Thursday, 1 October 2009

A farewell to India and my friends......

As I write this I am 3 hours into my train journey to Delhi. I cant help feeling slightly sad today. After saying goodbye to my friends and the admin staff at the training centre I’m left with a hollow feeling indside that I know will be filled when I reach home and my girlfriend and friends. Ofcourse I’m excited to get back home with my memories and new qualifications but I feel I shall always leave a little bit of myself in India.. I will miss the amazingly diverse country and the ingenious make do methods only the Indians can devise. The nothing is too much bother attitude, the yes we have always got room in the vickeram , can do spirit. These I feel are a mix of the great age old British muster and the traditional Indian culture.
As the beautiful lush greenery and farms peppered with brick kilns and buffalo pulling carts pass my cabin window I wonder if I will ever be able to return to India and travel the English occupation trail in search of heritage.
My last day was Wednesday, I wanted to go in to spend one last day there and it felt strange not having to go through books for a particular slice of Microsoft to get my head around for my next exam. I was asked to write a few lines for the Koenig website and register with a forum where people would ask questions about visiting Koenig and studying in India, I gladly did both.
In the morning Papiya the exam centre manager called me in and did the sweetest thing, she said she was at the market last night and wanted to get me a present but she didn’t know what to get me so she decided to get something for my girlfriend, she produced a silver chain with a silver note on it and put it into a small velvet bag. I was so moved by this and it was completely unexpected and took me aback. I thanked her for her generosity and kindness.
I spent the rest of the day with my friends and trainers; it was obviously a relaxed day today. I also spent some time with Nidhi the centre manager as well, she had a bit of a cold and couldn’t make the birthday party last night which was a shame as she is always funny and as she was one of the few females that would drink vodka, we were dying to see her merry and her husband have to drag her home. Nidhi is probably one of the nicest people you could ever meet she runs the centre with kindness and a smile and always has time for anyone. I found out that she is working on setting up her own NGO to bring free education to the poor and provide them with a means to work. She also wants to set up factories and farms to enable these poorer people with a job and sustainable income for their families.
Eventually the time came to go back to the country house, this was the part I had not been looking forward to and still makes me feel sad now. I went round and said my goodbyes and collected email addresses. For the staff this is a normal occurrence to see students leave but for me it was a little more, those people that had done so much for me and had never made me feel like a stranger, only a friend, and that I might not see them again… The driver came and I got in the old beaten up Toyota red pick up with its front indicators held in with celeotape, for my last trip to the country house. All the admin staff came to the front door and didn’t stop waving until we were far out of site.

Andy, Jason, George and I had arranged to meet up at 6 and go try a new restaurant tonight. It was called the Yethi restaurant and it served Chinese, Thai and Indian cuisine with the obligatory “continental” menu. We arrived and it was smaller than we expected from seeing the outside, but we were welcomed in and were seated and handed menus whilst they started the air-con. A fantastic selection of food is on offer here and well recommended by the admin staff at the centre. We placed our order knowing that as always we had probably ordered too much! Whilst waiting for the food my trainer and Jason’s trainer came in and said “surprise”…. They had popped in because we said were going to the Yethi, they gave me gifts, a very nice box of caramels and a T-shirt, again I was taken aback by this really sweet gesture. They didn’t have time to stop for food or a drink; we shook hands and exchanged wishes. This day wasn’t getting any easier.. But the food started coming, and coming and coming soon our large table was covered with a selection of dim-sums and soups. The food was all piping hot and freshly made, a real result. Soon, and I mean soon the main course arrived and by now we had to put all dim-sums that we hadn’t eaten yet into less bowls to make space for the plates and the main course. Again this was very hot and very nice, if you are looking for Chinese or Thai food the Yethi restaurant is the place to be, but they do not serve alcohol. We all tried each other’s food and we were very impressed. Then the bill came. Rs 1340 that’s about £16 for all food and drinks and we had enough food left over for another!
We left the restaurant after spending the meal time trying to explain cricket to our American colonial cousin Jason, we failed. We got a tuk tuk back to the Country house and had one last beer on the veranda. I decided that I needed to go back and start the mission that is going home, we all shook hands and promised to keep in touch. I closed my door and started packing for home….

