Archive for April, 2014

Working days in Kolkata

April 30, 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope you are having a nice week. Things are good here in Kolkata. The work is a bit frustrating, but it’s going! photo 2Yesterday I had two successful meetings (the meetings were great… getting there was a challenge for both) and then ate lunch at a well known restaurant called Peter Cat. I had Chelo Kabab, a specialty at that restaurant and in West Bengal. In the afternoon I went to the fanciest mall in the city to get some prices. photo 5They had a better version of the market I got kicked out of the day before so that was especially awesome. In the afternoon I swam laps and worked out. For dinner I had an excellent Benglai food at one of the hotel restaurants. Steamed fish in a mustard sauce wrapped in a banana leaf was especially good. Today I made some phone calls and went to another supermarket. In the evening, I worked out and had a massage.

Tomorrow is a holiday, but I have a meeting in the morning. Not sure If I’ll do sightseeing tomorrow or wait until Saturday.
Love, Annie




Monday in Kolkata

April 28, 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

Today was my first working day in Kolkata. I spent most of the day in the mall. The taxi to the mall toolk ~45 minutes and cost less than two dollars. Some things are so inexpensive here. Kolkata 1There is a very large contrast between rich and poor here. After work I swam some laps and then had a chat with an Australian pilot from one of the major international airlines and he was such an asshole. He approached me and then almost immediately insulted my line of work and tried to intimidate me. Ugh. I left as soon as it was polite to do so even though in retrospect I didn’t need to be polite.

I had Chinese food at dinner and it wasn’t as good as GDH. Maybe it was just different. I tried Sichuan pepper flavor ice cream which was interesting. I’m really enjoying the hotel. Looking forward to work tomorrow. I wish you a nice day and a good sleep!

Love, Annie

Rajahmundry and Hello to Kolkata

April 27, 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

I hope you are having a nice weekend. Yesterday for my day off I had a very special day in Rajahmundry. I drove here this morning with Prasad and started a day of tourism soon after I arrived. photo 3I first had a very authentic lunch of Thali – a few different curries and rice that you eat with your hands. I asked the driver to bring me to a delicious lunch spot. There’s a choice. Veg or non veg? I chose vegetarian and was not disappointed. The restaurant was very informal and people just sit where there is room at the tables. It was so crowded and I really stuck out. I sat across from two men who taught me how to eat the meal. photo 2Daal first (I went for the last thing first, of course), using all five fingers (I was trying to be neat about it and only use my thumb and two fingers), mix in the daal on rice with pickles and ghee to get the real tastes. I look forward to more meals like that especially now that I know how to eat it properly.

After lunch I went on a short boat ride in the smelly river (once we got out into the open it wasn’t so bad) and then went to two temples that were pretty far away. photo 1I liked the second temple the best. The driver (I couldn’t pronounce his name) acted like a tour guide. He hardly spoke any English but we made it work. He was very happy to take pictures of me on my own camera in all the places, so I have a lot of pictures. And as you can see, he let me take one of him. On the way home. I learned how to pray and at the second temple. photo-1I did pretty well, and then gave some rupees to one of the religious men with my left hand and everyone was like NONONO and gave it back to me and I used my right hand. eek. I was also given a red smudge for my head. In the evening, we went to yet another temple where there was a lot of chanting. The driver seemed to be a very spiritual guy.

On the drive up to Rajahmundry and on the way to Kakinada, there’s a stop where you give a woman a bit of money and she puts an orange and red smudge on your car. Prasad got some on the front of his car and his steering wheel.

Today, I had three flights to get to Kolkata. photoI stopped in Hyderabad and in Mumbai. The arrival in Kolkata was easy. The driver from the hotel is Sambhu. In the car he was telling me all about the things that we passed and he pointed out a park for children. He said the water boating goes on there but I thought he said water boarding and it took a few minutes to figure it out. Ha. I didn’t explain my confusion and only laughed on the inside. The hotel is excellent. I have a special room for ladies that has a camera outside so you can see who is at the door, and the image shows up on the screen on the phone. Also, they have enough outlets that I can charge all my devices at once. I look forward to exploring the city tomorrow!

