Packing

Ok, I’ve got to start packing, because I’m off in less than two weeks, and there will always be that last minute rush to pick up that one last thing that you’d normal not even remember because it was taken as given. I reckon though if I give it a head-start that last minute thing can show up a bit sooner. Maybe.

So maybe you can help me! I’ll list the items here as I remember that I need to pack them, and if you can think of anything that I’ve missed, let me know. I’m going for 10 weeks, so it’s by no means a short trip, and as it’s on the other side of the world in a much more expensive location I’d prefer to have everything first. So! List:

  • Toothbrush
  • Shaver, spare blades, and shaving cream
  • 1 week worth of underwear
  • Clothes etc (a given, but I didn’t want someone to get smart-ass on me)
  • Phone (+ charger)
  • Spare glasses
  • Travel documents + photocopies (again, the whole don’t-get-smart-ass)
  • Plug converter (both UK & Europe)
  • iPod (+ charger)
  • Camera (+ charger)
  • Deoderant
  • Towel!
  • Guide & Phrase book

Yet to get/gather but should imminently:

  • Travel diary-type-thing (reason for is complicated)
  • Addresses of key people (postcards et al)
  • Money in destination denominations

What am I forgetting? Tell me, dear readers!

Happy 59th Indian Independence Day

India. the world’s largest democracy, turns 59 today! =) Also, Happy Birthday to my dad who’s 10 years younger.

I’d go into all sorts of social commentary about India, but I’d probably bore the pants off everyone. Suffice to say, India seems to have, in the last 5 years, really turned a corner on things and is running along quite stably. I hope that within the next 5 real change can be seen on the ground, but I suspect it will take longer than that for the benefits to filter down.

Tomorrow is officially Janamashtami, or Krishna’s Birthday, and as I was born on Janamashtami 21 years ago, it’s sort-of my 21st (by the Indian calendar). Gotta find some way to celebrate! :D

Help Me Decide

I’m torn, and you have until Thursday to help me decide which camera to buy. The options are entirely equivalent, except for the following:

Sony Cybershot W50 Canon IXUS 60
  • Cheaper (by $50)
  • Sexier (in black)
  • Better day shots
  • Better battery life (390 shots vs. 160 shots)
  • Cheaper memory (SD)
  • Better night shots
  • Fancier functions (Colour Highlight, Colour Swap, Stitch Assist)
Sample Images Sample Images
Specs & Image of Camera Specs & Image of Camera
Side-by-side Specs

Choices, choices. I’m leaning towards the Sony because of the battery life and better day shots, as for really good night shots you’d need a tripod anyway. Buying the Canon would definitely mean buying a spare battery ($70), because 150 shots or so go fast with digital sightseeting.

Which would you pick?

Service with a Smile

So I went to the hairdresser-place-thingy on Saturday, and they were too busy. Fair enough. Made an appointment for Sunday, 12 o’clock, nice little free slot in the middle of the day that I figured I could rope in some shopping around. Come Sunday, 12 o’clock, there I was and there was a single chair occupied. I was told that they were running a bit late, and if perhaps I could come back in 20 min to half an hour? Sure, why not.

Only it ended up being 1 o’clock before I got my haircut, and there was nary an apology in sight. I had to be the angry customer, which I always hate to be (because you know you look like an asshole), but 1 hour? That’s unAustralian, I tell you. And I got the blame-shift reply, because she “wasn’t the person who made the appointment, sorry.” Oh sure blame your fellow employee who isn’t there. If someone makes an appointment, they’d better make it in good faith, and a simple sorry doesn’t suffice for an hour’s lost time. These people annoy me.

Suffice to say, next time I’m up for a new barber/hairdresser/thingy.

Also, today, had to do something at the Indian Consulate, which is always going to be a marvellous experience. I know well enough that Indians rarely have the concept of customer service in their minds, but it was a bloody joke there. To start with, they only open from 9:00 to 12:30 for “accepting submissions” – given the number of people there, it’s fairly clear they need to adjust this, because in no way was the demand met. My theory goes that these people still want to live by the Indian standards for opening hours, but they’re forced to open an hour early.

