Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Concept of "India Time"

Prior to my first visit to India I was made aware of something called "India Time." It seems that although Indians are mad for a good wrist watch (they love Fossil) they don't use it as a tool to ensure they are on time. For anything...

A good friend of mine from India initially explained the "India Time" concept with the following example: "If I call you and tell you I'm in the lobby of your hotel, that means you should start getting ready because I haven't left my house yet and I should be there in 1-2 hours." My response "Why don't you just call me and tell me you're leaving your house and will be to my hotel in 1-2 hours." His response: "This is India."

While spending time there I quickly adapted to this concept and loved the laid back approach. If I told someone I'd meet them at 1pm, I'd leave the hotel at 1pm and begin my long trek across the city. If I was an hour or two late, no one called demanding to know when I'd reach my destination. If you approach it correctly, it can be quite relaxing.

Pairing the "India Time" concept with "Instant Gratification" expectation in the US, however, can be quite unnerving. My most recent example involved a communication roadblock between myself and the individual providing me with the documentation I needed to file my Visa application. She told me repeatedly "I have sent your documents and you should be receiving them accordingly." To me, that means she sent my docs and I should have them. Now. To her it meant something else. I may never fully understand what that phrase means to her as several days passed in which I received that very same message yet no documents appeared. Additionally, when I asked when I should expect to receive my documents, the answer was always "Shortly." This went on for weeks. I compare it to someone telling me they are in the lobby of my hotel, then not even having left their house yet. Why would you say that, if it's not true? Conversely, I'm sure she was wondering what this rude American was up to being so demanding. Hadn't she made it clear that my documents would arrive "Shortly?"

I think either side of the equation is perfectly acceptable, as long as the other party is on the same side of the fence. From my current American perspective, it was maddening. I am happy to report, however, that today I received the documentation necessary to complete my Visa application, and in turn immediately shipped it off for processing. Now let's just hope the Indian Consulate has adopted an American approach of instant gratification rather then operating on "India Time."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Losses and Gains

Several people have asked me what I will miss upon my departure from the US. I set out to develop a Top 5 list, and conversely, a Top 5 list of items I will not miss upon leaving. Here is what came to mind:
Top 5 things I will miss:
1. Live Music. Growing up with a father in a band and musically inclined siblings and friends, many a night has been spent in local watering holes enjoying the sounds of a live band. It's a great opportunity to hear a friend's interpretation of a song or something completely original and of course a great gathering of people.
2. Organized Traffic Flow. Give it up to the City/County/State planners in this country and the State Patrol as well I guess. We have a delectable traffic system. Roads are well maintained and orderly. Drivers respect their fellow commuters and for the most part obey traffic laws.
3. Adult Size Beverages. For those of you that followed my blog from last fall, you'll recall me pining away for a Venti anything. I'm a gulper and the free refill is my friend, as well as the super sized fountain Coke, the Big Gulp, and the Mega Buddy. When ordering food at a drive through, my standard comment is "give me the biggest bucket of Coke you have."
4. Shoes. Indeed they sell shoes in India, however finding them in my size is not the easiest of tasks. I don't have abnormally large feet, just abnormally larger then most Indians. Shoe shopping can be a bit of an embarrassing feat (pun intended) when I have to straight away ask for the biggest size they have which is followed by the clerk coming out of the back room dusting off a box they clearly got by accident and handing it to me with a smirk.
5. Music. Yes it always comes back to Music. This time, I mean the music I can find on my favorite FM station. American Music. Hindi music, with it's overdone male vibrato and Mini Mouse-esque female crooners is headache inducing at best. I've been diligently loading up my ipod in preparation.

So there you have it, my friends. For those curious about what I will miss.

And now, onto the items I won't miss.

Top 5 things I will NOT miss
1. Snow. Enough said.
2. Price of Produce. We are very fortunate in this country to have produce flown in year round from all over the world, but we sure pay for it! With India's warm climate, they have year round access to all kinds of wonderful organic fruits and veggies, at wicked low prices. Street vendors are selling everything from oranges, to coconuts, to mangoes on every corner. I'm hoping that's a good incentive for me to get back on and adhere to a better eating regimen.
3. Absence of Bacon. I've never been a pork fan, and browsing through the menu at any local establishment you'll be hard pressed to find a salad, burger, sandwich or wrap sans bacon. Seeing as approx 45% of the population of Hyderabad is Muslim, bacon is scarce and having a menu lacking bacon makes me very happy.
4. Chores. It's common place in India to have a housekeeper and my home will be no exception. I'll have someone coming in daily to do the laundry, dusting, and sweeping, and of course she'll wash the dishes she dirties while cooking my meals. All for price of $20 USD a month!
5. Toilet Paper. It might sound strange, but I will not miss toilet paper. Indians prefer rinsing with water after using the potty and in my experience I feel this is the much cleaner option, and therefore preferred. Certainly I can buy toilet paper there, but each of my washrooms has an attached sprayer to use in place of TP. Not only do I find it cleaner, but environmentally sound as well so it's a win-win.

