Saturday, July 5, 2014

Two Years in India, Week 1

There are huge trees all over the place.
(even in the street!)
Well, it's official. One week down, 103ish to go. That makes it sound like I can't wait to leave, which isn't right. I just was surprised when I realized that I'm pretty much 1% done with my first post. Really makes me think I can't waste a moment here!

I've had a number of first weeks at a new job, in my career, but this one was pretty different from all the others. First of all, I've never started a new job while at the same time combating jet lag. I've never really had a problem with adjusting my sleep schedule in the past, but I've also never had to do so while also caring for a not-yet-two-year-old. My son is completely oblivious to the concept of jet lag, so he pretty much sleeps whenever he wants. Fortunately, (for me) my wife has been playing with him when he's up in the middle of the night so that I would be awake and functioning for work. Of course, sleep is only one of the differences at this job. There's also taking a shuttle, living in a new place, meeting a workforce that is about to turn over by 50%, and heck, even experiencing new foods! Let's not get too far ahead though. 

I have just a three week overlap with the IMS I'm replacing here in Chennai. Since his boss, the IPO, left a week before I arrived, he's been showing me the ropes. It has been very interesting to see the similarities and differences between our training and what actually seems to be happening at post. The biggest difference I've noticed (especially when compared to my pre-Foreign Service jobs) is that almost all of the day-to-day work is handled quite capably by the Locally Employed Staff (LES) here. This means that the IMS, such as myself, tend to roam from project to project, working on whatever unusual or one-off problem that arises. A good example from this week: our AC units for the server room broke, leading us to spend a couple hours on the roof with the repair crew (a real pleasure in the Chennai heat!). 

Another shot of the crazy amount of trees.
Anyway, my predecessor arranged a "going away/welcome" lunch with me and all the LES working in our department. It was a great opportunity to meet everyone and I'm now planning to do the same thing when the new IPO arrives. Other than that, I've been eating lunch in the canteen. The lunch combo there costs 50 rupees (rs, approximately 85 cents) and consists of rice, chapati,  raita, and two gravies (which we'd call curry back in the States) that change daily. Everything is vegetarian and tastes alright, but you really can't beat the price! In the afternoon, I normally swing back down for chai to the tune of 7 rs (~12 cents). 

I ended up working a lot of extra hours this week, mostly due to my incredibly early shuttle-dictated arrival time. I don't mind the extra work, but it did kind of stink to get out right around when it was getting dark - really put a damper on my ability to take photos to send home. Of course, on the flip side, I also spent most of the week without internet (except at work), so I guess it didn't really matter!
Traffic on July 4th.
Fortunately, the jam only lasted half an hour.

Friday was the 4th of July, so we had the day off. The Consul General hosted a party at her residence with burgers, hot dogs, and a pie bake-off. I don't know about the pies' owners, but I'd say everyone that got to eat them was a winner. We also saw our future car (my son fully approved!) and met our soon-to-be driver. I had originally hesitated getting a driver, but after spending a week in traffic here... I'm glad we pre-arranged one. I'll post more about traffic later. 

Enjoy some random pictures of Chennai!

Small shrine in Alwarpet.

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