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Add comment July 29th, 2007

about

Can’t you tell? We’re in Poland! I’m Bob Van Zant and I’m a software engineer for a company in the silicon valley. I’m currently on international assignment with my wife, Heather in Bangalore, India building up a remote team of software engineers.

Prior to moving to Bangalore we lived in Ukraine working with a partner that does some software development for the company. This blog serves as the place where we’ll document all of the (very) wacky things that happen to us on a seemingly daily basis.

Thanks for visiting!,

Bob Van Zant

Add comment July 29th, 2007

Pictures of the House

Our house The weather was really nice today so I finally got out this afternoon and took some pictures of our place. It’s a townhouse of sorts, we share the “far” wall with a neighbor that hasn’t moved in yet. It’s 2000 sq feet with marble floor everywhere. The interior, well I still have no pictures of the insides, but its rather nice. The quality of the finishing touches are very typical for houses of this sort: paint splatters on the trim, paint splatters on the windows, some windows close better than others, stains on the marble.

That big black pole in the middle of the photo ruining the picture is a light post. The light is also rather bright at night. It’s like having a full moon every night.

Plane flying overhead
Here’s another picture just so that I can say I posted two. These airplanes fly right over our house when they come in for a landing at Bangalore airport. Check out the palm tree tops there. Looks like you’re on vacation every day.

Add comment July 29th, 2007

A Good India Day

Typically Heather and I dread heading outside of our gated community. The walls and the security guards protect us from “India” and this makes our lives easier. Whenever we venture out we tend to have an awful time: the traffic sucks, restaurant employees give awful service, it’s dirty, it’s hot, it smells.

But yesterday we had a good day. I will go so far to say it was our first good day in India in the ~6 weeks we’ve been here. We started out in the morning by going to the movie theater for the 10:40 showing of Harry Potter. This was actually an IronPort-sponsored event for the team. The theater is inside of a large mall but it is clean, has air conditioning and smells just like a theater back home. The popcorn doesn’t have any indian spices in it (I was honestly surprised to not see something like masala popcorn). The movie was good, though halfway through they stop the movie for intermission. Intermission? Since when do movies have intermissions?

Leaving the theater requires a trip down 4 flights of escalators. The mall is 5 or 6 stories tall and has a big open area in the middle. So when you’re on the 6th floor escalator you can look over the side and see people walking on the ground floor. Not entirely true. There’s a big net between the first and second floors so that if you fall off the escalator you probably don’t die. I wonder if they tested this? If you read the article I linked to you’ll know that some little kid actually did take a tumble and died and that’s why the net is in place. Thanks to all the controversy this started when you take the escalator down there are now security guards at the bottom of each escalator that blow their whistles at you if you get too close to the railing. I’m serious. That’s his job.

After this we went to a restaurant, shezan, between the theater and my office. Heather and I both ordered a cheeseburger. That’s right. A burger. Made from cow. It wasn’t the best burger I’ve ever had but it was beef and we didn’t die.

It was a good India day. The first of hopefully many to come.

3 comments July 27th, 2007

Welcome to Bangalore

A Dead Roach
Ok, we’ve already lived here a month but I’m still considering this our welcome. A while back I killed a small roach in our kitchen. Charles told me about this roach chalk stuff that the roaches won’t cross. I found this at the store, it looks like sidewalk chalk but I get the feeling its not safe for children. Apparently it works. This one didn’t get far from one of my chalk lines before he rolled onto his back and started spewing whatever that fluid is. I took some pictures before taking him out of his misery and disposing of him.

4 comments July 22nd, 2007

Getting a Diet Coke

Yesterday we stopped for lunch at a local pizza chain named Pizza Corner. We were excited to go here because Pizza Hut is getting old. We sat down for lunch and ordered a coke, a diet coke and a medium pepperoni pizza. 5 minutes later I got my coke. 5 minutes after that I asked a waiter where Heather’s diet coke was. “A diet coke?” “Yes.” “Ok, sir.” 5 minutes later I asked a different waiter “Can we have her diet coke, please?” “Sir, we don’t have diet coke.” Why did it take 3 waiters before one would tell us they didn’t have what we were ordering? After nearly 40 minutes I got fed up waiting for my pizza and went to manage the process myself. Our pizza came moments later. It was a small pepperoni pizza (recall that we ordered a medium). It can be terribly frustrating doing the most simple of things here.

