a gathering place for the words, images and momentos of the world of adventures i've adventured, the stories i've wandered through. curriculum bella vita...a resume, of sorts, of the good life.

Monday, February 28, 2011


this was only a matter of time, of course, but i logged my first "century" today:


I interviewed 127 people this morning -- if we extend "morning" to 1:30 pm --out of the total 500-odd applicants here in HYD. yikes. the post record is well over 200, of course, but it's still a pretty ridiculous concept, shuffling that many folks through an adequate screening.

just call me sachin tendulkar.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


Apparently I've been getting frisky lately without even knowing it...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Striked Out

Hmpfh. Local separatist strikes have quashed the Consular Leadership Day plans that i worked hard to coordinate. Six teams headed to six local underprivileged schools in the morning and an afternoon of picnicking and teambuilding.

But we made the best of the changed gameplan with a picnic on the porch and games in the palace driveway. Earthquake? A hit, if not fierce. Traffic Jam? A better challenge than i'd imagined! And Water Balloon Blind Dodgeball? Ding ding ding.

Guest Blogging: They Got Game

First published, earlier this afternoon, on the Consul General's personal blog, A Diplomat in the Deccan.

If the National Basketball Association really is scouting India for the first player with the potential to make it big-time, ala China’s Yao Ming, they’d better book a ticket to Hyderabad. Fast.

That’s what I didn’t know before agreeing to match up against local kids in a friendly basketball game Friday afternoon.

I jumped onboard as soon as I heard the Public Affairs Section was recruiting American officers for a game at the Sports Coaching Foundation. After all, I’ve got a pretty solid background in basketball. Okay, I haven’t played on a school team since 5th grade and my intramural team recorded only one win in two seasons, but still, my hometown back in Wisconsin is a basketball hotbed. The Fond du Lac Cardinals regularly win state championships and my sister’s classmate made it all the way to the Final Four and a starting spot on an NBA roster. And it’s safe to call my college a powerhouse. The University of Wisconsin Badgers just beat the #1 team in the country! That pedigree has to count for something.

I knew we were in trouble, though, the moment we stepped out of the car. Tucked next to Chacha Nehru Park in a modest corner of the city, the non-profit organization’s dusty sports field is brought to life with that magical sound of children at play, universal in any land. Huddled up on one side of the sports field, a team of girls, all sporting matching blue jerseys. On another side, a team of boys, even taller and older, in matching yellow. They looked like they knew what they were doing.

But still, I was optimistic. These were only schoolchildren, after all.

As we warmed up, the crowd grew little by little. The other sportsters -- the cricket boys, the gymnastics girls and the tennis-wallah -- took a break to ring the court. And plenty of parents joined them. After calling everyone’s attention, Mr. Saibaba, the founder of Sports Coaching Foundation, was kind enough to announce our all-star line-up and asked us each to introduce ourselves. And in truth, I earned more applause with the microphone than with the gameplay that was to come.

“Namaskaramu, na peru Jeremy,” I started, to cheers from the half of the crowd that prefers Telugu. The other half clapped when I parroted “Namaste, mera naam Jeremy hai,” in Hyderabad’s other major language, Hindi/Urdu.

“Mai university me hindi urdu parta ta…kani ee rojlu na telugu na hindi urdu kante chala bagundi,” I said, blending the two very different languages together, as so often happens here on such a diverse subcontinent.

But it was the kids’ chance to show off their skills just as soon as the ball was tipped. The blue-clad girls won the tip and raced down the court. A few well-executed passes, a dribble or two, a swish. Girls 2, Consulate 0. I glanced at one of my coworkers and all he could offer was a shake of the head.

We had walked into a trap. These kids were ringers!

For 15 minutes, the girls found hole after hole in our defense, even if our height and superior bulk kept us in the game. After a short time-out, it was the boys’ turn to embarrass us. They chose to do their damage with the fast break. Lay-up after lay-up. Even the third game, a mixed group of younger kids, was more than we could handle.

