Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Lady of Leisure...

...has started for the week...

This morning, I went out for a 62 minute run around the bikepath in Muirfield. I was so afraid I would get lost. In fact, on the return trip, I had to keep looking back to get my bearings; things look different going out than coming back. It was very hot and humid. I was glad I had my water bottle with me. I was also glad that my iPod needed charging because had I had it with me, I may not have paid such close attention to where I was running. On my way out, I passed Cher who promptly informed me "this sucks." I could not agree with her more.

Came back to the house, showered, ate, and played with Little Alex (Cher's granddaughter) before we headed out to the golf course to see who we could see. Man. It was HOT HOT HOT. Inside of 5 minutes of sitting there on the 12th green, I suddenly felt a rush of water going down my front. Cher also mentioned the same thing right at that moment. We walked around and got some pictures of a few golfers and visited every gift shop. We finally ended up at the shop in the club house - it took about 20 minutes for me to stop sweating. I think I sweated a GALLON in about an hour at the course.

There was a brief thunder shower - it POURED - but now it's hotter and more humid than it was before.

I am thinking that I need to sign into work and see what's going on. So much for Lady of Leisure...

Monday, May 29, 2006

Random Thought: Traveling

Foreign travel really messes up my system and my training schedule.
It's so damn annoying!

Back in the swing...

...o' things...

Today is the first day that I've felt good since coming down with the Indian Gut Bug last Monday. I actually ate normally and could tell whether I was hungry or not. In fact, the feeling of nausea has subsided, and the cramping has ended. I think they've ended anyway. So far so good. I even had some sushi this afternoon followed by a couple piece of watermelon and all seems to be in working order. Of course, I have not tried any alcohol as yet. We are cooking out bbq'd port kebabs for dinner tonight. I might have one beer and see how that goes.

This morning, Joe, Cher and I went to a bike path and met up with Craig (a friend of Cher's) to go for a run. Actually, they ran and I walked. In fact, I ran/walked. I started out walking, had every intention of walking, but I got bored about 5 minutes into it and so I started running. A slow jog but it was still faster than walking. I took it easy because I didn't want to shake things up in my gastrointestinal area so I alternated 5 minutes of walking with 5 minutes of running. I did this for about four miles in 52:16. Not the fastest. But not the slowest. I am just happy I was out there moving along.

We are in Ohio and it's Africa-hot here. I can't believe how hot it is - can't imagine what July will feel like if it's this hot in May...

On another note, we didn't get into St. George Marathon. Given that, we decided that was a sign from God to take to slow and stay close to home this fall. He's talking so we're listening. Given that, there are a lot of marathons to choose from. And I would like to get back out on my bike this summer. While I am here, I think I have to figure out my workout schedule for when I get back to Boston. It's going to be a very busy summer...

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Packing for Ohio...

...and a week of fun and sun at Cher's...

Thank goodness I only have to pack shorts.
Unfortunately, it's not going to be all fun as I have a few meetings I need to call into.

I am packing my recipe for the moroccan eggplant dish and some Korean spices that Cher doesn't have.

I also get to see the new baby! ACK! I am bring my camera and will take lots of pictures. I'm also bringing my long lens for the golf tournament. I am anxious to try it out on a sporting event, which is why I got it in the first place - that and sightseeing. Changing the lens back and forth is a pain - now I know why people carry two cameras! - but I think I can leave the long lens on at The Memorial.

I am hoping to feel better enough to go for a run. I am packing running clothes and a bathing suit.

Visting Cher & Milt is great. I can really go and relax. I don't have anyone on my back to do stuff all the time, have them hanging on my shoulder, waiting on me to go places and do things, breathing down my neck and generally stressing me out. Instead, we do things together and we just know when everyone needs space. No one has to say anything; it just happens. There is no unwarranted "expectations", no judgment, no disappointments. It's a great time. Cher and Milt are awesome to hang out with. Unless Cher gets grumpy.... hahahahahaha!!! Ahem.

Okay. Gotta go finish packing and get dressed for the day.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Gut bug...again...

I still have it.
It's not that bad, but just bad enough for me to want to have a bathroom close at hand just in case, and not want to eat because my stomach is so numb that I don't know if I am hungry or if I am cramping.

It's been about five days since I contracted this thing. So this morning, I called Harriet. She was in Albany shopping with MH. Anyway, told her what happened and she didn't seem overly concerned. She basically said that I got an Indian e.coli and that if I am going to be traveling to India again, I might as well become immune to their e.coli. Spoken like a doctor - no sympathy or words of encouragement - just the facts, ma'am. Anyway, I won't die. Thank goodness. She also said not to take the Imodium. That would just "block things" and it's best to get rid of the e.coli from my system. As long as things are not bad and I am not getting dehydrated, I need to just let things run it's course.

Great.
Just what I wanted to hear.
I really wanted a miracle cure.
She did say that I don't have worms.
Great.

So, I've learned my lesson. Hotel restaurants from now on. That and high end spa-style restaurants that cater to westerners. SV felt really badly. Friday he IM'd me at work and asked how I was feeling. I told him I felt lousy and that his attempt at killing me didn't work. I think I made him feel bad. Whatever. LOL! He'll get over it.

Pictures from Sunday, May 21...

...can be found here...

Last day of pictures unless you want to see the pictures I took of my group and the office... which you probably don't.

This was the last day of sightseeing. Thank GOD! UGH! I was so exhausted.

Sunday morning, SV and his daughter and niece came to pick me up with the driver. We went to a safari at the national park. Cannot say the name to save my life. It was very interesting. On the way there, we stopped at the local market. I've been to a few markets in other countries so I knew what to expect. The thing that struck me was the similarity of the things that were being sold - coconut, jack fruit, tomatoes, Jasmine flowers, etc. Then produce turned into clothing, then into a fish market. Or was that the fish market and then the clothing.

The safari was good. I had my big camera so they gave me a prime seat. Of course, my not being Indian had "BIG TIP" and "TOURIST" practically tatooed on my forehead. I managed to get a lot of shots. The fact that the driver and the somewhatofaguide pointed things out to me and kindly waited for me to get the shots - from BOTH sides of the bus - helped a lot. And after the tour was over, of course the somewhatofaguide put his hand out asking for a tip - so I gave him 50 rps - about $1USD - almost a day's wage for them.

After the safari, we went back to the hotel. SV's wife, mother and father joined us for lunch. It was the Sunday Brunch and it was hugely successful with the family. It was important to host the family. It was a welcoming type of thing that showed that SV was important to the company and that he was valued. It also showed how wealthy the company was to be able to host the lunch at this hotel. And since jobs are a family thing - well, it always pays to have the parents like the company - helps put pressure on the employee to stay with the company... it's an Asian thing. Hard to explain. Marriage and jobs are a family decision and usually you listen to the advice of the parents.

After lunch we went to the School of Ancient Wisdom. Very interesting place. You get there to learn about metaphysics and philosophy and to live a path to enlightenment. Hard to explain. But needless to say that much of what I saw and read are things that I believe in - how connected we all are to each other, how connected we are to the universe, how one person's actions and thoughts have such far-reaching reverberations, the mind body universe connection, how music, color and light affect our bodies, and the function of vibrations - how each part of us has and internal music or aura and how it responds - whether in curing an illness to preventative care to religious beliefs. It was very interesting and if I lived in India, I believe I would attend the retreats there. SV is going to schedule some sessions for the team out there.

On the way back to the hotel, I explained to SV how I needed downtime. I've been going and going and I've had no time to replenish my energy. Turns out that he is always lonely when he comes to the U.S. and he didn't want me to be alone. I explained to him that the touring was wonderful and I loved it on the weekends but during the week, I don't have to be with people every single waking nanosecond of the day. He didn't really understand until I explained the difference between and introvert (me) and an extravert (him). I don't think he understood but he certainly got the message.

Dinner was in my room. Wonderful room service. Quiet. Alone. Away from the teeming hoards. No one to harangue me, no one to respond to. Sweet sweet isolation...

Pictures from Saturday, May 20...

...can be found here...

Saturday morning - the days seemed to drag so slowly. When I talked to Joseph on the phone, I figured out it was because at 9:00pm India time, I would talk to him and it was 11:30 am that very same day. So I would go to bed and the next morning when I talked to Joseph, it was the same day as yesterday!!!

Saturday morning, another manager (who we will call EM) who works for me (reports to SV) came by to pick us up. That morning, we went to Iskon Temple - home of Krishna. Hare Krishna. Remember him? Yeah. Found out that Hare is not his first name. His full name is Krishna and his is a level 2 god that is associated with Vishnu - one of the three main gods in Hindu (Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva). Again, the sculpture and handiwork was amazing. The temple rooftops were amazing. It was all amazing.

After Iskon Temple, we went to Bull Temple. On the way, we stopped off at a street-side temple so I could take some pictures. The colors were amazing. There are hundreds of these little temples tucked throughout the streets of the city. Some are big while others are as small as a small boxy shack - but all were beautiful; someone went through great pains and expense to honor the gods - even at the smallest and poorest of them.

Bull Temple was another totally different experience. There were vendors outside and it was next to a marriage hall. I took some pictures of a mango vendor and a coconut water vendor. On the path leading up, there was a stone carver turning pieces of granite into amazing carvings. On the way out, EM managed to bargain with the guy and talk him down from 125 rupees to 50. This is going from over $3USD to a little more than $1USD. Of course, I found out later that EM doesn't bargain... it was because I got up tired of the exchange and just walked away!

Bull Temple houses a bull. A big stone bull. Carved out of a single stone. It is the bull that the god Vishnu (I think) rides. He is worshiped. Not sure for what but he is important as there are caretakers that live on the temple grounds and flowers were carefully placed all around him by the worshippers.
After Bull Temple we went to Lalbagh Park - a very large park - about 300 acres in the middle of the city. We walked around and enjoyed the scenery until it was time for lunch.

Lunctime took us to the Ebony Restaurant. It was WONDERFUL!!! Thai food with an Indian influence - but then, all food in India has an Indian influence. Whatever.... It was on the 13th floor of a business building off MG Road. I took pictures of the view.

