Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Collective Wisdom

Hi all,

We are eagerly awaiting our baby to come along, and will surely have plenty to say once that happens!  Until then, I'll post some links to my company blog, www.globaladjustments.com/wpblog, where I've started writing a few things about some of the cultural issues we face in our training.  There's also some cool pictures of our office there right now.  I'll let you know when a new post comes along too.  I know it's not as exciting as a baby - but it will have to do for now!

Peace,
Neil

Here's the latest one that I wrote.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Home

What a sweet and complicated word. When you're little "home" is usually whatever house you live in with your parents. As you grow, new "homes" start popping up. Life gets deeper, richer, and more complex. Sometimes, it leaves you confused. I remember the first time I referred to college as "home". It was the first time that I realized I had two homes now. Much has changed since college, including the addition of many more 'homes' for Neil and me, the most recent of which is our small flat near the beach in India.

This year our little apartment has transformed into a true home for us. A place where we eat, where we joke, where we cry, where dear friends come over to spend time together, a place where we host visitors, a place that, for the first time in our lives, we actually own everything in it! A place where when we walk through the door the feeling of arriving somewhere that we belong comes over us. Truly, we have a home here.

And yet, just like college, it is both a home AND a home-away-from-home. "Home" will always be the smell of my mom's apple/cinnamon spiced candles, my dad & brothers walking around the house shirtless, the constant chill of my room (which has NEVER gotten as warm as the rest of the house), hugs and kisses from my brothers, sitting at the counter with my dear SIL while mom mixes something tasty in her big tan bowl, hearing my dad working in the garage....HOME will always boil down to one place. I am blessed to know the true comfort and relaxation that a home can bring; it is that home that I can't wait to come into in December, breathe out a deep sigh, and drink my fill of all things loved and familiar.

Counting down!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

iPhoto

This is by no means an advertisement. I have had plenty of frustrating moments waiting for iPhoto to load or refusing to recognize a picture I have just uploaded. That being said, since it is our current photo organizer, I must pay it the respect it deserves for giving me a platform to occasionally reminisce. I felt like I should post a blog today, but didn't have anything particularly important or pressing to talk about (unless you consider the fact that I'm eating quite possibly the best frozen yogurt I've ever had in my life. Too bad I already have a yogurt entry).

{Enter iPhoto}

A few minutes of browsing old pictures and I find myself waxing nostalgia. Here are a few goodies...

ahh, yes. The dreaded wisdom teeth removal process. A rite of passage for all 16-23 year olds. This picture was taken in a Walgreen's parking lot while my then-fiance, Neil, went in to get glorious pain meds that ended up making me puke all night, followed by dry-sockets and final semester college exams. Joy.

The first (of many) cooking-for-Neil experiences, full of 'I want him to ask me to marry him' pressure. Canned peaches and boxed pasta hardly count as cooking, but I can say that the ribs were a great success, as has been the marriage.

My friend, Libby, and I hit a deer the day before (well, technically I hit the deer while Libby sat innocently in the passenger's seat). Neil picked us up at a local McDonald's to bring us back to school. While there I encountered the most inept McDonald's employee you could possibly imagine. He handed me this ice cream cone with an, "I'm sorry, I have no clue what I'm doing" look on his face and all I could do was laugh and say, "No problem. It might end up being the best ice cream I've ever had. Who knows." Not the best, but it was good. And it provided some much needed laughter after our 'deer meets bumper resulting in totaled car' incident.


4 of my favorite guys reff-ing one of my favorite things: powder puff football. The tall guy on the far left looks like he'd make a great husband, don't you think? I have many fond memories of hits, bruises, and potentially broken jaws.

So ends the walk down memory lane. Hoping the next post is extra inspiring to make up...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Yenna Pandradhu

Translates in Tamil as “what to do?”, and is currently my greatest cultural adjustment. “What to do?” as in your computer stops working and the IT guy doesn’t know how to fix it. As in you try for 6 months to get your name added onto a bank account. As in you switch mobile networks due to bad customer service only to find out your new one doesn’t give you a signal in your house. What to do?

Here’s a recent conversation I’ve had with my new home:

India: Neil, enna achu (what happened)?

