such as short period of time.  LOL, if you want to get an idea of just how crazy it's been, well, I'm writing this update from Pune, India :-)

Let's see if I can recall all that's been going on:

On Wednesday March 3, I was psyched to be visited by David "Dacchi" McGullam. Dave is still working for JetBlue airlines as a customer service manager trainer. He's been doing this for quite a while now (7 years I think). He's based out of NYC, but gets to travel around quite a bit. He was in town (Oakland) for 24 hours and we got to get together that night for some dinner, wine and some great conversation. It was really good to see him as it had been about 4 years since the last time we got together. Funny how time can fly by so quickly sometimes.  We're going to try and prevent that much time from going by again before out next visit :-)

Then on Friday March 10, Ady "Duff" Theberge arrived safe and sound into SFO from Manchester, NH. When he left his house up in Northern New Hampshire, it was 2 degrees outside and he had 5 feet of snow in his driveway. He just happened to arrive in CA on the nicest day of the year thus far. Sunny, clear skies and about 82 degrees. Not a bad way to experience your first day in CA :-)

Ady looked great! He had dropped quite a bit of weight since college and though he claims to have been in even better shape over the last few years, he was looking terrific when I saw him. LOL, for those of you who know Ady, he's actually mellowed out quite a bit since college!  This is a good thing, as I was hoping to not have to try and wrestle him again and end up in the hospital with a cracked spine or something :D  

We covered a lot of territory during the few days he was in town. That Friday, we headed from the airport out to Half Moon Bay to visit mother ocean. After that, it was back to the East Bay where we cooked up some steaks, had a few drinks and did some catching up.  

On Saturday, there was a huge fog bank that decided to envelope the greater Bay area. Not a lot of sun, but that didn't stop us from a quick trip up to wine country to visit Kendall Jackson, Trentadue, and Clos du Bois wineries. After that, it was back down to the East Bay where we visited Ashish, Jill and Nikhil Parikh for part of the afternoon. That night, we hung out and put down a few bottles of wine :)

On Sunday we had beautiful weather so it was up to San Francisco in the morning for breakfast at Savor in Noe Valley. From there, it was up to Twin Peaks to get a good view of San Francisco.


Ady at Twin Peaks, suveying the new city he may have to conquer! :)


Penz and Ady back together again!

After that, we visited the Golden Gate bridge and the Marin Headlands, before having to head back to Oakland to pick up my sister, Gini!

Gini got in on time around 12:30 via JetBlue. After some big ol' hugs, we headed over Ashish, Jill and Nikhil's house so that she could meet them. We hung out there for an hour or two and then headed back to Dublin. We all spent the night together and had a great time. LOL, I finished packing for my trip to India, which was still two days away. Hehehe, I'm a planner, what can I say!?! :)

On Monday, Ady was sadly back on his way to New Hampshire. He left SFO around noon and I was sad to see him go. It had been six years since we last saw each other, but we had a great visit together. I'm going to make sure that it's not another six years before out next visit :)

That night, Gini and I had dinner together (steak and cheese subs! mmmm, steak! Wasn't going to be seeing any of that in India!) and Justin came over to hang out with us on my last night in town.  

LOL, so as you can see, right up to the point of my trip halfway across the world, I kept pretty busy!! LOL, well, that seems to be the way I live life my life; just trying to enjoy as much of it as possible :)

Penz

March 1, 2005:  Well, as you can imagine, I've been keeping pretty busy! How do you like the new look and feel of my site? Hehehe, yeah, I know, it's a bit different than it was before, but I think I'm liking it a lot! It's going to have a nice flow to it when I'm all done.

Well, first off, the big news is that last Friday, my manager told me that I was going on a business trip to INDIA! That's right, INDIA! I'm going to literally be flying half way around the world to a country

I've never been to before that is culturally unlike anything I've ever experienced before, and yes, I'm very excited a bit nervous :) Heck, it a long way from home! I'll be flying out of San Francisco on Tuesday March 15 at 2:20 PM (oh yes, beware the Ides of March... and it was also my parents wedding anniversary. LOL, they were doomed from the start). I arrive in Frankfurt Germany at 10:15 AM on March 16th (yes, that's an 11 hour flight... but I will be flying business class!!! :). Then I leave Frankfurt at 1:25 PM and arrive in Mumbai, India at 1:35 AM the same day (about an 8 hour flight). I'll catch some sleep at a hotel at the airport for a few hours and then fly out on a regional jet to Pune, India (which is my final destination).

In India, I'll be staying a hotel, located about 25 miles from the office. Each day, I'll have a driver pick me up and take me to work (cause I can't rent a car there, and from what I heard, I wouldn't want to!).

During my stay there, I'll be working on various projects for Avaya and will be keeping pretty busy. As well as those projects, I'll also be doing my regular work, which should be a challenge. Ahh well, I do like challenges :)

I've got two weekends there, that are mine to do with as I please. I'm not sure I'm going to be too adventurous the first weekend. I'll probably just stick around the Pune area. The following weekend, however, I'm thinking of heading back up to Mumbai (about a 2-3 hour car ride) and spending a night or two there. Heck, might as well catch some of the local scene if I can! Happily, there will be a few other US based co-workers out there (none that I know too well) that I can 'bond' with and maybe take along with me (safety in numbers). No matter what, it'll be an adventure!

Today I got my polio booster and my typhoid fever vaccination. I also picked up my malaria pills and my anti-travelers diarrhea pills! LOL, 60% of travelers to that region get the latter, so I'll be prepared (also packing Imodium as well). Hehehe, what an adventure...

So, I'll be posting updates from there so stay tuned for more on that trip.

On Friday April 11, Ady Theberge is coming out to CA to see me. I'm pretty psyched about that. He'll be staying until Monday (and then I take off for India on Tuesday). I haven't seen him in over 5 years, so I'm really looking forward to his visit.

My sister is also thinking about coming out that Sunday and apartment sitting for me! That would be awesome, as the cats would love to have her around and it would be a great way for her to get some much needed R&R. I'll find out tomorrow if that's going to happen.

Last weekend, I helped Alex Hutchenson move into his new house in Brentwood, CA. It's really nice place and I'm really excited for him! It's crazy to image that he's 27 years old and he just bought a 1700 square foot 1/2 million dollar house all by himself. LOL, yes, I could do it, but I don't want to change my lifestyle that much, right now (plus I still think the housing market out here is absolutely crazy!).

The weekend before that, my friend Johnny came down on Saturday and we went up to Napa for the day. We visited Silver Oak (I was not impressed with their wine), Plumpjack (2002 Cab was delicious... $64 a bottle), Regusci (picked up a bottle of their 2001 Merlot which was delicious! Hard to believe it was actually a merlot as it had the structure of a cab!) and a few other wineries. That night, he cooked me a delicious meal of chicken cacciatore and we drank that bottle of merlot plus 3 other bottles of wine. LOL, it was a good night of food, wine, and very interesting conversation :)

Let's see, what else.... oh yeah, on April 27, Porky is flying in for a week long visit! I can't wait! We're going to have a blast together. The day after he flies in, we're going to see NIN at the Warfield Theatre in San Francisco! We actually got our tickets today (3 days before they are available to the general public) for the show, thanks to the fan club. Those limited amount of tickets sold out within 3 minutes. I was psyched I scored them :) That weekend, I think we're going to head down to Long Beach so that he can visit West Coast Choppers and fulfill a life long dream :) LOL, should be a great visit.

And that, in a tiny nutshell, it what's been going on with me. I hope all is well in your world. Drop a line and say hi! :)

Penz


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