Amritsar and Wagah Border

By 6:15am the guys were in the lobby and ready to go.  We started walking and then called “the guy”… unfortunately he said he would be at the shop by 7am, and not at 6:30am as previously discussed.  Unfortunately this was too late for us so we turned back.  At 7am we picked up our packed breakfasts and boarded the bus.  It was a full size bus which can hold 35, but we only had 13, so lots of room for everyone.  We quickly found out that there was no heating on the bus, and with the temperature outside around 6 degrees it was quite cold, but it did eventually warm up as the sun came up.  On the way out of the city I spotted an ad for a car that stated “It drives so smooth that you feel like you are driving abroad”.  We soon realized why this would be a huge selling point.  The bus ride that entire day felt like an experiment in shaking people!  We arrived at Amritsar shortly after 10am and took a donkey-rickshaw from the bus parking to the heart of town right by the GoldenTemple.

As soon as we stepped off we had someone putting a head cover on our heads for a mere 10R (around 20 cents).  We made our way to the entrance and first thing we had to do was take off our shoes and socks.  Only bare feet allowed, we were quite relieved that it was getting warmer J.  When we finally made it to the entrance of the complex the view was stunning!  It is completely indescribable, and even the pictures cannot give away the enormity of the whole area, and the shine of the GoldenTemple.  There were people taking a dip in the “pool of nectar”, and many splashing themselves and drinking the water from it.  Jaspreet took us around and explained the significance of each part of the temple.

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We then waited in a very long line to get a glimpse of the inside of the temple.  After over an hour we did and it was quite a site, especially from the roof of the temple.

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Next we went to eat at the free kitchen.  That was quite an experience as well, and also a marvel of efficiency.  Everyone is given a plate, spoon and bowl, then they all follow the stairs to the second level and crowd around the doors which all of a sudden open.  Everyone rushes inside and is seated in rows on the floor with plates and bowls in front.  Then people with buckets full of food and ladles quickly go through the rows and fill your plate with 3 local dishes.  All of them non-spicy and all vegetable based.  One was actually quite sweet, and all three tasted really good. Then they come and give you flat pita type bread, and fill your bowl with water.  As you eat they keep coming around to see if you would like more.   After around 5 minutes most people are done and get up with their plates/bowls/spoon and head to the exit.  As you are walking out there is a set of people collecting the spoons, then another set the bowls, and then plates.  You walk by an army of people who are washing dishes, preparing the food, chopping vegetables, and restocking.  Quite an experience!

We said goodbye to the GoldenTemple and departed for the Wagah border.

When we go there we found it to be quite a tourist attraction.  The bus parks about 1km from the border and you walk the rest of the way surrounded by people who are there to sell you food, drinks, postcards, dvd’s and all kind of souvenirs.  Finally you get to the first checkpoint where they look at you and let you pass.  There is a different line for foreigners and a different one for locals.  After the first checkpoint you then go through a second where you need to take our everything from your pockets and get padded down.  Next checkpoint once again you have to take out everything, show your passport, and get padded down.  Finally you get to the stands and are directed to where to sit.  We sat watching as both sides (Indian and Pakistani) filled up with spectators.  Finally the ceremony started.  The pictures and videos below will show much more than I could explain in this write up.

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After the ceremony we walked back to the bus and headed back.  We stopped at a Dharba to get some late “fast Indian food” dinner and then continued on our way.  We were back at the hotel close to 11pm and ready to go to sleep after a very very long day.

At the Office with VP of Bharti Foundation – Ms. Mamta Saikia

We were texting with Mr. Vinay and Mr. Pankaj from Ludhiana office the previous evening, and the plan for today was decided.  We started working from the hotel in the morning.  We analyzed our visits to Ludhiana East, did further research and created a write up on the visits.  The Bharti Foundation office was going to be minimally staffed as the VP of Bharti Foundation – Ms. Mamta Saikia was visiting Ludhiana.  She wanted to meet with our team in the afternoon.  We made our way to the office and set up at our workstations.  Shortly after Mr. Vinay and Mr. Pankaj arrived and invited us down for a celebration downstairs.  It turned out that there was a special group of teachers who just completed 5 years of employment with Bharti Foundation, and they were being recognized by the VP.  After all the festivities and once commemorative plaques were handed out we were able to take pictures with Ms. Mamta.  It turns out that it was also her 10 years at Bharti, and she was presented flowers, heart felt thank yous, and a slideshow presentations.

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After this Ms. Mamta shared with us the vision of Bharti Foundation schools, what new pilots were taking place, what changes have been planned, and finally what part we play in this overall scheme.  It was very informative for us and fortified our sense of direction in this project.  After the meeting we received lots of documentation that we previously requested and dove right into studying it.  We left the office after 6pm and headed back to the hotel.  We went for dinner with the PAU team to the restaurant where we had our first lunch in Ludhiana and ended up ordering way too much food!  So much we had to take it to go, but we ended up finding a great use for it as we gave it to a homeless older man who was happy to receive it.  Another full day over, it was time to go to sleep and rest up.  Tomorrow we head out to Ludhiana West for teacher training on grade 3 to 5 math education.

