Sunday, 16 December 2012

Boulder Bound

Hong Kong Airport
After a hectic week at work in Chennai, I am now sitting in Hong Kong waiting for my next flight to Los Angeles; I flew in earlier today from Chennai. I was one "those people" who had their named paged since I had fallen asleep waiting for my 3 am flight from Chennai. There was an airline attendant scurrying around calling my name, which woke me up. I was the last one on the flight, and I was in the waiting area 2 hours prior to the flight. While not a disaster if I had missed the flight, it would have been a hassle to rebook for the next day, I assume, since it is the high season with many travelers headed various places for the holidays.

I am spending Christmas with my two daughters, my sisters and their families, and my mother in Boulder, CO this year. Last year, we were spread out all across the globe. One daughter was studying abroad in Chile; the other doing a gap year in Costa Rica volunteering at a sea turtle hatchery. We had planned for them to come to India for the holidays this year, but it didn't work out so I am headed to the US. My husband will stay in Tiruvannanalai as he has family in from the UK.

I have very few cold weather clothes these days, so I am hoping my sisters living in Boulder will be able to loan me a sweater or two. This is my third time out of India this year, which is possible with my employment visa, and is now also possible with a tourist visa. Details on the new rules for Indian tourist visas are in my previous blog post.

More from sunny Boulder, CO.


Monday, 10 December 2012

Indian Government Eases Tourist Visa Restrictions

Some great news for tourists traveling to India - On December 4th, 2012, the Indian government issued a statement saying that it was no longer necessary for people traveling to India on a tourist visa to wait 2 months to return when they left the country. Now tourists can come into India, leave the country and return the next day, if they want to. There had been a two month waiting time if you had to leave the country for any reason.

According to Netglobers.com: 'The visa restrictions were introduced to reduce the flow of people into and out of India following terrorist attacks in Mumbai that killed more than 160 people. However, government officials recognized that such measures were negatively impacting the country's tourism industry.'

The only way around this was if you had a travel itinerary that you could show the immigration officials which showed your entire travel plans that included multiple entries to India from, for instance, Nepal or Thailand.

Updated Info - Official Indian government websites concerning the easing of restrictions:

Government of India Press Information Bureau:

http://www.pib.nic.in/newsite/erelease.aspx?relid=89835

Embassy of India, Washington, DC:

http://www.indianembassy.org/prdetail2070/important-notice-restrictions-on-tourist-visa-re-entry-within-2-months-lifted

Here is the announcement which was posted on the Travisa website for Indian tourist visa applications for US citizens:

Permit to Re-Enter Restriction Lifted

Travelers on a Tourist visa were previously required to have a gap of at least 2 months between two separate visits to India. The restriction has now been lifted except for nationals of China, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, foreigners of Pakistan and Bangladesh origin and stateless persons.

You can find more information here concerning the new rules on Indian tourist visa: https://indiavisa.travisaoutsourcing.com/homepage

Here's another link from Netglobers.com regarding the easing of the two month wait for tourist visas.

http://www.netglobers.com/asia/indian-government-eases-tourist-visa-restrictions--35773.html

Chennai Bound

For the past two weeks, I have worked from home in Tiruvannamalai. One week was the Deepam festival and it was very difficult to come and go from Tiru due to the crowds in town; I also wanted to see the fire lit on Mt. Arunachala and experience being in Tiru during this major festival.

The following week I contracted a nasty ear infection and was just too run down to travel. Thank goodness I was able to rest as much as possible, go to the doctor (twice) and still keep up with work. I have to say that this was one of the more painful ear aches I have ever had in my life; I am not prone to ear infections so not being able to hear was difficult and it was difficult to find a comfortable position to sleep in at night due to ear pain. Anyway, I am all better now and head back in to the city at 5:30 am.

I am a technical writer so much of my day is spent editing technical documents that come across my desk. It's not the most exciting work in the world, but my skills seem to find me a job more often than not. I was able to find a job in India and get a work visa, so I am lucky in a lot of ways.