Love, Annie

Adios Kakinada

April 25, 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

Happy Friday! I hope you are well. It’s my last night in Kakinada. I was originally supposed to spend another night here but have decided to go to Rajahmundry tomorrow and hang out there for the day and the overnight. photoToday was really boring with two good events. In the morning, I went to the Sri Baba statue and temple with Prasad, the man who drove me from Rajahmundry airport on Wednesday. That was right near to Prasad’s house, so after the temple we went to his house and I had a cup of tea and met his wife and 15 year old daughter. It was really a special thing.

In the afternoon, I went on a tour of a guest house with a logistics guy from the hotel who was working with other foreigners. We were supposed to go see another guest house, but that never happened. I guess 4:30 PM means never.

Before and after those events there was a lot of waiting around. I finished the book The Handmaid’s Tale, which was excellent (thanks Suzanne for the recommendation and thanks mom for buying the book) and started Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I’m about a third of the way through Wild already.

I wanted to point out two more things about working in Kakinada. First, I have not seen another white woman the entire time I’ve been here. There are some white men, but not women. Second, people have been taking pictures of me all over the place. Probably because it’s very rare to see someone that looks like me. Yesterday at the hotel, a little girl came up to me and then said something to her dad. The dad told me that his little girl asked him where was my chocolate and gestured to my pasty arms.

Love, Annie

Working day in Kakinada

April 24, 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

My working day in Kakinada was productive. photo 1I went around all morning and spoke to people about the (very small) real estate market in Kakinada. I was able to see the beach which was pretty disgusting. Lunch was an excellent Palak Paneer from a nearby restaurant. I’d like to go back there tomorrow. This afternoon, there was a politician at the hotel that came to have lunch. A ton of people followed him in and it was very chaotic.

Love, Annie

Hello Kakinada

April 23, 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

Today was very interesting. I’m writing to you from the lobby of the hotel in Kakinada because the internet in the room is horrible. I left Hyderabad this morning. One thing I forgot to mention was that the security I encountered in that city was very tight. Every bag and person gets scanned before going into hotels, shopping malls, nice restaurants, and offices. The airport security, I thought, was excellent.

The airport experience was easy. photoWhile waiting for the flight, I noticed that this was one of these flights where there only two kinds of people on it… a handful of locals, and the rest, a bunch of oil and gas industry people. Here we go again. Other examples of flights like this were to Diyarbakir (Turkey), Atyrau (Kazakhstan), and Point Noire (Congo). Certainly these places are not tourist destinations. They are locations that I (usually) dislike yet feel lucky to be able to experience. At Rajahmundry Airport, the closest airport to Kakinada, a driver Prasad was waiting for me with a named sign. Pfew. I had the hotel concierge in Hyderabad confirm the airport pickup here because that’s not something you want to mess up. The drive from Rajahmundry to Kakinada is 70 km of complete chaos.

Kakinada 1I’ll try to describe what I saw as we drove. On the road, we encountered skinny cows, skinny men and boys writing bicycles, people herding goats, tuk tuks with 11+ people stuffed inside, huge busses, cargo trucks, mango trees, coconut stands, a bunch of motorcycles with ladies sitting sideways on the back, and no real “rules of the road”. People passing each other all over the road. There are also “police checkpoints” along the road.

I’m not sure yet what to make of the city yet. There is very little English spoken. I went outside to go purchase some shampoo and good soap because the hotel does not provide good ones. The supermarket is not bad. The hotel is okay, and actually the hotel room is better than expected. The shower is Excellent. Looking forward to an interesting and hopefully productive day tomorrow.