Ludhiana West – Math Module Training

Early morning with a 7am wake up, breakfast, and departure at 8:15am for the Bharti office.  Today we were at Ludhiana West Office to take part in observation of training for teachers.  The workshop delivered is on how to teach grade 3 – 5 mathematics.  We were met by Mr. Vinay and the trainer Mr. Sayed and we all drove our to the Ludhiana West Office and training center which was about 15 minutes away.  We took the time to get to know each other better and find out some more info about the training session.  When we arrived most of the teachers were already there ready to start the education.   The trainer explained why we were there and the whole class introduced themselves one by one.  We also had a chance to introduce ourselves and thank the class for having us there.  The training was very interactive, just like the Induction training we previously attended.  We got to observe the teaching style and how the teachers reacted to different activities.  Mr. Sayed had a great control of the class and was able to spot which teachers need to be focused on more and adjusted the delivery to suit the class.  We had a great samosa and chai during the break, and a very tasty lunch.  Mr. Vinay even brought some home made food so that we could try it.  We discussed the training so far and  how the teachers are handling it.  We also had a discussion at the end of the training.  We had a chance to meet with the Ludhiana West team who were very welcoming!

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We headed back to the Bharti office and then a short taxi ride back home.  Today was the last day we have our team room (711), as it is booked until Saturday for a doctors convention…. or so we thought!  It turns out that they were able to accommodate us and we do not loose the room for 4 days.  I guess I have to bring all the posters and props back :-), and Cathy has to bring back all the logoware.  Two of the teams were at a dinner tonight, and the remaining two stayed in to complete some blogs and plans for the weekend.  Agra and Shimla… here we come!  Tomorrow however we are all ready for the second day of training at Ludhiana West.  

Day 2 of Ludhiana West Math Training

This morning we were up and off to the Ludhiana office at 8:15am same as previous days.  From the morning until 2:30pm we attended the Math TLM training and as a bonus we had a chance to interview the teachers in the class setting and get some very helpful feedback.

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The lunch was very good and right after we had to say goodbye and head back to the Ludhiana main office where we had a meeting with the District Head – Mr. Bharatdeep,  State Head Trainer Mr. Pankaj, and Ludhiana East Trainer Mr. Vinay, and the Ludhiana Steel team (one of our other IBM CSC India 22 sister teams).  The Ludhiana Steel team requested the meeting as they are trying to help get a CSR program off the ground with that client, whereas Bharti Foundation already has gone through those difficulties and established themselves as a very respectable organization in this field.

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We finished off our day at the office after 6pm and headed back to the hotel.  There we did some more work and then went out to a shop that makes custom tailored shirts and jackets to purchase some merchandise, and then out for dinner.  We ate at an outdoor “Dharba” where we had some very tasty and spicy food, but also got to try an upcoming “Butter chicken” dish courtesy of the owner.  It was very good and we will be back next week to have it once it’s out.  We finished off our day at 711 discussing some final plans for our weekend trips to Shimla and Agra (8 team members are going to Shimla, 3 to Agra – Taj Mahal).

Ludhiana West School Visits

Today we went to Ludhiana West to visit schools with Mr. Parveen Dogra (District Coordinator).   We visited Bhaini-Arian and Malsian Bajan.  Both those schools are in very rural areas and the drive was quite scenic.

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We had a chance to observe the teachers in action.  We sat in on 4 different classes and also spoke with the teachers, cluster coordinator, and head teachers.

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It was a very informative day for us and we returned to the hotel to change and head of to Jaspreet’s home for an authentic Indian meal.  We had a fun time trying to explain to the auto-rickshaw driver how to get there.  We were welcomed very warmly by Jaspreet’s parents and offered some appetizers.

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Then we watched half of a Ballywood movie “Dil Chahta Hai” which was very funny.

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Next we had dinner which was delicious, and we were absolutely stuffed.

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After that great meal we headed back to the hotel for the night.

 

 

CSC Team Interaction Day and Departure for Shimla

This morning we met in 711 (team room) along with other teams (except for Cathy, Kazu and Eduardo who had to go do a client presentation).  We discussed our projects and finalized our SOW objectives and planned the work for the upcoming weeks.  After work the team split up, 8 of us were departing for Shimla by van, 3 going to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, and 1 staying back in Ludhiana.  I was part of the Shimla trip.  The van was comfortable and the drive up to the mountains relatively uneventful (except for a stop at McDonalds, which none of us were crazy about)…. but then the fun began.

