Sunday, December 23, 2007

Happy Holidays from India

Let there be peace on earth,
and let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth,
the peace that was meant to be.

With God as our Father,
brothers *(and sisters) all are we,
Let me walk with my *(family),
in perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me,
let this be the moment now.
With every step I take,
let this be my solemn vow,

To take each moment and live each moment
in peace, eternally.
Let there be peace on earth,
and let it begin with me.

Words by Jill Jackson & Sy Miller, circa 1955
* (modified by Michael, circa 2007 :o)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Target India Grows!

Recently we opened our newest branch of Target India operations in Manyata, a region of northern Bangalore. The opening of the Manyata facility was greeted with the usual Indian customs--cutting the ribbon, lighting the oil lamp, cutting the cake, and touring the facility. For many of us this was our first taste of witnessing the traditional India customs involved when "blessing" a new facility, so it proved to be a very interesting and enlightening day.

The detail and preparation for the ceremony was quite evident in the elaborate floral displays (check out the floral patterns on the floors! And those are fresh flower petals, btw...) and the prepared speeches from many of the leaders at Target. To think that we are continuing to grow and expand into the international market is very exciting, and especially in this time of tremendous globalization for business and technology. I am very proud to be a part of this global expansion and to be selected to represent our U.S. corporate offices--it almost feels like being a foreign exchange student all over again! However, this time I'm older and wiser... aren't I... aren't I... (crickets)

Anyhoo--I am very happy to be representing Target Corporation in India for this next 11 months. It's definitely an adventure, and I'm always meeting new people and learning something new. It's actually quite amazing. I think that after you get settled and start "living your life", you can truly be happy anywhere. After all, don't you really carry your happiness within you? If you don't, you should try it--makes things much easier :o)

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Rockin the Taj

One of the highlights of any travel to India is, of course, visiting one of the original "7 Wonders of the World", the Taj Mahal--a mausoleum in Agra, India (a few hours out of Delhi), that was built by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The Taj is considered the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Persian, Turkish, Indian, and Islamic architectural styles. In one word, the Taj Mahal is AMAZING.

Luckily, I had traveling companions on this fun-filled and eventful weekend, Jenn and Doron, two of my teammates from the Minneapolis Headquarters of Target. Jenn & Doron were here for the past two weeks conducting some rockin' merchandise training for our Target India team members and they were an hit! Well, YEAH--if you knew Jenn and Doron you'd be nodding your head (just go ahead and nod with me... okay... there ya go :o) So as soon and Jenn and Doron knew they were coming to India for two weeks, they asked me if I wanted to go up to Agra to see the Taj. What else could I say but, "Absotootly!"

We flew up to Delhi on Friday night, stayed at the wonderful Shrangri-La Hotel, and then took a 4-hour road trip (each way) to Agra on Saturday to see the Taj. The road trip was a journey in itself starring monkeys, camels, elephants, donkeys, chickens--you name it (check out the slide show). On the way out of Delhi I'd never experienced such extreme conditions, especially the air quality--oh my--in some areas it felt like dusk the entire time. Be thankful for your clean air, clean water... it is not so clean in other parts of the world (this picture is the sun rising in the morning... and that's not fog--quite a difference even from Bangalore)

So the whole experience was amazing--I can't even begin to explain it. Check out the slideshow and let me know what you think--post a comment! Don't be shy.

Okay, so now that the vacation's over--back to work. Thanks Jenn & Doron--you guys totally rock! What a great traveling team we make... hope you made it back home to the Winter Wonderland safe and sound.

My favorite shot.. check out the water from the fountain!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Groovy New Digs

Celebrate! I'm finally unpacked and set up in my new apartment. After being out of commission during the first weekend after I moved, I've finally managed to find the time and energy to set up my office, bedroom, living room, and kitchen. All of my things made it here just fine and dandy (thank you, Mohawk Movers!) so that was a relief. Time to play house.

My things are here, but they're not going anywhere for a while. Why, you say? I can now safely tell you that I'm not sending anything from India back to the US for the rest of my time here. Let's just say that I had a little "experience" at the DHL office this week... and without going into extraneous details, I was just sending an innocent small box of Christmas presents to my family (maybe 6 pounds total), and not only did they open the box which I had neatly and
deliberately packed all neat and organized, but they also opened each and every one of the 12 presents; looked them over front and back, inside and out; then kinda re-wrapped each present, sorta; squished them back into the box (much to my chagrin); and an hour later charged me $130 to mail it (don't read this, Mom...) Ouch! Guess what friends? You're getting your souvenirs next fall :o)

So anyway, I'm glad to be settling into my apartment. Here's some shots of my swank pad... the best of part of the whole thing, however, is what you can't see in these pictures--the funky colored lights and lampshades that I have all around the apartment. At night each room is either Gold, Orange, or Deep Red. It's amazing and very warm :o)

I also bought lots of little trinkets, candle holders, traditional Indian incense and candles, and this place is turning into a regular ashram! I love it. Anyone who knows me knows that I can create a magical experience out of a cardboard box, sarong, some pillow covers, fresh flowers, a couple candles and presto! Instant decor (my landlord has amazing taste for 80s furniture :o) And oddly enough, even though my apartment is situated in the middle of bustling Banglore, it's quiet at night... well, except for that barking dog... well, and those fighting cats... but I can handle it... can't I... yes, I can... (actually, that's why God invented noisy fans!)

Oh, and a quick follow-up on my spa-esque bathroom--now that I've prevented the water from coming down in the wrong places, it's started coming up instead. Yes, as I was taking my "go quick before the hot water runs out" shower the other day both drains backed up into the tub and bathroom floor (there are drains in the tile). Voila! I had another wading pool. When I stepped out of the shower I could only think, "Ah--what's this? Another spa service? Foot Soak Treatment, perhaps? I tell ya, I am the most pampered expat I know!" Once again, "Oh well." I unplugged those pipes and now (knock on tile), the bathroom has been dry for two days.

Life is good.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Royal Treatment

Today I got the "royal" treatment. My driver, Amith, took me to see Bangalore Palace... the former home of the King & Queen. It was built in 1887 by King Chamaraja Wodeyar and is supposed to be inspired by the Windsor Castle in London. Not only did I get to look around, but I got my own personal guide and tour of the castle. It was amazing. I'd never seen a palace with so many different styles and colors of ceiling tiles! Plus, the last King and Queen to inhabit this palace back the 30s had the coolest circa 1930s art deco furniture--too cool for a medieval-style structure.

Another advantage of having my own personal tour was that I was allowed to not only look at whatever I wanted, but to touch it, open it, explore the different rooms, and also take pictures of whatever I wanted. There were no "velvet ropes" on this tour. My favorite part of that privilege was touching the handmade stools fashioned from, oh I don't know, elephant's feet, perhaps?! Or how about buffalo hooves...? Yeah, this King was decadent. If you'd like to see my whole set of pictures from my personal tour (including the 100 year old elephant head mounted in the main foyer), just click on any of my slide shows and you'll be taken to my Picasa online galleries.

Later after the palace tour, Amith and I went shopping again and I picked-up the last of the Christmas gifts for my family back home in Minnesota. I also went out walking when I got home and explored my neighborhood... too bad I didn't have my camera, but I will take it another time. I would have loved to show you the cow that leisurely sauntered down the middle of the street like she owned it... sheesh! Moooove on over, darlin! (It's funny to watch the cabs and cars honk at them... they could care less). What a life. Happy weekend, all :o)