What I hear in the morning

When I wake up here, the first thing I hear are the birds. No ordinary chirping, these are tropical birds with strange calls. The bird calls invite other birds: right now, I hear a grouchy crow. The birds start at the very first light, while it’s still gray in my room. The light brightens and intensifies. Human voices, some of them rhythmic and hawking wares (tomatoes, corn, vegetables) shout. And the ever-growing din of the incessant traffic, the car horns, rickshaw horns, scooter engines, motors. Yet still, the woman across the street uses a long broom to clean the sidewalk and her part of the street.

I’m tired from absorbing so much, tired from jet lag. Yesterday, I didn’t even do that much beyond being at work, going to Coffee Day for a delicious blended coffee. India doesn’t have Starbucks (at least, not that I’ve encountered) but they do have Coffee Day, and it’s ubiquitous. In a place where people don’t frequent bars and drink in mixed company, it’s okay to tell your parents you’re going to meet someone at Coffee Day. It’s always buzzing with people and I think I might need to go investigate more of them. (Kick me, beat me, send me to a cafe.)

Off to shower and then to MSR’s spiffy offices. It’s very comfortable there. The interior design is gorgeous, the people are lovely, we eat lunch on the roof, there is yoga and kickboxing. (Not all at the same time.) I think tonight, I’ll try to venture out again. Last night, I just needed some rest and quiet. Okay, really, I played a lot of World of Warcraft but it helped matters.

First day

A wonderful first day … where I end up having lunch on the roof, hearing a good presentation, eat Baskin-Robbins, then take a motor rickshaw to the Oberoi, meet a mutual friend, meet young artists and the well-known founder of the NID– National Institute of Design, then go home again, finally meeting my sufficiently snarky new flatmate. (This is a high calling: I like her). The people in the gorgeous office are cool, including the people I’m working for and their people.

I was prepared to not love India. But India has treated me kindly in the last 18 hours, stares and expectations notwithstanding.

Countries we flew over

Countries we flew over

Originally uploaded by maximolly.

On our way to Bangalore, we flew over Iran and Kuwait. I couldn’t see anything as we flew over Mumbai — cloud cover, I assume. But all of this was fascinating to me. I’ve never flown over–or to–India or parts of the Middle East.


So tired. But I’m here. I’m at the guest flat that I’m staying in in Bangalore. More soon.

An hour before my flight to London

Enrique and I found that the BA terminal at JFK left a lot to be desired, but was just one AirTrain stop from Eero Saarinen’s TWA Terminal. It looks much smaller than you’d imagine, and it’s kind of sad. Are they remodeling it for jetBlue’s use?

A little later, I cried quite a bit and held Enrique close, and then waved him off to the parking lot. I went through security, waited for a delayed plane, boarded my flight to London.

The flight? Uneventful ranging toward annoying. The portly woman sitting on the aisle would not stand up when I or the young woman in the middle needed to use the restroom. This made it very precarious when I needed to get out before I went to sleep. I perched and then leapt over.

Now I’m at Heathrow in that floaty, jet-lagged, slept a couple hours state. I get on my flight to Bangalore in 45 minutes. Seven hours later, I land in India. People have told me that I’ll be greeted by a lack of infrastructure and by chaos at the airport. It will be 4:30 a.m. when I land. Someone will have a sign with my name on it. I hope to be able to change some money to tip accordingly. Then a bit more sleep and off to Microsoft Research at some point during the day.

I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like. I have tried not to try but am also surprised by the photographs. Where I’m staying looks clean and comfortable. Where I’m working looks beautiful. Where I’m researching (out and about in the city), I can’t even fathom what it looks like.

So here’s to jumping off the diving board into something I can’t yet see. Wish me luck.

Today’s the big day: India!

It came quickly. Tonight, I leave for India via London. 14+ hours on two flights with a four hour layover in London, though honestly, I’ve been in the air that long between Italy and San Francisco. It’s just that it still seems longer or farther–it’s India after all.

At 5 a.m. the morning of the 5th, I’ll arrive there. Something about this week is funny with me and movement: I left for Munich July 5, 2000, and moved back to San Francisco from Chicago on July 6, 2002.

