As I write this, back where I come from it is Tuesday 6:21am. Exactly 7 days ago at this moment I was waking up to start this trip. Now I am some 6 kilometers above rural southern India, on my way from a 30 minute stopover in Pune, to Bangalore for a few days.
I love regional airlines: they are like flying buses. SpiceJet runs a pretty tight modern operation. Anyways.
So, seven days ago...
Turning the corner from Napoleon onto St-Laurent, as I pass Laika, I look into my rearview mirror to see the sun rise over the Main. I'm racing north to meet Steven at Cote Vertu metro. He will relieve me of my car when we get to the airport.
As soon as Jer arrives and says goodbye to his girlfriend, we check in. Our gate is in the spanking new terminal. I satisfy my curiosity and find the "Maple Leaf Lounge", the Aeroplan members only affair, only to be sorely disappointed: while the whole airport has been renovated, the lounge has quite decidedly not. The public washroom in the terminal is in much better shape. :p All the free coffee and leather seats mean nothing if the toilet is a dump. Ahem.
I haven't really slept in three days and so I struggle to stay awake through the flight to Toronto and the stopover. Once on board AC001 to Tokyo, I see I have won the lottery for once: a full center row of four seats *to myself*. I secure my position, get entrenched, stretch out and pop a sleeping pill. Yes, I was *that* asshole this time. Jaa-ne!
Customs at Narita is always a pleasure. Once through, I quickly do my baggage reconfiguration--my backpack for India was stored in my suitcase, which I then relegated to Takyubin (Jer loved the "mother cat carrying kitten" logo. It is very striking.) for delivery to JoiLab to await my return. The Takyubin attendant laughed heartily when, shortly after asking me if I knew Japanese and having to help me with the form, I pulled out the little I do know, in perfect enunciation: "Ehhh chiotto matte kudasai... ah, hai, arrigato gozaimasu. Hai, hai, arrigato gozaimasta." pffff. Look forward to learning more this trip. :)
Called the shuttle which scuttled us out into the farmlands and dropped us off at the SkyPort hotel. Utilitarian. 'Nuff said. I slept while Jer picked the "meat" out of a vending machine cup-o-ramen and watched bizarre game shows.
JAL flight to Delhi was tight. Tight as in "holy shit these seats were designed for japanese children!" Sometime in mid-flight I realize the JAL logo contains a bloody katana blade. I wonder if JAL flies to Korea or China... ;)
We land in Delhi at 5:30 and it is already dark. Immigration is a cattle ranch/zoo which keeps us in queue for about an hour. Our luggage is already piled up in a corner when we make it to the pickup area.
After grabbing a taxi voucher from the "Delhi traffic police taxi stand", we head out. The taxi stand is a zoo. Five guys pass us over for our too-low fare to a shitty part of town.
Karol Bagh, who knew thee?
I don't know how to describe the area our hotel was in. It was certainly lively, and interesting... and dirty and noisy and nagging and decrepit and falling to pieces and... The Hotel Metro Heights was an oasis of sorts in the surrounding pandemonium. My room featured a toilet that had leaked a puddle and the beds were 10 year old foam pads. The room keys were the type they stopped using sometime in the 1800's. Oh well, settle in. At least the WiFi in the lobby works... sometimes.
It is, at this point, Thursday night.
Friday is spent in a meeting room in the basement of Hotel Metro Heights in a fascinating meeting about what to do to try to bridge african and chinese bloggers. This will come up again. Good stuff.
Late afternoon, Ethan Jeremy and I head out to eh India Habitat Center to test our gear for the next day. Stuff sorta happens, things sorta work and we manage to fry one of the WiFi AP's power adapters. I am dispatched to find suitable replacements at Cahn (sp?) Market, while Ethan zips off to a dinner I was originally invited to as well. "I'll be *damned* if I miss that dinner dammit!"
We find the power adapter in the first stall I duck into. Jer says he'll go exploring, I go find Ethan, Colin and "the Prof". (need to get details on this guy) I walk into the restaurant, proffer up the plastic baggy with the plugs and Ethan says "damn that was fast! you are the man!" Hehe, yes, yes I am.
At some point during dinner, it is decided that Ethan and I should liberate some beds at Metro Heights as the hotel has underbooked us and some f our people are being moved to an even less savory locale. Of course we graciously bite the bullet and... check ourselves into a 5 star hotel. Reduced rate not withstanding, this ate up my travel budget. ;p
Saturday is the first day of the GVO conference, open to the public. I literally spend the entire day wrestling our two WiFi access points. LinkSys WRT, I hate thee. Fun rooftop dinner sees me drunk off of two beers (or was it four?), and early to bed.
Sunday morning Jer and I present what we've been working so hard on for the last few weeks/months. It is all very well received. Much great feedback is given, many new ideas... much to do. The rest of the day is filled with mostly editorial discussions, which leaves me to have a rather painful exchange of emails with someone I love. C'est la vie. L'enfer c'est les autres. :\
I don't really remember the rest of that day except that included some milling about... oh right and a farewell dinner at a indo-chinese restaurant back in Karol Bagh called "Jade Palace" where they played hard electro music and I ordered "Mongolian Chicken" mere hours after hearing Ethan tell a story about a Purdue Chicken representative in Mongolia...
Ethan to me: "I cannot believe you ordered that..."
Early Monday morning, the GV heads have a debriefing, which goes more or less smoothly, and then head off across the street to a multi story, price regulated shopping complex. I try to think of gifts for others but my heart is heavy and selfish: I buy myself some coffee and tea for Tokyo, two silk "mufflers" (one deep red, one black), a 100% silk vest (quite thick and rugged) and some black linen pyjama. Oh, great, now I have to lug this around... ;)
This is when I go walk around: Connaught Place, down to India Gate, over to the Parliament Buildings (I think?), then a quick subway ride.
Before dinner, Ethan and I play two rounds of Quarto. We analyze the game and, since Ethan turns out to be a strategy game buff, even belonging to a group of friends who develop their own, I lose both. To my credit, only at the bitter end.
(this is getting long and boring isn't it... ;)
Tuesday I checkout and almost faint at the counter. Doh. Off to the domestic airport. Roughly 3 hours of travel time and some quite interesting views of Indian geography. I arrive in Bangalore, again around 5:30pm. It is 25 degrees celcius and there are palm trees. Mmmmm. Except that Bangalore is totally landlocked and a couple hundred kilometers from any ocean. So much for a beach vacation.
Jace has me meet him at Kochy's Restaurant, where i have a Kingfisher and seek kebab while I wait for him. Someone approaches me and says I look like "a journalist on the job, I must be from National Geographic." Nice. Sadly untrue.
Jace arrives and we rickshaw to his mother's friend's home for her birthday party, where we have dinner and a bit of conversation, then a ride from his brother to his studio apartment where I will hang out for a few days.
I spent today eating sweets, chasing a SIM card I will never get, and a few hours writing a grant proposal application back at Koshy's. The day ends at Jace's family home, a (second!) home cooked indian meal and omg, wifi! :D
(sorry if the story got dry... very tired...)