Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Goa Part 3 - Anjuna Day 1

After an 'exciting' cab ride we finally arrived at our hotel in Anjuna - the Anjuna Villa. It turned out to be a sweet little hotel with a nice pool and great location set back from the beach. Jed used the Internet cafe to finally get in touch with someone who could get in touch with his friend Ben.

NOTE - much less photos and events today as I mainly chilled on the beach and relaxed. :P

After that we wandered down, most places were semi-permanent structures, we were on the main street perpendicular to the beach, by there was a rocky cliff, we wondered where the beach was so we walked along the water front passing lots of shops selling mainly clothes that would be gold for a dead concert

Found a great place for lunch right on the water just before the beach started with a little rocky cliff- had a little CTM rice and Nan.

Jed ordered a walnut alcohol drink - which I sampled - god awful.

Jed's friend Ben arrived - really cool guy who is a professional poker player, afraid of Indian food though so he got rice and ketchup!?!?

Walked down to the beach finally and found where the main area was where people swim etc.

Nice beach, very chill not too busy at all. Many women trying to sell stuff, I can't remember how many times I heard:

"My friend, how are you" and "come see my shop" the sellers were all woman and ranged from about 12 years to 35.

(Ben trying to ignore the shop sellers)

The weirdest thing on the beach though were the cows. Yes cows on the beach.

Had a few drinks and just chilled out on the beach all afternoon and had some Kingfishers.

Went for a swim - the water was the perfect temperature, but a little salty.

Tried to go to a recommended restaurant dinner , but it was closed so we went to another recommendation which turned out to be the wrong place. It looked awesome from the outside but as we walked down the steps towards a gorgeous outside patio we were redirected to a dingy cafeteria inside, we all decided to bail and instead grabbed another taxi and went to the end of the beach strip. We ate at this nice place near where we drank during the day right on the beach with candles on our tables facing the water. The menu had EVERYTHING and there were too many options, I figured Indian was the safest so I went with butter chicken and it was the best meal I had on the trip - who woulda thunk?

After dinner and drinks we went looking for a nightlife and walked along the beach in pretty much the dark, trying to avoid getting our feet wet. It seemed like NOTHING was going on and we went by this little restaurant on the cliff to have another drink. Scott got a god-awful Indian whiskey and I got another Kingfisher. There most interesting thing about the restaurant were the mangy wild dogs just sitting around. One looked like he was going to die any minute and another was a huge black one that was seriously scary. Finally there was a little shizoue like guy with totally cloudy eyes that I thought looked like the devil - this one scared Ben the most. :P

We decided to call it a night and make the next night the big one.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Goa Part 2 - Old Goa

While the others wanted to go to old goa, I just wanted to just get to the beach but I acquiesced, I was very glad I did.

After we found our cab and we were on our way. The cabbie himself was a riot - we weren't sure if he was insane, tipsy or slightly handicapped. On the way to Old Goa he kept trying to get us to go see various museums etc. that he was obviously getting kickbacks from, it was frustrating because we kept having to struggle to understand what he was asking, only to realize it was ANOTHER museum or thing we didn't care about.

Once we got to old Goa I was pleasantly shocked.

Since the lonely planet guide said it is hard to believe that Old Goa was once bigger than London and Lisbon, I was expecting a Panjim-sized city only a little more run down. In fact there is really nothing left AT ALL - it is essentialy a ghost town except a tiny litle strip and some old churches.

To start we walked up the hill from the main strip up to the ruins of St. Augustine Church. On the way, since it was Sunday, we heard some nice choir music coming from the elderly infirmary/church across the street.

St. Augustine Church, which despite being abandoned only 150 years ago is now almost completely in ruins. It reminded me of the forum in Italy, which was abandoned over a 1,000 years earlier (double check).

It was pretty neat to walk around 'inside' the church

It was also DAMN hot.

We went across the street to check out ANOTHER church, this one had a famous weeping cross. It was incredible how OLD everything looked and how unkept it was (mold on the walls etc). Despite it being Sunday there was NO ONE there, and you could see how in a hundred years it will end up like its sister church across the street.

