Category Archives: Thoughts

Will The Last Person Out Please Turn Out The Lights?

Well, seeing as I’m back from India and relatively re-integrated into American life, I’m going to be focusing on other projects/pursuits and no longer updating this blog. Of course, all of the content/writing will remain up as a blogged history of my experiences before leaving for India and while I was there.

I sometimes ask myself a question when I think back at my experiences – would I have done this whole thing again, knowing now what I didn’t know then? Based on a lot of thinking and discussion, I think the answer would be yes. I feel that the whole experience helped me to become a stronger, more patient person. It opened my eyes to a culture I hadn’t totally understood before. I also met a lot of great people along the way that made things interesting. All of these positives definitely outweigh the temporary setbacks that we had to slog through along the way.

In conclusion, I leave you with a poem by Robert Frost entitled – “The Road Not Taken”

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

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Leaving On A Jet Plane…

Well, looks like my journey is finally ending. By the time you read this, I’ll be in a Tata Motors Sumo, driving the 134 km trip to Bangalore from Mysore for the last time – at least for the near future.

I’ll be taking off from Bangalore HAL Airport at 3:20 AM Indian Standard Time on December 22, 2007 (4:50 PM on December 21st, 2007 in Detroit), will be stopping in Frankfurt, Germany, then will be landing at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport at 1:35 PM Eastern Standard Time on December 22, 2007 – hooray for traveling across 10.5 hours worth of time zones!

First stop on the way back to Rochester Hills? Wendy’s. That little red headed girl represents freedom…and beef. I’ll probably cry tears of joy when the cashier actually has change in their drawer.

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Ship Out Date – Confirmed!

Well, looks like I’ll be home from India for good before Christmas! The company told me that I’d be leaving immediately after Friday, December 21st – less than 2 weeks away – so I’m planning on being on the next flight out at 3:00 AM on Saturday morning. I’ll actually arrive home at DTW the same calendar day at 1:30 PM, due to the fact that I’m crossing quite a few time zones. Sadly, the flights themselves are about 20 hours.

I’m officially released from E&R training and am now an “real” Infoscion in production. I also got confirmation that I’ll be posted in the Chicago area at a yet to be determined client location following my time here. Unfortunately, I don’t know how long the project will be – making housing a bit of a challenge. Hopefully that will change as more communication occurs with my managers this week.

In other news, the 10 or so Americans in my business unit are the only ones left here in Mysore of the original 87. Everyone else was shipped out to Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Pune and Bhubaneswar. We had some going away parties to celebrate/wish people good luck. I was able to capture some video from “The Road” – a new club here in Mysore – on Friday night.

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All I Want For Christmas…

After being here in India for over 4 months, I think my perspective on a lot of things has changed. One area in particular is fully realizing how many blessings I have had bestowed upon me and my life. I was raised in a loving family, never went without any necessary thing (food, water, clothing), had the opportunity to go to college, to pursue my interests. Before I came here, I don’t think I always appreciated them fully – I took them for granted at times.

However, I have seen things here that have dramatically changed how I look at things. I’ve seen families living in garbage dumps, seen children reduced to begging in the middle of busy roads in sprawling urban areas, seen people with limbs ravaged by polio – the list goes on. While I have had to focus a lot on my work, the sights I have seen still haunt me and probably will for the rest of my life.

I have done a lot of soul-searching and realized that when it really comes down to it – I honestly don’t need anything this holiday season. I have a good job, I live in a secure corporate compound with A/C, free bottled water, high speed internet, etc. There are people 200 yards away from me who struggle to survive.

To this end, I have decided to request that anyone who planned to give me gifts this holiday season make a donation to these charities instead. I’ve decided that the best thing I could receive for Christmas is knowing that others are being helped. As a challenge of sorts, I’ve personally donated $10 to each charity listed.

International Charities:

Save The Children: This group does a lot to help alleviate the suffering of children and families around the world, including right here in India. Their gift catalog allows to choose a gift that will help someone in countries all over the world.

Heifer International: This charity strives to help end hunger and provide those in poverty with a way to sustain themselves and their families – thereby stopping the vicious cycle. One can purchase an animal, a share of an animal, trees, etc. to further this goal. They operate all around the world, including India.

Samaritan’s Purse: By purchasing a gift through their catalog, you are giving something of tangible benefit to the poor and needy around the world (including India). From sponsoring an orphan’s care to providing vocational training, the gifts in their catalog will undoubtedly help others. They are an avowed Christian charity, but provide relief to everyone – they do not discriminate in who they help.

Local/Domestic Charities:

Salvation Army USA: They need no explanation – you’ve seen their red kettles all over the place for decades. I respect the work that this group does tremendously. I set up a “Red Kettle” on their site that you can donate to – kind of a fun way to track things.

Help A Willing Kid Foundation – Lansing, MI: This charity is very close to my heart. They provide kids in some of the toughest neighborhoods in Lansing with after school activities, including athletics (specifically amateur boxing), tutoring, etc. Through their work, they keep kids off the streets and provide them with a structured environment that gives them the opportunity to improve themselves and stay out of gangs/off drugs. I work personally with this all-volunteer organization and have seen first hand what the money raised goes towards.

Capuchin Soup Kitchen – Detroit, MI: Operated by the brothers of the Capuchin Franciscan order, the Capuchin Soup Kitchen provides food, clothing, and other necessary social services to those in need in Detroit. They have a rich history of serving the poor in the area.

Closing Words:

In conclusion, I just want to get it out there that I don’t expect anyone to donate if they do not want to. This is not a guilt trip or a burden I want to place upon anyone. I just want to help out those that are less fortunate by forsaking the tradition of receiving gifts for myself. Donate as much or as little as you wish – it’s the thought that counts. All I ask is that you let me know if you donate/where you donate – I want to put together a scrapbook/binder of sorts and maybe put together some neat graphs/stats for posterity.