Neil: Oh nothing, I’m just stressed because of __________ (insert a too detailed explanation)

India: Oh yes, that happends. Yenna pandradhu.

Neil: What do you mean, What to do? There’s a lot I can do. I am equipped with advanced problem solving skills. I can figure this out on my own and beat this problem into submission.

India: Apdia? (Is that so?)

Neil: Yes, I am very skilled at checking off things on my to do list and vanquishing them from existence so that I can move on to other things on my list.

India: And how is that working for you?

Neil: Well, not so great right now, but I’m still fighting it.

India: Hmm, it seems to me you are just stressed and you still have your problem, right?

Neil: Well, that’s true, but at least I’m doing something, right?

India: Puriyala (I don’t understand you)

Neil: I mean it’s always better to work really hard at something even if your chances of success are miniscule. All the sports movies I ever watched taught me that.

India: Neil, how long are you planning on staying in India?



Epilogue

I went to pick up my business mail at this rent-a-office place. When I finally explained my purpose, the proprietor went to some hidden drawer and pulled out a mountain of mail and began to sort through it looking for my name. I would usually get annoyed, walk over, and sort through my own mail looking for my stuff. But this time, I just sat back, read more of the paper, and ordered some tea. I mean, honestly, what can you do?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Baby's first concert

Our friends Kamal & Priya took us to Bangalore to enjoy an AR Rahman concert. In layman's terms: the guy who wrote the music for Slumdog Millionaire; they call him the "mozart of Madras". He is by far the most successful composer in India, and rightfully so.




video

Eat your heart out Jai Ho fans!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Networking

Since around February, I've been trying to become a serious businessman with serious contacts and clients. It's been an interesting journey of self-awareness and discovery. The main thing I've been doing is lots of reading and talking with people wiser than me. I feel I have a whole new perspective on the world and what roles I can play in it. Courtney remarked that the Neil of 19 years old would probably have a hard time recognizing the Neil of 28, and it's been a good thing so far.

One of the my strategies in trying to build up business has been meeting as many people as I can, which lately has meant going to a lot of networking and association meetings. For those who know me well, it's pretty hard to imagine me as a life of the party kind of guy, and don't worry, I haven't changed that much. While way out of my element, I'm trying to learn the art of meeting a large number of people and trying to follow up with most to develop a few close relationships.

Here are a few results so far:

-I've been in the Rotary Club for almost a full year now. It's a nice place to see some familiar faces and have a reason to get out and do some good things too. Out of this group, I have made a tennis/music sharing friend, and got my first training order on my own.

-I joined the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce, which happens to hold monthly meetings at a hotel which has an amazing breakfast. At my first meeting, I realized I only had about 5 business cards and ended up avoiding talking to people. At the next one, I walked out with around 30. As I was going through them, I felt like a kid going through a new pack of baseball cards and hoping that one was Ryne Sandberg or at least Andre Dawson. Ironically, the only further contact I've had is lunch with a guy from the Russian consulate who was surprised that Americans actually liked Russians.

-I also joined the Indo-American Association, which I quickly found out was an organization that pretty much exists for it's own sake. It's a lot of older people who like to get together and occasionally plan things. I'm scared if I go too many times they will want to make me an officer of their club.

-I've been to gatherings on Marketing and Empowering Women in IT, all very fascinating.

So, as I get acclimated to the business world, I'm trying to be more social and outgoing, yet still be myself. We'll see how it all goes, but it's definitely been a fun ride so far.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Growth Chart


Blog readers, sorry to tell you that you are the last to know: We're pregnant! Our progeny is due in early November and there's lots to be excited about. Our first baby, second grandchild for the Millers, first for the Wrights, and just plain awesomeness inside of Courtney (speaking from an outsider's perspective).

At the suggestion of some friends, we started a growth chart for the baby, or I guess for Courtney. It is already incredible to think of a human being formed inside her and how big of a role that person is going to play in our lives!

A quick sketch of the next year suggests a visit from Grandma and Grandpa Wright just before the due date. We'll have the baby here in India, and then return to the US for a visit around Christmas time for about a month.