We walked down to the main area for a couple waters/pepsis and Jed to try and call his friend Ben who was on his way from the United States and had no idea where to meet us, not even which beach or city in Goa!. The only phone we could find took rupee coins and Jed was going through them like mad as it only gave 15 seconds. After about 40 rupees and a lot of frustration he gave up.

We then entered the main ground of the active churches, a man tried to get us to pay to enter, but we just walked past. Still not sure if he was trying to rip us off or if we were breaking the law, I like think the former. ;)

(AmberScotty and Fitch)

(This is the only photo from the entire ttip of just me and Scott :P)

There was some pretty aggressive souvenir selling, but there were very few foreign tourists other than us. One item they were trying to sell were flowers and these candle looking things, we saw later these were offering to St. Francis.

We first checked out the Bom Jesus Basilica which was a nice old church with many parishiners and tourists and contains the remains of St. Francis who was a signifant missionary for the area. His body remained incorruptible for decades after his death which was declared a miracle by the pope. Today they bring it out every 7 years (next time is 2014).

Then walked over to the very pretty Se Cathedral. As we approached we heard some awesome children's choir music and a string quartet.

Tourists are not allowed in though during service, but thankfully it ended a few moments after we got there. Went in and checked it out, again not kept up nearly as well as European contemporaries, but much better than the others.

Interesting to see Christianity so dutifully followed in India, it seemed kinda incongruent.

We wandered down to the old gate of the city and the water front.

After that we went to - wait for it - a church!

This one was notable for its complete lack of patrons on a Sunday and the rabid bats that lived behind the main altar that would fly out occassionally and we could here chirping.

After the last church we then slowly made out way back to our car. We were happy to find the car which meant the driver had not taken off with our stuff and after finally finding him to we left for Anjuna. On the way there (about 40 minutes) he was playing his music WAY too loud and singing along sometimes.

We almost crashed a couple times, it was weird that I didn't even feel scared at all. I was getting pretty desensitized this point.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Goa Part 1 - Panjim

With my SIMT assignment in Sunil's capable hands Scott and I were off to Goa with another exchange student Jed (the Wharton guy :P).

We flew out on Kingfisher airlines which is renowned for the following:
- Insanely hot stewardesses
- Insanely awesome service
- Attention to detail
- Free portering
- Friendly workers
- GREAT food
- AND Low prices

How does a company offer the lowest costs AND the best service? It loses money. But until it does I suggest EVERYONE fly on this airline, it just rocks.

At the Hyderabad airport we introduced Jed to McDonald's India. A cute little dog kept creeping up to us looking for food, Jed finally took pity on it and gave him his McChicken.

Anyways after extracting some producer surplus and using the WORST toilet ever in the Goa airport we decided to go to Panjim. Now like my approach to projects, I usually like my trips mainly planned out, but I have to say it was really refreshing to land somewhere and not know where I was going or staying or what, just that I had a return ticket in 3 days.

We decided to get a hotel as a base of operations and went to one that was recommended in lonely planet. She was sold out but told us an AC room for one night would be 1200-1500 rupees. Jed is a born negotiator, and I can't wait to see him in the workplace when a deal is going down, but here it didn't serve him (or us well) :P. He told the woman he was quoted 400 rupees as fair price, his intention was to anchor himself but unfortunately the woman behind the counter suggested places that we could get for 500 rupees WITHOUT bartering - arghh.

--As an aside I need to do some conversions here 1200 rupees is $30, 400 is about $10 these are for a double and there is no extra tax or anything this is the FINAL price.--

So anyways she recommended the quality hotel (not to be confused AT ALL with Quality Inn, and really the biggest misnomer EVER)which was 450 RS a bigger misnomer than any before it. We had a huge bolt on our door and four beds in our rooms, with no AC a hole in the roof, and, shall we say 'rustic' shower and toilet. The beds were like bricks and mine had no blanket, but it did the job.