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Visiting “The Least Of These”…

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'”
– Matthew 25:40, NIV

After reading of Nate’s experiences seeing “another side of Mysore”, I knew in my heart of hearts that I had to visit as well. I wanted to put what Jesus said in Matthew 25:40 into action.

I met up with a coworker’s aunt (referred to in Nate’s post as “The Saint”) to go visit the poor, aged and destitute on Saturday morning. It was an absolutely beautiful experience – quite possibly one of the more meaningful experiences I’ve had here in India. We visited these places (home for the destitute, nursing home, orphanage) in Mysore, India and I felt my entire body/heart just feel the presence/love of Christ – it was amazing. My coworker’s aunt personally blessed, prayed and sang (both in English and in Kannada, the regional language) with people that society had forgotten about – people who can’t walk, people with AIDS, people’s whose families have abandoned them, children with no homes – her passion and devotion was so sincere. As we rode in an auto-rickshaw, she was so excited to talk about what she wanted to do in the future with her ministry. I was completely inspired by her, the work that she is doing, as well as the Sisters who help run the institutions we visited.

Far from being a “downer” experience, it actually helped inspire me to continue my spiritual journey and continue to help those that need it most. I want to continue to show love to those who are in darkness, those who suffer, etc. – just as Christ showed his love for me by bearing the sin of the world on the Cross – thereby gaining final victory over death.

To close out, I’ll tell you about one woman I interacted with at the home for the aged. An elderly resident of the nursing home named Margaret, with cataracts in her eyes, asked me to pray for her. The thing that struck me is how serene and peaceful she seemed. She may not be able to see the things of this world in full detail, but through her faith she can see the things that really matter.

You can see photos of our visits here.

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Delhi/Agra Part IV: The Long Ride Home…

This concludes the four part series of posts about my trip to Northern India (New Delhi and Agra):

Early the next morning, we woke up, checked out of our hotel and hired a driver for a half day so that we could check out the few places we had left in Delhi to see. We knew it would be a fun day when the cab driver started trying to ask me something in Hindi – I speak about 3 words of it. Definitely relied upon pointing/slow speaking to get our points across. We arrived at the entrance to the Red Fort in Delhi and we saw two soldiers guarding it – our cab driver, after asking a random bike rickshaw driver, said it was closed. We took a look at our tourist guide about Delhi and realized that he had brought us to the wrong entrance – he was assuming the Fort was closed because he took us to the military controlled entrance (only part of the fort is open to tourists, the rest is a garrison for the Indian Army) and saw that there was no parking. After a heated exchange, we finally parked in the garage of a Sikh Gurudwara down the street and we made our way to the Fort. We were able to successfully negotiate Indian pricing yet again by flashing our neat Karnataka State Government papers – my tax dollars at work?

The Red Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was a huge fort built in 1648 by Shah Jahan (same guy who built the Taj Mahal) on the Yamuna River. It wasn’t as intricate as the architecture we saw at Agra Fort, but it was still amazing. There was a lot of Indian Army presence here – we saw at least 3 mustachioed soldiers with sub-machine guns wandering around. Also, we noticed that in India, roped off areas don’t stop people from going under the barrier like they do in the US – well, as long as the guards weren’t looking.

After we finished our tour, we went to one of the more unique places on our trip – Akshardham. The only way I can describe it is the Hindu equivalent of EPCOT Center. After ensuring that we didn’t have any of the 20-something forbidden items on our person, we went through a security screening that rivaled the TSA in terms of thoroughness. As we walked towards the temple, we saw some of the most ornate carvings and ostentatious statues we’ve seen here in India. I found it odd that they went on and on about the aestheticism of Bhagwan Swaminarayan (the “teacher” that the complex is dedicated to), like walking across India barefoot, etc. – yet he was represented by 14 foot tall solid gold statues. For a mere 51,000 INR ($1300), you could get the late guru’s blessings every day for the rest of your life. If that sounds a bit high, for only 11,100 INR you could get his blessings on only one day per year for the rest of your life. What a deal! They had an IMAX theater and boat ride, but myself and Jen passed.

After leaving that, we almost got dragged to a handicrafts store – but we demanded to go the airport. We assumed we’d only be a few hours early – turned out our flight was rescheduled for 4 hours later. Oops. I ended up studying for my work exam and listening to music for a while. The flight home was uneventful – save for the “jokes” section of the SpiceJet on-board magazine that had suggestions for ways to break up boredom on the flight that would get you arrested in the US – many included jokes about terrorism, etc. Gotta love the Indian sense of humor.

We arrived back at Infosys Bangalore around 10 PM and I hopped in a Tata Indicab and told the driver to go back to Mysore – he took the short cut, apparently. I was lying down in the back, in and out of sleep – but I do know we went down the very much unfinished tollway, went down some random dirt roads in rural Bangalore, but ended up back at Infosys Mysore in 2 hours flat. The long weekend was finally over.

FIN

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Moving On Up…

Moving Up In Mumbai” – Wall Street Journal

Interesting article focusing on three young guys from the slums of Mumbai, India trying to work their way out, with a little help from the explosive growth of the service sector there.

Having lived here in India for over four months, you can see a difference in how people treat their jobs. You walk into a McDonald’s here and you notice how clean it is – you could perform surgery on the floors. You go up to place your order and you are greeted by a fresh-looking cashier who adeptly punches in the numbers and has your food up in 5 minutes or less. These people actually care about their jobs. Reading about the former employment of those three guys – I can see why.

All I know is that I will never complain about my time pushing carts at Target again after seeing the type of stuff people have to do here for a living.

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