For so long, it's just been Courtney and me on this amazing adventure - I think it's about time we added another travel companion. Here's to a new level of the Miller High Life!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Yogurt, the miracle substitution

I remember accidentally buying plain yogurt instead of vanilla flavored when we lived in Sellersburg. I took one bite and got a feeling similar to what happens when you get Sprite from the tap only to discover someone forgot to put the syrup in it--mouthful of carbonated water. It totally turned my stomach.

Fast forward to today, where I can barely go one day without my plain yogurt! I don't know if my taste buds have changed or if it really does taste different here, but it is one of my favorite things in the entire world. Here is just a short list of the daily miracles yogurt provides me with...

1) Easier digestion. I often take a tablespoon full of yogurt after big meals and it seriously helps. 3 cheers for probiotics!

2) Sour Cream substitution. I will never eat sour cream again. We put plain yogurt on every Mexican dish I make and a spoonful in just about every soup. It is extremely versatile and has just enough creamy sharpness that you don't even realize it isn't sour cream.

3) Mayonnaise substitution. Another item that will never again grace our refrigerator. I was so sad to discover that sandwich making is not quite the art here that it is in the States--and I'm a girl who loves herself some big, beautifully loaded sandwiches with all the fixings. Now, I just make some bread, sprinkle a little Ranch seasoning into the yogurt and spread on the bread and load up with whatever I want! Or, chop up some fresh herbs (dill is the current front runner), mix with yogurt and slather. It's fab.

4) Dip. I love dips. Ranch seasoning + yogurt + whatever variety of veggies I want = great snack. or, Yogurt + cinnamon + drop of honey + vanilla (if you're feeling wild) = the bomb fruit dip.

5) Smoothies. Substitute 1/2 yogurt, 1/2 milk for the ice cream (+ some honey) and it is yummy.

6) Weight loss. Just observe the substitutions above and do the calorie math.

So, that's my love affair with yogurt. I really really hope that whenever we come back to the US I discover that the yogurt really does taste the same and it is my taste buds that have changed, because I just don't know what I'd do without it.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Books

2 discoveries in the last 2 months have totally shaped my life recently. The first is Flipkart.com, which is the Indian equivalent of Amazon, just with better prices and free delivery for their books. It's pretty awesome. Courtney is used to the door bell ringing about 3 times a week with something new for me. The second was a book I picked up called The Personal MBA, which has started me on a quest to really become a businessman and given me the confidence to do so. And with it's recommended reading guide, it has also added to the many rupees that Flipkart is getting from me.

As I've been churning through more and more books, I have a new section in our library - reserved for those books which have changed my life in some way, or at least books that I want to read again. I'm not one of those people who likes to have books for the sake of having them, but when it comes to these, I don't know if I could go without them.




The Screwtape Letters & The Practice of the Presence of God - These books really started my discipleship with Jesus; I read them both in early high school. In the first, I started to really understand my own sinfulness for the first time (a journey which has lasted a while). The second challenged me that there was a God to be known outside of Sunday morning.

The Christ of the Indian Road - In preparing to come to India, this was the first time I was really able to understand how much culture we wrap around Christ when we are trying to share him with someone else. Again, this was the beginning of a journey which Living Water, Indian Bowl by Swami Dayanand Bharati continued.

Leadership and Self-Deception and The Anatomy of Peace - Gosh. These two books put a whole new meaning of self-awareness into my life. It's become a daily thought to know if I am in the box or out of it.

The Papa Prayer - This book came at a pivotal time in my life when I was really struggling knowing how I was supposed to relate with and talk with God. I didn't "fix" everything, but it was a good companion to have at the right time.

When Helping Hurts - In my constant search for my role with poverty in this world, this book has helped me think more rationally and systematically about what we can be doing that will really help. Recently, Building Social Business by Muhammad Yunus has been giving me the power to dream about ways to help in a positive way.

As far as business books go, I've been inspired by the thinking in First, Break All the Rules, and 6 Thinking Hats which have both opened up a new way to look at the people and decisions.

