Thursday, July 31, 2014

Technically a Job Opening

Ok, maybe throwing "technically" in front of everything isn't the best policy. Anyway, there is an IMS vacancy announcement currently out. I just assume (thanks, healthy ego!) that everyone wants to follow in my footsteps. Good luck to you all!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Cats Passed Quarantine!

It's official! Our cats are legally in India. Getting pets to post with you in India is no small task. There is a ton of paperwork before you leave and even more when you arrive. You also are required to take the pet(s) to the quarantine office for inspection immediately after arriving in the country and 30 days after arrival. I had heard many interesting stories about people having to "call their pet by name" to prove that they hadn't swapped it with another animal. This is probably no big deal with dogs... but people with cats have had varying success. Fortunately for me, both times we went to the quarantine center, they merely inspected the cats through their carrier's screen, asked me a handful of questions, and stamped our papers. It still took several hours each time, but at least I didn't have to try to stuff the cats into their carriers more than once (per trip)!

Our cats:
Sweet Pea
Now 100% legal.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Around Chennai: Chetpet

This weekend my neighbor and I went to an event with his regular photo-walking club. It was led by Ram, the same person that led our Triplicane walk. As all outdoor walking events in Chennai seem to do, it started at approximately "Too Early." Fortunately, the juice vendor was already set up and ready to go.

Each jar (apparently) contains a different juice.
Our walk took us down Harrington Road starting at Pachaiyappa's College.

Anonymous Hindu temple
Kolam(ing) in action!

A goat, doing what goats do best.
Along one of the side streets I noticed a man feeding pigeons. When I say feeding pigeons, I don't mean in the "scattering food" kind of way. He's literally holding the pigeons and shoving food in their mouths.

He was very excited I was taking a "snap" of him.
The rest of the photo walk group arrived shortly thereafter and began to take pictures. I'd describe their proximity to this guy as "all up in his business," but he didn't seem to mind.

I continued walking and spotted a rare migratory garbage truck. This was a pristine specimen in that it was way cleaner than any I've seen before or since.

These guys sell cement y'all.
Harrington road was lined with some of the best kept murals I've seen. I question their choice of bright green for the Chief Minister's face, but I've never actually met her so...

I passed by a group of guys who noticed me taking the above picture and adamantly encouraged me to "snap" them also.

I assume the flag has some significance.
When in doubt, add a lion.
Only yellow autos (99.99999999%) are for hire.
The photo walk group had some interesting taste in pictures.

Here are a ton of people taking pictures of... Uh... asphalt?
I found a hole in the wall.

Apparently it's functional.

We also were able to answer the question of what you do with excess train rails.

I guess no one steals them on account of being insanely heavy.
"Keep Calm and Make Out"
Note: It's scandalous to hold hands with the opposite sex here.
How do you defend YOUR house against demons?
I guess Sunday morning isn't a busy train time.
SE Asian style house
I was informed this house is being demolished.
They start with the roof and remove all wood to be refurbished or reused in antiques.
I guess 20-30 people walking around taking pictures is a suspicious activity in Chennai. We were stopped no less than 5 times by police officers and had to explain our recreational photography. In this case, Ram even had to present a news article about the club to convince the officer that we were harmless. (He carried the newspaper around for just this purpose.)

No Parking RIGHT HERE! No idea why.
I enjoyed the order of the bullets on this bill.
I guess we're not the only country worried about weight.
What's wrong with this lamp post?
It's only attached to the tree, it was fitted on a branch, rather than to the ground. 
That's how I spell it.
The locals we were with were stunned to see this.
Everywhere you go in Chennai you see people, mostly women, sweeping the streets. I'm never sure what the purpose of this is, as they appear just as dusty and litter strewn before and after... but here's an example!

Fancy roof to this entry gate.

This truck is used in sewer cleaning.
Bricks. Lots of bricks.
This had the word "cement" on it, but we couldn't figure it out.
We took a small detour off Harrington road onto a beautiful residential street. The street eventually dead ended and we found a group that self identified as "the breakfast club." 

They told us that they have breakfast (or coffee) together every day. They have a covered porch nearby for rainy days. The houses around us were incredibly high rent, and these guys were likely quite wealthy. They were very happy to talk and joke around with us.

