Sunday, June 9, 2013

A short trip to India this summer - Mangoes and more...

Summer is always a great time to be in India - to enjoy the mangoes, but one has to brave the heat!!!

A brief three day trip (three city work trip) started in Chennai/Vellore, took me to New Delhi and ended in Hyderabad.  Think Mangoes - Safeda in Delhi, Banganapalli in Hyderabad and enjoyed a selection of Alphonso, Hima Pasand and Banganapally in Chennai! 

Each state/region has its own favorite and the debate never ends.  Rather than choose favorites, why not sit back and enjoy them ALL!  Mast Mambazham....

Took two days off in Chennai to visit folks, and used that opportunity to enjoy some restaurants.

Rajdhani - not unique to Chennai, and a chain, but DELICIOUS food.  A mix of Gujarati and Rajasthani dishes...the food keeps coming, so go in with a large apetitie.  Never disappoints.

Saravana Bhavan - a visit to Chennai is never complete without breakfast (or a meal) here.  Many locations to try from.  All dishes are great!

I wish I could have stopped by Plantain Leaf and BBQ Nation...and a few others, but didn't have the time. Till next time...


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Day three, four and five....

OK...I wanted to update this sooner, but didn't get around to doing it.  Here is a compressed version of the rest of the trip.
Day three of the build was slated to be a full day where we rounded out everything else at this place, but the roof wasn't going to be done until Thursday, so it didn't make sense to complete the wiring on Wednesday.  This meant we were going to complete out the work on the roof, interior work (walls, shelves, etc.).
View from the roof :-)
Getting the last two rafters on the roof was quite a task!  Thanks to Mark, who bailed me out with my "angled nail" issues.  Glad we didn't need a replacement piece for one of the rafters.
End of Day Three...
When we left the site on day three, we wanted to be almost ALL done, so that we could take Thursday off, but since we had to come back to complete wiring, shelving and some work in the kitchen, we let some things slide into Thursday!
Dinner options - have exhausted Half Moon Bay, Chicken Place, Bananarama....Tom suggested we try Blue Bahia!  We said "why not??"
Blue Bahia - a short (10 min. drive) from Seagrape....a nice location by the waterfront, and quite an extensive menu.  Us vegetarians enquired about possible dishes the chef could prepare for us, and they gladly obliged.  The chef came out, and talked to us about possible options....and he won us over when he said he could make something spicy, something with a curry, etc. hmmmm....we couldn't wait to try it!
The dinner was delicious!  definitely worth going back.  The best part of the dinner....the half hour that our waiter spent on figuring our the check!  You had to be there to really understand it.
Thursday started out with our routine...Coco Lobo by 7 am and out by 7:30 am.  We had to finish everything today....
Chitra hard at work wiring the lights
When we got to the site, we were greeted by the crew installing the roof (be prepared for loud banging noises!).  Chitra and I were tasked with the electrical wiring, while Harish, Tracy and Tharika were finishing up the store shelves. 
Electrical wiring - as simple as it might sound, is something you don't want to screw up...a simple short could ruin everything...which of course, we DON'T want. 
Pig tails, parallel vs. series,, now we are certified electricians!  Just kidding.
We were done right after lunch, and screwed in all the bulbs...and here came the true test of our wiring!  Let there be light....phew, thankfully, we did a GOOD job! YAY!
It was soon time for clean up..this was our last day at the site (working), so we picked up all the tools, extra items, and cleaned out the space.  The next door neighbor was going to come in and install doors, which would complete the build!
We packed up for one last time, and loaded up the truck.  Dropped off the equipment and tools at the storage space, and planned for dinner at the Chicken place (again!). 
Before we headed out for dinner, we were chatting with Tom about possible sight seeing options for tomorrow (Friday) - we had the whole day off!  Tom came up with a fantastic idea - a van ride over to Oak Ridge and hire a boat and wander out to the Pigeon Keys!  Sounded like a great idea...but we didn't have anything finalized, but Tom reached out to a couple of his friends and as we wandered out to drinks and dinner, Tom was going to fix things and call me back...

We got a call from Tom right before dinner, and he confirmed that we had a boat for tomorrow...approx. $50 per person, and we had a whole day's worth of adventure ahead of us.  Only downside....early morning start!  Guess we could take a nap in the van :-)


Monday, December 3, 2012

Dinner at the Chicken Place

Today we decided to go to the chicken place for dinner.  Last trip we didn't have dinner there. We settled for desserts. 

This restaurant is located at the far end of the strip and we were there for dinner by 6:30 or so, but they had already run out of the cinnamon rolls. On our way to the restaurant, we stopped by and picked up some bacardi (to make up for the Flor de Cana) and coke, for later in the evening.

