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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Frenetic schedule punctuated by moments of calm

Late Saturday night I took a flight to Bangkok that was filled to capacity. Bangkok airport was swarming with travelers wearing surgical masks... a stark reminder that Swine Flu is rampant in Asia.

After a short layover in Bangkok Sunday, I got a connecting flight to New Delhi that got in pretty much 24 hours after I left home. 

The arrival in Delhi was even more fraught with health related drama than Bangkok.  Not only did I feel like the only person in the airport not wearing a germ mask, but there was a health screening before the immigration desk at the arrivals terminal. 

Everyone had to fill out a health form saying whether they had come from a country experiencing an outbreak of Swine Flu (Israel was on the list), but they weren't taking your word for the simple questionnaire (sample question:  "Are you experiencing any flu-like symptoms such as coughing, fever or difficulty breathing?")... because they had thermal cameras set up that would reveal anyone who had a fever so the health officials could pull them out of line and decide whether to quarantine them or put them on the next plane back where they came from.

Got to the hotel late and wanted to go straight to sleep... but there were mountains of emails to return and prep for the morning's meetings.  Got to bed after 2:00AM.

My body woke me up at 5:30 AM... Israel time that is, which was 3:00AM local Indian time.  Couldn't go back to sleep so I got up and did some prep for my day's meetings.

As the sun came up I looked up and saw some people gathering out on the grass beside the pool so I put on shorts and a t-shirt and went outside (here's a picture from when I got back to the room so you can see how pretty the pool area is in the early morning light):

Picture 001

There were tai chi and yoga classes starting by the pool at about the same time... and while it was a tough choice,  I wasn't up to trying yoga again this trip.   So I spent about 20 minutes doing as much of the tai chi form as I could remember from when I used to study... and was pleasantly surprised at how much I remembered!

After the tai chi session I took a quick swim and went to get ready for my day.

I had marathon meetings all day Monday in Delhi and then made a mad dash to the airport in rush hour traffic just in time to catch a flight to Mumbai.

Got to the hotel in Mumbai around midnight... the same hotel I checked out of just a few days before it was attacked by terrorists last November.  The tranquil haven I'd last seen in the fall was an armed camp surrounded police, soldiers and security guards. 

Passed two levels of security screening to get into the hotel and all my bags were taken for X-ray screening before being handed back to the bellman.

When I got to the check in counter I was greeted by a familiar hotel clerk who greeted me with "Welcome back Mr. Bogner...'Ma Nish Ma' in a lilting Indian accent.   This was a joke we'd shared from my last stay.  When she'd seen my Israeli passport she'd asked me how to say 'Namaste' in Hebrew.  And although it isn't even remotely equivalent, the similar three syllable feel of the casual Hebrew greeting was what popped into my head.  So for the week I was in the hotel last time, whenever I came through the lobby this Saree'd clerk would press her hands together in front of her chin and say 'Ma nish ma'... and I would return the gesture with a badly pronounced 'Namaste'.

I remember sending out a few emails once I was in my room and had gotten the WiFi working... but I have no recollection of actually going to bed.  I actually slept until 6:45 AM (Indian time) before crawling back over to the laptop and a few hours of pre-meeting prep over hard-boiled eggs, coffee and orange juice.

Tuesday was another day of marathon meetings followed by drinks and coffees... only to be followed by countless emails to be answered and reports to be written late into the night.

It is now just after 9:00 PM here in Mumbai and I am savoring a Manah Chama (Israeli cup-o-noodles) and a package of Kabanos  (kosher peperoni sticks) washed down with diet coke and bottled water (ironically exactly what I had for a late dinner last night!).  I'm going to visit the temporary Chabad House tomorrow evening. 

My first meeting isn't until 10:30AM so I may check out the health club in the morning.  Some treadmill time and a swim will go a long way towards making me feel human again.

They finally got a new Rabbi/Rebbitzn to take over for the couple who were murdered in the attack.  This was their first week here in Mumbai.  Nariman House isn't rebuilt yet form the carnage but when I spoke with the Rabbi on the phone he told me how to find the temporary Chabad house.  

Anyway... sorry this hasn't exactly been a travelogue worthy of Harpers or The New Yorker.  I just wanted to spend a couple of minutes reconnecting with the real world before going back to work for the rest of the evening.

Miss you all...

Posted by David Bogner on August 4, 2009 | Permalink

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If everyone else is wearing the mask, then you don't have to. Just wash your hands frequently (as if you need reminding).

Posted by: Baila | Aug 4, 2009 8:33:00 PM

Sounds like your firm got its money's worth in work out of you!

I'm going to Delhi on business on Saturday. I hope to get out and see some of the city too.

Posted by: Lisa | Aug 4, 2009 9:04:27 PM

Enjoy your trip.

Posted by: Jack | Aug 4, 2009 9:27:49 PM

Glad to hear that you are OK (if somewhat meetinged out). I was beginning to worry because you hadn't posted for a few days. Safe trip back to Israel!

Posted by: Noa | Aug 4, 2009 9:40:59 PM

Oh posh hotel. I don't think I'll be staying anywhere like that.

Posted by: Imshin | Aug 4, 2009 10:50:21 PM

The Rabbi/Rebbitzn were friends of my Chabad rabbi.

Posted by: Mickysolo | Aug 4, 2009 11:58:46 PM

I was also getting a bit concerned because you hadn't posted in a few days. Nesia tova!

Posted by: Rahel | Aug 5, 2009 12:19:05 AM

Don't kiss any pigs or other animules while you're there. Believe me I know how bad that can turn out.
;P

Posted by: QuietusLeo | Aug 5, 2009 12:27:19 AM

Make the most of it.

Posted by: Ilana-Davita | Aug 5, 2009 12:28:54 AM

Don't eat anything I would ;)

Posted by: Jacob da Jew | Aug 5, 2009 3:31:50 AM

Take tylenol a few hours before you go to the airport!

Posted by: Alan T. | Aug 5, 2009 5:18:33 PM

I am not sure I want your job

Posted by: Wry Mouth | Aug 5, 2009 9:44:48 PM

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