Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Technically Another Job Opening

Good news IMS fans! The job req is open again. It turns out the Department of State really needs IMs these days. Just think, you could have the pleasure of working with me at your first post! (You know, if it happens to be my second post.) So if you do join and go somewhere awesome, start convincing them they need me early.

Just think, this picture could be you! (Assuming you own a red shirt and look like me with a different face...)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

HHE has Arrived!

Well, it's finally happened! Two days short of 4 months after arriving in India... our House Hold Effects (HHE) have arrived! Our general feeling of joy and celebration at this was quickly squashed by the realizations that:

A) We have way too much stuff.
B) We have to actually unpack all these boxes.

Right now it looks like our old house vomited (albeit using the Vomit-O-Matic) all over our new house. It's like Christmas in October... or what I'm calling "OctChristOberMas." I guess we have some unpacking to do.

PS: This is officially my 100th post on this blog... Whoo hoo!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Chennai Holidays: Deepavali

This week's bonus holiday is courtesy of Diwali or Deepavali, the festival of light. Let me just start by saying Diwali is a BIG deal. Most cultures/religions have an Autumn holiday to celebrate the harvest, but Diwali is the biggest and most celebrated holiday for Hindus, much like Christmas for Christians (slash most of the Western world). It was prefaced with several weeks of major sales and people cleaning and decorating. Starting nearly a week before the day we started hearing random fireworks going off. The evening before the holiday they began in earnest with literally thousands (if not millions) of fireworks going off. Diwali had scattered fireworks going off all day, but was otherwise one of the quietest days we've seen in India. There was almost no traffic and relatively few people on the streets. Once night fell though... the fireworks really picked up. The attached video (definitely watch it with the sound) gives you an idea of what it was like. We are lucky that we have roof access to our building and our building is higher than most of the surrounding buildings and trees. It was literally a 360 degree firework display. Every direction and every distance there were fireworks. From street crackers, to rooftop roman candles to professional grade sky bursters(?), you could literally read a newspaper by the light of all the fireworks. I know I'm using the word literally a lot, but standing on the roof seeing that many fireworks going off is... well, indescribable... I did my best, but it doesn't do it justice. At one point, I saw 5 roman candles going off on 5 different rooftops at the same time and that was in one direction. Oh yeah, and it went on for hours both nights!

Edit: It is now officially 2 days after Diwali... and there are still periodic fireworks going off (at midnight)!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Dogs and Traffic

Picture courtesy of Adventures of an American Expat blog
I was eating dinner this evening and I saw a dog cross the road. That seems pretty uninteresting, right? WRONG! This dog walked to the edge of the road and looked both ways. He started to cross, saw some traffic coming and backed up. He waited until the traffic slowed, looked both ways again, crossed halfway, watched incoming traffic until a break opened, and then finished crossing. Honestly, I think he did it better than I do. Kudos to the feral animals here, I bet they're all good at that, because I haven't seen a single roadkill since getting here.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

High Hopes = Higher Disappointment

Well, after nearly 4 months (!) of waiting, our HHE was finally scheduled to be delivered. Needless to say, we were pretty ecstatic. I was the first new officer to arrive this summer, and I'm going to be one of the last (at least not the last) to receive my stuff. If you find yourself packing out from DC and get assigned "Victory Van Corporation," I feel for you. My stuff sat in their warehouse for 2 months after I arrived at post until they got around to shipping it.

Anyway, as a cruel twist of fate, monsoon season appears to have decided to start in earnest... and our HHE delivery for this afternoon was cancelled on account of poor weather. Future delivery date TBD... I hadn't really been missing my HHE (other than my kitchen supplies), but having it dangled and jerked away was a real letdown. Oh well, at least it's in the country and presumably will be delivered soon.

Note: I doubt this infographic is accurate, but I can't help noticing that "Shame" turns you into Spider-Man.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Holding Hands

Holding hands is definitely a cultural thing. In the US, it's rare to see adults, who aren't romantically involved, holding hands. In India, public displays of affection are frowned upon, so you don't see couples walking around holding hands. However, I pretty regularly see men walking around holding hands. This wasn't a huge surprise, I knew that it was common in parts of the world. I expected to see people holding hands... much like the picture for this post. Instead, I regularly see much more involved hand holding often including both hands from one of the participants. What I really wasn't prepared for was middle school-esque level of playing/fiddling with each others hands. It's not uncommon for me to see two men holding hands and one of them is playfulling pulling the other's fingers, or caressing the inside of their palm. It's hard to describe, but it's so over the top I just had to mention it.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Chennai Holidays: Eid al-Adha

Nothing like a BONUS bonus extra holiday. Today's holiday, Eid al-Adha, was originally a work day. However, the Tamil Nadu government declared it a holiday last week, so we got it off at the last minute. Score! Last minute 5th day to my long weekend. Of course, this makes us feel pretty silly for not planning a bigger trip (we did go somewhere, but more on that later).

Anyway, Eid al-Adha is an Islamic holiday honoring Abraham and his willingness to sacrifice his son (Ishmael). Muslims of sufficient affluence celebrate by sacrificing an animal and dividing the meat into three parts. One part is shared with their family, one part with their friends, and the third part goes to the needy. Of course, there is a good deal of ceremony and praying involved that I'm not really qualified to describe.

I am, however, qualified to say thank you for another bonus day off!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Chennai Holidays: Vijaya Dashami

Vijaya Dashami is the 10th and last day of Navratri. It literally means "the triumph of righteousness over evil." There are a ton of stories of various sinister demons and deities being defeated on this day. Hindus celebrate with parties, gift giving, and prayers for the upcoming harvest season. It is the beginning of a very festive season around here, as we get ready for Deepvali!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Chennai Holidays: Mahatma Gandhi’s Birthday and Ayutha Puja

Today is a 'twofer' on the local holiday front. Mahatma Gandhi (who is kind of a big deal around here) was born on October 2, 1869 and it is also the Ayutha Puja, which falls on a different day each year (depending on the moon). I'm going to focus on Ayutha Puja, because I think most people are familiar with Gandhi. Though I will say, "Gandhi Day" is one of the biggest holidays here. It is one of the three government mandated holidays, so everyone (including most retail/food employees) gets it off.

Ayutha Puja is the 9th day of the Navratri festival. It is a celebration of tools and weapons. Tools are blessed, placed on pedestals, and worshiped. Vehicles are washed and blessed as well. I know the GSO spent some time observing blessings over various consulate equipment, and many personal drivers for consulate employees are blessing the cars they drive. We don't currently have a driver, and our all-arounder is Christian, so I think we will have to go without. It would have been an interesting event to observe, but maybe next year.

First Illness in Chennai

Perfectly planned to ruin the upcoming long weekend, I have officially gotten sick. This is the first illness for our family since moving to India. Much to everybody's surprise, it is just a cold and has nothing to do with my digestive system. Fortunately, it looks like my son will be following suit... so it'll be a fun week!