Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Chennai Journal - Part Two

Thursday July 27, 6:00 AM – Chennai, India

My internal clock is all messed up. Ron and I were awake until midnight last night putting the finishing touches on our presentation and I fell asleep instantly. About a half hour, maybe an hour, later I woke up and only dozed off and on for the rest of the night. My ipod is a lifesaver. We have cable TV in our room but many of the channels are in Tamil (instead of English) or they are things that wouldn’t hold my attention so I listened to music and podcasts instead.

We ate in a restaurant that is just two floors above our room. We’re on the ninth floor and the restaurant is on the 11th. It was very nice but I learned that “gently seasoned” on the menu does not mean “not spicy.” In fact, it was so spicy that I couldn’t eat much of it. I feel more confident about the food here though since there is always bottled water and we’re eating in the hotel all the time. I’m still remembering my food rules though and even brushing my teeth with bottled water.

We’re treated like special people here. I don’t know if it’s because we are Americans or because Ron might have tipped a little too much when we first arrived but, for example, when we went to the front desk to leave a note for someone we patiently waited for the clerk to finish with the person he was working with, an Indian. The door man (who appears to run the lobby) didn’t like it that we waited and told the clerk behind the desk to take care of us. We NEVER have to wait at the hotel. We’re taken care of immediately by more people than we want.

It seems that here they throw lots of people at everything here at the hotel. Need waiters? Put in twice as many as you’d have in the US. Need your bags moved? We’ve got a small army for that. (Speaking of Armies, as we taxied in at the Chennai airport I saw an army troop doing one of those stiff-armed marching things – it was SO COOL.) When we went to the restaurant last night we were one of the first there getting in shortly after 7 when it opened but we had four people helping us at our table – there were only two of us! I guess there is no shortage of people here.

Last night after dinner we met Dr Vimala Punithakumar, the director of the conference and the principal of St Christopher’s College. She was really swamped trying to pull this conference together but sat with us in the lobby for a while. I think she wanted to show us proper respect and didn’t want to leave us there alone but she clearly had other things to do so we eventually convinced her that we were going to meet Gloria Stronks and the others from Worldwide Christian Schools in yet another restaurant in the hotel. We sat there with them for an hour or so while Beatles played on the stereo. I didn’t expect that to be soundtrack to our dinner!

Today the conference begins. We’re not sure when we speak yet – there are lots of officials from various government and educational agencies making welcoming speeches. We’ve also been asked to give a response at the end of the conference reflecting on what we’ve heard.

OK, time to shower and think about the day. Like I haven’t been thinking about it all night!

On to part three

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