Stephanie and I made it. Truth be told, it wasn't as bad as we had thought it was going to be but it wasn't a walk in the park either. Stephanie summed up well the trip as a whole, our exodus from the frozen northern lands of North America to the hot mess that is Mumbai (and eventually Pune). But I do have several great photos to share which I had taken on my phone and really must hit the internet.
Stella flew in cargo from Mumbai to Pune, and I wanted to show the triumphant final unloading of her in her crate at the Pune airport. The flight staff were very happy to help, and full of smiles when looking at/dealing with Stella. She managed to stay very well behaved with no barking and only one growl. The flight overall is very short, in this case only 17 minutes. The photos don't convey it well but there are a lot of mountains and greenery on the short flight looking out the window. To ease in the beauty of nature, you get yourself only the JUICIEST MANGO drink!
We were genuinely zonked out for our first couple of days in Pune. I for one slept an astonishing 15.5 hours in a row following the flight from the US. And I clearly needed it. Stephanie, having been diagnosed with an Ear and Sinus infection before flying was clearly not feeling well but as it turns out she had an upper respiratory viral infection, so her antibiotics were useless. We were still in high spirits and absolutely astonished at the weather. We could not have a more reversing of the weather on earth. There is something to be said from going from snowy and 15F to sunny, 90F (32C), and 30% humidity. Its a wonderful, wondrous thing.
My first day at work was exciting and fulfilling. I got to meet and greet all the old faces I had met when we visited in October, and several new faces I did not have a chance to meet. I learned a bit more about the scope of the work before us, the direction things were headed in and began to think about what kind of game plan could get us there. There's hiring to be done, and just after hitting the ground I already took on two phone interviews planned in the week among getting invited to some team meetings. All in all a great start. Its absolutely in every way different work then I have ever done, but I can see that it plays on some of my strengths. Face-to-face has always been a forte of mine, and my ability to work in teams is going to help. But I am but a young newbie, and I have much, much to learn.
I had a chance to go out and get "Indian" Chinese food on Friday with some of the coworkers I'm getting to know. They're a vibrant and great crowd, very fun and very nice. What I have noticed is that the vibe I'm getting is very familiar. Something similar to Princeton, family... close knit. It's great, if that's the case this is going to make getting in the groove of work just that much more fantastic and comfortable. But you didn't read this section for my boring anecdotes on my budding interpersonal relationships at my new job. No, absolutely not. One word has hung on your minds since I began this paragraph, Indian Chinese Food. That's right boys and girls. Feast your eyes on THIS!
Oh the dirty, thick sauciness of these dishes is a testament to the beauty that is the world economy and globalism. And God bless it. American Chinese has long been a (unhealthy) staple of mine since childhood. But where it concentrates on the solid chunks of meats, Indian Chinese delivers a mouthwatering slop-it-on-rice liquidity that shows its Indian interpretation. Sweet morsels of cooked fish swimming among the thick seas of coriander and lemon sauce. My god. This is my new comfort food. Astounding. Oh, and the cost for 6 people to be overwhelmingly stuffed and nearly incapable of producing any real work for the rest of Friday? 1200 rupee. $20.
I leave my piece-de-resistance for last. The FRRO.
Lets start here. Stephanie and I are foreigners in India, and as such we need to get registered. This is done at the Foreign Residents Registry Office (FRRO). Talking with new friends from the area who had gotten their registration done, we had heard horror stories and expected the worst. Stories of chaotic madness, swarms of people moving to and fro amongst counters not understanding what logical step are required to get processed and spending a whole day there only to have to come back again and again and again due to missing documents. Officers denying applications simply because someone smiled the wrong way. Delays just because babies were not oriented correctly while being help up for a photo. Right. This is going to be a fun one we thought.
Firstly, to register at the FRRO you need to apply first online. If you're so inclined, check it out yourself.
Online, you're to fill out your application with lost of information about yourself and your visa and your passport. Once you're complete in filling out, you're to upload 6 items.
1. A photo of yourself, passport, 3.5X3.5cm but only 50kb. Have fun doing that if you're not tech savvy.
2. A scan of your passport page. 200kb max.
3. A scan of your VISA page and immigration stamp. 200kb max.
4. Your undertaking letter from work. 200kb max
5. Your contact letter from work. 200kb max. Good luck if it's longer then 3 pages.
6. Your C form (more on that).
All of these documents are more fun if you don't have access to a scanner and have to rely on the front desk of the hotel to get scans. But then you need to teach them how to use it correctly to get 200kB. Meanwhile, those documents sent to you through work are too large. So what you do is output the PDF as a photo, drop it into word, compress it to lowest resolution image, save it, scale it to take up the whole page, and then output it back to a PDF. If that didn't compress enough, just do it again. Oh and if it's 2 pages, split it up. Its lot of fun! 200kb is your friend. Everything should be 200kb.
Lastly, the C form. So, a C form is a document that any building housing a foreigner has to supply to the police. Ex: your hotel. You may not even notice it but as a foreigner visiting India, any hotel you stay at will be giving it to the police. If you stay at a friends house, within 24 hours they will need to supply a C form to the police. If you come visit us? Yup, we'll be doing a C form on you. So, the hotel made our C form and sent it to the police, then gave us a copy to bring along with us. And again, 200kb. Upload it and be happy, as now you can hit "submit", select an appointment date and print out your form which you completed initially. Now you're ready for the physical part of the work. The visit to the FRRO. Luckily in this case, Stephanie and I had the aid of an awesome HR person from my new assignment. In hindsight, the task of the FRRO has to be nigh impossible without help.
Fun fact: there's this awkward low level door through which all the foreigners must pass to get into the FRRO. And your Indian help cannot enter with you. They have a different access point. As you come in, there's a daunting pair of Indian police asking you to sign in. One guys got a cane. He's slapping it on the table. The other is a lady. A LARGE lady. Sign, get moving. Metal detectors (which is ok, they're everywhere here). And then you see it.
It's like a mix of the DMV, the body odor of a local French train station in full blown summer, a UN general assembly, and state of the art technology from 1998. Except crank up the quantity of people, the confusing chaos and the body odor to the MAX and refry it twice over. Got a mental image? You're getting there. Keep going. Add in gold chains and primed mustaches. A dash of aviator sunglasses. Indian versions of CHIPS. Bring water but don't drink any before going. We never saw the bathrooms, hope we never do. After about 2 and a half hours of actually watching our HR help move through a hornets nest with no real rhyme or reason, we thought we were ready to get out of there. Not so fast, system crash. Sorry, they need to reboot. 15 minutes. Yeah, no not working yet. 15 more and another reboot. Get up and go over here to look at this person in a uniform and give them our passport. Go back and stand. Come back. System almost ready CRASH. Wait some more. Ok you're almost done. Oh wait your copy of your passport VISA page does not have a the immigration stamp on it. Wait here for 30 minutes while on the fly the HR help finds a copier somewhere in the city. She's back! Scanning the final documents.
It's complete. Please come back in several days when your document is complete and ready for pickup.
All in all, Stephanie and I had a good laugh with it. People made it out to be a lot worse then it was. Maybe it was from our experience at the DMVs of PA and NJ? Maybe its that we're realists? Who knows. But I know our VISA and FRRO renewals are going to be fun.
This is going to be a yearly affair!