It looks like the weather will be nice this week...no cyclones anyway. Tomorrow I say goodbye to rural India for a few days. More from Chennai.


Monday, 3 December 2012

Finding a Job in India as an Expat

Yesterday, I was asked by a reader how I managed to land a job in India as a US citizen  I have actually landed two jobs in India; I found the first job online with an Indian company while still living in the USA . I found my current post with a US company through an online job board while living in India.

The first thing to research when attempting to find work in India is whether or not you have a skill that is needed. There are over a billion people in India and many skilled workers are in high-tech field fields such as engineering. In my case, technical writing is still in its infancy in India. There is a need for trainers and skilled writers whose first language is English. While many Indians speak and write excellent English, many high-tech companies are multinational and seek technical writers who are able to write for a global audience. Many Indian companies are just now understanding the need for technical writers as opposed to having engineers write their documentation, so the field is wide open if you are an experienced technical writer.

The next hurdle is to find a company in India that is willing to sponsor you for an employment visa. My first employer interviewed me via Skype and hired me while I was still living in the US. He provided the necessary documents for me to submit an application to the Indian Consulate in San Francisco; I was able to secure the employment visa in about four days.

There were about ten required documents including something called a 'justification letter,' which must explain how your particular skills are not currently available in India. The company must also include a letter detailing your employment contract and the salary must be over $25,000. The Indian Consulate in the US outsources the visa application process to a company called Travisa. This includes employment visas, tourist visas and business visas. I have included the link for information on employment visas for American citizens wanting to work in India below. If you are not from the US and are interested in working in India, please contact the Indian Consulate in your country for specifics requirements for employment visas.

Travisa (Indian Employment visa for US citizens)

Friday, 30 November 2012

A Fish Tale

Mt. Arunachala from the roof of our house. (Deepam 2012)
There are times when I find myself thinking of how much my life has changed from my days as a suburban soccer mom in Boulder, Colorado. Doing errands around town is not quite the same as simply running to a 'superstore'  like King Soopers or PetsMart to buy some cat food. It entails hopping on the back of David's moped for a sometimes hair-raising ride through the streets of Tiruvannamalai stopping at various little shops along the way to pick up the items on our shopping list.

Each shop is known for selling a specific type of item; there is the stationary store, the sari store, the bike store, the medical shop for drugs and medicine. I have not seen a 'one stop' shopping place since coming to India, which is a gratifying experience. Walmart has tried to elbow its way into India, but there has been an uproar in India from small scale merchants; hopefully, India will have the good sense to eschew the mega-retailer.

Last night there was a stop at the stationary store to buy computer paper and five new ball point pens.  Indian shops are basically a counter facing the street; you tell the merchant what you need and he scurries behind the counter, disappearing into various aisles piled to the ceiling with items unreachable by the customer. If he emerges with the correct item the first time, one considers that a success. It typically takes a few tries before the exact item is located, wrapped and paid for.



After stopping to get my glasses fixed, we maneuvered our way through the crowded streets to the tropical fish store where we filled two huge plastic bags with goldfish for two of our outdoor ponds. The fish were swimming lazily around a few tired looking tanks, and the owner used a small net to plop them into the clear plastic bags for the trip home. This is where it got interesting. We had several other bags full of fresh veggies, which we hung under the handlebars of the moped as usual. The two large bags of fish were my job to protect on the way home. I usually hold onto David's waist with one hand and grip the moped seat with the other hand. Now I had to use both arms to encircle the two big plastic bags as we darted in and out of traffic on our way home. It must have looked somewhat amusing to see the fish sloshing around on the back of the moped, but you see many interesting things piled onto Indian mopeds so we were lost in the crowd, I'm sure.



As we made our way down the bumpy dirt road towards our house with me gripping the two bags full of fish to my chest, I could see the fire on Mt. Arunachala burning in the distance and felt an instant sense of calm.  Life is much simpler here, not always easy, but so rich in ways that I could have never imagined.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Deepam 2012 Link

Please join us at 6 pm, November 27th for a live broadcast of the lighting of the fire on Mt. Arunachala.