The more I read, the more I realize the power that a truly inspirational book has. These books have really shaped my whole life and I am different today because of them. It's nice to be able to look back and see the journey I've been on, and the markers along the way, and wonder what will be the next one. Whatever it is, I hope it will come in a nice brown box from Flipkart.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Texting Over Talking

I remember being so annoyed with texting in high school and college. I swore up and down that I didn't need texting and would never get it. Why text when you can talk? And then I moved to India.

Texting is everywhere here! In the 6 years that I had a cell phone in the US, I probably texted 3 times total. In Chennai, I text an average of 6 times everyday. It's just not worth it to call here. Most people don't have voicemail (it costs extra to have it) and if any of you have been out and about in Chennai, you know that it isn't very practical to answer your phone every time it rings. We've had many yelling phone conversations in the back of an auto, trying to be heard over the noise.

It took me some time to adjust to messaging people, but now I really love it. It's so practical! The two most difficult adjustments have been increasing the amount of smiley faces I use :) :) :) and exclamation marks!!! But, next to learning Tamil, these are a breeze.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Sprayer
















Can one integrate too much into a new culture? How far is too far? At what level do you have to draw the line?

All of these questions center around one very important part of everyday life here in India. Perhaps the most pressing decision we had to make as to how far we were going to take our leap into the Indian lifestyle came in of all places...the bathroom.

Most people are aware that Indians mostly use their hands to eat (which we've readily accepted). Curiously though, only the right hand is used. Similarly, you would never offer your left hand to someone to shake it. While nearly 10% of Americans are left-handed, I have only interacted with one person here who knows of someone who is left-handed. All of this points back to the question of what is so deterring about the left hand.

The answer lies in the washroom, the most basic of which includes a toilet (sometimes sitting, sometimes squatting), and a small cup filled with water. Once finished, one uses the left hand to scoop out some water and clean him/herself. While it might sound disturbing to the uninitiated, this simple system has been in place in this land for several centuries.

While we were aware of this "interesting" part of the Indian lifestyle, we continued to buy our toilet paper, believing that there really was a point of being "too" enculturated. Then, one evening we were babysitting our American partner's child and I needed to blow my nose. Not finding any tissue anywhere, I thought surely I would find something I could use in the bathroom. But there was none. Then I realized that they had taken the plunge and were now going paperless.

Shocked, but with renewed enthusiasm, we slowly started to wean ourselves off the paper too. Thankfully, we don't have to resort to a cup of water, but have a handy sprayer which made the transition a little more comfortable. Looking back, we're glad we made the switch. Not just for the sake of saving money, paper, or being more Indian. It's actually a lot cleaner too, provided there's some soap to wash your hands afterward. The sprayer is our preferred method and now we are dealing with the prospect of being without it when we come back to visit. I guess we'll just have to get our parents to install them. I'm sure it will provide some good resale value if any Indians are in the market.

Neil

Monday, February 14, 2011

Public Service Announcement

"Wear Sunscreen."


This is what happens when you live close to the equator and forget your sunscreen at home. It's amazing how many Indians didn't realize skin could turn purple. I'm awesome.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

There's always room for one more

With over a billion people, India has some spatial challenges. It's hard to fit everyone in where they need to be and where they need to go. While we still on occasion like to have our "personal space", our comfort zone has drastically decreased since arriving. Here are a few of our favorite modes of transportation and some capacities that would not be conceivable in the US.

First is the share auto. If you hire a regular auto you get to sit all by yourself with plenty of leg room. However, you also end up paying a lot. A trip from our place to a nearby movie theater would cost at least 200 rupees. However, with a share auto, the driver goes on a set route and you can get in and ride for however long you want. That same trip ends up costing 30 rupees a person. But the "share" part means the driver tries to pack as many passengers as possible into the auto to maximize his profit. So, it's not uncommon to see one of these chugging along with around 15 humans crammed into something about the size of a smart car.

The family sedan. Motorcycles can be used for lots of useful ventures including hauling your entire family around. These boys have probably been riding in the same position on this bike since they were born. While comfort and safety are not really important in this option, you must respect the way they are able to still make it work without breaking the bank.


