Archive for December, 2005

I shouldn’t admit that I am writing from work. After all, they are paying me to be here. On the flip side, they say they pay me to do WORK and not to sit in the office, so I should be able to use my time however I like as long as I still get everything done. We all know that is wishful thinking.

Being back is much like never being gone. I still eat eggs and drink coffee in the morning. I still struggle with deadlines and to keep my focus during the day so I don’t have to stay till 8pm. I eat at the same places. Thus far I haven’t been playing any sports, so I guess that is different.

I weigh within one pound of what I did when I left for India. I am always amazed how the body can maintain weight even when everything in my life changes. I slept at different times in India. Breakfast became my largest meal of the day. I drank more alcohol. I didn’t exercise nearly as much. I ate different kinds of food…..and yet in 5 months I didn’t gain or lose hardly a pound. That is amazing.

1 pound is about 3,500 calories. That is approximately one day of meals for the average person. For 5 months of ordering room service and eating at 5 star restaurants I didn’t rack up more than a day’s difference in calories from what I normally ate…..and I ate when I felt like it…sometimes just for the hell of it. That is almost unbelievable that the body can self-regulate that well.

Ok….I might finish this later. I have to go meet Pete for dinner. I’m outta here.

Ok…now is later. I did meet Peter out for dinner. We ate at La Fonda on Ponce. I didn’t think it was that great. The chips and salsa were good. That is all I wanted anyway.

I don’t even know why I am wasting my time writing. Even though I cannot say I am significantly less happy in Atlanta than I was in India, and in fact in some ways it is nice to be home… certainly doesn’t lend itself as well to amusement. India was like a 5 month comedy routine.

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I should make some more entries about India. After all, I never talked about the Rat Temple, or the Lake Palace Hotel, or the death train to Bikaner. I never mentioned our awful behavior at the Orient Express, the last week at work, or my two week long bill fiasco with the Taj. I will miss using the words “fiasco” and “debacle”. I got a lot of mileage out of them in India.

My first time driving after I got back to the US two cars ran into each other right in front of me going 70 miles per hour. It was a pretty vicious accident. “Welcome home,” I thought. I found it ironic that I’d spent 5 months in the worst traffic I’d ever seen in Delhi and hadn’t gotten nearly so close to a wreck.

Yesterday was my first back at the office. My work area was exactly how I left it….papers still on the floor and stuff all over my desk. Nothing at all had moved, and I even had someone work from my cube temporarly for a few weeks. I also found it ironic how much effort I’d spent in India to keep their cleaners from moving my stuff (which failed misreably), while I succeeded in the US without even trying.

I was immediately impressed on arrival in Atlanta with the efficiency of the US. It strikes me everytime I come back home at passport control. People stand in lines…and the lines move, and there are an adequate number of them. They have signs in multiple languages all over the place telling you where to go and reminding you to have your passport and papers ready in an effort to save time and increase efficiency.

India is a free-for-all….a melange of ambiguity….all things at once, excelling at nothing, forever smiling….never efficient. If the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, India is surely the longest.

I have fond memories of India. I don’t want anyone to think I don’t love and respect it. Brian Allex told me his in-laws (who are from India) read the website, even the “not so complimentary” things. He said they enjoyed it and laughed and said it really does happen like that.

So here I am back in Atlanta. My first week back hasn’t been the best, I will admit. Sarah has been nice, and I saw my mom, and work hasn’t been too busy yet….so I guess I should count my blessings….even though I no longer have a laundry service, a chauffeur, live in a 5 star hotel, have more money than I can spend, and an amazing, constantly entertaining country to keep me amused.

My life has been so strange.

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So I leave India in 3 days to go back to the US.

I have no idea how long you have to be somewhere before it begins to feel like home, but as I walked through the lobby of the hotel, wandered around the market, watched TV, and ordered room service today…I realize that India is home….and part of me will be sad to leave it.

The Taj Palace has become one oversized apartment….albeit with restaurants, bars, gyms, laundry, and concierge available 24/7. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel like a home though…..its just bigger and with more amenities than most.

I likely know more of Delhi than I do of Atlanta. I know how much a taxi fare is to almost anywhere in the city. When the cabbies don’t know the way, I can direct them. I know how to get anything I need…whether it be medicine, movies, food, alcohol, trinkets, entertainment, etc. In India that is a great feat….there are markets for almost every need spread across the whole city: spice markets, gold markets, car parts markets, leather markets, textile markets, household goods markets…anything you can think of….except Wal Mart. You’ve got to know where things are and what you can trust though or even the simplest tasks can drive you nuts.

And certain things about India are irreplaceable in the US. I will never be able to afford laundry and cleaning service like this again. I will never be able to hire drivers to take me around a city all day and wait for like 15 bucks. I will never have so much free time again. I will never live so close to my friends again. The number of folks I know living at the Taj has dwindled to just a few now, but for most of my trip there were 10 or more of us here….no car needed. Even small things….like living in a hotel it is impossible to lock yourself out of your room or lose your keys. They’ll just give you a new one and let you in.

India is charming even in its disarray. It is always in your face, and it makes it harder to feel disconnected than back home where everything can seem so transactional. India’s extreme poverty is living right on top of its blistering progress. There are people living in tents right beside my high rise office….living under bridges right outside 5 star hotels. There is almost no where in the city that you can escape it….and some parts where it is so overwhelming it makes you embarrassed.

That’s one of the things that always strikes me about traveling: everything becomes normal after a while. The illogic of India comes to have a reassuring consistency to it; the begging children become the backdrop of traffic lights; cows are the city scenary; time is a vague quantity not to be counted.

India offers everything I have ever seen. It is beautiful and large, spritual and crass, old, naive, childlike, proud, hopeful, sad, and disordered. It is not my favorite place I have ever been, but it is the most complex.

I am happy to go back to the US. It is time. India can drive you crazy. It is amazing how similar the stories are that expats tell about the madness of trying to do anything here. I have often thought that if I stayed longer or had a more open mind that I would cease to get so frustrated by it….but having spoken to others that have been living and doing business here for decades I see that India is an immoveable force that will thwart your every effort. It will charm you and defeat you at the same time.

So I will be back in the US next week. For those of you who know me, my phone number will be the same and I will be home for the holidays if you happen to be in Easley.

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