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We arrived at foot of the mountains when it was dark.  The road was turn after turn, all cars were on high beams, there were people, monkeys, scooters and oncoming traffic of course.  This did not seem to faze anyone as they were all still passing, even on the turns not knowing what is around the corner.  We stopped once for chai, and then continued to the Royal Oaks Hotel in Shimla.  We got there around 10 and by that time it was very cold.  To our surprise the rooms were also cold.  Apparently most hotels there do not have central heating and we were offered heaters instead (they were not hot enough though).  Since it was too late to go out and eat we just took out all our snacks and made a “snack buffet” out of one of the tables.  We warmed up with some drinks and went to sleep under very thick blankets.

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Shimla

We woke up around 9am and headed to the restaurant upstairs for breakfast.  The breakfast was simple but good.

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Right after breakfast we got dressed and departed for a long trek to the Jakhoo Temple which was at the top of a mountain.

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There were many monkeys at the temple, ready to attack at any moment.  We toured the temple and came back down to the town.

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For lunch we went to the Wake and Bake cafe where we had some very delicious food.

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For dinner we went to a “bar” where everything was extremely spicy.

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DSCN0675 DSCN0676We did some shopping and then headed back to the hotel where everyone right away got on “wi-fi” to alleviate the connection withdrawal symptoms.

Here are some videos from Shimla:

Christ Church – http://youtu.be/0svT73XR1Ac
Shimla Monkey – http://youtu.be/qo0eJbrZ9QY
Shimla Panorama – http://youtu.be/z1fdvIW7NbQ

That night we had lots of fun and everyone went to sleep exhausted after a very long day.

<< For more blogs from India 22 CSC Team see the section above India 22 Blogs or click here ->  BLOGS >>

The Beauty of Himachal Predesh

We got up early for an 8:30am breakfast.  We ate fast, packed, settled our bill at the hotel and departed for the rail station with a short stop at the post office.  We were taking the Shimla-Kalka train about half the way (3 hour journey).  Our van drivers were asked to pick us up in Solan when the train arrives there.  It turned out that we were split into 4 groups in 4 different coaches, but that was ok.  We boarded and train and departed for a spectacular ride through the Himalayan mountains.  The pictures speak for themselves.

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Himalayan Train Ride – http://youtu.be/PODLZTQkYiE

Himalayan Trian Ride – http://youtu.be/TAtTPMaEO14

Train – http://youtu.be/Jtd9M8Kvh68

On the way back we stopped at Domino’s pizza, and then continued our way back to Ludhiana.

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During the end of the trip the gold medal hockey game between Canada and Sweden was ongoing.  We were tracking it on the phone, however when we returned to the hotel the ending of 3rd period was on the TV!!   We go to watch Canada win the gold medal in mens hockey!!  GO CANADA GO!!!

 

Back in Ludhiana and at Bharti Foundation Office

This morning it was back to the project work at hand, and off to the office after a quick breakfast.  We arrived at the office and prepared for our meeting with the District Head, Mr. Bharatdeep.  We were presenting out current status and asking for some more answers and documentation.  We finished the presentation and went for a late lunch down the street for some local street food.  I had the paneer pizza which was quite good.  The meeting in the afternoon went well and we got further direction on our SOW (Scope of Work).  There was some recognition at the office today as an employee from finance was recognized with a special achievement award.  We got to take pictures together and also everyone in the office had pizza!!!  (wish I would have known this before lunch 🙂 .

After work there was a bit of a mix-up with the car and we didn’t get back to the hotel until after 7pm.  Two other teams were already gone to an outing at the Brewmaster.  We met with those who remained in 711 and discussed the day, updated the blogs, and caught up on emails.  We also discussed the community service day which is this Friday.  We are all getting together and organizing an activities half-day for a local school.  There will be group events, competition, possibly some sports, and prizes for the children!

No pictures from today as the camera battery was dead and I did not take the camera to work.  But more coming soon!  Check out the other team blogs for some updates as well!

A warm spring Tuesday

It seems like late spring here in Ludhiana for the past few days.  The day temperature is reaching 26 degrees Celsius with today being no exception.    We departed for the office early morning and got right into work.   We split the project into 3 parts and each one of us started working on their part.  By late lunchtime we realized that we have worked throughout the whole morning and one of our Bharti colleagues made sure to mention that we should have taken a chai brake.  We went for lunch to the usual spot which is the same as previous day.

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After lunch we continued our work and left the office at the end of the day.  There was some traffic disruptions today (CM visit?) and we were waiting a bit for our driver.  We asked to be dropped off at a super market on the way back.  There we bought educational aids, erasers, markers, crayons and candy for children at the schools we visited and also some things for the children taking part in the community service engagement this Friday.   We got back to the hotel and went out to eat at a local outdoor Dhaba.

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After the Dhaba I went to pick up my jacket and shirt, and then came back to the hotel.   Another late night, time to go to sleep as we have activities planned the rest of the week and weekend.