As nice as they are, share autos don't cover most of the city. Therefore, the vast majority of the population of Chennai must rely on the bus. These buses vary in shapes and sizes and colors and smell. They have deluxe A/C buses (which are pretty nice), regular deluxe buses (basically means that the doors close), standard buses (as pictured in blue), and the old-as-dirt buses (above) which are a lovely dirty green color and the metal has melted in certain places.
Since most people have to ride buses, they tend to get pretty packed. We were on a particularly crowded bus one time and I started counting (from what I could see, which means no one under 5'7" was included). I got to 115 before we got off. It's really crazy just how many people can cram on to these things, which are always overflowing with eager young boys running alongside and hanging on for dear life. The green bus pictured above gives evidence to just how many people will hang on to the side and tilt the bus till its nearly toppling over. Sometimes the buses get stuck in that position even when they're empty.

So, as our world gets more crowded and full, we can say for sure that our experiences here in India have prepared us well to realize the potential space not yet used to its full potential. So forgive us if the next time you see us we are trying to fit into the back of your minivan that already has 7 people in it - it's just who we are now.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Not Looking Both Ways When We Cross the Road

I've thought a lot about having children in Chennai and what it will be like for them to hop back and forth between India and Indiana. I realized that the biggest adjustment for them will probably be crossing the street--and me hoping that they don't get hit. And no, I'm not talking about India....

Here's the deal. Jaywalking is an everyday occurrence here. Shoppers, bicyclists, dogs, cows...everybody does it. If you don't, you wouldn't ever get anywhere. Sounds scary to American ears, right? Except that drivers expect it. Along with dodging other cars, buses, lorries, and motorcycles, drivers are 100% prepared to dodge the everyday pedestrian.

When we first moved here, traffic seemed like one big ball of chaotic, unorganized petrol. We were wrong. We now see that there are rules of traffic here, they just aren't the same as the ones followed in the States. One of those rules is being prepared to happily dodge the jaywalker. So, when I cross the street, I take a quick glance to make sure I'm not stepping directly in front of oncoming traffic and if I'm not, I walk confidently into the road knowing that the traffic will simply change pattern for a moment to let me pass. It's brilliant really. It's almost like the city operates on roundabouts, except that they appear and disappear in a matter of seconds. If we had traffic lights at every intersection, no one would ever get anywhere.

And so, our kids will be jaywalkers. Don't be perplexed when we come home and step confidently into traffic. I'm sure after the first encounter with an angry driver, we'll learn our lesson. Hopefully it doesn't cost an arm and a leg.


This is obviously a VERY low traffic time on the outskirts of Chennai. Regardless, the bicyclist gives a good picture of what I'm talking about.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Cheering when Sachin scores a century

We're starting a new blog series, focusing on the ways that we've grown in our "Indian-ness" now that we've been here for a year.



First, let me focus on cricket - a source of much mystery to Americans. Cricket is often likened to baseball. Which it is - except the batter gets a bat about 3 times as big and he only has to run to one base to score a run. Truly it is a game of skill, but it is heavily weighted on the side of the batter. Test matches (a form of the game that lasts 5 days) often see scores in the 500s.


Nothing is as popular in India as cricket. If there is any flat, open space to be found (streets, beaches, parking lots, fields), you will undoubtedly find a group of guys wailing away on a tennis ball.


When it comes to the best cricket player in the world, there is no debating. Sachin Tendulkar holds all the major batting records that have ever been conceived. In ability, he easily falls into the category of Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and Wayne Gretzky. He is small (only 5'5"), but has managed to become the most respected player in the cricket world.


So usually with all "great ones" there is that moment when you realize their personal life is not quite on par with their sporting life, most recently demonstrated by Mr. Woods. But with Sachin, he has been faithfully married to his wife for 15 years, and regularly adores her in public. He takes time off of traveling with the team so he can be home with his children. He acts well on the field and doesn't argue with the officials. He's not movie-star good looking, and doesn't seem to mind it. Basically he's the kind of guy you wish we had in the States for kids to look up to.


One more thing is that he has a fiercely loyal following. I had one trainee that found a way to include him in nearly every speaking activity she did. A century is when a batsmen scores 100 in a single game. And now, when we see him get a century (which he's done over 50 times in his career, recently got a 200 as well), we feel like getting up and cheering alongside the rest of the country.