Love, Annie

Bye, Hyderabad

April 22, 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

My last day in Hyderabad was a good one. This morning, I had two solid meetings before I swam laps at the pool. Then I ate some high quality chicken biryani from a place known for their chicken biryani. I spent the afternoon at Golconda Fort. photo 1I enjoyed walking up and down all the stairs, and the view of the city was fantastic. There were quite a few beggars around the fort entrance. My driver told me that it’s better to give food rather than money to beggars on the street. He said that anyone can eat, but money will go to someone in the mafia or to the wine store. After the fort, I checked out a pretty boring open market and then went back to the hotel to finish some work. Tomorrow i’m headed to Kakinada. I’m not sure what to expect. I hope you are doing well!

Love, Annie

Marathon Monday from Hyderabad

April 21, 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

I hope you are well. Good luck to all the runners in Boston. Today was a normal working day in Hyderabad. I was not able to go to sleep until 5:00 AM last night due to jet lag, but still had to wake up at 7:30 in order to get dressed and go to meetings. photo 4I’m feeling it now, so this will be short. At the first meeting, I spilled coffee all over my own paperwork but it seemed to lighten the mood of the meeting. I did some work in between the first and second meetings and ate lunch at a local restaurant. I felt awkward in the restaurant because the driver, a different driver, just stood there and waited for me. photo 1-1I tried to buy him lunch a few times but that did not work. The second meeting was good. After the second meeting, we went to check out Charminar. It’s very famous. There is a lot of traffic here so it took a while to get there but I’m glad I saw it. I got home, had a work out, and then dinner. Looking forward to more meetings tomorrow.

Love, Annie

Hi, Hyderabad!

April 20, 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

Hello again! Hope you’ve had a nice rest of the winter. I’m writing to you from my hotel in Hyderabad, India. I arrived here last night (really, this morning at 2:30 AM). My assignments this survey are: Hyderabad, Kakinada, Kolkata, Bhopal, New Delhi, Vadodara, and then lastly Mumbai. photoIt will be quite an adventure. Going forward, I expect to do less travel. This will be my 12th survey, and July will mark my three year anniversary at my company. Over the past three years, I have been out of the country approximately 38% of the time. I am working towards spending more time stateside. I’m excited for a new chapter of life to begin. First, though, there is a survey to do!

The flight over here was remarkably easy. I took the new Emirates flight direct from Boston to Dubai – it was long but I watched some good movies. photo-1A driver from the hotel was waiting for me at the airport in Hyderabad, and I was the first one out because I didn’t check a bag. I didn’t go to bed until 6:00 AM due to a kind of emotional breakdown. I was so overtired from the journey over.

I finally fell asleep, and slept until 2:00 PM. I had set an alarm for earlier but at 10:00 AM when it went off I had a huge headache …nope …more sleep necessary. I got up, showered, and started to feel better. I organized my room to get ready for work and confirmed my appointments. By 2:50, I was in the car with the same driver from earlier that morning, Ashok. He’s very knowledgable about Hyderabad and I try to understand everything he says, but it’s difficult because he has a very heavy accent. I wanted to go to lunch and do a small tour of Hyderabad before working tomorrow.

photo 1I went to a lake area and had lunch by the water. The lake is a manmade lake. The restaurant was okay. After lunch we drove around the lake. We were going to see a temple, but then Ashok asked if I ate non vegetarian or vegetarian at lunch. I had eaten chicken biryani, non veg (it was okay – nothing to write home about, so I won’t). He said better to go when you have eaten only vegetarian before visiting, you can eat anything after, so we didn’t see the temple. He thought he offended me by saying that we shouldn’t go to the temple because of something I ate, but I get it.

On the way home, we stopped by the mall so I could pick up gifts for the people I’ll be meeting over the next few days. I got dropped off back at the hotel, and then had a nice work out. I’ve been lazy with my work outs over the past month, so it’s nice to have time and facilities to get back in to it. photo 2Afterwards I had a nice shower and a great chat with Lev, and then went downstairs for dinner. I had the vegetarian platter, which was excellent. It included small portions of paneer in a spicy tomato sauce, vegetables in a spinach sauce, and some daal – lentils. It was very delicious but already I am beginning belly issues and have been here for not even 24 hours. Great.

Tomorrow I look forward to an early start and a meeting — hopefully two meetings!

Love, Annie