But even if the scoreboard wasn’t in our favor Friday, we walked away with our heads held high and a smile on our faces. It was great to see kids of all creeds having fun on the Sports Coaching Foundation, learning real life lessons from both the coaches and the value of gameplay.

Plus, I’m hoping these Hyderabadi kids will keep me in mind for a pair of front row tickets just as soon as they make it onto an NBA roster...

Jeremy Jewett is a first-tour Vice Consul from Wisconsin. On a good day, he stands 5’10”. His line on the day? 6 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 turnovers, 2 fouls and 1 great experience.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Go to Goa

Go to Goa. It’s like the Caribbean, except with all the flavour that makes India so much fun.

Goa is a 2-hour flight from Hyderabad, roundtrip prices run between $100 and $150. Unfortunately, the schedule is rather lame. Two flights usually leave HYD to start the trip to Goa and back each day: one at 2:30 pm and one at 2:45 pm. They both land back in Hyderabad on the return trip a little before 7 pm. Train is not an effective alternative.

Once you land at the bus-station-like airport in central Goa, you’ve got your choice of heading to the beaches in the North or the beaches in the South, a delightful dilemma. The north is regarded as a little quieter, south a little more touristy. In the middle, a few cities much quieter than most of India, as well as the ruins of Old Goa, which once rivals Lisbon as the greatest city of the Portuguese empire at its peak.

We had a reservation at a beach in the south, just one beach north of the very last Goan beach. An air-conditioned cab for the hour-long ride cost about $30 for all four of us.

We arrived at Agonda Beach to find our reservation cancelled, but the staff helped us find a new pair of huts along the beach that worked just fine. Cuba was even a bit cheaper than the original H20 Agonda. For $50 worth of rupees, you get an air-conditioned hut with mosquito-netted queen-sized bed and attached bathroom. Showering next to the toilet only increases the charm.

Agonda Beach is typical of the smaller beaches. During the day, tourists – mostly European – enjoy the sun, sand and surf. Indian visitors are the exception. Quaint beach huts, separated by Goan restaurants, line the beach. Across the one street in town, villagers run little shops out of their homes.

We rented mopeds - $5 apiece for 24 hours – to explore the area on our second day. Palolem Beach, 10 km south, is the last of the Goan beaches. It had a distinctly more crowded feel, and we left not long after we arrived. It’s worth a visit, but it’d be a less relaxing stay than Agonda Beach. 12 km north of our beach, we also explore the ruins of Cabo de Rama, a once-proud Portuguese fort high atop bluffs overlooking picture-perfect bays. The views are stunning, even if the history isn’t well documented at the site.

But the flavor of Goa makes it stand out in India. Portuguese colonialism took a much different shape than British colonialism. The Portuguese were far more interested in converting their domain, the result is a high Catholic population. Old catholic churches are the center of life in each town. Saturday weddings look pretty much like those back home. Kids play soccer in the street, not cricket. There’s no curly-wirly local language on signs. There’s no excise tax on liquor. And evening church recitals include the Ode to Joy polka. This is one fantastic land of goodness. Looking forward to exploring more.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The (Second) Best Days of My Life

I still remember my first time.

I remember being surprised at how good it felt. How right it felt.

That’s why it was such a joy to share Andrew, Gloria and Microsoft Steve’s first time with them. Bryans Adams, live in concert.

I’ve been an advocate, of course, ever since a summer evening in Budapest – some of the best days of my life – long ago. You wouldn’t necessarily expect it, but frankly, Bryan Adams rocks.

For weeks, black, white and orange billboards shouted about the Canadian rocker’s 5-city tour of India, the fourth of his career. We were quick to sign on for 1500 rupee tickets, $30, pretty pricey by local standards. Joined by two local staffers, pretty ardent fans, we trekked out to the high tech side of town and trickled in front of a large outdoor stage. A song-and-dance number from an upcoming movie was a pretty poor opener, and it took BA about an hour to show up.

