Bangalore or Bust

The following is my post from the official CSC blog:

Firstly, a quick introduction. My name is Chris Greenwood. I am an IBM employee based in London, England and this is the very first post from a journey that promises to be a great adventure.

I was lucky enough to be selected to participate in IBM’s Corporate Service Corps. I was assigned to the ‘India 9’ team (or Blue Tigers as we are commonly known) along with 11 others from 9 different countries. Unfortunately before we even left a broken ankle reduced our team of 12 to 11.

It’s now the end of my first day. I’m sitting in my hotel on the roof terrace. I’d like to say it’s peaceful but I’m surrounded by the noise of cars, rickshaws and bikes and the incessant sound of horns that seem to permeate everywhere you go. What follows is the story of my first 24 hours…..

At 4:30am GMT I left my home, got into my taxi and headed off to Heathrow. Unfortunately we did get lost on the way but we made it with plenty of time for my flight. The journey was good, broken up by a 1 hour stopover in Paris. Bangalore Airport was surprisingly new, I arrived around midnight, security and baggage was surprisingly quick and within a few minutes I’d met John, our logistics man and was in a car on the way to our hotel.

I’d heard that the driving in India was some kind of horror story and that I’d be clinging to the dashboard praying for my life. It wasn’t quite that bad. I thought I’d better face my fate head on so I opted to sit in the front of the car. The driver was a little surprised. Indian driving is somewhat different from what I’m used to in England. For a start red traffic lights seem to mean ‘stop if you feel like it’, drivers rarely feel like it. Lane markings are not common but when they are present it seems customary to line your vehicle up so that the lines go right down the middle. Most importantly my driver seemed like a nice guy and the time passed pretty quickly.

I arrived at the hotel at around 1 am. By this time I’d had three hours sleep in the last 48. The hotel staff were fantastic, very fast at checking me in, at least two of them accompanied me to my room and they then insisted on giving me a full tour of my room including the channels on the TV, the safe, laundry etc. This was very kind of them however at 1am all I really wanted to do was sleep.

Needless to say I slept well. I woke up this morning and went to meet the team on the roof terrace. I met most of the team at breakfast. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I’d spoken to them all, seen their photos but never actually met them. It turned out to be a cross between meeting old friends and meeting new people for the first time. I also met Kabi, our other local support person.

Not too long after breakfast we went for a walk that lasted most of the day, we learnt how to cross roads, saw some of the centre of Bangalore and eventually stopped for lunch.

Lunch was incredible, John ordered us some veggie and non-veggie platters for starter and a whole load of dishes and bread for the main course. The quality of the food was exceptional and there was plenty of it. I was actually quite surprised at how many similarities there were between this food and some of the best Indian I’ve had in London. I had expected the Indian food to be very different from the anglicised version that I am used to and of course it is different but not nearly as much as I had expected. The best news here is that my first Indian meal here basically matched the very best I’ve had in London! With lunch we tried out the ‘local’ beer, Kingfisher. I’d like to think it’s slightly better here but to be honest there’s not much between this and the Kingfisher we get at home.

After lunch we headed over to a small supermarket, picked up some supplies (mainly beer and snacks) and headed back to the hotel.

After a break most of us met up for the evening and shared the food we’d brought from our own countries to create the most amazing multicultural junk food banquet ever. To be honest Mariana and Patricia stole the show, Mariana with a huge array in interesting Columbian snacks and lovely gifts and Patricia with more gifts, snacks and several huge pieces of a very sweet cactus. It’s quite hard to describe, I think the closest I can get its partially crystallised pineapple. It was absolutely delicious.

So my first day has now finished I’m just finishing off this entry before bed and it’s time to reflect on my first 24 hours. For me so far I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I was told that India was the dirtiest, smelliest, noisiest place I would ever go. It’s not. Actually it is all those things but more to the degree I’d expect from any rapidly developing country, nothing as extreme as I’d been led to believe. Also I’ve only seen one cockroach so far and it was dead.

Lastly I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by my team. I can’t go into too much detail as they’ll probably read this but over the last two months I’ve got to know them to some degree through our weekly telephone conferences. In the last two months I’ve come to respect them and look forward to meeting them. Within several hours of actually meeting my team I realised what a fantastic group of people they really are. In every single case they have turned out to be more interesting, friendly and capable that I had ever expected. As a team we have a huge range of differing cultures and experiences and I never expected us to get on so well and so quickly. All I can imagine is that even though we barely talked about work maybe IBM really does recruit similar types of people all across the world!

It’s pretty late and time for some sleep, I won’t be detailing every day like this one but since it’s the first I think it deserved some detail. I think I’m going to have a good month.

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