The next thing was the absolutely straight-faced following of the bureaucratic process. There were people who needed to get their visas approved by Thursday because they were flying on Friday, but were told that “nothing could be done” to speed the process. There was this dull, unflinching look in the eyes of the people behind the counter that said “I do not humour people.” You know those forms that need you to fill things in just-so? These people needed you to talk to them like that. I have a sneaking suspicion that, those automated voice recognition systems that don’t recognise what you say unless it’s exactly in the tone it wants? THESE PEOPLE I TELL YOU. And then there was the people with “just a quick question” who didn’t wait for their number to appear, and invariably ended up taking 20 minutes to go through all permutations and combinations of the question. GET IN LINE, DIMWIT.

I saw more than 3 people leave in anger because the bloody stupid bureaucratic process had to be followed (extended because tomorrow and Wednesday are holidays in India – Independence Day – and the Australian consular staff also manage to get the day off. Sweet deal, getting both Indian and Australian holidays off eh?). This is not endearing these people to India, and that’s just the people who’re already set to go there. What happens when they tell their friends? More people not inclined to go through this process.

This wouldn’t annoy me half so much if it wasn’t for the people who decided they were going to have a conversation with the teller, and proceeded to do so loudly in Hindi, somehow assured they wouldn’t be understood by the general crowd, like they’d expect anywhere in Australia. Um. There’s a roomful of people waiting on this person to clear off, and 80% of them can understand they’re discussing where they grew up. If the unnecessary plasti-glass barrier wasn’t there, I’d slap ’em.

Probably why it is there, actually.

Exploring the City

I’ve slowly started to get up & around this city as time goes by, and I’ve found the complexion of the place is different in many unsubtle ways depending on whether you’re a school kid, a tourist or a “suit”. I’m sure there’s other categories, but that’s the ones I’ve been, so that’s how I look at it :)

As a kid, you got off at Town Hall because that’s where all the Fun Stuff was. The arcades, the movies, the southern, less serious end of the city, bordering on Chinatown and Darling Harbour. You knew vaguely there was a whole lot more to the city further north, but even Martin Place seemed a long way away. Life is simple – you find the places where you can have fun, and you stick to them with your friends.

As a tourist, you had two options – the north end, where the world-famous harbour is, or the south end, where Darling Harbour and the other touristy stuff abounds. The easiest way around would be to get off at Circular Quay, explore the “north end” with the Rocks and the Opera House, and then catch a ferry to Darling Harbour, seeing a bit of the harbour along the way and generally avoiding the bits of the city devoted to standard-issue office buildings found anywhere else in the world.

But… as a “suit”, someone who comes into the city daily, you look at things in a different light. Slowly, those “gorgeous cobblestone steps” out the front of your building aren’t so pretty, because on a rainy day, they’re as slick as a skating rink and you’d better watch your step before you break a rib or two. THe “business” part of the city is between the touristy spots to the north and the ‘fun’ spots to the south, though my work is virtually next to Circular Quay. During the day, it’s a hive of activity, but at night, it’s eerily quiet and deserted, the shops and streets that were filled with people disappearing at night. This duality would happen in any city around the world, but I suppose this is the first chance I’ve had to observe it up close, and the clear zoning of Sydney makes it all the more obvious.

I’ve totally forgotten the point of this, but it’d be a waste not to get these thoughts out. I’m still very much exploring the city, comparing & contrasting with the other cities I’ve been to. By the standards of Delhi or Tokyo, Sydney’s a very compact and centralised city. By the standards of New York, it’s just tiny. In many ways, I’ve explored throughly only 10%, the area around my work, and I’ve got a lot to go. So I set this challenge to myself, and any takers: discover a new part of your city every week. Get to know the place, like a local should.