Our walk continued with a crossing over Coovam River.

Also known as a trash dumping point.
The colorful bill caught my eye, but the yellow one is more entertaining.
All of the waterways around Chennai have a bit of a smell, in this case we could see raw sewage running off into the water.
We're talking gallons per second here.
Even with all the trash, I'm a sucker for rivers.
You can see some cows scavenging through the garbage.
We ended the walk with our standard South Indian Breakfast: "Idliy, Vada, Coffee." Though in this case, I also got a Dosai.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Downside to Drivers

Just a quick rant about drivers here. We definitely need a driver for our time in Chennai. I'm sure I could learn to deal with the hectic traffic, but it'd be tough for me to drive to work and then return the car to our house for my wife to use during the day without a driver. So, we're in the middle of auditioning people to fill the position and we've noticed something... They all want insanely high pay (in relation to local rates). I'm no stranger to trying to get more money at an interview, but I'm getting tired of people asking for 20% more than the highest paid driver working for the consulate or 40% more than the mode (according to the CLO's survey 4 months ago). Heck, we talked to one guy who said he'd finished a full year with his last job and therefore deserved a 15% raise... and then another 15% raise after 1 year. Before you think I'm too cruel, I should point out that most of the drivers working for Americans at the consulate already make 100% more than their counterparts working for other companies or consulates. Part of the problem may be my poor negotiating skills, but I do have excellent "well I just won't hire you" skills. Oh well, the search continues!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Around Chennai: Theosophical Society

Continuing our tradition of sightseeing on weekends (three for three so far!), we decided to go check out the Theosophical Society today. Our trusty neighbor/tour guide went with us to show us around and as always get breakfast (or "Idly, Vada, Coffee" as he calls it). Unlike normal, we took our own car! It was a bit cramped with the 5 of us (driver, 3 adults, and a toddler in car seat) but we managed. The Theosophical Society location in Chennai is the international headquarters and is known as "Huddleston Gardens." Brief history: The society was started in the United States by a Colonel from the civil war (Henry Olcott) and a spiritualist (Helena Blavatsky) who essentially decided that all religions were correct and lead to the same place. They later moved to Madras to study Eastern Religions and create the headquarters for their movement. 

The Huddleston Gardens are one of the only real green spaces we've seen in Chennai. It is very popular for morning walkers. So popular in fact, that you have to have a permit to do it. Unfortunately those permits are often sold out up to a year in advance. Fortunately, they only apply to people wanting to walk before 8am. So around 8:30 we headed over to take a walk in the naturally covered (but mostly paved) pathways.

Headquarter building. We liked the elephants.
Aside from being an fantastic green space, the gardens have buildings representing the places of worship of every major (and many minor) religion. These are not "active" facilities, but they can be used for private meditation.

Look! Trees that aren't surrounded by asphalt!
The gardens are also the location of the (certified) largest banyan tree in the world. It is hard to take a good representational picture, but trust me, this banyan takes up acres of space.

Banyan expansion tendrils

The whole place is very pleasant, but many of the buildings seem half abandoned. We were told they are used from time to time, but they have an air of neglect around them.

The paint is newish, but the furniture inside was insanely dusty
If only I could live here... it'd be worth the commute!
Jain temple with a fantastically mustachioed statue. 

We noticed some men cleaning up a tree fall. Looks like it demolished that brick wall!

Hope no one was under it

More banyans. Also, she's watering the 'grass'

Col. Olcott is one of the few (only?) Americans to enjoy having a statue in India. As it turns out, there were at least four around here. This one commemorates the site of his funeral pyre.

The gardens is on the south side of the Adyar river. The Adyar has quite the stench to it on the north side, but it appears the smell is confined to the north side of the uninhabited "Adyar River Mangroves" island. Don't ask me how that works, but it did.

You can see the "Leela Palace" hotel in the background.
We wrapped up our visit with a walk inside the main meeting hall.



We finished up our morning with a trip to Elliot's Beach, a pretty wealthy college town area, for breakfast at Murugan's Idli Shop. We were told they had the best Idly in town... and we weren't disappointed. We'll have to make it back out for a better look at Elliot's Beach though, especially at night. We were lead to believe the area draws quite a crowd and has fantastic food.