Update: Apologies! Our latest video was not the best due to lighting difficulties and a sub-standard camera. Please see the link in the previous post for last year's video. It is much better!

Monday, 26 November 2012

Deepam in Tiruvannamalai

This week I am working from home in Tiruvannamalai because tomorrow marks the fesival of Deepam with the lighting of the fire atop Mt. Arunachala, plus I am a bit under-the-weather with a stomach bug. We have a wonderful view of the mountain from the roof of our house. Last year we streamed the lighting of the fire live to friends all over the world via a ustream link. We will do the same this year. I will post the link address tomorrow; the fire is lit at 6 PM so we will begin our live stream at that time!

Here is the link to last year's blog post with information about Deepam:

http://www.sippingchaiinchennai.com/2011_12_04_archive.html

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Happy Thanksgiving from India!

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the USA. This year since I have a job in India, it's just another Thursday in Chennai, and I put in a full day at the office. Since I am a vegetarian, I am not really missing the turkey. But, as a potato fanatic, I AM missing my mashed potatoes and gravy; a staple at any proper Thanksgiving meal. I also have to admit that I am missing the family ritual of eating till you burst and then watching a movie later in the day. Today is also my younger sister's birthday, and the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated 49 years ago.

Two of the writers in my office are leaving the company next week, so I took them out for a pizza instead of eating our free South Indian lunch at the office. (One of the nicer perks of working at this office is that they provide a buffet lunch each day.) We went across the street to Dominoes Pizza; it was the first pizza I have had in India since moving here 18 months ago. It wasn't quite mashed potatoes and gravy, but it did mark the day for me as something more than just a Thursday at the office.

I head back to Tiruvannamalai tomorrow. Next week is Deepam, a huge festival celebrated only in Tiru with over 2 million people in attendance for the lighting of the flame on Mt. Arunachala. Last year David and I streamed the event from our rooftop. We are planning to do the same this year so look for the link to the stream in the next blog entry!

Friday, 16 November 2012

Miss India vs the Cows

Miss India  (the bicycle) at home in Tiruvannamalai, South India
I'm not sure if I have mentioned this before in my blog, but I have a bicycle here in Tiruvannamalai; her name is Miss India. The name is emblazoned on the mud guard near the back tire. I was told it's not actually a 'mud' guard but a 'sari' guard for female passengers riding on the back of the bike. I like the fact that my bike has a sari guard and that someone had the good sense to put such a thing on a bike to protect women's saris.

At any rate, Miss India was seriously neglected during the hot season here. With temperatures hovering near 38+ degrees Celsius (100+ Fahrenheit), it was all I could do to make it to the bedroom for my afternoon nap during the dog days of the South Indian summer. There is no central A/C at our house in Tiruvannamalai, but we do have a room A/C that works, if and when the power is on....but that's another story.

So, now that the days are markedly cooler, I have begun taking Miss India for a daily meander along the country roads between our house and Mt. Arunachala. It's very much rural India; goats and cows are frequent travelers on the one lane roads here.

Yesterday, Miss India and I were going the wrong direction at milking time near the local milking station. Baby calves followed their mothers down the dusty dirt road coming directly at us. This happens on a much lesser scale at times, but yesterday Miss India and I were surrounded by a herd of dutiful cows headed resolutely to their evening milking session. I have a small bell on the handlebar of my bike, but the soft tinkle of the bell did little to stop the forward movement of the cows, so I gave up. Miss India and I were swallowed up for a few moments in bovine bliss.

I head back to Chennai and my office in corporate India on Monday morning. Miss India will wait here in Tiruvannamalai under my husband's watchful eye until our next non-corporate Indian adventure. I can't wait.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Happy Diwali 2012!