It’s a long time to be on a short trip, and yet it’s not. Lots of people here have left for the summer and many won’t even know that I’ve gone. I get back on August 24, though that could be sooner if Enrique doesn’t visit.

As you might imagine, it’s hard to leave behind the person I spend most of my time with and who’s been the most substantial part of my last 14 months. But we remind each other that I’ll be back soon enough. I’ll miss him lots nonetheless.

Writing is what I’ll be doing a lot of in Bangalore… writing for field notes, writing to parse my field notes, writing to make sense of things. I will also be writing more here. There’s bound to be more to say. My New Haven life is quiet and small, most of the time. India should be a feast in any case, even if I don’t love everything. Maybe I will. It will surely change the way I see things! What an adventure. I’m nervous. 🙂

The news

My arm’s sore. It’s got five new holes in it: two in my left bicep, two in my right bicep, one on the inside of my arm. Vaccinations: hepatitis A, polio booster, flu booster, typhoid fever, blood work to determine if I can take a certain kind of malarial prophylaxis for when I get back.
Why the shots? The bugs in New Haven aren’t that bad. It’s time to share my news.
I’m going to spend the last 2/3 of the summer in Bangalore, India. I’ll be a visiting researcher at Microsoft Research India, researching mobile phone sharing in the aspiring and emerging middle class. I’ll be working in part with Jonathan Donner.
My interest in this comes from the thesis chapter I turned in at the end of spring semester. I’m thrilled that the possibility of doing my own research in the area will be a reality. I’ll be in India from early July till late August. Woo hoo!

Missing IDII’s final show and graduation

IDII class of 2006, congratulations. You guys kick ass. The world’s going to be excited about you!

But it just kills me that I missed the final, final show and graduation at IDII. The school will be fully absorbed into the Domus Academy as of 30 June, ceasing to exist as we knew it (I still think of it as the dumbass academy, based on something Jeff Veen said a few years back, after mishearing the name). Most of all, I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to visit the school once it moved to Milan. I had been close to the graduating students and wanted to see them together, as a group, another time. It even looked like a meeting might take me to London. But it wasn’t going to happen.

I’m doing a web project with Questus that still needs my attention and thus, I couldn’t leave the country. I’d hoped that I’d even make it to Europe to see my dad while he’s still teaching in Edinburgh–last year, I met him in Malta and went diving with him, the year before, I met up with him and my stepmom, Carol, in York, England. That won’t come together, either.

Okay. I have no reason to kvetch–I just miss something that mattered a lot to me and that soon will be no longer. Sigh.

There will be travel in a few weeks, but not to Europe. More on that soon–exciting news to follow.


It hit me like a wave.

I was at the local health food store, and picked up Imbibe magazine at the checkstand. It looked like something published on the West Coast, and indeed it was. Right inside the cover: the sweet faces of Eileen and Jeremy, the owners of Ritual.

Ritual was my favorite place in San Francisco. I was consistently there every day before I moved to New Haven. Jeremy and Eileen became my friends, and even gave me a Ritual mug and a few pounds of coffee. It was Ritual that I visited on my brief December visit, even when other people couldn’t squeeze me into their schedules.

As I leafed through the article about Ritual, I recognized the faces sitting at the bar on the far end of the counter. There was Jeremiah, my hairdresser, sitting next to DaveL, who I used to hang out with at Ritual (and who became a good friend as a result). There was the red wall in the back, the windows.

The homesickness hit me like a wave. I’ve been here almost a year, and I’ve never gotten a wave of it like that. But a few strong images of the place I most loved at the end of my time in SF, and I was crying at the grocery store. Add to it the fact that I cry very, very rarely, and it’s doubly surprising.

The other pilot ate the fish

the other pilot ate the fish

Originally uploaded by maximolly.

When our flight from Hartford to Chicago got stuck in a thunderstorm, 100 feet from the jetway, the pilot announced we’d be there for a while.

So I said, screw this. I’m flying the plane myself!

(Nah, but they gave a nice tour of the cockpit. And the hat kept sliding down my nose. You can’t see the glass of white wine I was sipping. I figured it wasn’t really legal.)