Harish, Chitra and I shared a bunch of items - bean quesadilla, chicken quesadilla, coconut rice and beans and fried plantains.  Evertything was good, but the best was yet to come...desserts!  An order each of coconut cream pie, key lime pie and rum cake (delicious and no way too miss the rum).  I guess there is one good use for Flor de Cana! 

Once again....a satisfying meal later, we were back on our way to Sea Grape.  A round of rum and cokes to round out the night, and get to bed for day three!


Day two - interior walls, ridge beam and rafters

You got it....6:45 am hotspot, 7 am Coco Lobo and 7:45 am on the truck.  No van today...and going forward. 

Yesterday was a nice, pleasant day to build and this morning started out to be a good one as well.

Four walls up on day one, so what's up for today?  Interior walls, work on the roof (ridge beams and rafters).  This meant more cutting....

Our work site was greeted by a dog's present for us.  Tracy and Tharika helped take care of that.  I guess the dog liked the fact that there was a large, enclosed private space!

Tanya, Harish, Tharika, Tracy and Mark working on the
interior gable wall
The first wall to go up was the interior gable wall (look up what a gable wall is).  Other interior walls are almost all all with vertical 2x4 studs (90 inches high), so that meant cutting about a MILLION of them.

See the picture to the left for what I mean.

Thank god for the lunch break, which meant we could stop cutting!

Today it was pastalitos (something like an empanada or a samosa; even better samsa).  Mark forgot to bring the hot sauce today as well (0/2).

Back to cutting after lunch!

Time to move on to the roof - I mean cutting the rafters.  After the rafters was cut, we laid them out for Mark and Tanya to mark them before moving them to the roof.  The framing team worked hard on putting up the paneling, and as we neared the end of day two, we were almost done with all interior walls and the ridge beam was up!

End of day two

Thankful for another dry day (and a pleasant one for building).  Time to move the lumber inside, pack up the tools and leave for the West End. 


Dinner after a long and tiring day!

We stayed back at the build site till around 5 pm on day one.  Extremely satisfied with four walls going up on day one! We made our way back to Sea Grape - the daily evening routine was to stop at the storage place and drop off the tools, head back to Sea Grape for a much needed shower and off to dinner and drinks.

On Monday, we chose to wander out on the strip and pick a restaurant that caught our fancy.  This time it was Cannibal Cafe - a Mexican restaurant.  we were the only folks there (perhaps a sign?), but the food was good and hot sauce (jalepenos even better) was great too.  Mark bought the team a round of drinks for all the hard work.  After a nice meal, the tired legs returned back to the resort and relaxed in the gazebo before retiring for the night....

Team Eclectic at Cannibal Cafe (Tanya, Arlene, John, Harish, Tracy, Bose, Chitra and Mark)

Monday - Day One of the Duran Team Build

A group prayer before the build start
Tom had loaded up his truck with all the tools, and had arranged for an extra van (Fernando’s van) for the first day.  Harish, Tracy and myself jumped in the van and followed Tom to Los Fuertes.  We got there by about 8:20 or so, and Pastor Tim, Emilio, Carla and family were waiting for us.  The lumber had been delivered and the porta potty was on its way too.  By 8:30 am we were ready to begin the build.  Emilio shared his story with us (Pastor Tim translated it), and a short prayer later, we were ON.

Mark gathered the team together and provided us instructions for the morning.  John and I were assigned the task of cutting the lumber needed for the framing of the first wall, while Tanya and Mark laid out the chalk lines and completed the framing layout.  Harish and Chitra joined us for the measuring/cutting fun until we had enough pieces cut to get the first wall laid out on the floor.  Tharika and Tracy were in-charge of making sure the right pieces were in place.  About an hour or so in, we were ready to pound away!
Video courtesy:  Brea Brusch
More cutting....for the second and third walls!  Lunch was a welcome break, and we had baleadas for lunch.  A short lunch break was followed by more cutting. 
By the end of day, I was done with cutting, but guess we were only half-way there. Here are some pics from day 1 (thanks, John).

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The weekend in Roatan

Landed on perfect sunny Saturday in Roatan and were greeted by Tom and Linnea at the airport. The Kia truck was waiting for us, and off we went to the West End.  I was wondering whether the lack of the “stamps” on my passport would pose an issue, but it turns out that US residents do not need a visa and I now have confirmation of that (getting a note on my passport from the SFO consulate was a good back up to have!).  Part one of Team Eclectic (Harish, Chitra, John, Tharika ad myself) had landed in Roatan!

After checking in to our cabins (a nice change from the last time), we took a stroll around the West End of Roatan – started at Sundowners with a Port Royal, and moved to Coconut Tree for lunch followed by a walk to the end of the strip - barefoot bar.  Guess this is where we got bit by the mosquitoes and sand flies at dusk!