Today India celebrates the festival of Dewali. From our front veranda in Tiruvannamalai, I can hear the distant popping of firecrackers and exploding of bottle rockets. Before making India my home nearly 18 months ago, I had always thought of Diwali as a quiet 'festival of lights' full of sweets, candles, friends, family and gifts of new clothes for the children.

As luck would have it, last year I spent Diwali 2011 in Chennai where the sound of firecrackers and bottle rockets shook the windows and rattled plates and glasses in my kitchen. I found myself diving for cover until I finally acclimated to the constant explosions. I wasn't prepared at all for the 'real' Diwali. After doing a bit of research, I found that, traditionally, firecrackers were used to chase away evil spirits. Now, it seems that the louder and noisier the pyrotechnics, the better. It's a 48 hour show stopping celebration sure to rival any 4th of July type extravaganza in the US.

My office is closed today, so it really is a day off to relax, work in the garden, eat some sticky sweet treats and enjoy the noise and celebration that is Diwali in India.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Cyclone Nilam

After my last entry, life became very interesting. I did not end up going into Chennai for work since weather reports showed that a cyclone (hurricane) was headed towards Chennai within the next two days. I knew that my office manager would just tell us to work from home in Chennai, so I texted my boss on Sunday night and told him that I wanted to stay in Tiru since Chennai would most likely be flooded for the duration of the week when the storm finally hit the city.

We had been watching the weather news and CNN reports on our TV. The weather was getting ugly along the East Coast of the US with Frankenstorm Sandy and, at the same time, the weather here was gearing up for a cyclone just making its way from the Bay of Bengal towards Chennai. As we watched scenes of the aftermath of Sandy flash across our TV screen, we were tracking the course of what was now called Cyclone Nilam making its way toward the state of Tamil Nadu, where we live. We managed to find an interesting group of weather bloggers who are up 24/7 reporting on the tropical storms that may affect India.

KEA Weather Blog: http://keaweather.wordpress.com/

Cyclone Nilam made landfall last night nearly 100 km from us but we felt the winds and rain all day yesterday. According to our homemade rain gauge, which is one of our dogs' bowl sitting out in the garden, we received about 10 cm of rain from the storm. I don't plan to go into Chennai until next Monday. The photos we are getting online of the city makes me thankful that I did not go in. It's a flooded mess. My coworkers have not gone into the office for the past two days and said it has been a nightmare getting around the city. Reports say that the cyclone has headed across India to the west, not to the north as was predicted.

All is all, the global weather patterns have been wild this week. Update soon with photos.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

My Week in Tiruvannamalai

It's Sunday evening in India, and I am beginning to get ready for my 5 a.m. trip back to Chennai. It's been a week with two days off for holidays so I was able to get away with only a three day work week. I could definitely get used to working only three days a week. My husband and I spent time hiking, checking out the streams and waterfalls around Mt. Arunachala and getting caught up on the US elections via the Internet. We are both pretty passionate about politics and enjoy following the polls no matter how up and down they seem to be this election. We are following the major storm expected to slam into the East Coast of the US and keeping an eye on a cyclone headed towards Chennai mid-week. The last major cyclone here was last December 2011. We lost power for nearly 10 days and had sporadic Internet access. Since we are even more rural than Tiruvannamalai town (our home is about 5 km from the town center), we were some of the last houses to get back on the grid. It's been very windy here today, which is not very common, so the severe weather seems to be headed our way. I have once again slipped into rural India mode and need to gear up for the hustle and bustle of Chennai, with a potential week of floods awaiting me.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Navaratri 2012

This week my office in Chennai was closed for two days in observance of Navaratri. According to Sharell Cook who writes for About.com on India Travel, "Navaratri is a nine night festival that honors the Mother Goddess in all her manifestations, including Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. It's a festival full of worship and dance and culminates with Dussehra, the victory of good over evil, on the tenth day."