After lunch, we went shopping on Brigade Road, which is off of MG Road. It's short and chock full of shops. Our first stop was the Cauvery - a government sponsored store - you can't bargain there but the quality of the products is guaranteed. I ended up making multiple jewelry purchases as gifts, along with some handcarved statuary and boxes - amazing things like elephants inside elephants made out of a single piece of wood. There were tons of furniture. You could get an exquisite dining room table with inlay, with 6 chairs, shipped to America for only....drum roll... $5000. Yes. Five Thousand Dollars. FIVE. There is no way you can get solid wood with the workmanship I saw for that amount of money in the U.S. In fact, each chair would have been over $1000 in the good ole U.S. of A. Then there is the china cabinet I saw. Same style. Same amount of money. Unbelievable. For that price, I wished I could buy a house just to put it all in. Oh, and the swing... amazingly beautiful, solid, intricately handcarved - oh... $3000 USD. Yup.

I stopped off at a shoe store. OMG. The shoes that I saw on Newbury Street last year - for $325? About $22 USD. I bought two pairs. Indian leather slippers with beading. Beautiful. I also bought two pairs of sandals - $17 each. I spent about $93 on four pairs of shoes. I saw it on my credit card statement this morning.

And those shirts I bought the week before when I first arrived? Silk, hand-embroidered? Four shirts. $73.20. Yup. Yup yup yup.

After lunch, EM handed us off to SV who met us at the car. We dropped of EM near his house and we went on to tour some business parks. I hated to tell SV that I, uh... wasn't such a corporate hound that I would like to tour an office park. But he was so proud and I didn't have the heart.

Another treat was to see the house that SV was building. These buildings are all built by hand - not cranes - only the most complex and largest of projects with the most aggressive schedules use cranes- and even then, they are not that big or heavy duty looking. For most building projects, they use a series of trees to prop up floor after floor. I took pictures. Also, they use concrete bricks. The only metal used are the girder things that run through the concrete bricks. These homes are very sturdy.

It was another late night, and K had to travel back to the U.S. the following morning at 6:30. So we went back to the hotel and ended up eating there at the local restaurant. he made an appointment for a ride to the airport and we called it a day.

I was exceedingly pleased with my purchases, of course.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

ARG!

So, I decide to watch an episode of Six Feet Under before I leave for the airport.

The first hint of an issue is when I read the first episode. Uh... huh? Nate has a daughter? Uh... hmmm... let me see what the recaps say... everything looks good... okay... yup, yup... Wait. Uh... what is this? I haven't seen this... and this one... ARG!!!

I ordered the wrong disk! I thought I had finished Season Two and it looks like I had one more disk left to watch. I can't watch Season Three before finishing Season Two!!!

ARG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I guess I'll have to go read my book.I hope I don't fall asleep.
Jeeeeeeeeeeeeezzzzz....

Leaving India......

...on the 1:35 am flight on Thursday morning...
I will be arriving in Boston at 12:25pm on Thursday.
Right now it is 9:47 pm India time.
I am already feeling sleepy for my usual 10pm bedtime. The hotel is taking me to the airport at 11pm so sleep will have to wait until the flight takes off.

Traveling back in time is an interesting experience. Now that I've almost adjusted to the forward time travel, I will have to deal with going backward. Thank goodness I can just veg out and sleep at Cher's next week. And since she has wireless, I can roam the house at night and surf the internet.

I've had a great couple of weeks with my team and although it will be good to go home, it's sad to think that I won't be seeing them together like this for at least another 6 months.

On a slightly encouraging note, my stomach is feeling slightly better. I stuck to french fries and curd rice again at lunch. In the morning, I tried a little waffle with a brown sugar syrupy thing (there aren't may maple trees in India) and the usual rice and cucumbers with a little bacon (more like a canadian ham).

I got back to the hotel late tonight due to some last minute meetings and requests for my attention from various staff members. But it was well worth it.

I gave the driver Anil a little bonus when he dropped me off. I hope to get him again when I return - if he is still working for the same company and is available, of course.

Okay. Now I have to try and stay awake until I leave for the airport.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Gut Bug

I think I have one.
After tossing and turning most of the night, I had a breakfast of rice crackers and pepsi from the in-room mini bar. Thank goodness I brought a lot of rice crackers from home. I also had them today as a snack.

My stomach isn't much better today - not as crampy as yesterday.
I am hoping it's nothing more than a 3-day bug - that's how long these things go for me usually.
I keep imagining that I have some weird third world tropical-ish disease.
Like Malaria or Typhoid.

Sigh...

This morning, SV and the driver came to pick me up from the hotel.
I let SV know about the situation.
We got to the office and the next thing I know, SV had had the driver go out and get three coconut waters - which means three young green coconuts.
It soothed my stomach.

At lunch, we all had a group event.
Can I just tell you how much I wasn't in the mood?
Well, we went bowling and it was a lot of fun.
Afterwards we went to lunch around the corner.
It was a buffet and everything looked and smelled wonderful.
I stuck to a punjabi potato dish and curd rice - which is essentially jasmine rice hand mixed with curd or homemade Indian yogurt. My stomach felt better. So tonight I ordered curd rice and a brothy soup for dinner. The room service guy was funny. I asked him if they had curd rice. He said, yes. Then he asked how I know about curd rice. LOL.

It's hard when you have a bug like this.
I can't tell if it's a sour stomach or hunger that's making my stomach cramp.
I do feel better after eating, however.

Monday, May 22, 2006

All the vegetarian food and curries...

...are starting to catch up with me...

Since I arrived, I've eaten mostly veg foods. Around here, you are classified as "veg" or "non-veg." "Non-veg" means chicken, fish & seafood, and mutton. It does not mean pork or beef (for all the obvious reasons).

I think I've adapted pretty well but I think all the roughage is starting to get to me. Or could it be the daily dose of spices? For the first time, I had an upset stomach today. I still have it 5 hours after it started. My stomach is aching and it's roiling and boiling. I took an Imodium when I got back to the hotel. Three hours later, I still feel pretty lousy. I had a banana for dinner and now I am not so sure that was wise. I'll let you know tomorrow morning...

I have two more days before I leave to head back to the States.
I. Must. Hang. On...

Pictures from Sunday, May 14...

...can be found here...

Sunday was a day trip to Mysore.
Not sure exactly where it is in relation to Bangalore but it took us 2.5 hours to get there, not counting the time it took us to stop for brunch along the way.

SV, my India manager, came to the hotel with the driver and his family.
We left the hotel at 7am.
When you wake up at 2am and can't get back to sleep, 7am is not too early for a Sunday.

On Sunday mornings, the city is not fully awake. We made it out of town relatively easily and without any of the usual hair raising onslaught of traffic coming at your straight on. No. That was reserved for the evening.

Mysore Road that connect Bangalore and Mysore was wide, divided, and paved. It passed for a "highway"...except in areas where it was dirt, unpaved, and single lane for both directions. You would travel for about 15 minutes, only to have to divert into the other lane. The only way you knew to do this is because the car in front of you did. There were not barriers, no lights, no police conduction traffice... nothing. If you were lucky you would come upon a large boulder placed in the middle of the road. You either ran into it and then into a ravine or ditch, or your followed the car in front of you into the oncoming traffic into the other lane.

Our first stop was the Hindu - a hotel in the middle of the highway that had a brunch. Traditional Indian food - Idly's, paratha, dosas that came steamed in some kinda leaf - coconut leaf maybe? They came with a sambar - a vegetable stew and a coconut chutney that you dipped your breads in.

After brunch, we continued on to Mysore. The first stop was the bird sanctuary. I have no idea what the name of it is but that is all SV called it, "The Bird Sanctuary." We took a boat ride in the middle of a lake, which turned out to be an inlet of a major river, and saw more birds and bats than I've ever seen in one place. I saw a couple of crocodiles as well. We got our own boat. When SV went to pay, he found out that it was cheaper to get a whole boat than it was to share a boat and pay individual fees. It turned out to be a good thing because we had 6 people in our boat and the other boats had about 12-14 people! And that's NOT including the rower. I should also note that there is a"camera fee" of about 15 rupees. This is about $.34. SV was appalled at the cost. Okay....

As we left the Bird Sanctuary driveway, we stopped and got some coconut water. It turns out that the green coconuts are young coconuts. The layer of white flesh in the coconut is thin and there is a large cavity filled with water. The coconut water vendor takes a mini machete and slices the top of the coconut off, leaving a small hole. He inserts a very long and very thin straw from which you drink. After your are finished drinking the water, you hand it back to the vendor and he takes his mini machete and slices the coconut open. Then he slices off a thin outer layer which he uses as a scoop to scoop out the soft thin layer of coconut meat. The coconut water is not that sweet but it's cool and refreshing. As the coconut ages, the outer green will turn into brown fibers - what we typically see at the grocery store in the U.S. - and the inner flesh becomes thicker and tougher forming what we in the States know as "coconut meat." The water is used by the coconut to mature and there is less and less water in it as it ages. It is also near-impossible to crack open, to which those of us who have almost decapitated or de-limbed ourselves using hammer and chisel can attest...

After the Bird Sanctuary, we went to the Summer Palace. This is the Summer Palace of King Tipu. I took a photo of the signage because there was no way I was going to remember anything written on it! We had to pay a fee (of course) to get in. For the Indians, the fee was 2 rps (rupees). For Foreigners, it was 100 rps. 2 rps is about $.04, while 100 rps is about $2.25. I will tell you, I've never seen SV so enraged. Then his wife got into it and couldn't believe "the cheating against the foreigners" as they called it.... I just stood there a bit flummoxed, wondering what the big deal was about...

After the Summer Palace we had lunch at the Hotel Viceroy. To feed a party of 6 people, it was around $22USD. And we were bursting. Filled to the gills. Ready to pop. $22USD. Okay... The hotel is on a busy corner (aren't all corners in India busy?) and I am not sure that I would actually want to stay there...But the food was fantastic!

