Friday, February 20, 2009

Its about Food!

Feb 19th, 2009
Disclaimer : Below is my personal view only and an experience of just over 10 days...

How much would you give importance to food ? Believe me it becomes the first important thing next to breathing when you are away from home for long where you dont get your home put it straight, food has become my first next to oxygen here in Chicago.

I spend $6 per day on an average for my lunch. My God its Rs. 300 (xchnge rate is over 48 now) for one time food...Hold on.... is it me? spending so much for one lunch? and unfortunately my stomach (or is it my soul?) is no way satisfied with it still...
You get everything to make your indian food and most of our Desi's here prepare and bring their lunch to office. Have decided to start myself soon as well. But frankly, that doesnt satisfy your expectations either. Its becoz we prepared it, we would enjoy it without complaints...he he he. it has the other advantage of cost effectiveness as well. Again, this is totally my observation on people bringing food. Personally, am more sensitive to taste! i need (or was in need of) a perfect proportion of salt and spice and again it is especially the right measure of 'salt' that matters the most for me. In the past one week, am forced to start suppressing my senses :). Hey wait again, it doesnt mean guys here never cook good food, but that happens rarely. Infact, there are only two things when in onsite, one is co-ordination with client or offshore and the other is ofcourse cooking. And so, when we go out to any indian restaurant no one minds to spend dollars or calculate the cost in INR.

And my 4 roomies prepare delicious dinner in turns daily... though you cant compare it with your moms' its the great food you would get in any part of ....bcoz my brain forces the practical experiences to speak over the natural response of my senses....
The ready made mixes brought from home are the saviour for the struggling taste buds....
It is threatening to think that they wouldnt last for long.

You know what? Am supposed to take a new apartment in a day or two with a north indian colleague who claims would cook non-veg. am a pure veg 'till now' fyi. I suppose, even the God is wondering what am i going to eat. Am sure that i would miss the food prepared by my roomies. And I owe them a lot...

This country loves peace and its an unwritten rule that honking is forbidden during driving and so is used only in extreme conditions. But there isnt peace for your tongue that longs for the indian spice :)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

1, 2, US

Feb 12, 09

There are certain things which are to be done mandatorily as soon as reaching US. Just give a thought and what would you think are important ? an accomodation, a phone, a bank account ? But there are more things and the order of execution could matter too at times. Here goes the list below in the Order of importance.
1.) I -9 form - Employment verification form to be done and posted within 2 days starting work in US ideally. Form available in uscis website. (Am told that it can be done within a week :) and i posted it on 3rd day) . I posted it twice as i missed to post it along with the copy of I-94, Visa and Passport. So remember the copies to be attached.
2.)SSN - social security number, an equivalent of ID card in US, though it is of the second highest priority you have to wait for two weeks to apply for one, only then you will find your profile updated to get it. so am yet to apply for it.
3.)Bank Account - On a personal front, the most important for our surviving, you would need to have one and get your employer informed so that your salary gets credited. To my knowledge with inputs from many friends in US, Bank of America (BoFA) is good to have one. you can have easy internet transactions. though you would be dependent on a third party (like sbi or moneytoindia...) to transfer money to your indian accounts, any bank for that matter would depend on a third party. Hey, you need SSN to open a bank account, but dont worry you can initially open it with just your passport and later update the SSN as soon as you get it.
4.)Phone - mm, the fuel for any one living away from his home. to get a connection on contract from any service provider which gives you great phones like black berry or iphone for free, you need your SSN. so one option is to wait till you get your SSN and the other option if its urgent for you, go for prepaid as i have done and you can change it to a contract or even change the service provider without changing the number later getting the SSN. T- mobile is giving better options in "prepaid" than AT & T with a free phone along with the connection. i got a prepaid with basic Nokia phone for around $21. Remember, the minimum contract period is 2yrs and there is high cancellation charges if you break the contract in between. $175 in case of AT& T, but in T-mobile, if the reason is genuine like leaving the country, the cancellation charges are waived.
5.)Accomodation - Though it is of highest need to get one as you step into the country, i assume you would get one easily through your friends for initial days atleast until u get one for in that case you can get this done easily. You would need the SSN here as well to go for the lease agreement, Agreement breaking charges are applicable, but most of the cases, you would have people coming in and going out so that the agreement can be managed. i guess so. You have lots of websites to tell you the available acco (like sulekha...).
6.) Car - To make your life a comfortable one in US, you need this. A car is a very basic necessity in US and i regret that i dint learn driving in India. It is very tough to live without a car especially in suburbs as you will not have any public transportation unlike downtown. You can manage only by being dependent on your friends as i am now. :)

With great help from colleagues here am done with most of the things except items 2 (SSN) and 5 (Acco) and 6 (car) Ofcourse i need to wait for another week to apply for SSN. Have spoken to a colleague from north for taking a single BHK ($885 to be shared). might get that by next week. Until i learn driving i cant think of item 6 :(

Above said things are subject to my limited knowledge and experience. Could vary person to person. Please take them at your own risk ;)

And remember, every one is helping here in US, but you have to ask for!

Note: This post is continued in Mar 13th blog as well....

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

First day in Client Office!