At 5:30am there was a knock on my door, it was Sanjay “Mr steve the car is here”, I looked at my iphone and saw the time, my train isn’t until 7:20 and its barely 30 minutes to the station. “Just a minute” I got up washed dressed and assembled in minutes. Sanjay was still at the door waiting to carry my bags to the car. In the car even at 5:45 people were still going to work, cows were heading into the busy parts of roads for their daily obstructiveness, monkeys were raiding the bins for breakfast and everything seemed normal in India when a family of 4 and a baby on the handlebars passed by with a few beeps on a 50cc moped. There was even what we call a kamikaze moped on the roads at this time (a 50cc moped with 2 huge propane cylinders strapped to it and a driver trying to hold on and ride it). The station was still the same hustle and bustle with the porters in red carrying peoples baggage. My electronic ticket I was given didn’t seem to have my carriage or seat number on it, this caused endless amount of fun at 6:15 in the morning, not a train official to be seen and if there was one I doubt he could help. The only thing that remained to do was check the reservation paper lists that had been wallpapered to the sides of each carriage. After 25 minutes I found my name on one of these lists and signaled to my driver, we got the bags onboard. There might have been a mix up or perhaps they didn’t have any executive cars on today. I had a sleeper cabin with a well dressed balding Indian with one of those old comedy ‘it aint half hot mum’ mustaches that’s nothing but a thin grey pencil line above his upper lip. He was friendly and he said he was also expecting a chair carriage. Now imagine watching en episode of Sherlock Holmes when he and Dr Watson are riding n a train carriage. Yup that’s the one, when we entered it had been arranged like 2 sets of bunk beds but in a few lifts and catches it was now 2 bench seats and really looked the part. Unfortunately its now 12pm and I’m ravenous, all I can think of is that dimly lit pub in Delhi with those fantastic sheek kebabs!!!! Oh wait I’ve got some biscuits here somewhere…….
I decided to get to know my traveling companion a little, so I broke the ice with some good day butter biscuits. Apparently he is a professor at the Indian Institute for Science. We spoke about Indian culture and more about the British legacy. We spoke for hours and the journey soon passed.
Eventually we arrived at Delhi and as soon as I stepped out of my nice quaint air-conditioned cabin the heat hit me, it was like a warm humid blanket that smelled of dust and 2-stoke fuel. My driver was waiting right outside my carriage door and immediately tried to struggle with my now full of books cases! I eventually prized one out of his hands and we took one each up the stairs, and down the stairs and across the car park! I had now realised how sedate the Dehradun way of driving was compared to Delhi in rush hour, I can see now exactly how those cars get all those dents! We were driving done a dual carriage way with a raised kerbed section dividing the east and west traffic, our direction was nose to tail side by side and anywhere there was any space left would be 2 scooters. When I say we were close, I mean to say it’s now impossible for anyone to open a door or leave a car, I’ve been in London rush hour but this is something else. A tuk-tuk in front decided he would mount the raised section between the flow of traffic with his front wheel, he then got out and lifted the rear wheels onto the section, got back in drove along the raise section then off into the oncoming traffic, with a few toots of his horn to let people know he was there. As soon as this had been seen by others that was it, after 5 minutes all you could see were cars traveling away from us in both directions!!!!! Just madness.
We arrived at the Koenig inn and I was greeted by the manager who asked me how my stay was in Dehradun, he had arranged for me to have the same room as last time and I was delighted. I turned the air-con on full set the ceiling fans to warp 7 and went to sleep on the bed…..
I awoke at 6:30 and decided to head into town to find my favorite bar and sheek kebabs… After braving the incredibly hot Delhi evening I found my goal. As soon as the door man opened the door the cool fresh air-con covered me over like a cool autumn evening. I headed up the stairs and found a table. I ordered a Kingfisher strong and my much coveted prize the sheek kebab. As this was my first and only meal of the day I decided to have another look at the menu (not easy in the dim light). They specialised in Chinese food so I ordered hot sour chicken soup and a wonderful looking dish (as my neighbor had it) chilli-chicken. Oh and another ice cold beer with an ice cold glass…. God I love this place! The food was piping hot and as good as anything I had eaten in a very long time. At 8:30 and feeling very happy and content I left, oh the bill was RS 650 (about £8). Back to the room AC on full whack and relax with a film and an early night!!!