After lunch we moseyed onto Mysore Palace. What an amazing place. Absolutely beautiful but the experience of traveling through is, well... an experience.

First of all, the PEOPLE. SO MANY PEOPLE. Wall to wall people. ARG!!! You cannot go into the palace with your shoes on. So SV stayed outside and kept our bags and shoes. Then we all went around a low building into into the outer palace area and waited in line. I have a aversion to bare feet. I detest having my feet get dirty so this was a really big psychology test for me. And to make matters worse, this also tested my very low tolerance for crowds. Even more so, it tested my almost non-existent tolerance for people touching me and getting into my personal space... Pushing and shoving... Then we went into the palace. We were like single red corpuscles squeezing through the smallest capillaries. Okay. Maybe you don't get that analogy. We were like toothpaste being squeezed out of a too-small hole. That's better. There was no break in the people. Shoving, pushing, touching, sweaty bodies colliding... BAH!!!

We saw the first floor. Okay. Whatever. We can't even stop to look at the display because you can't get close enough and when you do, you have to keep moving or get trampled.

Then we hit the second floor. Omg. OMG OMG OMG... Indescribeable. The colors, the gems, the vivid hues and pigments. Every inch of space from the floor to the ceiling is tiled, gilded or painted. The color motif was turquoise, I think. But fleck of complementary colors all over the blue - surreal. The center was cordoned off. The crowd thined and people sat on the floor to enjoy the space. I cannot imagine what the Sistine Chapel looks like but to India, this could be similar.

We slowly made our way to the third floor. A dancing room. Again so beautiful and more magnificent than the last one. I stayed there for a while. This was my favorite room. The color motif? Orange. Gold and yellow, red and orange. Beautiful. Beautiful beautiful orange!

After that, we went out to an open room. One side had no walls. Again, color was everywhere. But one side looked out onto the lawn where they once held sports and other games that the royals and dignitaries and other important people could view.

We left the palace grounds and slowly made our way back to the gates. As we got closer, we were accosted by people selling postcards - we were not allowed to take pictures - and necklaces of jasmine flowers. They are small, dainty, sweet and aromatic. I'd never seen jasmine before - just the tea leaves and the essential oil - which doesn't really count. These are beautiful flowers. They seem delicate but are surprising strong. On the strong they look like miniature leis. But in the evening when the flowers open, they emit a wonderful aroma that I immediately recognized from the hotel.

The ride back to Bangalore was hair raising. Riding in a car after nightfall is not advised. Basically, there are no lights other than the headlights of oncoming cars. Most of the accidents take place at night. So do the deaths. I am waiting for another post to talk about the traffic. It's unbelievable.

ARG! Hippocracy follows me...

...everywhere...

There is no respite, no escape, no haven for the weary...

So, I am reading Boston.com to find out what's going on back home.
One of the first headlines is about Condoleeza Rice giving the commencement speech at Boston College - that dreaded hated school which I consider to be nothing more than an irritating pimple on the butt of the ACC. They are mere pretenders to the throne, rather uppity about their place, and due to one man - Doug Flutie - they believe they have entitlement and birthright to sit at the table... (Dook is the boil on the butt of the ACC...)

Anyway, they are protesting Condoleeza Rice giving the commencement speech due the fact that Catholics are against war. Yes. Because they are pacifists, I suppose. I didn't know that they were peave loving... Jeez, the world changed while I was in India...

A quote:

"...she ... challenged her critics' assertions that the Iraq war clashes with Catholic morals."
Okay. So, they have morals? Really? And war clashes with them? I thought repentence got them into heaven regardless what they did in life...

Another quote:

"On the level of both moral principle and practical moral judgment, Secretary
Rice's approach to international affairs is in fundamental conflict with Boston
College’s commitment to the Catholic and Jesuit traditions," the letter said.
The above letter is from:

"Two leading theologians penned a letter, which more than 200 members of the
roughly 1,000-person faculty signed, objecting to the college's invitation. "


Okay. I don't know much about Jesuits.
But I do know something about what I call the "Race to God." Or the "Race to Home Plate" - home plate being forgiveness, paradise and all the virgins you can screw for being a pious person on earth ... oh... sorry... that last bit refers to a different sect...

So, when, WHEN, have the catholics been peace activitists???
Have you heard of the CRUSADES???
HELLO....
They have done PLENTY of KILLING, PILLAGING, RAPING, in the name of God. I bet God is mightly please and has a big smile on his face at the memory of it all...

And shall I even mention that the crusades are going on today? Muslims, Jews, Christians alike are killing in the name of religion - I don't care what you call it...

Ugh. I am so annoyed with the damn human race.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Indian apartments...

...have been a point of curiosity for me...

Driving around Bangalore, there is no rhyme or reason to how people live and work.
The streets are filled with cars, rickshaws, moped and motobikes, and bicycles.
There are no sidewalks so people walk on the streets.
Beyond that are buildings. The style in the south is cookie-cutter.
The basic building looks like a two-story box.
The top box has windows.
The bottom box has either a garage-door style opening in which there is a counter or there is a large boxy window with a default counter and a door.
There are usually things hanging from the door jams and window jams.
The whole thing is a mess.

The buildings are set on "blocks" with alleys/streets/dirt roads in between.
If you look down the alleys, you will find either houses that look decent or construction shantys or something in between.
I find the whole thing a mess. I think I already said that.

There are gated condos (which they call apartments here) set behind the dirtiest, most polluted, poorest areas, in the middle of these shops. And in between, there are also some houses - which for me, are hard to recognize at first.
Nope. There is no "snob zoning" around here...

There is mud, open cisterns and drain pipes, tents made out of banana leaves and blue tarps right next to in front of these stores or on the side of the roads - in the most unlikeliest of places.

Anyway, I wondered what the insides of the apartment houses looked like. On Friday night, I got my chance to see.

My India Manager, SV, invited K and I to his home for dinner.
It's basically like any other apartment in the US except there is ceramic tile instead of hardwood or carpet. The rooms are large, fans in every room and this particular unit, there is a small galley kitchen. Windows are strategically places to catch the breeze and the ceramic tile keeps the heat down. Nothing too out of the ordinary. Of course, just as in the U.S., all apartments are different.

Now that my curiosity about apartments has been satiated, I wonder what those houses look like...

Random Thought

...while I wait for day two pictures to upload...

Tomorrow morning, I think I am going to walk for an hour.
The treadmills are in kilometers and I think they are inaccurate.
At least the one I was on last week was 10K/hour and I could actually walk...
Ya think that's a problem?
Thought so.
Of course, it could be the treadmill I was on and not all of them.
I'll have to get down there early to claim a different treadmill tomorrow.

And... not to also mention that it's HOT HOT HOT down there.
They do not understand that runners need it about 10* chillier than is comfortable for us to be happy while running.

Labels:

Pictures from Friday and Saturday, May 12-13...

...can be found here...
As usual, I might have problems with the link.
If you have issues, leave me a comment and I'll see if I can fix it.
These links are all a mystery to me...

On Friday, I arrived and took pictures of the room.
On Saturday, I walked around the hotel and took pictures and then we drove around Bangalore and ended up at the state house. The teeming hoards were out to enjoy the sunny and hot day. There were vendors everywhere and the traffic was as bad as I remember it.

There are more pictures coming as soon as I can get it uploaded.

Right now, it's 9:15pm IST (India Standard Time) and I am starting to get sleepy...

Random Question

Okay.
How much weight do you think someone can gain in a week. Maybe two weeks? Hmmm...?
I think I've gain 10 pounds since I've been here.
I could be empirical data that states "too much of a good thing..."

I am loading up pictures.
I am still on the first day of sightseeing.
I guess this is going to take a while.

Tomorrow, I am getting a hour and a half Kerali massage.
Two people work you with their feet. This is supposed to be the most intensive massage they give. I understand that their deep tissue sports massage isn't much of an "oucher" so I thought I'd give one a try.

Tuesday, I am getting a facial.

I need a rest from my rest.
My India Manager, SV, doesn't like me to be alone.
He thinks that I will get lonely. I found this out yesterday! After a week and two weekends! ARG!!!
Uh... no. I do not get lonely. I like lonely. In fact, I love it. A lot.
But, I've met his family - wife and kids.
I've met his parents.
I've been out all day on weekends without a break... and I will get more into that soon.

I've found out even more things about the Indian culture which I will enumerate as soon as I can get these &^%$!! pictures uploaded!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Thursday dinner special...

...at ZEN was a Seafood Buffet...

All you can eat:
Sushi
sashimi
dim sum
korean specialties
thai specialties
grilled fresh seafood

The sashimi was the best and freshest I've ever tasted. In. My. Life.
The dim sum of pork and shrimp dumplings were soft and tender and fell apart in your mouth.
The korean food was a bit disappointing but then I'm Korean and no one makes it the way my mother made it. But it was still pretty decent.
I didn't try the Thai dishes since we had had Thai the night before.
Now, let's talk about the seafood grill.
Rock lobsters.
Scampi - these are about the size of lobsters with front long black claws about 8 inches long.
Prawns - these are gigantical shrimp
assorted fish - which I didn't partake in since I rare eat my fish cooked

We ordered the rock lobsters, the scampi and the prawns.
They came back grilled, sweet, succulent... indescribable.

We had had a pretty big lunch at Ginseng at the Orchid Hotel earlier in the day. So we didn't eat too much filling carbos at dinner, opting for small tastes and mainly protein.

The lunch at Ginseng was unbelievable. It was Pan-Chinese fusion. Hot and Sour soup, then a vegetable fried rice, along with Szechuan style double cooked pork - small pieces, thinly sliced, first pan cooked crispy and then cooked in sauce. Delectable. Along with that we ordered vegetarian dish cooked in Hot and Sweet Chili Garlic Sauce. Mushrooms, baby corn, carrots, tofu... all cooked in a wonderful juicy sauce.

