Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The other side of my world

I have blogged about my favorite city - Prague. Next on my "where has Lisa traveled to" list is my Most Foreign City. Without a doubt this would be Bangalore, India. I traveled to Bangalore in 2006 to train some of our offshore support workers at Infosys Technologies.

These are unfortunately pretty unflattering (& +10 pounds!) pictures of me around the
Infosys campus - but being mostly by myself it was tough to get into many pictures!

Being half Chinese, when I travel in Northeast Asia I find customs, food and culture mostly familiar or at least reasonably easy to pick up quickly and understand. And of course being from the US, I find most of Europe to also be pretty similar in overall Western culture as well. India was about as foreign as it gets for me. When I left for Bangalore, I knew very little about the food, less about the culture (other than attending 1 Indian wedding and having tons of friendly Indian coworkers) and had been warned numerous times about safety since I was traveling there by myself. It was in this state of mind that I found myself arriving at an airport thick with more mosquitoes inside than outdoors!

Biggest "I'll Never Forget"s:

~Leaving the Four Seasons in Singapore for a tiled dorm room on the Infosys campus in Bangalore. (left)

~Re-teaching a portion of my training session because I didn't understand the "affirmative" head nod that I received in response to asking if the lesson was understood. Affirmative in India looks like "so-so/maybe/a little bit" in the West.

~Being primarily bound to the Infosys campus because it wasn't safe for me to leave on my own. My hosts were only free for dinner one night...

~Seeing cows roam freely in a manner similar to how we see cats enjoying our own neighborhoods. (right)

~Having my cab driver hand me his cell phone upon arrival back at my dorm after being out to dinner, to tell my Infosys hosts (who had called him) that "yes indeed the driver took me back and didn't try to rob me and leave me in the middle of nowhere".

~Being the loneliest I've ever been in my life starting around 12pm and continuing until 9pm when I'd know I couldn't get ahold of anyone in California - because it was 12:30am-9:30am. Truly the other side of the world...

~Stores after stores of amazingly beautiful, colorful, soft, lightweight pashminas primarily imported from Kashmir. (left)

~Eating cup-o-noodles that I brought from Singapore for as many meals as I could draw them out. I had no one to eat with most nights, wasn't familiar with the food nor did I feel like venturing out to the campus restaurants and receiving the constant stares I'd been subjected to all day long already. *sigh* I suppose it was some form of flattery, but I was tired of it.

~Staying within the walls of a multi-billion $$, multi-national corporation all the while being able to glance out my window, over the campus walls to watch people do their laundry in a bucket. (right)

~Feeling unusually tremendous relief at arriving at the airport for my flight home. This was the last time thoughts of "is the cab driver taking me where he says he is?" would be running through my head anytime soon.

~Traffic of the likes I'd never seen anywhere... not in China, not in Germany, not in Mexico, not in Taiwan... Everything from cargo trucks - to mopeds - to rickshaws - to sports cars - to pedestrians - to oxen pulling carts, all traveling along the same road at the same time. (below)

"I'm honking to let you know I'm still here! 6 feet away
from you! Just like I was 30 seconds ago!"

I would never take back this trip. It was incredibly eye opening, built up loads of travel confidence, allowed me an invaluable view into the very different lives of some of my coworkers and most fortunately - brought about a consistently growing fondness for Indian food!

India was unlike anywhere I'd ever been. That's a very cliched remark but it's so accurate. Nothing could have prepared me for the overstimulating sights, far-from-home longings, newly desired flavors, locally stressed caution, "2 hours to travel 10 miles" traffic, or even the fascination with Westerners these very educated workers seemed to possess.

Each car ride I took found me wide-eyed and mouth parted gazing out the window. I'd love to return to India someday. But only with a travel companion (and lots and lots of mosquito repellent) at my side.

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