Sunday, July 26, 2015

It's the little things

Our home is a 1958 three bedroom, two bathroom ranch house. One of the bathrooms still has all the original tile and fixtures; they're in great shape and they're pink.

The only thing that wasn't pink was the toilet seat. It had been replaced with a grey one, which is also a common color in houses from the middle of the last century, but it always kind of bugged me that it wasn't pink. Then one of the little spacer things that hold the seat up from the toilet bowl broke. It sort of stuck out and jabbed our legs anytime we sat to do our business. That was both uncomfortable and annoying.

I'd tracked down some places that carry either the old fixtures or modern reproductions, so we ordered some color samples both for the seat and for tile. Our current shower head is pretty low but can't go higher because the surround isn't tiled to the ceiling and we'd risk a lot of water damage if we left it as is.

Anyway, we found a nearly perfect match for the seat, and here it is:

If you're interested, you can read this website about the history of the pink bathrooms and kitchens found in houses like ours.

And just for fun, take a look at the photos of this 1950s era kitchen. I love it!

Edited to add that the seat actually does match the tiles; it's just that the flash really bounced off the seat and made it look a shade lighter. But trust me, it's not.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Brand loyalty

We’re big Delta fans in our house. We fly Delta, we use a Delta AmEx and we spend our Delta miles sending people hither and yon. It’s been a great relationship—Kent’s been either Platinum or Diamond for seven years and I’ve been Platinum for six years.

We’d booked tickets for Jen and the kids to come see us this month. Since her folks still live in Lawrence, it’s especially convenient because the kids can see two sets of grandparents with just one stop. But as can happen, plans changed and so we needed to cancel the four sets of tickets. To be honest, I figured the miles might get refunded but the cash for fees and an upgrade to Economy Comfort was probably gone.

To my utter surprise and delight, Delta refunded 100% of everything.

My mom pointed out that if she—someone without status—had tried to get a similar refund, it probably wouldn’t have happened. And that may well be the case. But the thing is, loyalty is a two way street. Yes, Delta treated us well. But we’ve been very loyal for the last seven years.We only fly Delta, we use a Delta AmEx and we work at it. Twice I’ve had to fly a different airline for just one segment of a flight because either Delta didn’t go there, or their flight was booked. It’s not all that convenient to change airlines; often that means clearing security again which is not my idea of a good time. But my point is this: we’ve been very loyal and this week, that loyalty paid off in a big way.

And for Delta, it will pay off too because we’re even bigger fans now.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Odds and ends from my trip

First, I’m pretty much over the jet lag, although I was fairly useless yesterday. Mostly I felt slow but I wasn’t particularly sleepy until about 6PM. I did well to stay up till 7:30, to be honest.

I made the whole trip using my carry-on bag plus my laptop bag (a backpack). What I love about my suitcase is that it will fit in the overhead bins of all except the really tiny planes, the ones that have no first class and bins with sliding doors. That’s helpful when connections are tight, even gate checking can mean you miss the next flight. In this case, on my return trip I was changing airlines and potentially terminals in Frankfurt. If I’d checked a bag, I’d have had to clear customs and immigration, then retrieve the bag from baggage claim and clear security again. That was a hassle I didn't want.

I wore everything I packed with the exception of one company-branded shirt. I have two of them; one is pink and the other one is black. They’re polo-styled shirts and travel well only the black one is cut smaller than the pink one. I hadn’t tried on the black one or I’d have left it at home. I didn’t end up needing it anyway.

The food was really good, also spicy but that’s fine by me. One of our new associates had made it her mission to find the limits to my enjoyment of spicy food, but she never did. Last Tuesday night at the hotel restaurant, I ordered a chicken dish that was labeled as spicy. The server even asked me a couple of times to make sure I knew it was spicy. I told him I hoped that it was—and it was, but not too spicy for me. Even the crackers are spicy. I’m not sure if that’s peculiar to all of India or specific to southern India, but they were.

Here are some random photos of the food I had over the nearly two weeks I was there. I don’t remember what anything was called, just that it was really good.

It was in the shape of a heart :)

This one is dhal (I forget what kind)
Those little round bread things are yummy.

It's HUGE! And filled with some
sort of potato mixture.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Conversations you don't want to have

This morning Kent and I were using instant message before we talked. You see, we talk in the morning (my morning/his evening) so I like to make sure he's available and he needs to make sure I got up before he calls. And his IM said he had some exciting news to share. Well now, that sounded interesting!

