My final weekend in Chennai has come and gone, I'm afraid. It's been a great trip but tomorrow I head to the airport. Fortunately, I got a chance to go out and do some sightseeing and general touristy things in my last few days. I met some interesting people and took some nice pictures so I hope you enjoy. I couldn't fit all the pictures from my trip into the blog so if anyone wants a more complete collection, head to my Picasa account
. Feel free to leave a comment on the pictures or the blog, I'd love to hear what you all think.
The whole week was a blast, actually, I hate to limit it to the weekend. Tuesday, several people from the office went out to see Sivaji, the biggest Tamil
film ever. Luckily, Raj got tickets from his cousin, who works for a distributor. It was a great time. Of course I don't speak Tamil, but the plot was pretty easy to follow and Kalpana was kind enough to give me the play by play throughout the movie. A Tamil movie is quite an experience; you read about it if you saw my Top 10 list. I didn't get to see any dancing and only one person ever threw their shredded ticket in the air, but still the energy was palpable. I'm including a picture of the billboards because I absolutely love the expressions on Rajni's
face. They're great because as soon as I see them, I immediately begin thinking of captions for them. Most of them involve Rajni talking about how awesome he is and how much everyone wants to be him.
The next day, Alec and I got the chance to take the whole office out to lunch. We went to a buffet that I can't quite think of the name of. I've included a photo with everyone's name. Unfortunately Hema, Siva, and Jawed were not able to make it. Everyone had a good time, I think. The food was good and the company was even better. I didn't get to eat any goat like I did at the previous buffet, but I did get to try a great deal of Indian food that I had not eaten yet.
Friday we started the weekend a couple hours early to go have dinner with Sastry, who runs the staffing agency where we hired our first several employees and who continues to be a big part of Adaptavant
. While waiting for a table, Sastry took us to the "club" inside the hotel. While it certainly was not any place I would be found in the states, I was curious and polite enough to follow him downstairs. He explained to us that dancing clubs are not allowed in Chennai but that he would show us as much as was allowed. There was absolutely blaring music in a dimly lit room with about 15 tables, all with people sitting at them (in the dark). Then we went down another set of stairs to what turned out to be the source of the noise. Guarded by the biggest man I've seen since entering the country was the club- India style. Alarmingly loud Techno music, black lights, disco ball, dance floor, and about 10 wallflowers just sort of sitting in there. They probably had food, but I didn't see them eating. They certainly couldn't talk because it was far too loud. Luckily we were not allowed to stay because it was couples only so we headed back to the Copper Top, a restaurant that uses entirely copper vessels. The food was good and it was nice to spend some time with Sastry, who I hadn't seen since my first week.
Saturday morning we met up at Raj's place where he made us breakfast. Again I had Idly with Tomato, Coconut, Coriander, and Mystery Chutney, Sambar, and Budgie (though I can't verify the spelling. It's deep-fried potato wedges. I remember the name because "budgie makes you pudgy.") While it was my first experience eating on the ground on a leaf, it was delicious. Raj's cooking throughout the trip has always been better than any of the restaurants I've been to. I think I've even picked up a few things so when I come back, you're all invited to my place for homemade Indian food, depending on how brave you are.
After breakfast, we needed to finish up some shopping so in the morning we went to Pothy's, a department store, and purchased a few items. The highlight of this trip was Alec, who decided to try on some traditional Indian wear. We all had a good laugh. He bought that outfit (though in a different size) and said several times that he would "see what he could do" about wearing it into the office tomorrow. My bet is that he doesn't but we'll see. I didn't purchase any Indian clothes for pretty much that exact reason! I'm not sure what this garment is called but I've been told that it's typically worn on special occasions. Most of the time, the men here wear either khakis and a button-up shirt or a Sarong
. I thought about trying to find a Sarong but I told the people I was with that I couldn't wear one in the US because it looked too much like a skirt, at which point they all laughed hysterically.
After visiting a few other shops, we stopped by the office briefly. On the way, Raj and Bala were nice enough to pick up mango covered in chili powder. I was hesitant but I ate it. It was good for the experience but it was really bitter and I was out of water. Luckily I got to wash it down with some ice cream
a few hours later. Choco Caramel Banana Surprise, to be exact. It was note quite what I'm used to (100% veg, so there was no egg in it) but ice cream is ice cream, I don't care where it's from. Anyway, the ice cream was our last stop before Alec and I had dinner at the Rain Tree hotel. The restaurant is on the roof of the hotel, which offered a great view, though the food was just average.
I had received a phone call from Manu on Saturday, who preaches at all of the Apostolic Faith Churches
in India. He lives in Andhra Pradesh
, a few hundred miles north of Chennai, but he happened to be in town so we agreed to get together for breakfast Sunday morning. We ate at the Park hotel, again Idly, Chutney, and Sambar (it's like pancakes, eggs, and bacon over here). Manu is another person that I'm very glad to have met. It is great to see the enthusiasm that certain people here have for spreading the Gospel in India. He told me that he will unfortunately not be able to be in Portland for Camp Meeting
because his visa was denied, which is too bad because I would love to speak to him again and would love for him to be able to see the Portland church. We talked for about two hours at breakfast about many things, including his past and the work that is going on in Andhra Pradesh. It was very moving to hear about what he is doing and the churches here need our prayers.
Our plans for the rest of the day were sort of an unknown. Alec saw a lake on the map that he said was a wildlife refuge and had lots of birds so we got in the car with Raj and told the driver to head north. Suspiciously, no one at the three places we stopped at for directions had heard of this lake, even though it was enormous. Finally someone pointed us in the right direction and we headed down a dirt road through some villages and to the lake. It was a gorgeous scene and it made me wish I was a decent photographer. Even so, I took several pictures and I think some of them turned out pretty well. In addition to beautiful scenery, I saw probably the largest bug I've ever seen in my life
. I sort of freaked out but it didn't look dangerous so I got close enough to take some pictures. Along with that unknown creature, there were swarms of dragonflies, several hiding lizards, and something that kept hissing at me through the bushes but I never figured out the identity of. I was a little uneasy at times but I got over it for the adventure.
Our last stop before home was another body of water. I think it was part of the bay
but I could be wrong. There were several boats coming and going. One boat had three children on the end that were tremendously excited to see us; they all waved and blew kisses as the boat pulled away. The picture I included is of water buffalo, transporting passengers across the shallow water to the nearby islands. The local village boy
kept pointing at the buffalo and saying "fish", but I didn't see any fish and that was all the English he knew so maybe the buffalo had just eaten some fish. It remains a mystery. There were boats carrying fish to and fro, but I'm not sure how the buffalo played into the equation.
That was pretty much the extent of my last week in Chennai; I'll be on a plane in exactly 24 hours. It is with a bittersweet feeling that my trip draws to a close tomorrow. I'm definitely leaving with the feeling that I still have more I want to do but I also have the feeling that this has been one of the best experiences of my life. The people that I have met and talked to, the places I've visited, and the completely foreign way of life has had an impact on me and let me understand that there really is life outside of what I know. It will be an experience that I will never forget and has made me want to travel to other places.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about my trip as much as I've enjoyed writing about it. While I won't be writing here about my day-to-day experiences in Chennai anymore, I do plan to write a few more entries about my trip in the next few weeks. There are a lot of people I met and a lot of places I visited that I did not get a chance to write about. So if you're interested, check back soon. Otherwise, thanks for reading about my trip, feel free to share your thoughts.