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

The 5 exam week........... Now with qualifications..

I know I have been uber-slack with my blog the past week or so but to be honest you havent missed a great deal, mostly studying for exams taking exams and passing ALL !!!!
I will write something with lots of pictures soon as soon as I can get some more images from Andy.
But this hard work has all paid off and Im just waiting for my confirmation email from Microsoft but I now have......

MCSA (2003)
MCSE (2003)
MCTS (Vista)
MCITP (2008 Enterprise)

12 exams done completed, passed, gone forever!!!!!

Now, Air India has decided to strike, this may cause fun and games with my journey home.
One of the lovely staff here managed to track down a customer number that wasnt disconnected and it seems that my flight is still going to run (I bet I wont have extra seats this time!).
So the plan is for me to get the train from Dehradun to Delhi on thursday morning and arrive approx lunchtime. Then stay in Delhi for the day and fly out on the 2nd at 13:55.

More news to follow !!!!!!
Things to mention in my next blog, cocktails on sat with the guys and the double birthday party at Koenig....

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Sunday the day of rest and religion, oh and a trip to a fine resurant


I awoke at 9am and rolled over and slept til about 11:30. :-) Some people might think this a waste of half a day but the batteries enjoyed the recharge time!
Jason and i had arranged to go for a walk to see the local monastery, (there are a few here in Dehradun due to the number of Tibetan monks, or is that why there are so monks? Chicken and egg anyone?)
We set off after lunch and enjoyed the walk.

The now obligatory road cow shot.

The Hindi temple.

The Hindi temple again, notice the mirrors and sinks on the right.

We did notice a lot of activity at the Hindi temple and lots of flip-flops outside, had it not been so busy we might have had a look inside. Now, being a Westerner Jason and I had no idea about religious protocol, apart from the fact shoes were a no-no. I'm not sure on the washing before or after visiting a religious area so Ill save this visit until I bring a native...

Sunday seems to bring everyone out.

Another road cow just going for a walk.

Sundays are very important here in India as for most its the only day off, celebration, shopping and religion.

Not far down the road was our closest Buddhist temple. This seemed a lot quieter and we decided to investigate.

Quite majestic for a smaller temple we got closer.

Opened by the Dalai Lama no less!!!!

Now, I really fancied having a look inside, but those long white stairs might have lead to a huge group deep in prayer and I wasn't sure what would happen. Like two school boys daring each other we got closer. Then I thought sod it I'm going to have a look. I climbed the stairs followed by Jason and was greeted by a monk outside the temble. It was nearly empty so I thought it might be nice to enter, I walked closer and the monk pointed at my feet and I nodded respectfully and removed my shoes, I then entered trying to walk as religiously and respectfully as I could In a Buddhist Temple, not being of any religion this probably wasn't very convincing. I was a little discrete with taking pictures as I didn't want to find out that this was a huge desecration of there worship and end up being stoned or something. The inside was spectacular and the pictures can not convey the grandness of it all.

The altar surrounded with bronze/gold statues.

There are statues everywhere, it gives you an incredible feeling of being somewhere of huge historical and religious significance.

The work and time spent in creating this temble is just beyond belief, everything is in perfect and prestene order and the quality and craftsmanship is staggering.

Right the way up the the walls to the ceiling statues everywhere.

Some repairs? Painting? or just more shelves for statues?

Having had a look around and being as discrete with the camera as possible I headed out.
We decided to go for a walk as it was a nice day.

The true work-mans wagon.

A funky looking lorry, there are quite a few of these about, and they like to decorate them.

Someone having an extension to there already large and wealthy house.

Another funky lorry.

The monkeys were out in force today.

As soon as you get the camera out the head off.....

Luckily this camera has zoom!

Before we had realised it we had walked a fair few miles downhill, Jason wanted some snacks from our emporium so we decided to hail a Vickeram and ride to the shops. I also had my camera so I thought id take some snaps to show you.

We managed 11 people in this Vickeram....

Now this is our "local shop" there are many alongside the road but this is our preferred choice!

