You would think with all the blog posts that living here in LA is just like an extended vacation, but that’s actually not the case. Lee has been hard at work developing his local contacts and learning a new skill set. Last week he was booked on his very first job here in Hollywood, and it was for a television show!!! He signed an NDA so I can’t go into details but he had the opportunity to work here and he made it on the call sheet, which is a big deal because that means the show goes on his professional credits. The culture is very different than the live corporate events he has done in the past, but he is learning the rules and he’s in the room at least! He has also planned a trip to the NAB conference and will be meeting with two of his freelance employers there. As a freelancer it is a great place to catch up on new technology and meet new contacts.
While he was doing that, I was working very hard at my new job and three months in I really love it. I have a great boss, am given a lot of autonomy and really feel like I am making an impact. For me, it doesn’t get better than that. Plus I finally have the opportunity to fulfill a life long dream of mine and I am going on an international business trip to Pune, India. These trips are expensive and they don’t send you unless you have something valuable to add so I am really excited about that.
As a VERY seasoned domestic traveler I wasn’t that concerned about traveling alone, but I soon found out international travel is quite a bit different. I have learned quite a bit over the last week and wanted to share it with you. It is important to note that as part of international travel I was sent some warnings from the global security department. Those caught my attention and pushed me down some interesting paths. Keep in mind this was for all of India and as I have learned different areas have different cultural norms. These are the generic India warnings.
“Women should carry a scarf/shawl and wear loose-fitting clothing that covers the chest, arms to the elbow, and legs. Women travellers should minimize travel after dark as risks are not entirely mitigated even when in a small group, including those involving men. Maintain a formal tone with men not known to you. Keep your food and drinks always in sight, particularly if with a recent or casual acquaintance”
OK so let’s break the clothing down. I have spent a ton of time trying to track this down and ultimately the most helpful thing was to look at pictures of people who live there. When in Rome, as they say.
- It’s hot and humid in Pune (100+ degrees) so I have no problem at all with loose fitting clothing. That being said I wasn’t crazy about no short sleeve shirts although ultimately am focusing on 3/4 length 100% cotton. As a note I went through my existing wardrobe and only had one work shirt that fit the bill so I am looking for more. One big problem is the V neck in most work shirts. Unless it completely buttons up I wont feel comfortable taking it so that severely narrowed my selection.
- I wasn’t sure what covering the legs meant, I have some very nice pants that cover the knee but I think they may show too much of my calves. All my work pants are either black or too heavy so I need to buy some lighter weight tan pants.
- It doesn’t mention shoes at all and as all women know that’s a big deal. I ended up asking a woman colleague who works inn Pune and she told me open toed sandals are OK ::: Whew! As a side note I didn’t trust any one source but rather validated what I was told with pictures of people in the area. That helped.
- From what I am told jeans are OK but since they are hot and I don’t own a pair that I would consider “loose fitting” I am skipping them. I do have a work friend who travels frequently to India and she says she wears them all the time, but better safe than sorry on this first trip.
- Now we come to the shawl. I have pretty mixed feelings about that, but I do know there are some locations (ie: temples) that you cannot go into without your head being covered. I am choosing to view this as a religious/cultural sensitivity and plan on taking one although not sure how often I will actually wear it.
The second part about security was much more important. Sexual harassment and even rape is a big deal in India, but again you get mixed information depending upon who you talk to. Oddly the men I will be working with are taking this more seriously than the women which kind of tells you everything you need to know. Here’s what I have decided at least initially.
- I will be working 1pm – 10pm so I am not going to go anywhere at night unaccompanied. I have asked for someone to walk me back to the hotel at night (less than 100 yards) which I will be rigid about not sure yet about the daytime.
- To get from the hotel to work I have to cross a busy street and some people I have talked to are concerned I could get hit by the “crazy” traffic. I will need to scope this out when I get there and play this one by ear. I have heard of situations where foreigners are intentionally targeted in traffic accidents and I obviously don’t want any part of that.
- Maintaining a formal tone is going to be really tough for me. I found a wonderful travel blog written by a Canadian solo female traveler and she talks quite a bit about this. As a polite Canadian she found that was sometimes misconstrued as being available for advances and has learned how to put up a “force field” when interreacting with men she doesn’t know. Since I tend to be overly conciliatory in unfamiliar situations, this was a big ah ha moment for me. It’s not like I don’t know how to put up a force field (been doing it since I was 14) it’s just I don’t want to be rude. But force field it is as safety is always first.
- Keeping food and drink in sight well ok. First off I am worried in general about these. You can’t drink the water so I obsessed about that until I bought a water bottle with a filter system in it. I drink a ton of water and bottled water isn’t always available. After researching I bought the Lifestraw which is good for bacteria and used by back country hikers and international travelers. I had never heard of these so I learned something cool. The spice level in the food is also a concern and they are suggesting I don’t eat in the work cafeteria because the food will be too spicy. I want the whole experience though so I am going to try some things out. If nothing else I might lose some weight. As far as watching my food and drinks, for me this is only something you need to do if you go in a bar in America. That being said I am going to try and follow the advice and having my own water bottle should help some.
- Getting from A to B is also an issue. In separate correspondences I was told business travelers cannot take rickshaws or UBER but instead must have an official cab. For women travelers the transportation must be coordinated through the hotel or local office. I have someone picking me up at the airport at 4:30am but I will be there two weeks and want to explore a little on my weekend. My plan is to work through the hotel to get a driver for the day or maybe I will get lucky and someone from the office wants to hang out with me a little. This especially matters because I decided to not check a bag (don’t want to go through customs twice) and instead I will buy stuff or do laundry when I am there.
- Finally I am not sure if I will have cell coverage. Wifi doesn’t work everywhere if you don’t have a local phone so I am trying to get an international calling option. The information here is not very good, but I have verified wifi isn’t everywhere. I have an SOS card to take with me for medical or security issues but if I can’t make a call not sure how that will work.
So those are the things I have been working through. The trip is 4/24 – 5/3 and I am not sure if you will hear from me at all those two weeks, but I promise to fill you in when I come back. One other thing I will mention is all of this was pretty stressful and in the middle of the research one day the rig started to shake violently. It seriously felt like we were in an earthquake. It stopped and then it started again and what we realized was someone pulled into a spot in front of us and while they were turning their toy hauler caught our pin box and dragged us several feet. Thankfully no one was hurt but it was one of the scariest things I have experience in an RV and the dog was seriously freaked out. We also discovered that our front window is cracked and although we are still standing have no idea if we have jack damage or not. The only way to know is to hitch up but then we are committed to doing something about it right then and there.
The good news is the person who did it is also monthly and he is insured. Lee has to call his insurance company and get the process going but this would be MUCH worse if we weren’t staying here long term. Will let you know how all that goes.
Finally I wanted to take a moment and share the loss of our good friend’s Deb and Steve dog Hurley. Hurley was a pit bull rescue and was one of the sweetest dogs I have ever met. I’ll be honest I was afraid of pit bulls before Hurley but Lee and I both learned how wonderful they could be if raised properly. He also was very tolerant of Jack and we loved him for that as well. Hurley you will definitely be missed and I am sure you are playing up in Doggy Heaven,
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