The rest of the team (Mark, Tanya, Arlene and Tracy) arrived at around 5 pm, and we headed back to Sea Grape to meet them for dinner.  A quiet dinner at Half Moon Bay resort with the entire group, and off we went….back to the West End strip.  Sundowners it was!  Harish had some Blue Lagoons, Monkey Lalas were flowing as well and of course, the Salva Vidas.  A good start to the trip.

Sunday was going to be our first full day in Roatan and we were going to take full advantage of it.  We planned to hit the West Bay beach as well as visit our build site and the Pavon family home (which we built in March).
Water taxi ride to West Bay
What was meant to start as a quick breakfast at Linga Longa ended up being a one hour plus breakfast – this was issssssssssssland time!  Our delayed departure meant that we had to re-jigger the plans a bit, and we ended up moving the site visit to the afternoon. Beach it was in the morning…a water taxi ride out to West Bay, and off we went snorkeling. 
Almost all of us rented snorkeling gear, and were ready to jump in to the warm blue waters.  Harish and Chitra were bold enough to rent snorkeling gear and try their hand at it as well.  Chitra even went out quite far out into the waters.  Nice work! We found a nice channel to take us out to the deeper side of the reef – it was a lot of fun.  Tracy found a nice spot on the beach and we took full advantage of the sun and shade, and topped it off with some ice cold Barenas.  By 1 pm it was time for us to head back to the West End, but we were hungry as well – maybe a quick lunch stop?  The taxi took us back to Lighthouse for some tacos.  The bar tender promised us some Veggie tacos and assured us that it would be quick….but here again…island time it was.  The meal was great, but we were running very late.  Dashed back to the resort and cleaned up in time for the afternoon visits.
Visit to the build site on Sunday
We started out with a stop at Flowers Bay to see Tanya’s team Torres build, and went on to see the Duran family build site.  We drove past the airport, Mahagony Bay and after a 20-25 min. ride, ended up at Los Fuertes.  Quite a different neighborhood compared to the Colonia (Pavon family), and the build site was READY for Team Eclectic!  A rain shelter was also built in the back, and all the materials were expected to arrive first thing in the morning.  We didn’t get a chance to meet Emilio or Carla, but we did drive by their store, Pulperia Genesis – a very small store near a busy intersection.

Next stop, a visit to the Pavons in the colonia.  We were looking forward to returning back to see the home we had built in March, and we were greeted by Fidel and Fidelito at the bottom of the dreaded hill!  A 5 min. trek up the hill and we were warmly welcomed by Juana Maria and her daughters – Kayla, Carla.  They had made some modifications to the area below their house – made it into a room, and added some tin roofing to the deck, etc.  The house was extremely clean, and it was clear that they had been waiting up for us for quite some time.  We enjoyed the visit to their home, but it was clear that they were still in a state of financial hardship.  Mark has been very kind to the family and has agreed to take care of the education expenses for the oldest daughter, which will hopefully provide them some flexibility.  It became clear that the house was a huge help for them – they don’t have to pay rent or worry about not having a shelter.  However, that is just a good first step.
It was getting dark (gets dark by 5 pm), so we decided to say our goodbyes and make our way down the hill.  Tracy had an interesting encounter with a guy carrying a machete, which provided some excitement for the walk down.  Soon it was dinner time and Tom drove us all out to Bananarama in the West Bay.  Having had a late lunch, Harish, John, Chitra, Tharika and myself decided to get just an order of nachos and some drinks.  The live music was quite awful, but nevertheless entertaining.  The highlight of the evening turned out to be the hermit crab race!  The resort does this as a way to raise funds for an HIV prevention program in the island (baby formula for infants whose moms have HIV/AIDS).  You pay $5 for a crab, which has a number on it, and they drop these crabs in the center of a circle and watch which crab crosses the finish line (a larger outer circle).  Mark and Arlene bought a couple of entries, but guess their crabs decided to pass on the race J
After dinner we made our way back to the West End, and ventured out to try some tacos at the taco stand. Only two options – tacos and quesadillas, and you could pick either beef or pork, or I suppose plain cheese as well.  John and Tharika tried the meat versions, and Harish and I chose the cheese and salsa tacos.  The jalapeno salsa/puree added a big kick to the tacos. The first day at the build site was going to start with breakfast at 7 am, so we figured we had to end the night early and get some much needed sleep before the build.  
Monday (day one of the build)
As like in March, we were able to get an early breakfast (7 am) at Coco Lobo – coffee, juice, fruits, cereal, yogurt and a hot dish, which varied daily.  For the next 5 days…this was the routine, breakfast at 7 and leave for the site by 7:45 am.