If I lived in India, I'd be a vegetarian. Although beef is available at the hotels, I haven't had any here. I haven't had any cravings for it. I've had mostly seafood and vegetarian. They create amazing things with an unbelievable variety of lentils and veggies and fruits. The fruit is amazing! Watermelon, mango (it's mango season), pineapples. The hotel also makes it's own juices - I've had carrot (amazing), watermelon (loved it), guava, sweet lime, orange, and mixed fruit. Green lentils, yellow lentils... they grind it all up and make a flour - you make the same things you would make with wheat flour. You can even mix it with rice flour and potatoes. You have rice and potatoes, tofu, corn... Amazing.

Sleep note: I have settled into about 5 hours of sleep a day. I got to bed around 10pm and get up about 3:30 am. It's weird to go to sleep and wake up on the same yesterday that everyone in the U.S. is living through.

Running note: haven't done a thing since four days ago. Next week, now that my body clock seems to be settling into a compromise, I will have to do something.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Stray cows and stray dogs...

...are everywhere...

On the way from work to the hotel, I saw about 6 cows roaming the streets of Bangalore, multiple stray dogs, two of which were dead. They weren't smashed or bloody. They were just sort of...dead. There are a LOT of stray dogs around here.

The traffic here is unreal. For anyone in the states who think they have it bad, remember that it could be worse. I will try to take pictures. Tonight, we had a dinner to go to. It took us an hour to get there. After dinner, it only took 10 minutes to the hotel. That means it should have taken on 15 minutes from work. I don't know how people get anywhere around here.

The poverty here is unreal. This morning, on the way to work, I saw three children who I couldn't describe as anything more than street urchins, crossing a busy street, dirty dusty clothes, looked like they hadn't bathed in a week and probably hadn't, carrying a white bag. I asked why they weren't in school. The reply was that if they go to school, who will work to bring money into the family. The families are so poor, the children are just income producers. For those in the U.S. who complain about their needs, their desires and what they are "entitled to", they need to know that they live in relative wealth in comparison. Does it make poverty in the United States right? No. But it puts things into some perspective, however small. Poverty will never be eradicated. It's a physical and univeral impossibility. There will always be "haves and have-nots." Always. There will always be those who are less advantaged than others. Always. It's a universal law, just like gravity and the %-age tilt of the earth in orbit...

People here make $2USD a day. 1 US Penny is a good tip. Food for thought.

At work, there are these butler people. I call my manager, SV, and he calls one of the butler people and they bring in my tea. Indian tea. Served in real china with saucers. Then they come back and take the cup and saucer away. No paper or plastic. Real silverware, too.

Today I ate lunch with my counterpart in a private dining room. There are two of them. They brought in a special meal and served us. Wonderful. Although they didn't bring us napkins. So SS (my counterpart) looked in the cabinet and finally scrounged some. We were highly annoyed. The indignity of it all! To say the least, I am a bit shocked at my indignant reaction. LOL!

Tonight we went to a Thai restaurant (Ram Naam) at The Oberoi. It's on MG Road (Mahatma Ghandi Road). It's very busy and very expensive. The food was wonderful and the service was excellent (what else is new). There had been a downpour in the early evening. It rained in buckets for about 3 hours and then it cleared. The rain had cooled down the heat. The restuarant had outdoor covered seating, as in a very large cabana or gazebo. There were rolled up bamboo shades and white billowing curtains. It was quite surreal. It's unfortunate that jet lag made me feel like my head was in a bag.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Body clocks...

...don't like change...

Mine is especially difficult to change.
It takes me the same numbers of days as the number of hours I go forward or backward in time.
For example, if I have a time zone change of 9 hours, it will take me 9 days to acclimate.
What this means for this trip is that as soon as I acclimate, I will have 4 days of peace and then I will turn around and fly home and start the process all over again. 9 1/2 days. Sigh...

I woke up this morning after only 4 hours sleep.
Last night I actually slept for 9 hours. That was the first decent sleep I've had. As my body settles into a new rhythm, it seems to rebel for a couple of days at a time. I am hoping to get a lot of sleep tonight.

If I had to live in India, I would be going to work from 2pm - midnight (10 hour days). It's practical so that I can also cover half a day of US time.

Since I last wrote, it's been an very busy few days.

On Sunday, my India manager SV met us at 7am with driver and family in tow. We made a long trip out to Myseore with a stop for breakfast. I had already eaten but it seemed rude to turn it down so we ate a little. The food is so good. I think I've gained 5 pounds while I've been here.

We toured a bird sanctuary and took a boat ride along a river tributary.

We went to the Summer Palace of King Tipu.

Then we stopped at the Hotel Viceroy for lunch. The whole lunch for 6 people was $22USD. You tip 25 cents. And that's a lot. People make $2.50 a day and that's a good wage.

Then to Mysore Palace. It's a shame we couldn't take pictures. The first floor was okay. We had to take our shoes off while touring the castle and I wondered if it was worth it. Then we hit the second floor. My breath was taken away. I was speechless. The colors, the mosaics, the painstaking intricate patterns painted on with fine brush strokes. The brilliant colors. India is a land of deep pigments - on the clothes and in the buildings. I have never seen colors like these. We saw the drawing room, the receiving room, the dancing room, the viewing room where they viewed sports on the great lawn. The gold leaf...amazing stuff.

The most interesting thing is that everywhere we went, Indian paid one price and foreigners paid another. At the Summer Palace, Indians paid 2 rupees (less than a penny). Tickets for Ken and I were 100 rupees (SV paid for it which concerned me a little). That's about 2.25 USD. I thought it was fine but SV and his wife were outraged. They thought it was too much and the difference between Indians and Tourist was outrageous.

It's interesting they so openly "gouge" the tourist. Interesting way to build up tourism in your country...

We made it back to the hotel around 8:10pm. A full 13 hour day.

I took a lot of pictures. I will post them as soon as I can.

Yesterday, we had a full day of work. Our days don't start until about 11am. So the driver comes to get us at around 10am.

We have the same driver the whole time we are here. His name is Anil and he is a very good driver. If I lived here, I would have Anil as my driver.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Munchkin bananas...

...are very tasty...

In my hotel room, I have a plate of fruit, a plate of cookies, a place of chocolates, and a plate of India sweets made of boiled down milk with coconut sugar. I am not positive that it's coconut sugar but it's not beet sugar, cane sugar, brown sugar or maple sugar. I know how all of those taste. And I do know that they use a LOT of coconut here in south India. It's a process of elimination. Anyway, all this food is replaced daily, whether I eat them or not. Very strange. Very wasteful.

Anyway, the bananas are tiny.
They fit in the palm of my hand.

So, to continue the saga of Julia's Traveling Travails...
K and I had agreed to go to the gym at 7am and then meat for dinner at 9:30 am.
I remember waking up with a start. I bolted straight up, looked around, and then fell back.
That's all I remember.
Then something else woke me.
Must have been hours later.
10 am.
OMG!
I call K.
He had just gotten up as well... ten minutes ahead of me.

Well. Hmmm. Well well well...

We finally make it to breakfast in Citrus, one of the three restaurants.
K was gonna get eggs.
Eggs?
I thought you didn't eat eggs!
Whatever.
I am going to get Indian food.
He changes his mind.
We decide to get three dishes and share them family style.
We get paratha with potato, potato dosa, masala indli.
Amazing stuff. A sensory sensation.
Absolutely wonderful.

After breakfast, we waited in my room for SV to call to make arrangements for Sunday. And we were also waiting for N to call to make arrangements for the day. I work with N. SV reports to her but not for long. SV is being reorged to SS, which is a good thing. N was getting a little expansionary and SV was feeling the pressures. Anyway, N is very nice and I do like her on a personal level. She is Indian by birth and after 30 years in the U.S. after having raised her family, she signed up to do a tour in India for 2 years and ended up staying another year. Rumors are that she will never leave. Why would she? She has a housekeeper, a driver and a retired husband who plays golf all day. She even negotiated a membership to the golf club for him. When we met met with her today, she did mention that "one gets used to it very fast."

After the calls, we basically walked around and took pictures. After N arrived, we left and went to a local clothing store basically in a neighborhood. She said that these businesses are cropping up everywhere. There is no storefront, and you can't find it or know about it unless someone tells you about it. I ended up buying four shirts. They were about $80 USD. Total. Silk. Hand tailored. Hand embroidered. Unbelievable. I think I want to do more shopping!

We went to Mynt at the Taj West End for a bite to eat. The service was slow but the food was very good.

It is interesting. As a guest of India, I try to be nice and polite to the "help." It is interesting to see N interact with them. There is a certain sense of "keeping one's place" and "keeping others in their places." There is no chit chat or formalities, no small talk or "filling the silence" with the "help." Communications are short, curt, and very concise. Exasperation is shown almost immediately if things don't go your way or if something is considered too slow or not "up to snuff." There is a sense of entitlement due to the money you are paying and your place in society. It's out there, right on the table. I, on the other hand, say thank you - probably too often - and you're welcome - probably inappropriate. Sometimes it's not good come in and upset the natives... when in Rome and all that...

Around 8pm, K and I stepped into the Library Bar for a snackie and a drink. Very expensive at the hotels. We did make reservations at the new ZEN restaurant. It is right behind their signature restaurant, Jamavar, which serves authentic southern Indian food. The door leading out to the garden where the restaurants are located are manned by a pretty young lady in the standard hotel-issue sari. While we were looking at the menu, she came up and said she would take our reservations right then and there. Talk about service! We made reservations for Thursday night, which features the seafood buffet! The menu has Chinese, Korean, and Japanese food including sushi and teppanyaki. I am going to have to eat there four times.

Oh and those saris? You have to either Indian or really thin. Two years ago, I tried on the tunic and pants (not a sari) and I looked like a whale. Upright, walking, lung-fish whale.

Speaking of expensive, I noticed a sign that said that you can go to the Leela in Kerala (next state down south of Bangalore, beaches, resorts, etc.) for the price of rs3750/- per person. It's a resort on the beach. The rough exchange rate is rs44/- to $1USD. You do the math. If you book that in the US you would probably pay standard US rates. If you book it in India, it's much much cheaper!! Next time, I might make a side trip and have SV book it for me in India! $84USD a person. Unbelievable.

