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TraveLog for 20 Jan 2009: Departure


Well, I’m at the Chennai International Airport, a vigorously skanky airport if there ever was one, sitting on one of the few clean seats well away from the piles of garbage surrounding some of the trash bins. The coffee I’m drinking is decidedly horrible, but it’ll keep me awake until boarding time two hours from now.  Considering this was the first ISO 9000-certified airport in India, I’d like to see the process documentation they put around their maintenance activities.

Today was the second of two long days with vendors. By long I don’t mean bad, just long. I’m wiped, but the days were very useful, and I now have a better understanding of the capabilities of some of the organizations my company works with. The only question now is how to leverage that knowledge.

From Chennai it’ll be an 11 hour flight to Brussels. After a two hour layover—apparently a dangerously short stop when traveling with checked luggage on this route—it’ll be a nine hour flight to O’Hare. From there, it’ll be a short hop home. With layovers, I’ll be in transit for almost 25 hours. The 14-hour flight that’s AA 292 looks almost luxurious by comparison.

I’m too tired to think now, so I’m going to sign off. Goodbye, India. I’ll see you later.

Posted in Journal,Travelog at 12:16 pm

TraveLog for 19 January 2009: Perspective


Monday evening in Chennai.  It’s my last night here.  Tomorrow I’ll meet with vendors, and from there it will be straight to the airport.

India has been an amazing experience.  I’ve learned so much, met so many great people, and have seen so many things.  I am different from when I came here.  On Thursday I’ll return to my regular life, but I’ll never be able to be the same person I was…  And I’m thankful for that.

I miss my wife and son beyond belief, and can’t wait to see them.  For them, and only for them, I’m ready for the trip to be over.  If they were here, well, America could wait.

The next update may very well be from the States. More later.

Posted in Journal,Travelog at 11:38 am

TaveLog for 4 Jan 2009: The Trip to Delhi


Sunday morning in Delhi. I’ll be meeting a few classmates for breakfast in about 30 minutes, and then the rest of the day is unplanned. If anything like last night’s trip to the hotel bar, I expect this morning’s breakfast to be extravagantly priced. That’s what we get for staying at a five-star hotel, though. It’ll be interesting to see how prices are on the outside, and how good I am at bartering. We were warned before the trip that bartering was something that we’d be expected to do, and on the drive in our driver told us the same.

So, the big flight from Chicago to Delhi went pretty well, all things considered. For a few of us, our education on India began a bit earlier than expected, outside Gate L8 in the American Terminal at O’Hare. By chance a few of us found ourselves sitting by an Indian professor from the University of Kansas, and we ended up talking for 20 to 30 minutes on a number of aspects of Indian business, especially the airlines. “Indian people are very good at being expensive and cheap at the same time,” he said, referencing a number of examples, including the use of Jet Airways 737-900 variant, a pack-them-in airplane that I may regrettably get to experience when I head to Chennai in a few weeks. He also help guide us into the beginning of a long discussion on proper tipping, a discussion that, for all practical purposes, still continues.

Anyway, the flight was on time, and the staff on AA 292 I must say were professional and excellent. From a passenger standpoint, though, it was one of the most disorganized and misbehaved groups of passengers I’ve encountered. Now, by misbehaved I don’t mean combative or belligerent or anything like that. Instead, the passengers seemed to simply not care to follow instructions or requests from the flight attendants. (Before landing, it took over six sweeps to get people to put their chairs in an upright position. People would put them up and then recline them again.) Then there was the kids sleeping the aisles, the guys spending 15+ minutes in the bathroom, and a lot of bickering over pricing of duty free goods. Trying to keep an open and mind and not be judgmental, I started to wonder if this was par for the course for India-bound flights, but one of the attendants told me told me otherwise after I asked for coffee, but to hold the cream and sugar. “Thanks, that’s easier.”

“It seems you’re working on quite a route.”

“No! It’s never like this. This has turned into one of those flight attendant nightmares… And the flight just keeps going and going and going.”

50 minutes later, we were on the ground. Delhi was fogged in—I was on the wing, and I couldn’t see the end of it until just before we landed, but the landing itself was probably the smoothest and most expertly executed I’ve ever seen. I was dry by that point, too, which was nice. Midway through the flight—right before I was about to fall asleep—my neighbor accidentally bumped a glass of water into my lap, an incident that also somehow shorted out the flight path view on my TV screen. From that point on, I had to look over others’ shoulders to see where we were.

Anyway, the first thing that struck me getting off the plane was how bad the air was. Even inside the airport, I found myself having a bit of trouble breathing. I’ve adjusted to it now, but I’m kind of amazed at the difference in air quality compared to the US. Customs were different from the US, too. I went in expecting a lot of questions, but instead the customs officer didn’t say a single word to me. He just glanced at my documents, stamped them and sent me on my way.

The loading area of the airport was chaotic, and provided the first good taste of driving and traffic in India. From there it was a quick but foggy drive to our hotel. Our driver was friendly and gracious, and took the time to point out the sights along the way—or, at least, what would be sights if there wasn’t any fog. From there it was a quick check in, a Kingfisher with a few classmates, and sleep.

Time for breakfast. More later.

Posted in Journal,Travelog at 7:56 am

TraveLog for 3 Jan 2009: Hello India


It only took 14 hours to reach the other side of the globe. The world definitely seems smaller now.

So, I’m in Delhi. 14 hours is a long time to be on a plane, but the flight was better than expected. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around our first few hours here, so I’m not going to say much now. I’ll try to post at least once a day moving forward, or at least as schedule allows.

A couple of notes on my entries for this trip: Internet access at our hotel is exorbitantly priced, so entries may not be posted when I actually write them. Also, since most of this trip is either for school or for work, much of what I do and see I won’t be able to write about. (I’m here as part of a class with the U of M, and we’ll be visiting a number of large and small companies and government organizations who are being exceedingly gracious in their willingness to let a bunch of students come in, see what they do and ask questions. There’s an implicit NDA on pretty much every site visit we make.) I’m keeping a separate journal for the class, and am not exactly sure how I’ll handle the two at the same time, so expect some weirdness… Maybe even some class journals with large parts edited out.

Also, since Internet access may be limited, Twitter may be the best place to see what I’m up to.  I may try to get some stuff up on Flickr as time allows, too.

And with that, I’m going to take a quick shower and head downstairs to the hotel bar to unwind with my classmates and discuss what exactly it is that we’ve just gotten ourselves into. More later.

Posted in Journal,Travelog at 11:31 pm

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