In seriousness we decided to take the room because:
A) It would be an adventure
B) They sold kingfisher (750 ml) out of their fridge for 40 RS (1$)
C) We had heavy suitcases and wanted to drop them off and explore
D) We all pledged to go much more upscale on Anjuna beach the next two nights

(Scott looks really happy with our choice :P)

After dumping our stuff we sought out to explore the city, we walked around the city and saw some of the sights. We took a lonely planet walking tour around our vicinity, the highlight of which was a really neat Hindu temple for Haruman the Moneky God. It was painted a really striking orange and had great views of the surroundings. We took a path different than the one recommended by walking tour (which basically just backtracked, which turned out much more pleasant).

After the tour we went to the waterfront to see if we could get a sunset cruise, but we had just missed it. The other cruises were dark cruises which would have been pretty lame we thought. We had a good laugh at a car rental named Joey's that had a picture of a Lambourgini Diablo on the sign and offering tata's and toyota's in front of it. There was also a place offering dolpin cruises, with a guarantee to see dolphin's. This is when we started saying everything came with a "Joey guarantee" using terrible Italian accidents - this lasted the entire trip.

The city itself was pretty similar to Cochi all around, but not as big, but with a much more developed waterfront for tourism (relatively speaking). While walking along we began to get solicitations from men for massages which are very popular here. Unfortunately they are only performed by men, Jed had got one in Kerala and said it was the gayest experience of his life.

(Latest in technology :P)

After walking along the water we meandered through the city as the sun set, coming across the church again at night which was cooly lit with some neon.

We chose an authenitc Goan Portugese restaurant for dinner that came highly recommended to grab some dinner. The food was very good - Jed and I shared a fish dish and a chicken dish, but we went with a cheap Indian wine to go with it which was just god-awfully the worst I had ever had (Grape Juice + Grain Alcohol + Liberal Serving of Sugar).

After dinner we went to a little bar down near the big church. We initially sat downstairs, but were told there was an AC section upstairs which turned out to be both gloriously cold and empty. After a few rounds of Kingfishers we stumbled back to our hotel ahead of our curfew of 11:00 and drank a bit more in our room, we had planned to play some cards but we were too drunk to get our crap together and we passed out sometime around 12:00.

After a quick hair wash in the shower (while someone else went to the bathroom just over the stall). We got our crap together and wandered the city to grab some breakfast and find a taxi to Old Goa and Anjuna. Wandering the streets at 8:30 we found nothing was opened but we did walk through a bollywood movie scene.

We also started negotiating with taxi drivers and we let Jed work his magic, working the price down from 1100 RS to 600 RS for a drive to old goa, a 2 hour wait (!) and THEN a drive to Anjuna beach. Oh and he would wait while we ate breakfast at Cafe Coffee Day. The CCD guys let us in befire official open and were pretty cool about getting us whatever we wanted even if they hadn't put it out yet. After two chocolate fudge muffins, a water and a lemon iced-tea I was good to go.

We said goodbye to Panjim and left with our driver to Old Goa.

Last Week

After getting back from Kerala Scott and I were right back in the think of things at ISB as we had a ton of assignments to do. Our biggest concern though was the not the amount of work, but rather the fact that we had all these team assignments due throughout the week. Thus far the teamwork at ISB it just not in the same league at all in terms of effectiveness as Queens, mainly a factor of the fact that there is no lead/second structure. After sufferring through this week I got a great appreciation for how good the Queen's program is in the respect, and what a differentiator this will be in the workplace.

Without the lead the decisions are made very ad hoc with little or no planning. Research is done individually as is writing and people don't necessarily come to the same conclusion. For our international marketing final assignment Scott and I had to basically become lead and second on it for the thing to not be an all-nighter session the day before it was due (which is apparently the normal thing here).