The early bird gets the worm...

...but this is ridiculous...

It's 2:36 a.m Sunday Morning, India Time.
And I am wide awake.
They said this would happen.
I thought I'd have trouble getting up at 6am so I put in for a wake up call.
What was I thinking??

The flight out of Frankfurt was delayed by an hour.
So we made it into the future 1 hour later than expected.

9 hours of flying from Frankfurt to Bangalore.
Uneventful really.
Until we got to baggage claim.
Or was it before?

Sitting in Business Class meant that I de-planed first, which was a nice relief than the usual standing-half-bent-over waiting for all the slow people in front of you to move.

But things came to a standstill in baggage claim.
And things got really out of control - I felt I was in a parallel universe...

Just to give you a picture, the Bangalore International Airport was built in 1943 to accommodate 2 flights a day. It has never expanded,never changed except maybe to put in flush toilets and better electricity. Anyway, today it handles more than 325 flights a day. Two years ago when I last was here, getting out of the airport was a breeze. But there has been so much growth in the last two years that you couldn't recognize the airport.

First of all, two years ago, there were two baggage claim belts. This time, one of them was out of commission because they are doing some renovation. And by that I mean, missing ceiling tiles, some dust, things strewn about. No, I do not mean a large section was cordoned off due to major real estate-type expansion to make more room. No, I don't mean that at all.

Second, there was a flight that had landed right before us. They were gathered around the not-so-big-baggage-claim, clogging every inch of space you can imagine. Not just business people and non-Asians... I mean more IWF (Indians with Families) than you care to shake a stick at. And Carts. Everyone had a cart. EVERY SINGLE IWF HAD A CART. And they had it all pulled right up to the damn belt. It was like a buncha race horses pulled up to the gate ready to take off.

Third, this is a strictly low-tech operation. There is no overhead lighting panel that tells you which bags are coming on the belt. There is no flashing of light to signal that the belt is moving. No alarm telling people to stand clear. No PA system. Instead, there is a lone man walking around, shouting sans bullhorn, "This is Malaysia Airlines, Lufthansa will be after." Great.

We finally made it out of baggage claim. Let me tell you about the mosquitoes. They started the minute we made it to customs but in the main lobby area - which is like a large 1950's cafeteria complete with linoleum floor but without the furniture and kitchen area, the mosquitoes were amazing. Thank goodness I had had the foresight to carry DEET in my carry on bag.

My India manager, SV, was at the main door, yelling and waving his arm. The thing about this airport is that if you do not have a ticket you must wait outside in the "holding area" or outside in the parking lot. And you can't even get into the gates of the airport without a ticket of some kind, really. Our hotel sends someone to meet you and put you in a taxi as a courtesy service. Right outside of customs, there is a group of very well-dressed hotel representatives. They all help each other out. One asked, "which hotel, ma'am?" I told them, "Leela Palace." He whipped out his phone, made a call, hung up, and said, "he will be right here, "ma'am."

The stress of arrival was probably made more hectic by my travel partner, K. He is a very good guy. He is a "you see what you get" kinda guy. Nice, no hidden agendas, innocent, unworldly, simple, trustworthy... I could go on and on. He is "comfortable."

K doesn't travel extensively. I've known him for about 14 years. In all the time we've worked together, he has done more traveling with me for business than with his family for vacations. In fact, had he not met me, chances are he never would have traveled as much as he did. Internationally, he said he went to Germany once in high school or something. Can't remember. But he is a definite novice at this international travel thing.

First, before I left, I told him. "Don't rent a phone in the U.S. They get you coming and going. Wait til you get to India and have them rent you a local phone- you will get local rates and local prices and rupees are much cheaper than dollars."
What does he do? He rents a phone in the U.S.
In Frankfurt, he tells me this.
I said, "Why did you do this?"
He said, "because it's not that expensive."
"Oh, really?"
"Five dollars a day with a $25 rental fee. Take a look," and he hands me the paperwork.
"Oh, it's a $1 a minute. And you have a $1.99 fee for this, and a $2.99 fee for that...oh... so it looks like it's going to really going to cost you about $25 for a 10 minute call."
"What? You think I can attend meetings in the U.S. by conference call?"
I just give him this look.
"Oh... I guess I can't."
Bingo. Elevator starts going up...
I give him another look. "For hours at a time?"
"Oh..."
Elevator is still going up...
He thinks about it, mulls it over..."I think it will be in the hundreds of dollars for every meeting."
Ding Ding Ding...Elevator has reach the top!

I explained to him, that a local phone would mean he could dial into an 800 number (Which is what we use for conference calls) with just a connection fee or nothing (just like we do at home). But a rental phone from the U.S. means you have to pay for the WHOLE TIME YOU ARE ON THE CALL.
"ohhhhhh..."
Wow. That took a while and I am not sure if it was worth it.
Anyway, I still don't think he got it. His eyes were glazy.

Second story.
We arrive at the customs agent after de-planing.
I ask K if he filled out the customs form.
"What form?"
"This one."
"I didn't know I was supposed to fill it out."
"Why do you think they gave it to you if they didn't want you to fill it out?" (We are next in line for the customs agent.)
"I thought we were supposed to just hold onto it."
I look at him incredulously. To hold onto it? For what? a Souvenir???
"Fill out the paperwork. Fast."
I go through customs and I get outside of that room, and I wait.
And wait and wait and wait. By this time the lines are LONG.He is filling out his form, then he has to get back into line... I think about 30 minutes go by. I while away the time with the little guy who is sitting outside the room directing people to the baggage claim. I am not sure why he is doing this since there is only one way out - down the escalator to baggage claim. Oh. He did direct someone with two children and a stoller to use the elevator. I see why he was there. Silly me. Anyway, had I known I'd have to wait another hour for the luggage, I would have sat down and had tea with the little guy. Sheesh.

Third story.
I had told K, "don't talk to anyone. No one. Just stay close to me and hold onto your bags." When we finally get our baggage, we go through the final check point and before we make it out into the large cafeteria-like-room-without-furniture, someone comes up and drags K's bags off. I look at him, and say, "what are you doing?" I will tell you that Ken had a bit of trouble with his bags. He's not real coordinated. He had a little tiny laptop bag. A small one. The kind I carry back and forth to work every day. And two bags. he had told me that they were HUGE. One was for him and the other was for our India Manager, SV, who had come to the U.S. a couple weeks earlier, made a LOT of purchases, and because he had so much luggage, had asked K to bring one piece of luggage back with him and that he would met us at the airport. Well, let me tell you. The bags were no bigger than mine. In fact, they were both slightly smaller.

The bags were both on wheels. He had trouble getting them to line up. He would wheel on while the other one would flip to the non-wheel side and he would drag it for a while that way. He was tripping over himself and I was getting more and more impatient by the second. WHAT A DORK! WHAT A DAMN DORK!!! ARG!!!!!!!!!!!!

So, when the random Indian guys drags off his bag, I am incredulous! I know I shouldn't be but I am. I tell K, "What are you doing?? Go get your bags." I watch him walk off after the Indian Guy Who Has His Bags. We cross through the door into the large cafeteria-like-room-without-furniture, where the hotel people are greeting us. I stop, K stops. The Indian Guy Who Has His Bags keeps walking. The hotel people look at me expectantly. I tell Ken (rather, I HISSED at him, "GO and GET your BAGS!" I try to smile and be lady like. K walks off. The hotel people smile at me. I smile at the hotel people. I tell them which hotel. I look up, Ken is still FOLLOWING THE INDIAN GUY WHO HAS HIS BAGS! He hasn't even caught up yet! They are almost at the door!!! It's like he is following the Pied Piper! ARG!!! I look up, "K!" He turns around. "GET YOUR DAMN BAGS AND COME BACK HERE!" I say this in a Above-Whisper-Shout - the kind you hear in comedies where someone is trying not to shout, but you are "scritching" in the back of your throat, and everyone knows that you are shouting and that you are trying not to shout but you are still shouting. He runs up, grabs his bags from the guy and heads back. Now. WHY couldn't he have done that in the first place??? ARG!!!!!!!!!!!

The hotel people give me this look. I smile sweetly and tell them, "he's never traveled before. I told him not to let his bags out of sight." One of them smile and say, "yes, you should not associate with these people. It's too dangerous. Not advisable...." So even though they are shocked at my "shouting," my shouting at a man, a man who lets a woman shout at him, within the context of the situation, they seemed to understand that there was no other way. Phew.

As we follow the Leela Palace guy, I tell Ken, "I told you not to let your bags out of sight."
"He just grabbed them before I could say anything."
"No. He probably said something and you didn't have your wits about you and when you didn't respond he took that as a yes."
"I tried to get my bags but he was so fast."
"No. You weren't fast enough. You sped up to catch him finally when I SHOUTED at you."
He didn't say anything.
"That's how people die. Don't ever make me shout like that again in a public place."

As we leave the large cafeteria-like-room-without-furniture, SV greets us enthusiastically and leads us through the throng amassed at the doorway to the parking lot of taxis. The Leela Palace guytells one where to take us.

We arrive at the hotel. It's 1:30am. One-Thirty. A.M.
We've had no sleep, no food, been assaulted by mosquitoes, thronged by the masses, and I've personally had the lead a 52 y.o. CHILD through the customs process in a country with different customs, different languages, many less-than-scrupulous people in a dangerous area in complete and utter mayhem.

One-Thirty A.M.

I have a wonderful room. I am not on the Royal Club level but that's okay, the rooms are the same and I won't ever use the lounge up there.

Two-Thirty A.M.
I have unpacked and settled in. I am a bit calmer. K and I agree to meet the next morning at 7am to go to the fitness center. I talk to my Hunny Bunny. I have found two notes he has tucked into various places in my carryon and luggage.

Lights out.
Sigh...

Friday, May 12, 2006

Frankfurt, Germany...

...is a place I have to visit one of these days...

I have a 4 hour layover before my flight to Bangalore (now it's only a little over 2 hours).

