Monday, March 5, 2007

Our First Day of School

We did it. We made it through the first day. One down, 9 to go. That sounds more ominous than it really was. We're all tired, but it's a good tired.

Our nameless driver, whom I shall call Bob for want of a better name, showed up very
punctually at 7:45. Just as we had asked. You see, there's this phenomenon in India known as "Elastic Time," meaning you almost never do anything at the agreed-upon time. You think you have an agreement, but they will give you that funny little wag of the head they do, and you just never quite know. Anyhow, Bob showed up, drove us the three minutes (really) through the streets of Gurgaon to the training site. These are some typical street scenes on our route to training. The one picture I'm sorry I missed was one I would have called "Sanjay's Quality License Plates." It's a little roadside stand with about 30 license plates for sale. I'll try to get it for future posts.

Once Bob had gotten us to the Hotel Swansoo, he insisted on carrying our bags in for us. He really is sweet, just doesn't speak much English. More on that later.

We met our class, and before the learning began, there was a traditional Indian welcome ceremony, with dots of marigold pollen on everyone's forehead, and the presentation of marigold necklaces (leis) for everyone. It was pretty cool, I have to say!

Dinner tonight was probably our biggest adventure of the day. We decided to eat in the hotel because none of us felt like going anywhere. The hotel has been delivering free drink (beer or soft drink) coupons to the rooms for a couple of days, now, and Les decided to take them up on the offer. Last night, we had tried to go to the bar but it was closed for renovation so we had our drinks in the dining room. There's no way you will ever get a DUI from drinking in this hotel: it takes at least a half hour to get your order. Come to think of it, the bar was probably closed because they wanted everyone to listen to the band (Les claims they brought the 2 piece band in from Taiwan and paid them 25 cents to play. 25 rupees would have been too much.). Think the worst versions of "Annie's Song" and "Mandy," you have ever heard. Oh, and "Stand By Your Man," sung phonetically.

So, we were looking at the menus, had ordered something to drink, when this very solicitous hotel person arrived to tell us that we couldn't use the coupon in the restaurant, only in the bar which was now reopened. (Ed. note: last night, they didn't know when it would reopen). He practically dragged us out of our seats, promising us that our table would be reserved for us and that "they serve the same food in the bar." Okay, we thought, what do we have to lose? Not a smart strategy in India. When we arrived at the North Pole Bar (temp. 0C, hence the nickname) the solicitous man grabbed our drink order from the waiter who was up there filling it, and begged us to pick a seat. We asked the bartender if we could get food and Mr. S. informed us, "Oh, no, only light snacks." We finally convinced him that we really did want food and returned to our table in the dining room. The menus had been removed and, well, to make a long story short, at least it only took 45 minutes to get drinks, another 10 or so to get menus, another 20 or so to place an order, and a really, really looooooooong time before the food was served.

More tomorrow!

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