Turns out Kansas City had a tornado warning (not watch) and so he'd had to wrangle all three kitties into their carries and take them to the basement while the threat passed. Getting cats into carriers is never the most fun but especially when there's just one human, three cats and a pressing need to get them into those carriers sooner rather than later.

So when we talked, they'd been back upstairs for not even an hour. Yikes! As I told Kent, he made a really bad Dorothy and the cats would never be mistaken for Toto.

I'll leave you with an old photo of kitties in kennels. Not much has changed, they still hate being in them.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Things I've seen in a week

Cows. It’s not an urban myth, there are cows in the big cities. Until today I hadn’t seen any except in a couple of empty lots but this morning on the drive to the office, I saw two ambling along in the middle of the street by the concrete divider. Then tonight I saw another one.

Horns. Car horns here almost form a language of their own. Everyone honks—cars, motorbikes, motorized rickshaws—everyone. But the horns aren’t as loud as in the US. I don’t know how to quantify it any other way except to say its how the drivers all communicate. I’ve seen a lot of very close calls but no accidents, all the drivers just sort of weave in and out like a bizarre, elaborate ballet dance.

Today I saw my first man peeing in public. Granted, he was in a fairly empty lot with his back to the street but still it was clear what was happening. I just turned my head.

There’s an empty lot by the hotel (which is nice, by the way—clean, quiet, just a normal hotel room) and I realized yesterday that was I thought was two small cinder block storage cubes are actually homes.

We have kind of frequent power outages although that’s a really grand term for what happens. Basically the power goes off for a minute, maybe three but so far no longer than that. And then it comes back on.

I’ve been using the electric kettle in my hotel room to boil tap water for coffee in the mornings. Sometimes it’s a bit brown so I toss that water and start again. I figure brown is bad when it comes to water, and remember my dad’s comments about how health in the US dramatically improved as we all started getting access to clean water. I’m glad the water comes to a complete boil, I’m glad I had my typhoid vaccination and I’m really glad I live in the US where we take clean water for granted.

Mostly I drink bottled water though.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Three cheers for the red, white & blue

I’ve spent the 4th of July abroad before. Two years ago, Kent and I were in Dublin over the 4th and of course I lived in Germany for three years so wasn’t on American soil then either. Being abroad this year isn’t a first, but I will say this is the furthest away I’ve been. And also the furthest south and the closest to the equator, too.

I elected to spend the day at my hotel rather than do any sightseeing here in Bangalore. To be honest, I’d rather not take the slight risk of unpleasant encounters and also it’s so hot here. So I’m watching Captain America: Winter Soldier in my room. I’ve got books on my Kindle and I have some work I’ll get done either today or tomorrow.

I’ll be glad to get home later this week—although coming home from my second business trip to Beijing will always be the time I was most eager to return to my country. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

A quick summary

So I’ve been in Bangalore (which is actually spelled Bengaluru here) for nearly a week. In all honesty, my experience here is rewriting the awful, wretched, very bad, no good experiences we had with our insane upstairs neighbors in Boston. I’m starting to believe that those neighbors—the Ferals—were the aberration. My team and my colleague’s team of associates are nothing at all like the Ferals. In fact, the differences couldn’t be more stark. (Should that be starker? Microsoft Word certainly thinks so.)

I already told you about Monday’s amazing dinner (still in awe of how fabulous it was). Tuesday, J and I were on and began training our new associates. We started with a quick session on cultural differences. We’d had our US associates answer two questions:

  • When you think of the US . . .  and
  • When you think of India . . .

And then we had our new associates in India answer the same questions. That made for some good conversation. We concluded that part by asking our new associates to provide us with five areas that they believed would help promote team communication and collaboration.

The rest of the week has been spent on more job-specific materials and I have to say, these guys are sharp and quick. I’m really pleased with how things have gone and think the five I am picking up are going to help our team produce even more at a very high quality.

On a non-work note, last night J and I went to Commercial Street. We didn’t realize that the drive was so long but it was wonderful to get out, see more of normal Bangalore/Bengaluru and do some shopping. J snapped a selfie of us and yes, she’s quite tall:

She’s gone now, or nearly so (her flight leaves around 9PM local). I’m here through very early Thursday morning and will be joined by two other colleagues Tuesday evening.

I hope you have a great 4th of July holiday. I’ve certainly spent my fair share of Independence Days in non-US locations but I never expected to be in India on this day!