Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Settling in

So we’re here!  And surprisingly enough, campus is just as pretty (if not more so) than it appeared in that silly video.  The lawns and landscaping are pristinely maintained- some of the key trees and bushes have nametags and fun facts including “Fact: the official flower of Argentina”, “Fact: fish-like fans”, "Fact: decorative bush".   If you watched the video, you might have noticed how the pride and joy of campus is this pretentious Roman-looking building that is absolutely massive (I think it can fit 9,000 people). 
Largest building in India built after Industrialization

Epcot looking movie theater

 There’s a cricket field, track, gym, pool (which was I so excited for but now people tell me I’ll get sick if I swim in it), cafes, a store, and a movie theater inside a dome that looks like Epcot.  So it looks like I’m in Disney world but working in India is never a walk in the park.
My bedroom
 View from my window

 After at least two hours of security checks, waiting, baggage checks, waiting, filling out forms, waiting, we finally got to our rooms.  My bedroom is simple but clean and has a beautiful view of the gardens outside.  One of the first missions was to get online and I can’t say I was entirely surprised when it didn’t work.  About a million phone calls later, “yes, I tried hooking up my laptop to the cable.  Yes, I tried both ports.  Yes, I know how to find my internet browser”, they eventually admitted it was a problem on their end and they were going to send an engineer of some variety so I decided to hang in the room and forgo exploring to wait.  Despite three reminder calls, where the engineer was supposedly coming in “5 minutes, 5 minutes”, dinner rolled around and no one showed on the scene.  Supposedly, one guy who was late to dinner did get to interact with this person and they realized it was a bigger problem on their end that would probably take awhile to solve.  Even though you would think that someone at the biggest Information Technology training center in the world would know what to do.

 So besides the epic battle to get connected, we didn’t have too much time yesterday.  At dinner, the entire staff gathered for dinner together for first time and diversity of experiences and backgrounds that we bring to the table is just amazing.  The Indian TAs and RAs seem particularly excited to have the opportunity to work for such a special program, one of the first of its kind in the country (we were warned we’re going to have a ton of visitors for that exact same reason).  It was fun to meet people and learn why they’re here- the cryptography instructor (who they ended up hiring from India because they couldn’t find a US candidate in time) told me that most of his education was a blur except for the time he spent preparing for the Math Olympiad.  He hoped that working with gifted students would allow him to vicariously re-live his glory days.  I hope students here will remember this program as fondly as he did.