It was nice to have the two days off during the week. My husband, David, and I took the time to wander outside and see what four days of rain had done for the streams and waterfalls on nearby Mt. Arunachala. The vegetation was lush and we encountered monkeys, stream and waterfalls yesterday that emerge when the runoff from the mountain reaches a certain level. The baby monkey we ran across was stuffing it mouth full of leaves seeming to enjoy the greenery that had sprouted with the steady rains of the past week.

I get used to the pace of rural India and am trying to focus on our garden and my newly planted sunflowers for the next few days while I am in Tiru. It's such a different energy in Chennai and the noise and chaos seem never ending some days. I'm glad that I have the opportunity to work from home this week and am planning to maneuver for more time here as my work permits.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Rainy Days in Chennai

It has been raining for the past two days in Tamil Nadu, at least in the areas I have been in. I left Chennai yesterday afternoon. It was Friday and time for my weekly commute to Tiruvannamalai. The streets were flooding in Chennai due to the heavy rain the previous night. Municipal workers with long sticks were poking around in the gutters to clear away the debris in the drains to unplug the muddy swill of runoff water that was a foot deep in some areas of the city. It was one day that I was glad to be traveling by taxi and not on the city bus in Chennai.

My work colleagues straggled in to the office with their tales of long commutes due to the flooded streets; it had taken my boss over two hours to reach the office and it was six miles from his house. Another friend had driven her moped from her flat about three miles away and was drenched from the rain and the splash back from other vehicles. Not a good day for commuters in Chennai.

After work, the four hour trip to Tiru was harrowing as usual, and this time I was forced to face my lifelong fear of hydroplaning; it was not one of the more relaxing trips home. I asked my driver more than once, "Tires are good, yes?" as we sped along the national highway towards Tiru.

Anyway, I made it back safely once again and have spent a lazy day catching up on the world news via the Internet; I even learned some new words and phrases like 'binders full of women' and 'Romnesia'. God bless American politics.

Tonight we plan to watch the finale of the 'Great British Bake Off' (I'm pretty sure that has not made it to the US yet) and I have made some homemade brownies in celebration. God knows what they will taste like since the power has gone off and on since I put them in the oven. They smell like brownies and look like brownies so I am hoping for the best...

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

India ATM Fun and Games

So, I have not yet described what it feels like to be in an ATM in India (or anywhere for that matter) and have the power go off. No electricity. No money. No return of the debit card in the machine. Nothing, nada. You simply find yourself standing in a hot ATM vestibule thinking what just happened here?

I almost felt like I was in an episode of 'Punked" or 'Candid Camera'. Insert debit card, type in PIN and wait hopefully for money to emerge. Well, picture the card going into the ATM machine, punching in the PIN, the machine just starting to count out the money...AND THE POWER GOES OFF. I felt like I was in a sitcom. Really? No card? No money? The only record of my transaction is in a text message saying that $200 dollars had just been deducted from my account... when it hadn't.

After one solid panic filled hour, I was told to go to the main branch of my bank, which ended up being closed for an additional three days due to bank holidays. I did miraculously get my money back, but it was not the most relaxing 3 days I have ever experienced in Mother India.

I'm more than sure than another adventure is forthcoming...

Monday, 1 October 2012

Happy Gandhi Jayanti!

Today is a national holiday (Gandhi's birthday) and I am happily sitting on our front veranda in Tiruvannamalai writing this entry. We have had some good steady rains over the weekend so the summer monsoons finished with our area of Tamil Nadu coming out ahead in terms of rainfall. Now that we are in October, it is the start of the winter monsoons, which will stretch till about mid-December.

The lovely thing about having a holiday today is that we are just starting our garden and having the time to putter around planting and weeding is a treat. I worked from home yesterday and put in about 10 hours, so I feel entitled to enjoy my day off. I will remain in Tiru for the entire week; my boss has agreed that any week that has a holiday, I can work that whole week from Tiru. That works out to about 10 weeks per year. Not too shabby.