I'm sure both sides of this list will grow over time but for now, these are the things that come to mind. I hope you enjoyed this preliminary list.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Finally Some Movement

Today I finally received my formal compensation and benefits package offering from HR. While I won't post it here, I will say I am very pleased with the entire package and have accepted it. The team working on my transition did an amazingly thorough job to ensure I would qualify for all of the same benefits Indian Nationals receive. Such benefits include food vouchers for the office cafeteria, a flex account that let's you draw for everything from medical to fuel for your car, and a Savings and Retirement plan with a hearty company match.

The offer roll out and acceptance is done a bit different there then we do it here. First they disclose the financial package to you, then if you accept it, they make a formal job offer. In the states you first find out if you're offered the position, then upon acceptance find out the pay and benefits (at least that's been my experience). So it's nice going in knowing what I'm making and not having to accept an offer without knowing if it's going to work for me or not. I should have the formal offer letter tomorrow.

Additionally I received the Visa Application form and a list of required documents necessary in order to secure my Employment Visa. There is a law firm in Mumbai working on all of these things for me, for the nominal fee of $1350 USD (Visa and lawyer fees combined), which was not included in my benefits package. I was able to complete the application without any trouble, but the list of documents needed was pretty vast and might take me a day or so to compile. They are asking for everything from birth certificates to college transcripts. I am hoping to have everything sent to them by tomorrow on the off chance they can get it filed this week. Once it's filed, it will take approximately 2 weeks to be approved and I'll be on my way!

I'm just hoping I arrive in India before my belongings do, as I don't believe customs will release them to anyone but me and I dont' know what will happen if I'm not there to receive them!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

My Life in Totes

The shipping company came yesterday to pick up my belongings. Thirty two years on
this planet and I've been reduced to 17 plastic totes. I've always hovered somewhere between an organized hoarder and a minimalist. I love procuring things.....but very few things have sentimental value to me and I end up giving much of what I buy away or tossing it. In that sense, much of what I packed will probably seem foolish to many of you. Still, it will be nice to look around my apartment and see items I've had for years or that I can recall the level of excitement I had when I purchased them. 

All my wordly posessions - toted

The largest quantity of anything I packed was my scrap booking supplies. I'm guessing I won't find a Happy Stamper or Archivers in Hyderabad, and I've been hoarding supplies for years so I used that to my advantage and packed 6 of my 17 totes full of my favorite scrap booking/card making supplies. A few totes contained my full GardenLites collection from Party Lite, some fabulous dishes and glassware made up another 1-2 totes, and of course I need a few clothing items.

The company I hired to ship my items is Ocean Star International ( According to Kevin in the sales department, India is one of the top countries they ship to, so they are very familiar with the rules and regulations related to such a shipment. They gave me a phenomenal price and offered door to door service. All of the reviews I found online about them (on sites other then their own) were phenomenal.
The local company they contracted to pick up the items at my house was fantastic to work with. Mike, the driver, took very special care to stack, wrap, and load my items and was courteous and professional each step of the way. He'll haul them out to California, where they'll be put on a boat and floated over to India, for the bargain price of just $1700 USD. I did take  insurance on the shipment, which only covers catastrophic issues such as a boiler blowing up on the ship or the ship sinking, and was a little disappointed to discover that I was not being protected against pirates. I'll be mad if they steal my great grandmothers hope chest and use it to store their buried treasure.

I'll be curious to see how they deliver my items to my Madhapur flat, as I don't think there is a truck on the Indian continent big enough to handle 150 cubic feet of cargo. Lucky for them I'm on the ground floor and they won't have to haul them up multiple flights of stairs!

Now I can only hope I get shipped there in time to meet my things. So far I have not been given a departure date, but need to be there in order for them to deliver my items as they will not allow them to be signed over to anyone else.
It was a little sad seeing all my things roll down the road. But being reunited with all my stuff will be a joyous day indeed!