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Hi, Chennai

So I got to Chennai a couple days ago, relocating my home base in India from Coimbatore to here for now. (Amusingly the one-way ticket cost me ~$40 US but the excess baggage cost me ~$55 US since I moved all of my stuff with me. Us American travelers are spoiled by being able to bring so much stuff along.) Chennai is a much larger, much more urban city; Coimbatore is fairly large, but mostly industrial. Previously known as Madras, Chennai is one of the largest cities in the country; interestingly, there seems to be some evidence that Madras is a more Indian-derived name than Chennai, but they went ahead and changed the name anyways several years ago, along with a couple other large cities (Bombay->Mumbai, Calcutta->Kolkata.) There seems to be talks of some other changes, like renaming Bangalore to Bengaluru (I have no clue why they'd do that since Bangalore is such a well known name in the IT industry worldwide.)

I was amazed to get out of the airport and find us driving down a 6-lane divided highway! Chennai certainly has more infrastructure. Of course, there are still the millions of pedestrians, motorcycles, bullock-carts, and random animals wandering in the roads to contend with. Driving around India is quite the experience since you're constantly dodging in and out of death's way. Take whatever you've imagined from my brief, jumbled description and make it sound about ten times more dodgy and you'll start to get an idea of how the roads are around here. Between the millions of obstacles, completely crazy passing, and driving on the other side of the road, I don't think I'd even want to try driving around here myself.

Of course being Internet addicted I've already set up a wireless network here; took me forever to purchase an 802.11 router last night. I asked the driver to take me to find some American-style fast food afterwards since my Indian food tolerance was dropping; after driving around for half an hour he took me to some upscale area that had some non-American fast food eateries which was decent enough for a change...then on the drive back home, we went right past a Subway that was a 5 minute walk from my aunt and uncle's house! Guess I can get my fast-food fix reasonably easily here for lunch or whatnot when I feel like it.

So from here I'm trying to write up my business plans and set up some meetings with potential business partners... I've been less than diligent about that, but I'm working on it. And I'm going to try to travel to some of the nicer areas of India during the current touristy season; right now I want to go to Rajasthan since it's supposed to be quite beautiful, and to Goa since it's kind of like the Cancun of India (which would be nice around holiday time after spending most of my time staying with relatives.) Maybe a side trip to Singapore and/or Malaysia before I leave India since they're close and cheap to fly to.

And I still want to make it up to the Himalayas! It's officially winter (even here, yes, we are indeed north of the Equator), so enjoy the snow, ice, sleet, freezing rain, 3' hailstones, and hypothermia for me. I would take clean, crisp, freezing area over heat, humidity, and pollution any day. (Though I can put up with just about any climate, so I'm doing just fine in that respect.) Last weekend one of my cousins took me to this Hindu temple (of course if you know me you'll know I don't follow any such religion, but I'm happy to observe and participate in their rituals.) The temple was about a mile hike up a road, and located down along a little stream/pond with a waterfall. But the actual temple was in this TINY cave right next to the waterfall! Had to wade through 2' of water and then go through this little 3' hobbit-hole doorway to get to it. Inside it was just as cramped; room for 3 or 4 people and the priest, with a 4' high ceiling. Fortunately Hindus are quite happy for you to take pictures (I had my cousin translate for me since she's obviously fluent in both English and Tamil, whereas the priest didn't know English, to make sure it was okay to take pictures.)

I'm working slowly but surely on pictures, and when I'm up to date in a few weeks I hope to blog more often and include pictures along with my entries. Until then you'll have to put up with my monotonous droning in text-format only. I'll see all you Boston-area folk in March; I'm arriving on a Friday afternoon and leaving Saturday afternoon with my 24hr layover, so I'm looking forward to dinner and then some clubbing later on since I've been semi-deprived here. Or maybe I'll skip BOS-DTW and stay in Boston for a few days. I haven't quite decided yet. I have a bunch of cities left to visit in the US, southeast Asia and Australia, and Europe. But depending on how business goes I may just keep traveling for some time until I feel like settling down somewhere for a while again.

So if you've put up with my rambling, take care (and take care anyways even if you haven't, but if you haven't I hate you and will have my revenge.) And of course feel free to harass me here since I've barely talked to anyone at home! I'll probably be on AIM more in the coming days, and you can SMS my US cell (T-Mobile doesn't charge me anything extra to receive an SMS while roaming internationally, but don't be surprised by the strange Indian # if I reply!) Oh and again, email me your snail mail address if you want postcards from India and along the way to other places!