As far as the other team member's contributions, grammar wasn't as big a problem as I would suspect, while the actual content was somewhat lacking, another symptom of people just not caring at this point too much. Scott and I for instance were the only ones who really did any in-depth research and had references for our points and pulled in course concepts and readings, while others tended to just write some pretty straight-forward filler material or describe marketing concepts. We were able to get the thing into pretty decent shape through a last night team meeting and ended up getting an above average mark. Managing strategic partnerships was a similar deal, except we were better organized at first. The thing went off the with the content and the consolidation. Again, people did not point out links to the readings, or to course concepts (except for me and Scott :P), the consolidation turned into a disaster when the lead consolidator left campus the day it was due after doing a consolidation that consisted of cutting and pasting everything into one big document twice as long as the professor said was the maximum, and her backup went into town until 11:30PM (due at 11:59PM). Again I had to do a little intervention despite having another assignment due the next day and consolidated the whole thing properly, spiffed it up, added a few minor things etc. we ended up getting over an 80 but we were just behind the class average. My final assignment for greent technology and sustainable enterprise was with two other exchange students (from Wharton and Thunderbird) and this went MUCH more smoothly. We all did research, we all added points relevant to the class etc. and we got the highest mark in the class. I had done the final consolidation and spiffed it up a little - while traveling with Jed, the Wharton student, he asked who did the formatting since it looked totally professional. :P

My last assignment/exam was just a two person assignment with my fried Sunil. After laying out the expectations we were able to work really effective together and got a great score.

With regards to some of the team dynamics I learned later from a colleague there that a lot of what I witnessed is not indicative of the program during the peak time before recruiting. At this point everyone is burned out and grades don't really matter so there is less incentive. While true, I think the lack of an effective structure of lead/second makes a complete collapse

And with that the academics were done and we were off to Goa!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Kerala Part 2

Better late than never here is part two of our Kerala trip (the remaining entries are mostly written, I just need to add photos and polish them over the next two days).

I woke up in my luxurious room the sound of the engines starting up as we began our travel back, apparently both Scott and I slept in past the 8:00AM breakfast time we had told them and they didn't want to disturb us.

The ride back was leisurely and we had another great meal for breakfast as the world past by. They almost had to drag me kicking and screaming when we got to port, but I decided not to make a scene. I will be doing this again though - soon.

We arranged a cab through the booking place, and while we waited I went back to that same house along the water where I hadn't been able to give the girl the pen the first day at first I thought I wouldn't see, but on my way back to the dock I saw here with her mother as she walked past, almost not even making eye - she snatched it right out of my hand as if to say "you should have given me one in the first place." :P

We decided it made the most sense to go back to the same hotel we were in on the Thursday, no problem again doing points and cash. We looked at what to do that day and the next and realized it was a little too late to do a full day tour of Cochin, so we decided to instead just drive in with a taxi later that afternoon and do a big trip the next day. The specific trip we chose was day trip for Sunday feeding the elephants: "After a lesson explaining the nature of the these beautiful creatures you will get to bathe and feed them" more on that later. :P

With the afternoon to just chill out we decided to do a little pool and swim up bar action. We had the whole things to ourselves, then met a cool guy Anthony from England who was there on business.

We invited him with us to go see Cochin, so after a little chilling out upstairs we went into the city to check out some of the sights, unfortunately most things were closed so it was a little bit of a write off. The Chinese nets were neat, as was the beach,, but nothing was happening, the Fish is sold literally 15 feet from where they catch it which is crazy.

When we asked out taxi driver if there was anything else that was good to see our guide/taxi guy wasn't too helpful since he didn't speak English very well, then he brought over another guy who also didn't speak English to translate so that didn't work out to well. :P

We decided to head back to the hotel and have a few drinks and dinner. On the way back though we saw some of the REALLY back streets of Cochin including "Jew Street" (that is literally its name), and some crazy patchwork illegal electricity wires going EVERYWHERE.

After a few drinks in the bar we had dinner at the hotel was a very solid gourmet buffet. Although a disco option was floated we called it a pretty early night and since we had the elephants the next day.

The trip out to the elephants was pretty uneventful, except our guide / taxi driver didn't have a F*ing clue where to go or what was going on (he also had pretty poor English skills which is weird because the whole hotel caters to western tourists).