I did not have the dreaded Monday morning commute to Chennai yesterday, which was the first time I have not dragged myself out of bed at 4:30 am on a Monday in weeks. Last week commuting into the city, I had a somewhat harrowing time. My driver fell asleep about 2 hours into the 4 hour drive and we narrowly missed hitting an on coming truck. If I hadn't screamed, I fear you may not be reading this blog entry. So, the less I have to commute on that busy road each week, the better. Besides, I like getting into the rhythm of the week with David. Now that we are married, I feel as if my place is at home in the serenity of our garden and the views of Arunachala.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Six Rupee Bus to Work

My office has shifted to another part of town that  has a bus route from Besant Nagar, where I live during the week, to Mylapore, where my office is now located. Prior to the move, I took auto rickshaws to work. The bus ride takes about 30 minutes and costs all of six rupees, or about 10 cents. I take a taxi home at night right now since the crowds seem to be heavier after work, and I can't seem to figure out where the bus stop is to return to my flat.

In the morning mayhem, the buses are crowded and I rarely get a seat. There is a men and women's side to the buses, which gives women a fighting chance of getting a seat. Today as I rode along in the tightly packed bus full of office workers, students, and retirees headed into the city, I felt a sense of camaraderie with my fellow bus riders. Young boys hung out of the bus doors running alongside until the last minute and then jumping into the bus as it picked up speed. An old woman shouted at the boys. She told me in broken English that it was, "Very dangerous." We were all off to God-knows-where but for some 30 minutes or so we were all packed into this tin can of a bus, making our way through the morning traffic of Chennai.

I have often sat in air conditioned taxis and watched as these overloaded buses trundled past and thought how hard it must be to travel to work that way. Well, now that I am trying to save money plus spend my time learning more about the day-to-day activities of my fellow Indian office workers, I find the bus ride and it's sardine-like discomfort a bit more bearable. I have been asked to hold hold lunch boxes and have had my bags held on the laps of complete strangers who see me struggle to stay upright while being sandwiched into the tight fit of the bus aisle. It gives me a sense of being part of the Chennai work-a-day scene and today I felt very satisfied to be part of the whole colorful collage that is India.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Return to Chennai

It's hard to believe but nearly two months have gone by since my last blog post. I have a fairly good excuse; David and I took a 6 week whirlwind trip to the UK and US where we met each other's families/friends, got married (!) and moved my two college-aged daughters into their university dorms in CA. It was a wonderful trip, and I am now back in Chennai working and commuting to Tiru on the weekends.

Today it took nearly five hours to get from Tiruvannamalai to my office in Chennai. The anti-American riots have found there way to South India. The same impetus for the riots that began in Libya, and which killed the US Ambassador to Libya, have arrived in peaceful South India.

On Friday before leaving for the weekend, an American friend emailed me to say that the US Consulate in Chennai was warning its citizens to take precautions due to anti-American protest being planned for Friday and Saturday. My office is about four blocks from the Consulate so I was concerned about being able to leave the city if the roads were blocked by demonstrators. I was able to leave at 3 PM and missed the first wave of protesters that started moving towards the Consulate at 4:30 pm.

There are more demonstrations planned for today and tomorrow and the US Consulate has decided to shut its doors for the next few days. It processes many visas and has a lot of foot traffic during a normal business day, so it's probably a good idea.

More from The Hindu.com.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/article3906944.ece?homepage=true


Thursday, 19 July 2012

The Indian Litter Problem

It is very easy to recycle in India. Basically, everything wrapped in plastic or glass is used again and again. I remember my Indian mother-in-law washing out plastic baggies and hanging them to dry when I visited over 20 years ago. You would not guess this though due to the amount of litter and garbage strewn pretty much wherever you turn in the city.

My neighborhood, Besant Nagar, in Chennai has regular trash pick up, but you have to walk your garbage down to a dumpster located about a block away. There is no such thing as residential curbside pick up service for your trash.

The other evening, I walked along the beach near where I live just off Coastal Road in Chennai. The beaches are littered with trash as far as the eye can see. I was getting pretty depressed about it, wondering what it would take for this country of over a billion people to start taking better care of the environment, when a young woman wearing a sari with two kids tagging along walked past me and put a bag of garbage right on the water's edge. She waited while the tide swept away what looked like her family's daily garbage accumulation, before walking back to her makeshift hut further up the beach.