Feb 09, 09
so many calls in the morning from and to my room mate for car pooling to office. its around 6 miles from our apts and a lot of our colleagues are put up in this appt, Barrington Lakes.
the New Formals, not sure if it did show me good. i reached office enjoying the OC ride.
Had to collect my Visitor Pass, which is a paper stick unlike a non-sticky badge i have seen in my own company.
Resting my Jacket, and Yet to be given a seat, took out my lappy and connected to the "Guest" wireless. First mail from my offshore counter (even i did know this only after this mail) part on the requirements. and then was slowly introduced to many there in our team.

it was completely a different feeling to sit in the client office. i see a lot of white faces. a lot of indian faces as well. and a few faces from across the globe. unfortunately did not find any attractive fig, which is what i usually search for anywhere i go. Most of them were in different shapes. i cant even stand besides....Though there were many mallus in our team, they formed their own gang :(

Have to tell abt this fountain water tap. You know what? i dint drink a drop of water the whole day in office :(.
at around 10 was told i have to join a meeting with client from 1 - 2PM on the requirements. What ? reapeat it...
Client meeting ? Me? oh i started to be serious and went thru the design doc. The requirement wasnt greek and latin after some 30 i can manage.

12.30 My manager just came and we thought we should get our lunch from FC before the meeting, for FC closes by 2. on the walk he spoke a lot abt the requirements. Reaching FC, he helped me a lot as he knew am New to US. lots of counters were there, one for sandwich, one for burger....etc. I wanted a sandwich, the easiest choice, wait are u sure easiest? oh no have to make lots of choices and tell that person for the order, i mean, which size ( 6 inch or 1 foot), which bread, which cheese, what vegetables (tomato, lettuce, green pepper).....etc everything. "Manager, please make my order for today! " but he was kind enough to pay ($3.99 + taxes) for it as well :)

Back to the meeting on time. my team mate was going good with in the meeting. I tried to understand what they speak, their slang.....My DM joined in the middle. i had the notes (?) taken in my lappy. there was another new guy in the meeting who looked more pathetic than myself.
was waiting for the clock to hit 2, am hungry, though i could have had my sandwich in the meeting, i had it waiting in the small conf room , where am given a temp seat. Ah its over.
What a was good. i shud have taken the 1 foot long....

what next? i started to sleep and in between had a look at the requirements. i was kept looking at the wrist watch to move on. wah it hit 5, kept bugging my room mate to start. he was waiting for a car which can accomodate both of us. finally we reached home in another colleagues car amidst the drizzle outside.

Reaching home was hungry like Hell. Pepper paste from Grand sweets, Yummy, had my full stomach. now i need to understand the functional docs which my manager gave me....are u ready ??? "Hey...Hey.... are soon....hey wai.....zzzzzzz"

Monday, February 9, 2009

Chennai -> Chicago by a Vellorian!

Feb, 07, 2009
Have come to Hoffman Estates (IL, USA, 30 mins from chicago) for an assignment. not sure abt the duration. Am excited abt this new journey...things all look different. and hope i start writing my blogs as freq as possible.

And here goes the brief Desc of my Travel:
Just like many others,
First time in life i stepped into a flight. never dreamt would happen ever. Luckily had two connections. Qatar Airlines, Chennai -5hrs- Doha (Qatar)- 14hrs-Washington DC- 2hrs- Chicago, which helped me get acquainted with different customs and checks at different airports...etc. Nervousness accompanied me from chennai - Chicago until i met my friend and colleague sugumaran. Air Hostess were beautiful , but only one impressed me a lot of all in the chennai - doha flight. she smiled at me twice....woahh....:)
My mom, dad, hari, uma and surprisingly Lakshmikanth for my send off in airport.

The first H1-B, first flight, first air ticket, first check-in, first immigration, first customs check, first boarding, first take off, first aerial view, first landing, first ice view, first bath tub, first use of tissue for i do not find words to explain those moments...thanks to those window seats in the first two flights. The lights in the night, the painted like clouds, the ice covered mountains, well designed city during landings, ....etc .first flight had one common television for a row, but second one had individual screens with tamil movies as well in its options, i enjoyed the ever green "santhosh subramaniam". was mostly occupied in sleep in the 2nd flight. break fast and meals guess i tasted fish as well served with the salad though have been a pure veg for more than 4 yrs now. what ? i asked for regrets...he he he.

Shopping! - I should tell you all about my shopping. i swear this sure would be the biggest in my life time ...formals, jacket, thermals, shoes, cooker, tava,....etc in spencers and pondy bazaar globus. thanks to Hari for giving his card to swipe everywhere for the purchase which hit approx 40k. most of them who heard about this got paralysed even the new room mate here in Hoffman.....:( Infact hari's whole family did my packing. i just started with the packed baggage to airport by 1 AM on 7th from his house for my flight at 4.45 Am.
unluckily for me casuals is very much fine an accepted formal here in this client office.....i just have brought 3 jeans...have to open an account soon and convert the TCs(travelers checks) to currency to buy more jeans...

I could easily see that it would be very hectic for the next two months as my room and team mate is working here today (sunday) from morning and giving status to client ....God save me....

About accomodation, have got a temp adjustment by the new team mate until i get mine. 4 in our apartment for now....its all great. water and ice outside the room, yet to check more beauty outside....havent gone out in the day yet....heard its 10 mins drive to office from here. have to buy a car and learn to drive asap.

Temp - its between 4 - 8 degrees centigrade. Though i could see the ice almost everywhere, everyone says am lucky for coming in at the right time. 3 weeks back it was in minus 20 to 30.

Finally, the tension of last two weeks abt my onsite travel ended by yesterday. Am onsite :)

Am sure this country is packed with surprises all over. starting from $3 for using a trolley cart in airport all set to experience the surprises...

And yes, would miss my love.....