He started, just like in Budapest, with a slew of songs I’d never heard of. But that the rest of the crowd – Hungarian and Indian alike – seemed to know those songs just fine. Gloria skeptically turned to me with a “he better play something I know soon” look. Andrew got antsy when the unknown man next to him innocently draped his arm around his shoulders, as Indian men often do. But by the time he got to the middle of his set, though, Gloria was rocking and Andrew let out a little “Bryan Adams sings this song!?”

Two-and-a-half hours later, validated. All three agreed the concert was fantastic. Just like a Budapest evening, long ago, Bryan Adams rocked a new legion of fans into his corner. Man-crush, vindicated.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentines in Perspective

Today is valentine’s day.

A year ago was a valetine’s day, too, my first night in D.C. Walking a foreign city buried in more than two feet of suffocating snow. On a desperate prowl, if only for a place -- any place -- to eat in a big corner of the city that shuts down after business hours. It wasn’t hard to feel lonely, the day before I was schedule to meet a hundred new best friends. A finally found a bottom-floor gyro shop. I sat by the window, but almost couldn’t see over the snowbanks. Even after I made a slew of good friends in the months that followed, I never went back to that restaurant.

But if the holiday can be a bit touchy in the American heart, it can be downright charged here in India.

Ten or twelve years ago, it was valetine’s day, too. Hindu nationalist agitators used the holiday as a symbol of the worst of Globalization. Westernization. Commercialization. Consumerization. Romanticization. Not-our-way-of-live-ization, they argued, except not with words, but with stones through storefronts. Reading about the valentine’s day turmoil in India in the 1990s is one of my first memories of studying India.

But today in India, a different valentine’s day.

In me, not the restlessness of a year before. Contentment wouldn’t be quite the right word, but a form of calm acceptance. Situational asceticism, I suppose. Not a single card exchanged (lest we consider the banter of a few e-cards). Not ideal, if you would ever be silly enough to ask me my opinion on the matter, but just another part of a longer journey.

And in India, a fully modern valentine’s day. Lovers planning their Bryan Adams concert. Chocolates in a land that doesn’t have much need for chocolate. And in the mall across the street, discovered on the hunt for another valentine’s day supper, a crowd. This valentine’s day mob, though, happy not angry. Youngsters dancing atop a heart-shaped platform, striving for the title of Mr. and Mrs. Valentine.

Still plenty of valentine’s day angst here in India, ten years later. Teenage angst.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Strengths Found

My new doorknob hanger...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Super Bowl Fever > Dengue Fever

I swear, the farther I get from Wisconsin, the better off Wisconsin sports teams are... If this is actually the case, expect a good two-year run for the Badgers, Brewers and Packers.

But the hometeam in the Superbowl presents its own challenges when you're in India Standard Time, 11:30 hours ahead of that great swath of the Central Standard Time Zone than I call home. So a 6 pm Sunday superbowl in the US translates into a 5:30 am Monday morning Superbowl in India. Plus it isn't a big enough ratings hit to warrant even on an early-morning slot on any of the 50-odd cable channels I get.

A local hotel out in the hi-tech part of the city offered a solution for the ex-pats here in Hyderabad. But it'd be hard to get your money's worth out of a $40 "all-you-can-eat, all-you-can-drink" party when in starts at 4 am in a country where you can get a 45 cent lunch down the street from the consulate.

So instead, I set the alarm to wake up early and stream the game over the interview courtesy of ustvnow.com, so legitimate that the State Department had recommended that we sign up for it with our personal email. In truth, though, the alarm wasn't even necessary, i'd worked myself into a frenzy reading pre-game coverage that i could hardly sleep and woke up early.

But come the fourth quarter, 7:45 here, I had to head to work. And you couldn't imagine my desperation when the game hit the three minute mark, Steelers down by 6, Ben Roethlisberger with the ball and a chance to win the game...the most suspenseful moment of Americana of the year...and the clock struck 8:30 and with it the first visa applicant began his clamoring for his interview to get into the US. Sacrilegious, I dare say! Enough time in America, though, and he'll learn... :-)

Needless to say, i sported my homemade Packer badge with pride the rest of the day...and one returning H1B even offered a congratulations when he saw it. Way to go Pack!