In rural Tiruvannamalai, (the town I stay at on weekends) the school down the road from us has put on 'rallies' for the environment in the hopes that educating this generation of students might help the problem. I think it's at least a start to solving a problem so huge that one sometimes feels a sense of despair for the planet.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

The Krishnamurti Foundation - Chennai, India
 This week has been over-the-top hectic with work. My counterparts in the US work on components for cell phones and there is a new release of some new doo-dad or another every six months. We have just gotten through the documentation for these products, and I am wiped out from looking at technical specifications on components so small that you wouldn't even noticed if you stepped on them.

This weekend, however, I will stay in Chennai for the first weekend in months. I am doing some research at the Krishnamurti Foundation just down the street from my office on Greenways Road. I find it remarkable to be working very near some of the places I have read about for years like The Theosophical Society, and The Krishnamurti Foundation. Krishnamurti spent his last years here and gave many talks on the neatly kept lawn surrounding the main building. Both places are like a serene refuge from the crazy, pulsing city of Chennai, which seems to be on high volume 24/7.

I am feeling very elated this morning as I just got notification that an article I wrote for www.elephantjournal.com was published today online. My hope is to publish my book about my experiences in India - blending the spiritual with high-tech, Indian style. It is the first bit of good news I received after many submissions to a variety of publishers. I think I will bask in the feeling of being considered a writer today by someone other than myself...

Here's the link to the newly published article:

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/07/sipping-chai-in-chennai-blending-spirituality-and-high-tech-in-india-elizabeth-huesing/

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Weekends in Tiruvannamalai

Weekends in Tiruvannamalai make up (almost) for a week in chaotic smoggy Chennai. Yesterday, it rained lightly in the evening; the first time in months that we have had any marked precipitation. The hot season is supposedly officially over but the monsoons of Kerala have only brought dry winds to the state of Tamil Nadu with little to no rain.

This weekend was marred by me burning my left hand somewhat severely on the stove yesterday. Our coffee pot fell off the burner and I grabbed it, but it is made of metal so trying to catch it in my bare hands was not a smart move. I ended up with my hand in the freezer for a couple of hours until the pain had subsided. Today my hand it is just a patchwork of small blisters and my left wrist looks sunburned, but the pain in no longer an issue. This gets added to the 'Never a Dull Moment in India' category.

We are planning to go for a hike on Arunachala (holy mountain of Tiruvannamalai) later in the afternoon if the sun goes under a bit. This would have been unthinkable just three weeks ago but the oppressive heat seems to have lifted. We had been retreating into one room in the house with AC in the afternoons and napping till the worst of the heat of the day was over.

I head back to Chennai as usual at 5 am tomorrow to be at my desk by 9 am. In three weeks we are off to the UK and the USA to visit family and friends. It's hard to believe but tomorrow will be my one year anniversary of living in India.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Power Cut, Madam

What a difference a week makes. My office situation in India has always been 'tough' by American standards. The power goes off for at least two hours per day and, although the computers stay on, the air conditioning goes off and the ceiling fans may or may not work based on whatever the hell day of the week it is. It is the hot season here and outside the temperature has been well over 100 degrees F.

Working on highly technical documents while sitting in your own sweat is a sure way to slowly go mad. Just today, I stood on my desk, reached up and manually spun the ceiling fan to make it work. It needed a jump start after having been off for two hours. These are things that I am starting to view as 'normal.' The rural town of Tiruvannamalai has better backup than this office in Chennai.

I  look forward to being in rural India on the weekends with David. If there was a way I could work remotely from there, I would. It's still something I am trying to figure out.


Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Corporate India

I'm finding it much nicer to work for an American company based in India for a number of reasons. My Indian coworkers are great and many have been to the corporate headquarters in CA. Although I am the only foreigner in my office, I enjoy it since I am trying to learn some Tamil language (the language of Tamil Nadu state) and at the same time I get to work remotely with teams in Ukraine, Singapore and the US. The office has a vibrant international feel to it; a real high point for me.

The weather is hot again today and the report was for a 41 degree Celsius day (104 F) in the city. I enjoyed reading the Indian weather report; it also had the 'wind chill' temperature as 100 F for today. Maybe in case I wanted to bring a light sweater?

I miss being in Tiruvannamalai, but I need to work at this point in my life. I get there each weekend for a break from the hot city and time with David. Life is all about trade-offs, really, and I feel lucky to be able to work in the city for a decent wage and retreat to rural India at week's end.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Staying Cool in Chennai

After a long lapse, I am back to my blog. Details to follow but suffice it to say that life got a bit wacky, and I ended up leaving the job that initially brought me to India. It had to do mainly with not getting a regular paycheck, and a boss who was less than honest on many levels. It's unsettling to be in another country with no job and no real sense of what is going to happen next. I wasn't even sure that my visa was still valid without the job, but found out that is was, and I decided to start looking for another job in Chennai.

I did know that I wanted to stay in India and did what I do best; I updated my resume and posted it on every high tech Monster.com type site in India. I got many responses but no one wanted to sponsor me for a new work visa, which meant a trip back to the USA on their dime. But, as luck would have it, I was approached after a two month wait by an American company with offices in India. They needed a senior technical writer and after 7+ interviews (!), I got the job.

I have been working at the new job for 2 months now, and it is summer in South India. It is HOT with a capitol HOT! I am still with David, and we are planning a future together so life is hectic at times with my back and forth trips from Chennai to Tiru again, but I feel blessed to have found a way to stay in India.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Gardening in January

I was out in the garden today and realized that it was the first time I have ever weeded a garden in January. Since working in the Chennai can be so full of pollution, noise and chaos, I look forward to my rural weekends in Tiruvannamalai. Right now, we are eating fresh arugula, basil, sweet potatoes, okra, and pumpkins from our garden. We have planted over 30 tomato plants, so are expecting a bumper crop in several weeks.

Traveling back and forth to Chennai each week, I sometimes pass fields of rice be planted by woman dress in brightly colored saris. I am always amazed at how grueling the work must be and yet how beautiful they are in their saris. I work in a wide brimmed hat, cover myself with 50 spf sunscreen and look like hell after several hours in the garden. I have seen the local workers leaving the rice fields in their saris looking spotless as they walk home after a long day bent over rice plants.

This is the most pleasant time of year in South India with cooler weather so a garden can survive for several months; come late March, the weather will become extremely hot for another several months and the soil too hot to even walk on. So for now, I am enjoying these "cooler" 80 degree Fahrenheit days of January gardening.


Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Happy New Year from South India!

I am back to my blog after a month long hiatus. It has been a busy month filled with workplace shenanigans, nonpayment of salary, moving from one flat to another, visitors from the UK and a cyclone named Thane.

After struggling to get paid  my full salary for three months, I had to start thinking if I really wanted to stay in a job that did not pay me without repeatedly asking for a paycheck. I am still caught up in this drama but in the meantime, I spent my first holiday season in India with David and some of his family from the UK. I have not missed the overload of Christmas crap that comes with the holiday season in the USA. It was refreshing to receive a simple pair of earrings from David and to give him a candle in exchange on Christmas Day.


On Dec 30th, Tamil Nadu state was hit by a huge cyclone named Thane, which struck the coastal city of Pondicherry with a vengeance. I had been in the city the day before it arrived; the winds were strong and the waves off the coast were higher than I had ever seen. The storm lasted about 12 hours; 40 some people were killed mostly by stepping on electrical wires that were downed by the storm. We were without power for four days but escaped any significant damage to the gardens or house.

I have no idea what the new year will bring, but for some reason I am hopeful that life will continue to bring me much happiness and adventure...