I've got connectivity but I've already gone through both batteries and the plugs here are funny. Of course, I packed the adapters in the suitcase which is waiting in the hangar area to be loaded onto the next plane.

I also have a damn sore throat.
And I didn't pack the cough drops or decongestant.
I'll be sick for the two weeks I am in Bangalore.
I will be responsible for international cold infections.

Sigh...

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Leavin' on a jet plane...

...tomorrow and my bags are NOT packed...

I'll do it tomorrow morning.
After I go to the post office and mail a package to my sister and stop by the office to synch up my laptop with the new security software so that I can work while I am in India.

I will miss my Hunny Bunny and all his blathering.
Tonight, he was figuring out when I could call him since I will be 10.5 hours ahead.
He wanted to know if I had the number to his parent's house since he will be there this weekend. And of course, I can call him early in the morning and and late at night. He is so cute. But tomorrow I can't call him because I will be enroute and he will be playing golf.

I am always amazed during times like this how much he loves me, how much he enjoys my company and how he loves to tell me his thoughts and all about his day. And I am amazed at how he completes me. The thought of not having his updates and stream of consciousness talking makes me feel lonely.

It will be a very long two weeks.

Recent Photos

Pictures of Big Sur can be found here.

Pictures of Napa Valley Wine Vacation can be found here.

I've also added them to the sidebar.
Let me know if there are problems accessing it.

Random Thought: Wasabi Peas

So.
I kept hearing about wasabi peas and how good they taste and how good they are for you. So about 6 months ago, I went out and bought a bag. I opened the bag and had a few. I haven't touched the bag since. Everytime I go into the snack drawer, I see those peas and think to myself, "hmmm, I should have some of those." And then don't.

So.
I have these rice cracker packets. It has wasabi peas in it. I ate all of them in my first pack. Then in my second pack, I left a few. Then in the third pack, I left a few more. Now, I am probably on my 9th pack (I believe this bag comes in packs of 10), I notice that I am meticulously setting aside every wasabi pea I pick up onto a piece of paper (lest wasabi pea crumbles fall onto the tabletop), with absolutely no intention of ever eating them, knowing full well that after I finish the contents of the pack, I will meticulously put those wasabi peas right back into the empty bag, crumple it up, and throw it away.

Who am I kidding?
I hate wasabi peas.
I guess it's time to throw out the bag I bought 6 months ago that's still in the snack drawer.

Nothing like being un-prepared...

...for a trip to India...

Did I mention I haven't packed?
I do have a list of things to pack.
It's 14 items long.
It's a good start.

And just before I go, I get an email that TOMORROW they are putting out yet another security patch. Since I don't want to take a chance of screwing up my laptop before I go away, I will have to schlep into work to get the patch loaded up! What a waste of time! ARG!!! But I need to do this or I won't be able to sign into my email remotely. Sigh...

And no, I didn't run.
I wonder if I'll be in a better mood if I run.
Probably...

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Are you a missing link...

If you read my blog and I had a link to your site and I don't have it any more, I would love to relink to you. I am rebuilding my sidebar. So, please leave me a comment so that I can access your profile to get to your blog. Or better yet... please give me your blog URL.

Chris...your comments are well-taken and yes... I have started backing my template up...
of course, how long that will last is as good as anyone's guess...

I have no idea how I am going to rebuild all the links to all the places I've traveled to.
Well, there's no time like the present to clean things up.
I might have to modularize - so if I lose any single blog in the future, I won't lose everything...

I have to do a systems diagram.
Or a flowchart.
Or a page map.
Whatever they're called.
I need a PICTURE!
ARG!!!

Woeful and recovering...

...from my blogging mishaps...

I came home.
Bootted up the laptop.
Clicked on My Favorites.
Brought up my blog.
I squeezed my eyes tight and prayed.
"please please please..."
I opened one eye.
I opened the other eye.
And wah-lah.
There it is.
My blog.
All polka dotted.
No sidebar.
Just my blog and previous posts and archives.
Bare and naked.
Seemingly unitiated.
Simple.
Plain.

So I changed my template back to the original.
No more polka dots.
But, still bare and naked...

This is what I get for being impatient.
In my flurry to get it to come up, I screwed up my blog.
All the hard work of getting the links updated... gone gone gone...
And without a backup.
And you would think I'd know better, my being in the database field and all...
Sigh...

So, now I get to spend the next MONTH *&^%$#!!! recreating my links.
ARG!!!!!!

But for now, I am home.
The oven is warming.
The pizza is waiting for the oven.
And I have having a wee dram of which might be my most favorite now...Caperdonich.
Actually, Distillery #38.
Cask #14.
Chosen by the ScotchMalt Whiskey Society.
It's a Rothes (Speyside) distillery built in 1897.
Apple pie, cinnamon, cloves, spice, ginger, honey, and sweet.
24 years old.
Just the right age.
Hmmm.....

I need to order a couple more bottles for the ole collection...

Okay. A good sign...

...people are able to see my blog...

I, however, am unable to see my own blog.
I am not sure why.

I did reset my template to the pretty lighthouse one.
The good news is that when I previewed it with the template, I did see my blog.
Then I published with the new template and I am unable, once again, to see my blog.
But then, I couldn't see the polka dot blog either but a.maria says she can - I got her comment forwarded to my email.

Anyway, I will see if I can check it out at home.
This is really just maddening.

Once I figure this out and get it fixed - even if I have to create a new blog and retype everything - I will have to spend the next year recreating my sidebar....

Totally screwed...

I was making some changes to my template. I was adding links for the Big Sur pictures. Then something "blipped." Half the template disappeared. When I published and viewed my blog, a pretty picture of a lighthouse and nothing else. WAH!!!!!! It almost makes me wanna take down my blog. I guess back ups are important.

Big Sur Profile...

...this is courtesy of our friend Ron...
Had I known this beforehand, I never would have run Big Sur.

There ya go.
Ignorance truly is bliss.

I think I am going to go into all my races totally ignorant.

Ugh. I feel like a slug...

...because I haven't run since last Wednesday...

I thought I would like recovery.
My idea of recovery is to Do Nothing.
I find that Doing Nothing is Boring.

Tomorrow, I'll haul my lardage to the gym and give the t-mill a whirl.
If it's not raining, I'll give it a whirl outside.

In the meantime, work has been "no stress."
I was in a good mood yesterday.
You could have ask me for almost anything and I would have said "ok."
The other bit of surprise was that my whole staff practically was in town due to a in-person class in the afternoon. There weren't enough offices or cubes to support them so they ended up sitting at the kitchen tables, taking over team rooms and conference rooms for the day. Regardless, they were all in good spirits.

Thursday, I am heading to India for two weeks.
Did I mention that I haven't packed?
Well...I do have a list...
I am going to India.
What is there to pack?
A bathing suit? In a conservative country where women are swathed in layers and layers of sheet-like material? Right.
All I need are workout clothes for the fitness center, work clothes, my camera, long pants, a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, DEET, iPod, supplements, and my malaria drugs. Which reminds me that I have to start taking them tomorrow...

Friday, May 05, 2006

The final count is...

...19 cases...

Of wine.
That's what Joseph just said.
Got an email from Gina this morning; three cases have already arrived.
Good thing I will be in India when Joseph writes out the next check to American Express...

This morning, we had breakfast with Cher and Milt.
They were off to visit Alcatraz.
We are now in the hotel relaxing before the long journey back east.
We will see Cher and Milt in three weeks.
Strangely, we didn't fight and we didn't kill each other.
In fact, we said "good bye" with smiles and hugs.

I still say we need to find a way to live closer to one another.
I need someone to run with and maybe Cher will like biking more if she had someone to ride with on a regular basis. I told her that biking is more fun in a group.

We talked about Cathy and her training schedule.
I don't know how she does it. She trains up to 18 hours a week.
That's a lot of hours of training. I have no life (practically) as it is and I only train about 5-10 hours a week, 10 being on the high side during peak marathon training. And even then, I want to just poke my eyes out because it seems that all I do is, run-work-eat-sleep-run-work-eat-sleep-blog...

Talking to Cathy was really inspiring.
I have to think about this and maybe redo my "life schedule" so that I can get in better and more training. Cher made the suggestion that I only go to the remote office once a week, alternating weeks between RI and NH. She has a good point; in thinking about that suggestion, I realize that the people I meet with in NH are sometimes people who work in RI, because everyone just travels around so much! And when she suggested it, I immediately felt a sense of relief, like I would have more time. Time is such an precious commodity. I definitely have to think about this some more.

Okay. Time to go to the airport...

Big Sur Recovery - Thursday Report

Today is the day to say goodbye to Maggie and our little slice of Palisades paradise.

After a breakfast of toast and scrambled eggs and cheese, we packed up and left. In the driveway, I found Maggie and give her a hug and patted her profusely on her cute little head. I took a lot of "goodbye pictures" and will post them as soon as I can.

Cher and Milt left earlier because they had a ball game to catch.

Joseph and I took a little more leisurely approach. We ended up at Miner Vineyards.

We found Miner during our last visit and we were looking forward to this visit. Patti in the tasting room was amazing. We paid $10 for the tasting of 5 wines. In the end, probably tasted about 12 wines - a few that was just released, a few that was yet to be released, and a couple that were not even opened for tasting! Everything was amazing! One after another, I couldn't get enough! We got to the taste The Oracle. The guy who bought the winery a few years back was one of the founder of Oracle Corporation. Anyway, we tasted the 2002 Oracle and the 2001. We also tasted an amazing white wine that uses the natural yeast that is left on the grapes as opposed to yeast that is added later on in the process. We bought four cases of wine, got an extra 5% discount on everything we bought, and ...drum roll... joined the wine club.

At the end of the tour, Patti went to help a couple that had a smaller transaction. I took the opportunity to go to the ladies room. When I came out, there was Joseph and Patti waiting for me. We were going to get a special, private, unexpected tour of the wine caves. These caves are newer and cleaner than those at Schramsberg. But they were still amazing. We also got a barrel tasting of the 2004 Oracle which would be aging for another 2 years in French Oak barrels. And we also barrel tasted a 2003 - which would be bottled later this year. Fabulous. We will be getting cases of those when they are released.