An army official getting supplies.

How colourful is that, notice Jason selecting some fine green tea.

Its just amazing what this guy actually has......

After getting more essential supplies we headed back to get ready to go for dinner, tonight it was the hotel President.
A 15 minute ride in a crowded Vickerham and we were in town, the President is just next to the Black Pepper.

Some Indian Gent, George, Andy and Jason.

Only in India........

Enjoying a haywards 5000 at the President hotel.(Andy, me George and Jason)

My fave! Sheek kebab and the best way to spend a £1.

A mixed selection of Indian, Chinese and continental foods.
The President was cheap, starters being about £1 and main courses averaging £2.
The service was good but the timings of the starters and main courses were a bit random, the Black pepper has better food and first class service!

We poured out of the President and hired a private tuk tuk to take us back home!

Saturday, getting warm..

Right it seems that the purchase of my fine English brolly ended the Monsoon season. This means two main things, Less mosquitos, but more heat.

It tends to get to 30+degrees during the day and not a lot less at night time, that would be OK but its very humid here so a few showers a day and a couple changes of clothes needed to remain human. Another exam today and this will mostly consist of DNS, Subnetting and security with a liberal sprinkling of GPO. Want to know what all that means? then speak to Microsoft or pay me a good consultancy fee and ill explain (that's what us MCPs do).

The drive to the centre was its normal fun filled trip and the morning coffee club guys seem to wave before I do now! Before I leave I'm going to get up early and have a coffee with them!

More road cows trying to obstruct the rush hour traffic.

Shops getting ready for the day ahead.

People walking to work...

The day was mostly spent going over stuff for my next exam at 2:30, this was probably my least favourite exam so far...
As a treat I ordered McDonalds for Lunch and 9 cold nuggets and fries were waiting for me at 1pm. A quick nuke from the microwave and I could just imagine being back home in Bournemouth in a nice clean McDonalds :-)

Exam at 2:30 came in no time at all and I was finger-printed, passport I'd and processed before the gas chamber. I finished the exam in an hour and was very pleased to have passed it and got it out of the way. Six down and 6 or 7 left to do.
I said that it was getting a little warmer....

Coco seeking some shade and a nap.

Coco and Dad seeking shade under a car.

Coco's dad taking a secret beak from his overly playful son.

Exam passed and due to the fact I don't have another exam until Tuesday or Wednesday I think a few beers will be partaken of tonight! A Lazy Sunday also awaits !!!!!!!!

Tuesday to Saturday... Yes Im still alive!

Sorry for the obvious deficit of Blogging media.

I have now decided to add another course to my study here, this will be the upgrade from MCSE to MCITP Enterprise Administrator, yes it maybe madness but I'm here so I may as well get as much out of it as I can. This does mean going from my original 7 exams to now 13 including another course I have already completed.... I think I might as well just give up sleep and Turing into an exam taking and learning machine. After doing subnetting and translating IP to Binary I now genuinely feel like a robot. So far my certifications include, MCP, MCDST, MCSA, MCTS, MCTS Vista.
Im still to add MCSE and MCITP Enterprise Administrator.... maybe another.. ;-)

As promised here are some pictures of the Training centre.

The reception desk, Nidia the Centre managers office is to the right.

The corridor to the right of the reception desk.

The corridor to the right of the reception desk, my lab is the 3rd on the left.

Ahhhh lab 9 home to Steve for a month.

The prometric office and the gas chamber to the right!

Tuesday, 15 September 2009


I have noticed I'm falling behind a little with my blog, today being Wednesday and this being Mondays blog.... Also see Sundays blog underneath, its NEW

Monday was exam day, I had 2 extra exams for another course I thought would be fun, (you know when you have been here too long when you consider 2 visits to the gas chamber in one day fun!).
I had an exam at 9:30 and another at 2:30, most of Monday was spent cramming for exams and starting a new book for my main course. This is a mad way to do things...... I passed my exam at 9:30 did some study for my main course until lunch then crammed for another exam at 2:30, passed that and continued until 5pm with my main course.

