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strung out

Two weeks since I updated? No can can claim that's unusual!

I did the Run To The Beat half-marathon the Sunday before last. It was a bit disorganised at the start-- not really what I expected from the folks who do the London Triathlon et al (which seemed to go really smoothly), maybe they just weren't experienced in dealing with mass starts instead of waves. But there wasn't much they could do about a Jubilee Line train breaking down in London Bridge just when everyone was trying to get to the O2... necessitating walking from Cutty Sark and delaying the start time by an hour or so. It was cold and wet, but to be honest, I think that's not too bad when running, it cools you down: when it stopped I noticeably started to overheat. The forums are full of people moaning about the organisation, and I wasn't all that impressed myself either: I think I'll be looking for something different next year.

My plan had been that the run would tire me out and make it easy for me to sleep on the plane over to Bangalore. No such bloody luck. I think I might have dozed for a half hour at a time a couple of times, but proper sleep? Nah. I was too tired to read or even watch trashy films... I was jumping around between other people's screens, and just trying to sleep pretty much the whole way there :( It didn't help that I started to develop cold symptoms while waiting at the gate at Heathrow... a cold that gradually came into full force over the next 48 hours. Not a good start!

Heathrow was 10 to 15 degrees C when I departed--- arrived in Mumbai, 29 degrees C and steamy. With a cold. Yuk. Managed to get across to the domestic terminal on a noisy, tatty old bus--- welcome to India, indeed. Arrived at Bangalore, managed to leave my valued top on the plane because of course I wasn't wearing it! Not quite so hot and humid, which is a good thing, because the taxi from the airport to the hotel took 2 hours! Traffic here is just horrifying compared to home: a fair chunk of the journey wasn't along main roads (as in big dual carraigeways as it had started out), but along a slighty-wider-than-single-track unfenced road, with people walking either side, and dodging people on crappy little bikes, auto-rickshaws, dogs, cows, people just lying in the street... all the while people hooting like mad, and no street lights means everyone's headlights were on full beam. It was fascinating for about an hour. And then the next hour was largely spent wishing I could go home already...

Arrived at the hotel and relative peace. Still no refuge from the traffic noise, a pretty much constant background. And the humidity and traffic pollution combine to make the air round there horrendous. At this point, I was dropping on my feet, but still unable to sleep properly. Managed to somehow doze on-and-off to breakfast time. Had breakfast in the hotel, and then managed to get a cab to the office... wasn't about to try a 5Km hike there in a strange city on the first day!

(I've become utterly used to the idea that if you want to get somewhere here (and this applies in the US too) you can just plug a postcode into Google Maps or Streetmap or similar and be able to plan a route... In India, there are practically no road signs anywhere, not that the maps have the majority of the streets named anyway. The hotel gave its address, but resolving that to a location? Even figuring out where the tech park was was a struggle)

Fortunately after all that, being at the office was a welcome slice of almost-normality. Everyone there has been really friendly, which has aided immensely in coping with being here. Although one of the things that they recommended on the first day was getting out of the hotel and moving into the guest house instead. Which meant going back there and checking out early (with head full of cotton wool) and enduring another taxi ride with the luggage to the house. In retrospect this was a good move, but at the time, I just wanted to sleep!

Over the course of the next week, I managed to keep head above water: spending several hours a day talking through code and giving presentations not much fun when you've got a cold entering the green phase. One plus point was that a couple of other people were arriving at the guest house at the same time: so at least I had others around with something in common (foreign visitors working at Sabre). We visited the restaurant that serves the estate, which was very nice especially considering the full-meal price came to under a tenner!

Over the weekend, managed to arrange to get taken to Mysore, which is much momre of a tourist place than Bangalore itself. Kind of like someone staying in London going to Bath--- about that distance, too, I think. Which of course meant spending upwards of eight hours of the day in a taxi. Bleargh. It was strange being a "normal" tourist like that: I don't do it often, and tourists are usually people I'm trying to get past so often :)

This week, been chugging away in a taxi-work-taxi-sleep cycle. The guest house's caretaker cooked us a damn fine dinner one night... even I had to stop eating! I've not been venturing about the city very much: one of the problems with being in a guest house on this gated estate is that it does discourage you from leaving. And everyone drives arouudn the city (or gets driven around) if they possibly can: I'm feeling like a piece of luggage being carted around :|

Well, I fly home in a bit over 36 hours now. It's been interesting: but I'm not planning on hurrying back! But if I do have to come back, at least I'm likely to be less apprehensive about it.

Photos so far are here

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Steve Haslam

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