After Miner, we were off to lunch. Based on a recommendation by Patti, who had thrown in a free bottle of their Rosata to have at lunch, we went to Pizzeria Tra Vigne. We shared a plate of fried calamari and a pizza with coppacola, mushrooms, spicy sausage, sundried tomatoes.

Then we drove to San Francisco. We checked into the hotel - Cher picked it out again - and got our internet fix. They don't have WiFi but they do have internet.

For dinner, we met our friend Cathy at Yabbies Coastal Kitchen for dinner. Cathy lives in San Francisco and I've known her for a long time. We don't see each other often - maybe once every year or so, but we somehow manage to pick up where we left off. She looked awesome! She has been training for Ironman Brazil, which is about three weeks away.

Yabbies had terrific food! I tried the Yabbies - Australian crawfish. They reminded me of the miniature lobsters we had in Iceland, only smaller. They tasted like sweet baby lobsters! I also had a terrific seared ahi Tuna which was non-cooked to perfection! I ate every drop of everything on the plate!

After dinner, we walked up a couple of blocks (and I do mean UP!) to Swensens for ice cream. there was a Swensens where I went to college and my favorite was banana ice cream. I was so happy to see they still had it on their menu after all these years!

Then it was a quick goodbye to Cathy and we took a cab back to the hotel. Cathy is amazing. She inspired continued conversation about training and time and how to get it all in, long after we said goodbye and arrived at the hotel. Sitting in the lounge area, talking about how Cher and I might do the same, we realized that training for 18 hours a week is no small feat. 18 hours is a LOT of time! That let us to realize how truly amazing and disciplined Cathy is!

Well... it's getting late. Tomorrow we will return home. I can soooo be a lady of leisure. The four days of not having any connection to work was really good for me. I can't remember the last time I was that relaxed. And it makes me realize more and more how much I really am not needed at work. Now, I just need to make the people who report to me realize that, too.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Big Sur Recovery - Wednesday Report

Wednesday morning, I made the gang pancakes for breakfast and headed out. Unintentionally, we continued with the sparkling wine theme. But first we visited Graeser, where we joined the wine club and bought a couple of cases. After we told them about it, Cher and Milt bought a vine.
Graeser recommended that we visit The Frank Family Vineyards. The tasting was a lot of fun. We sampled both sparkling and still wines. Yes, my vocabulary has gotten broader and more specific. They had a wonderful sparkling red wine. And their still wines were wonderful as well. We joined their wine club and bought a case. I think. I am losing count.

On the recommendation of Graeser (again), Joseph made an appointment at Schramsberg for 2:15 for a 2:30 tour. So, with a few hours to kill we took a lunch break at a BBQ place in Calistoga – awesome. The hot BBQ sauce was not for wimps. It was HOT. I wish I could remember the name of the place! I can't find it on the internet! It's easy to find. It's at the intersection of Route 29 and Lincoln Ave right in Calistoga. They have the BBQ fire going in the parking lot. It looks like a divey, fast food kinda place. If you are there, stop and eat! It's well worth it!

After lunch we had 30 minutes to kill so we went to Beneserre Vineyards, a small Italian estate winery. What an unexpected find that was! They guy in the little tasting room was so nice and informative - not all of them are nice and informative, trust me. They have a wonderful wine call the Phenomenon, and what a phenomenal wine. All in all we got a case of wine and joined the wine club... egads... how many wine clubs is that...

We finally got out of there and headed out to Schramsberg. We didn't know anything about them. The driveway is hard to see. We thought it had to be pretty expensive and exclusive for it to be by appointment only. That's true and false. Some wineries are by appointment only due to the prices of the wines - let's say Opus One, maybe? But we found that that if the foundation of the winery was built after a certain year - I think 1989 - then they have to be by appointment only to control the flow of tourists and wine tasters through the valley. There are over 385 wineries and they seem to have a pretty good record of safe driving. We did see various limos driving people from winery to winery.

Anyway, we missed the drive and had to turn around. There is a very long single lane drive that goes up and up and up, bordered by a river in a deep valley on one side and a redwood covered hill on the other. It was a beautiful drive I would have appreciated more if we had not been running late.

The Schramsberg tour fee of $25 was worth it. The tour guide was really good. At the end of the tour, we found out that he worked for my current company back east many years ago! We had a really good conversation about it all. We got a complete historical narrative from Jacob Schram buying the vineyard to how they were put on the "map" to the current owner, Hugh Davies. His father died recently and his mother is still around running things behind the scenes. His parents bought and revived the winery.

It turns out the reason why the wine was served in Beijing when President Nixon visited for talks was because... well... they wanted to go with something local. As in American. Henry Kissinger had wanted the standby Dom. Anyway, turns out that the Davies got a call from the government requesting they bring x cases of their wine to an airport. There they were met by Airforce 2. Hugh's father (Jack) was passed through the gate in his truck with the wine in the back and they took the wine and loaded it all into Airforce 2. They were never told where the wine was going, nothing more. Then one day, someone called them and told them to turn on the Today Show. And there on the screen was Barbara Walters (I think) with a bottle of the sparkling wine, interviewing someone about the wine. After that their production of about 300 cases turned into 30,000 and now they produce much more than that. Since they, they have been at the White House for every state dinner.

Another bit of interesting anecdote. Turns out the someone in the White House asked someone if they knew of a good sparkling wine. That person turned around asked another person (can't remember the names) if he knew anything. Turns out THAT person had gone to Harvard and had been friends with Hugh Davies, the current owner of the winery. It's a small world...

Anyway, the wine caves were amazing. They were dug out by hand and are covered with a lichen material that looks like cobwebs. They are long and deep and very dark. The method of creating the wine is the same as that used at Mumm. But the differences in the process are vast. Everything at Schramsberg is hand-riddled. They have a guy who has been doing this for 30 years. He can riddle 8000 bottles in the same time that the best riddlers riddle 2000 bottles. A riddler is someone who turns the bottles in the riddling racks to get the yeast to the top of the bottle. They also use beet sugar instead of cane sugar. Not sure about the nuances but supposedly there are big differences in the result.

At the end of the tour, we tasted three sparkling wines and one red still wine. The sparkling wine was amazing and delicious. But the red still wine, a Cabernet called J. Davies, was fabulous. They had opened it five hours before we tasted it. Five Hours. Big, Broad, Deep, Complex... We bought many cases and, what else, joined the wine club!

Just a note. A lot of the wine we bought can be cellared. The bigger the wine, the longer we can hold it. For example, the J. Davies can easily be cellared for another 10-15 years! And sparkling wines keep as well!

Then it was back to the guest house after stopping off at the grocery to store to pick up some chicken for dinner. We sat around the pool, drinking sparkling wine, talking about all manner of things, have a great time, eating cheese and crackers, chips, olives, guacamole, salsa, sopressata, proscuitto… it was all wonderful. Then dinner of marinated chicken, spinach salad and rice pilaf. We did a good job of using up the leftovers!

What a day...

Big Sur Recovery - Tuesday Report

By Tuesday, my legs felt just terrible… so I went out for a jarring slow two-miler. It felt like my thigh muscles were gonna rip themselves off the bone. Dang.

After the run, everyone was up so I cooked breakfast. I was in heaven. Just set me in the kitchen and let me cook for a large army and I am happy happy happy! After a nice breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast, coffee and juice, we spent the day touring some wineries and purchased multiple cases of wine, as well, as joining a couple of wine clubs. Because Massachusetts is a backward, fascist state, we ended up shipping most of the wine to our good friends Amanda and Gina, who live in New Hampshire, where they would rather "Live free or die." Ahem.

At Dutch Henry, we had an opportunity to do a barrel tasting. OMG!!! It was a pinot noir that will be bottled in August. I think this wine ruined all other Pinot Noirs for us… Of course we ordered a case. Happiness… I think Milt is starting to get the idea of all the different red wines out there and how different each one is...

We also treated Milt to Sparkling Wine at Mumm. Milt doesn’t like champagne or other champagne-like things – aka sparkling wines. After visting Mumm, Milt still doesn’t like sparkling wines – the cheap stuff. He does like the good stuff. Happiness… Of course, Cher is very happy, too, since she really like Champagne and sparkling wines. We learned a lot about sparkling wines on this trip. When Joseph and I visited Mumm two years ago, we opted only for the tasting and took away two bottles. This time, we ordered a case or two, and joined the wine club. The tour guide had a good time with us. For the price of a single tasting, he pretty much brought out everything they had available for tasting, and then some! I think if he could have, he would have joined us at the table. Who knew that sparkling wines go well with buttered, salted popcorn and other salty and fatty foods?

For lunch we stopped in at the Rutherford Grill in Rutherford (where else?). The food was excellent, the portions were large. Cher and I had an excellent Prime Rib French Dip with au jus and horseradish cream. Cher had the mashed potatoes that looked like it had a lot of herbs in it, and I had the very wild rice and the cole slaw. Milt had a grilled chicken salad, and Joseph had the seared ahi tuna with a side salad. It was delicious.

Tuesday night, we had a five course meal on the Wine Train. It’s a train that goes up and down the valley while you are having dinner. We ordered a sparkling wine for the first three courses (a cheese and fruit plate, a nice salad, a trio of sorbet to cleanse the palate), and a nice red for the main course (Joseph had chicken au poivre smothered in green peppercorn gravy, while Cher, Milt and I had a port tenderloin medallions with hair thin sweet potato fries and a goat cheese potato cake).

The dessert was less than stellar, unfortunately. The chocolate tiramisu was not tiramisu – it was more like a chocolate bon bon with some whipped cream, slight breading, and a coffee flavoring of some kind. I only had a bite. Joseph got the Cream brulee with berries. I should have gotten that.

Our waiter was a bit of a fruitcake and he dropped a knife on the table. The ensuing splatter of food-stuff sprinkled across my silk tank top doesn’t seem as if it will be easy to clean. We also had a stop in the middle of a hayfield across from a Marriot to pick up a gaggle of cackling women who were so loud that they pissed off more than a few people. They reminded me about why I was never really good friends with girls growing up – all cackling and whining… Anyway...