Add comment July 22nd, 2007

Getting a Phone in India

When you come to India for ~2 weeks you’ll usually go through a short bit of culture shock. First you think it’s interesting. This is mostly because you’ve arrived very late at night and a lot of the city is sleeping. The next morning things are happy because you’re staying at one of the finest hotels in the world. Later that day you enter the city and it’s all down hill. You’ve gone from one of the finest hotels in the world to seeing some of the poorest people in the world. You just don’t know how to react. The traffic, the pollution, the fear of what you can and can’t eat. In my case my body just sort of shut down. We called it a day around 1:00PM and went back to the safe haven that is the hotel. This will be your low point of the trip, over the next few days you’ll become accustomed to these things and you’ll enjoy your trip. I’ve learned that this isn’t culture shock; when you actually -live- in India you get culture shock.

One of the most annoying things of Heather and I moving here has been getting a phone and subsequently DSL installed. As a foreigner to India you can’t actually get a phone line installed without having registered with the FRO (foreighner’s registration office, a division of the police). Thankfully my company had hired a relocation service to do this for me and the actual registration required ~30 minutes of my time, 6 passport-sized photos and a total of a few calendar days for the service to get all the paperwork in order. Once you get your FRO registration documents you can apply for a telephone line. The paperwork for this also requires a passport sized photo. That’s right, in order to get a telephone installed you must give someone a picture of yourself. Again my company hired a service to help get the phone installed. They proved to be worthless.

BSNL is the name of the phone company here, it’s a government run operation that subsidized the cost of the phone line installation in my complex in order to guarantee exclusive service to this community. Let me say that another way: The government came in and installed phone lines so that they could ensure they were the only company allowed to provide phone service.

When the relocation company submitted our paperwork for us they told us the phone would take 2-3 weeks. 2-3 WEEKS! And you thought it was awful in the US when the phone company says we’ll be there between 8:00AM and 12:00PM. These guys are giving us a 1 week range and no official way to check progress.

1 week into the waiting period I was fed up waiting. Not having internet at home is just completely unacceptable for my job. The company helping us with the phone wouldn’t do anything until 3 weeks expired; unacceptable. On one Monday evening a man called us from BSNL and said he would be there the next morning to install the phone. Holy crap! The phone is coming tomorrow! Heather waits all day. At 6:00PM the man comes to our house just to tell us he can’t install the phone today, he’ll come back tomorrow. His excuse: “they haven’t assigned a phone number for your account yet.” Turns out this was total BS: all of the houses here have pre-assigned phone numbers based on their address. Whatever, we wait. On Tuesday he doesn’t come. On Wednesday by the afternoon he hasn’t come. I dig and dig and eventually get his cellphone number. After a lot of trying he answers and he says he’ll come today. Ok. He’ll come today. He didn’t come that day. On Thursday I wasn’t believing anything. I called him and talked to him probably 4 times that day (Talking to him 4 times probably involved calling him 20 times because he usually just lets his phone ring until it stops ringing). Around 6:30 that night I called him and talked to him and asked “Are you coming?” “Yes, sir, I am coming.” “Are you sure? When are you coming?” “Yes, sir, I am coming, I’ll be there in 5 minutes.” Fine, where are you now?” “I’m at the clubhouse.” The clubhouse? The clubhouse! omg. He came. He walked out to the phone box outside our house and punched down all of the jacks in our house. That was it. I could have done this by myself.

At this point I began hassling him to give me internet today. No sir, 2-3 days I was continually told. I began offering bribes. Big money. 2,000 rupees ($50). This got him to call his friend, the broadband install man. “He will come tonight, 5 minutes.” Wow. $50 really speaks volumes here! Around 10 minutes later the guy showed up. He explained to me it would take 2-3 days. Yep. He came out to my house to tell me it will take a few more days.

My address book now has the phone number for various BSNL personnel. One time I was talking to a guy at the BSNL office when I offered 4,000 rupees ($100, you can live a month on $100 here) to have it installed that day. “Sir, Indians are not about the money, we are about the service.” I almost fell out of the chair I was sitting in. Not about the money? The service! What service?!

It ended up taking 10 more days with us calling these people every single day. “Are you coming today?” “Yes sir, I will come today, by 5:00″ “By 5:00 you’ll be here?” “Yes, sir, by 6:00 I’ll be there” (That’s not a typo).

Today we have internet, I’m using it now. It’s actually decent speed: 2Mb down, 512Kb up. The only problem is that I’m limited to 10GB per month except between the hours of 2:00AM and 8:00AM when it is unmetered. I’m not sure what’s more shocking: how long it took to get the damn thing installed or the fact that I’m paying $45/month for DSL that is pegged at 10GB. For $80 a month I can get 20GB/month. The only way to get unlimited is to step down to 256Kb/sec.

3 comments July 22nd, 2007

Slideshow from Ukraine

I went through the thousands of pictures I took while in Ukraine and edited down to 42 photos. I put lengthy captions on each and turned it into a little web-based slideshow. The captions will be in the bottom left corner and they’re probably worth reading so that you know what you’re looking at.

Slideshow of pictures from Ukraine

3 comments July 5th, 2007


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