Saturday, June 23, 2007

Travelogue - the journey to a zoo...

14 April (Sat) - The journey to Bronx:...

Shorts; yikes!

The weather looked kind of okay and predictions said rains weren’t expected - at least not until evening. One website that you end up logging into often in US is; probably second most popular after was!
No downpour meant great news and so Wreet and me were off on our journey; we didn’t plan much; it was just kind of a run-time decision; the weather was good and we weren’t going to stay indoors - make hay while the sun shines, who knows whether tomorrow would be the same.
We hurried to reach the bus stop in time. There was a 7:40am bus - buses weren’t exactly on time but I did like the time table system which was adopted; at least you had a rough idea of when a bus would come to your stop. But then the number of bus travellers and routes were much limited compared to what we have in India. There was a little sunlight – something that we were really looking forward to but the chilly breeze still persisted; and boy it was really chilly – I kept my hands warm hidden within my jacket’s pockets. I wondered how most people walked without a jacket and even in short skirts and pants when there was such a cool breeze. Even with my jacket on I was feeling the cold!


We were really hungry when we reached the New York bus terminal. Both of us were desperately in search of a place to eat. I was tempted to have the American style fast food for breakfast. As we walked towards the subway station we dropped into a McDonalds (supposedly one of the largest outlets but on a Saturday early morning it certainly wasn‘t doing much business).
“Do you have any chicken burgers?”
“No sir. We don’t have that now”, came back the reply.
Everything on the menu had ham (beef) except for a McMuffin burger – which was listed as having egg.
“We’ll go for McMuffin?”, Wreet asked me.
We didn’t have any choice and went for two of the same. Wreet also ordered a couple of medium Cokes which turned out to be really huge cups – that is kind of the normal size that you find here in US; people love to drink a lot of soft drinks, tea and coffee and even the smallest size is often large for us. There must’ve been nearly half a litre of fluid in the cup! Use of water seems to be a rarity.
As I munched on the burger I discovered a slice of something other than egg - a slice of something pinkish – from the pictures in the restaurant I guessed that it was a slice of bacon.
“Did you see this? It’s bacon”.
“Bacon is ham right?”
“I’m not sure”.
“Ya; it is”.
“Great - so we finally ended up eating what we tried our best to avoid”.
Now it was too late – when hunger strikes and you don’t have a choice you really can’t help it.


We studied the city map that Wreet had to locate our destination. Bronx zoo was reachable by the subway (also called the metro) and there was a subway station nearby according to the map. I finally figured out the layout of the city - there were streets and avenues. Streets are horizontal while avenues are vertical. And every street had a number - 72nd st, 73rd st., 74th st. and so on. The street numbers were in descending order as we go down south. So if I wanted to go from 4th street to 81st street I actually wanted to go upwards or uptown as they say. Downtown meant the reverse direction. Now the directions in the subway stations made more sense to me - we had to go to Bronx and so needed to catch a train which went uptown.
The subway ride was good - it was different from the regular office ride because the subway spent half the time underground and half the time above ground level. It took us around 10 minutes to reach the Bronx stop. There were signs on the traffic posts which led us to the Bronx zoo.
I had read that this was one of the biggest metropolitan parks in the world - I had been to Vandalur zoo which was also a large zoo and was curious to see what the differences between the two would be.
Entry fee was $15 but there were some other additional rides which cost extra dollars. A complete package was available at a price of $30 per adult.
Price wise definitely this was costlier than Vandalur zoo - it was less than Rs. 30 per head in Vandalur!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Travelogue: An auspicious start!

Thursday (day 1 continued):

I was welcomed into the office and was happy at the sight of our work areas. They were large cubicles with ample personal space. I had heard that Americans liked having more personal space and office certainly seemed comfortable. We had breakfast in the office canteen within the same building and being the first day I just followed what my colleagues took – a couple of bread slices, butter and some milk. The cups in US were large (even the smallest cup was probably 300+ml or so). People were polite and courteous everywhere in office – irrespective of what position they were working in. Being my first day I was introduced to a few of the client team members and most of the day I spent in setting up my workplace.

Lunch we were forced to have in office itself since the Rain God was in delightful mood. Again I followed what my colleagues took for lunch – some chicken pieces, some rice and some vegetable. I hadn’t tasted chicken for the past three years or so. The fried pieces tasted good and out of the three items I had on my plate the chicken tasted the best. The vegetables were not completely raw but not cooked either – it was in some salad form and the rice was different from what we are used to having.

Evening we left office by around 5:30pm. Sini (the person I would replace during his vacation) was forced to come over to our place for the night because I had hardly learnt any of the work he was doing – he showed me the tasks he was doing but there was still a lot more to learn. At night we went to a restaurant called “Chillys” – five of us but I didn’t order anything. Didn’t feel like eating but still took a couple of chicken pieces from my colleague’s plate. Maybe my tummy wasn’t prepared for the chicken I had during lunch – it hadn’t processed chicken for a few years and suddenly having four/five pieces must have made it hard. It wasn’t really a stomach upset but I just didn’t feel normal either. Couldn’t really enjoy the meal with all of them.

Friday we all worked from home with the rains still pouring. Though I should’ve slept early on the first couple of days, I ended up losing a lot of sleep; I had to learn what all work Sini was doing for the past couple of years within a couple of days and substitute him for three weeks. I tried to upload as much data as I could but a lot of things I just couldn’t keep track of (it went like “overhead transmission” as they say!). Friday was hectic – it was like an internship period being exposed to the real world; Sini would pass on his work to me and I would try to solve the problems and answer queries. Fortunately or unfortunately there weren’t many things left in the day. The problem was that on both nights we had issues with our daily batch jobs – which meant that we ended up sleeping at around 2am. It was interesting in the sense that this system is generally stable and we don’t have issues on the night jobs usually – but now it seemed like every night could turn into a nightmare! I guess the moment I stepped into US soil was very auspicious – even the rains were a surprise because two days back the place was dry and ever since I came it was raining almost non-stop!