Thank goodness, I grew up and found women who felt the same as I do about that. And I will say that there aren't many - they are few and far between...

Big Sur Recovery - Monday Report

One great way to recover from a marathon… WINE TASTING!!!

We arrived in Calistoga on Monday afternoon. We visited Beringer on the way to the the place we are staying in Calistoga. They had a really good tour that talked a lot about the history of the Beringer Estates. Very interesting. Then we had a tasting and we proceeded to buy three cases of wine. This was Cher and Milt's first time out and this was the first of many wineries we would drag them to. Turns out that Milt doesn't like red wines and only likes some white wines. Cher was exasperated, Joe came to the rescue!

The house we are staying at is tucked into the foothills of grape-growing country. It’s a guest house at Palisades Vineyards, a small winery where they only make a petite Syrah, Carver Sutra. We would find out on Thursday that their Petite Syrah grapes go into the Minor Petite Syrah. Miner is one of our most favorites! More on that later. Anyway, Joseph saw the owner on Tuesday morning and proceeded to buy a couple of bottles of Carver Sutra. He was told they could be kept for another 10 years. Wow. Right behind us is a vineyard. In front of us, there is a vineyard. We have a pool and a Jacuzzi. And TWO CORGIS!! One of them, Maggie, follows us around and is the sweetest thing. I think she is single-handedly changing my mind about Corgis.

We stopped into the local grocery store in downtown Calistoga and picked up some staples, breakfast foods, and dinner. That night we had rib eye steaks, spinach salad, rice pilaf, and a nice wine from Graesar which we picked up from the grocery store. It was nice to have a house with a real kitchen!

My legs didn't feel bad after the race but they still tired and starting to tightening up. Walking was becoming more difficult and going down ramps and stairs were starting to challenge me. Maybe I did run the marathon a bit harder than I thought... Because I had gotten a sunburn during the race, I couldn't even take advantage of the jacuzzi! ARG!!! The sunburn was still burning.

Big Sur Weekend - An Observation

Oh, and one last note.

What is it with all the CORGIS?? Was there some kinda CORGI convention in town? I have never seen so many Corgis together in one place in my life – they were all over the course pulling their owners behind them, and several at the finish line. I don’t like Corgis. Their bodies are too big for their legs. My sister has one. He’s a rabid-tempered, nasty , mean, cujo of a creature who can’t get an appointment at the local kennel because of his ill-temperament. Hmph.

Big Sur Weekend - Sunday Race Report

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

In thinking about this race, that refrain keeps going through my mind.

Big Sur is nothing if not a set of contradictions. Her beauty shines in the distance, luring you in with her siren song. And when you are held fast by her grasp, there is no protest because she has seduced you into thinking that the pain you feel over 26.2 miles is your drug of choice. And perhaps it is, because the pain is gone before you know it but the stories of the Big One that you conquered will remain for a lifetime.

Big Sur is The Most Difficult Course I have ever run in my life. In fact, if you had told me I would be doing a course like this, I would have put you on my “Crazy People, Don’t Talk to Them List”. Yes. I DO have one of those. I’ve heard it’s the most difficult course in the country and I believe it. Pikes Peak, Grandfather Mountain, Crater Rim Run… they’re not easy; they’re just different. Big Sur is also the most beautiful and the most exhilarating course I’ve ever run.

Big Sur gave me one of my slowest times. But when I finished, I knew I had accomplished something special. I went into this race better trained than ever. I had trained by running from Mile 9 (Natick) on the Boston Marathon course, to Hopkinton and back down because it simulated the run to Hurricane point. Little did I know that the training course was nothing more than a tasting, an appetizer, when compared to the Real Deal. I had run the Boston Billy workout, in headwind, and declared to Joseph that it was “the hardest run I’ve ever done.” I should have done MORE of this because it most closely simulated Big Sur, but without the views to take away the pain. I ran every single long run, posting faster and faster times. I ran hill repeats up and down Mt. Vernon Street. I ran hill loops, up Mt. Vernon street and down and around by the Common and back to Charles Street to start again at the base of Mt. Vernon Street. 4 repeats turned into 12 and I loved it. I am so glad I trained as I did because anything less, and I would have been like the skunk we saw at mile 7, bloodied, tattered, torn, run over a hundred times…dead dead dead.

Sunday morning, we got up at 3:00 a.m. This time I was not going to make the same mistake I made at Disney in January. We made our standard long run breakfast of oatmeal, had coffee and relaxed before getting ready. We were bussed out from Monterey to the starting line at Big Sur Station. We drove out on the race course in complete darkness. When I saw the saw the beacon from the Big Sur Point lighthouse, I knew from driving the course that we were getting close. Thank goodness we were driving in darkness. Big busses on windy road, on marathon morning, on a hilly course... Not sure I would have got off the bus at the starting line!

We got dropped off at Big Sur Station. Cher and I found a spot, sat down, relaxed, until it was time to line up. We made it back a few hundred yards and mingled into the crowd. The first half of Big Sur is easier than the second half. We had heard this from Sally and from others who had run the race. The first three miles are downhill. All downhill. Without. A. Break. This is followed by a series of slow inclines and declines. Because of my training, I didn’t even feel the inclines. At one point, I looked back to realize that we had been climbing slowly. The long climbs were followed by some sharp downhills. This culminated with a long descent from mile 9 to mile 10, at the base of Hurricane Point. As we rounded the bend toward the right, the road curves back around to the left (very winding road), I could see the Taiko drummers and feel the beat of their drums electrifying the air, as if we were soldiers going off to conquer the monster, in this case Hurricane Point.

At mile 10, I clicked my watch and did my 3:30/1:30 run walk. It took me about 28 minutes to run 2.2 miles straight up. On the other side, there is a steep descent and the real race started. Sharp up hills followed up sharper downhills, all without a break. I could hear the grand piano about a half mile before I got there. How unbelievable. They had hooked up speakers to the piano. A guy in tails, the roiling ocean below, the wind sweeping around the corner of the point… it was a scene out of a movie…

More sharp ups and downs. For the first time, I ate everything they offered, everything I would never dare to look at twice in any other race – candy, bananas, Gatorade, orange slices, strawberries at mile 22. In fact, I stopped and literally grabbed a handful of them. My body welcomed it all. I popped three advils at mile 14 and then another one at mile 18 to dull the slight twinges of pain and ache in my medius and outer hamstrings.

At mile 20, I noticed I’d been smiling. In fact, my face hurt from smiling. I found it all so darnn ridiculous that I started laughing. I couldn’t stop. A couple of times, I tried to NOT smile and it felt funny, so I went with it. I just kept smiling. I looked at everyone around – including the walkers from the 21-miler that were kind of clogging the road, ahem – and they all kinda just stared at me. I thought it was funny and I started laughing out loud. And I caught myself thinking, this is so damn hard. This course is so ridiculous. This is so hysterically funny. And I couldn’t stop. In fact, I broke out into song to my iPod about mile 23. I sang with Elton John – The Circle of Life – then Barry White, then Janis Ian, and Milla… all my favorites. I am humming and singing, passing the stream of walkers and some of the slower runners who hadn’t conserved enough energy.

A long stretch of downhill and then I see it. I had heard about it. The D Minor Hill at D Major time. I see it; I shake my head and I laugh harder and louder. I am happy. Amazingly, I feel good! I make it up the hill, and continue to laugh, I run a little faster across the bridge, I see the finish and the clock, and raise my arms in a victory wave and they announce may name and where I am from.

I cross the finish line and slow to a walk. I am still smiling. They cut off my chip and I get my medal – uh… it’s not really a medal – um… it’s not metal at all… it’s more of a medallion made of pottery? It’s beautiful.

Cher had finished just ahead of me. I lost her at mile .1 when I ducked into the porta potty. I never saw her again until I crossed the finish. We met up with Joseph and Milt and sat and had something to eat and drink as we whiled away the last hour of the race watching the runners come in. Sally joined us for a chat – she still looked awesome despite the heat, the crowd and the mayhem – don’t know how what with all the work she had been doing all weekend. Then Kevin joined us. He is so cute. He is always helping people out. Always. Not a moment goes by when he isn’t thinking of someone else. After all he had been doing, he turned his attention to us… Do you want a Bloody Mary?? Yes? I’ll go get you one… He comes back with three. Let me tell you… a Bloody Mary after a marathon is my new recovery drink! GAK! I never felt pain afterwards!

The cut off for the race was 6 hours. And right on the dot, they announced the approaching cut off. People were still coming in. Joseph goes to the finish line to watch. Sally goes to the finish line to help. Word has it that she practically shoved the last runner across the finish line just in time! It’s a wonder they didn’t fall!

My time? 5:06:25. My proudest moment, my third slowest marathon. But based on the course profile, the fact I had to duck into a porta potty right after crossing the start (when you gotta go, you gotta go), the headwind that started at mile 7 and wouldn’t let up until the end (okay, it did take a breather around mile 9 when it turned into a tail wind, and around mile 14 or so), I figure I ran a PR. On any other course, I bet I would have been close to 4:30 – maybe I would have broken 4:30 given the same day on a different course. I had a good breakfast, I managed my nutrition well, I picked the right clothes, the right shoes; it was perfect.

Big Sur is an unbelievably well-managed, well-organized race. The volunteers and staff were everywhere. They were visible. They were approachable. Sally and Kevin took exceedingly good care of us! But then, it seemed that Big Sur took good care of all their runners and walkers. If you haven’t done this race, do it. If you haven’t put it on your list of Races to Run Before I Die, put it on that list now. To conquer the marathon distance is one thing. To do it at Big Sur is entirely another. But beware. If you can’t finish a marathon in under five hours, train like heck to do so. Then go and run Big Sur. It will be well worth it.

Wow. It felt so good. It was so damn hard but it felt so damn good. I’ll carry it with me always.

I will post pictures as soon as I can.
I am a very busy person.
Sheesh.