We stopped for a little mango drink in a country house which was nice, but no one explained was was going on or happening next. Then we left and headed towards we assumed, the Elephants.

The Elephants thing was pretty kick ass (with some caveats). We were led down this steep-ish path to a pretty cool ravine that was pretty rocky with sporatic water. Never really seen terrain like it before - you could walk anywhere without getting wet pretty much if you were strategic, but there was tons of running water.

Scott and I sat around as these dudes cleaned all the elephants and no one is telling us anything about the elephants and what they are about etc. in fact NO ONE is talking at all, and what little talking is happening is among the cleaners in Malayalam I think.

We saw other guides encouraging their people to clean the elephants (The elephants get scrubbed with the husk of a coconut) and some of them where cleaning this HUGE bull.

There were also these guys in front of us cleaning a medium-sized dude, and two more cleaning a baby. The guys cleaning the elephant were trying to get it to lie down in the water, but he kept refusing so they started whipping its legs. They also used this crazy hook stick that applies pressure - FYI this a NATURE RESERVE. I felt REALLY uncomfortable and could just imagine what Claire Smith would have done. We decided to over to the baby who was proving to be less troublesome.

The big bull made a call and it was so loud it shook the whole valley, then the baby answered - crazy!!

After carefully making our way over to the baby we got in close and I asked if I could help clean it, they gave me a rhind and I started helping. The skin is SUPER tough and there are these sparse very course hairs on the elephants head and back, kinda like Jeff Goldblum gets in the fly. While the baby was on its side in the water it used its trunk as a snorkel . :P

He also tickled Scott's feet with it when it was his turn.

At one point the baby took a poop in the water and the guy picked it up and threw it - it was the size and colour of a whole cabbage. :O

We made our way over to the big bull who was now getting up and spraying himself etc. We were able to pose with it for photos and touch it. Soon after the elephants all started getting collected and we went up the hill again. Halfway up we were given the chance to feed them bananas - almost entire bunches (but the bananas were about 1/2 size of 'normal' bananas).

(The rest that follows was only captured on video which I still need to edit and upload)

They grabbed them out of your hand or they would open their HUGE mouths and you could kina put it right in - their mouths serioulsy look like the Squid in the Watchmen comic. :P When they take it from your hand you can feel the power of their trunks as they wrap around your hand - very cool.

Once we were done with the elephants we went for breakfast in a local country house, the food was pretty much off the reservation, and what I tried I liked, but I was pretty wary especially with the water which had tape over the cap. Our very cordial host tried to get us to eat boiled bananas since it was good for our stomach - both Scott and I were skeptical, but I gave it a dry.

After our lunch/brunch we were taken to what was supposed to be a museum, but is really a zoo, and the saddest most horrible zoo I have ever seen in my life. All the cages were the same size pretty much no matter what animal: monkey, eagle, or wild cat, and there were WAY too many animals in each cage for the most part. On top of it they were living in their own faeces in a lot of cases. It was just really not good at all. Besides the cages they also had some deer, and for maybe a 100 foot by 40 foot pad they had a good 25 of them, so strange compared to what I am used to.

There was one little monkey baby we nicknamed gollum because he looked EXACTLY like gollum that was so small and tiny that he could fit through the cage bars, the only thing keeping him in was the firm grip him mom had on him and his own fear presumably.

Neither Scott nor I felt wanted to stick around too long so we left after maybe 10 mins. We then had some confusion with our driver whether that was it for the elephants, I though maybe we were supposed to get a ride, what followed was a comedy of misunderstanding with our driver who couldn't understand us. When he wanted us to pay him to do it I think he was trying to just be helpful since he asked for the same price as was posted on the board, but because we are not familiar or comfortable with middle-men deals (and wary of rip-offs) we decided to just get out of there.

We went back to the room and decided to watch 15 mins of the battlestar gallactica finale we had gotten, which turned into 2 1/2 hours of course. Scotty had a nap while I chilled and then we flew back to Hyderabad for the last week of school.