The 2 exams I added and passed were quite basic XP desktop support exams for the Microsoft course, MCDST (Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician). I just wanted to add more letters and acronyms to my CV to confuse people! Well so far I am now an MCP and an MCDST!
I intend to work my course in a particular order so that I qualify for the MCSA (Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator) and again another Microsoft qualification and acronym!

After the day I went home and finished the book I had started that day, Just needing to do the labs and exercises tomorrow.

Then sleep! Sorry today is dull to read, but here's a picture of a cow... ok its a Bull. Also a few more random images Ive taken.

A view of the not so developed part of the IT park.

The comparison of ultra rich modern and well we might finish it sometime!

A Bull reminding us that its his road and hes not mooooving.

Sunday a day of study and a Curry house!

The warm feeling of sun and the head of India woke me up at about 10:30, I looked at my Iphone, saw the time, smiled and rolled over for more sleep. A knock at the door around11:30 woke me up and it was the manager of the accommodation asking if i wanted to order pizza for lunch, I ordered a peperoni pizza from Pizza hut and decided that my lay-in was over. Jason was outside with a selection of fine Cuban cigars, he was contemplating which to enjoy on his Sunday afternoon. We chatted about guy stuff and the course.

My lay-in being cut short I showered and got ready for lunch. I have 2 exams on Monday so I must make a little time for revision (easy MCDST so not that much). Pizza arrived and was enjoyed! As we sat down for lunch Andy, Jason and I decided that we would celebrate our day off in style. At 5pm we would meet and get a vikeram into Dehredun and go to the Black pepper a local famous curry house. Until then I was to be buried in books and revising for exams. Eventually 5pm came around and we gathered for the trip. Now public transport in India is a story within its self, you have as expected various levels of transportation:

The end of the world Prison buses with bars not windows, these barely stop to pick you up and dont stop to drop you off.
Vickerams, these are blue 3 wheeled motor scooters with a 2 benches and a roof, these cost about 8Rs per person and they will happily try to carry 12 even though they seat 4/5, it has been known for these to get so overloaded people have to get out to go up hill.
Tuk Tuks, think of a posh Vickeram that you hire rather than squat in, these are black and yellow, cost about 80Rs to town (but worth the £1).

Scooters, these are used by everyone, not sure about the legality of a helmet, insurance or even a driving licence for that matter. I have seen a 50cc scooter carry a man with a child on his lap, 2 children behind him and his wife on the back holding them all on... Only in India!

Cars, these vary but they tend to favour Suzuki swifts or expensive Hondas! Ill get a selection of cars on the road in my next blog. No matter what car all card have their wind mirrors folded in or removed, those extra few inches mean you can squeeze passed another car.

We hailed a Vickeram and there were only 2 people in it, we thought "great an easy ride into town".

Jason, Andy and myself in a Vickeram, cosy and this with just 3!

Well it was too good to be true and eventually lots of bony bummed Indians jockied for a few square inches of seats. We managed 9 people, and the driver was still soliciting for more business!
Well we managed to stop next to Black pepper and felt like a beer was in order!

The majestic Black pepper.

We ordered 3 Haywwods 5000, the waiter left, a few minutes later "sorry we don't have any Haywoods, would you like fosters strong?" "yes that would be fine". A few minutes later "sorry we don't have any Fosters strong would you like Kingfisher strong?". "yes that would be fine". Eventually the beer came and was ice cold and very much enjoyed. We all received menus and to us Brits this was a real slice of home with only slight changes to the menus we would choose from on a weekend night in England. Jason being the token American had no idea what was what so we ordered. We started with Poppadoms and chutney, Lamb boti kebabs, Chicken taka tak, Chicken Karai, Keema nan, Garlic nan, Butter nan and a mild mutton curry for Jason. All washed down with another Kingfisher. The service in Black Pepper is second to none and they just couldn't do enough for us, the restaurant started to fill up a little about 8:45.

The 3 Amigos Andy, Myself and Jason.

The feast went on until about 9:30 having enjoyed over 4 hours of food and beer we waddled outside to get a lift home. After a brief discussion we decided that in out bloated seat we would shell out the 100Rs for a ride home in near comfort, and hailed a Tuk Tuk.

Rested relaxed and contented I spent an hour or so studying for my exams in the morning.