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.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


All-Tme-Ever Cultural Low-Light Day

Spending an afternoon bumming around an Indian mall.

Then spending the evening bumming around a different Indian mall because the first showing of Cowboys and Aliens was sold out.

Then actually spending two hours sitting through Cowboys and Aliens.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Limited Time Offer*

For a limited time only, come visit me in Hyderabad, and you'll get to use this brand new jeremy-has-a-guest-in-India phone, absolutely free of charge!!! I know, it's really a deal that's too damn good to pass up.

* Offer extends through January 2013...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

An Elder Statesman

One person i've always wanted to become is Joe Elder, my favorite professor from the University of Wisconsin. A wise old sage, versed in all the stories of ancient India, with plenty of his own to tell too. Even before I transferred to Madison to study India, his reputation preceded him. I had semester long classes with him on Civilizations of India and Thought of Gandhi. I interviewed him as part of my final journalism project and stood in rapt attention when he gave the memorial address at the university's September 11th memorial, the friday after the 2001 attacks.

While trying to pas a job lead off to the Center for South Asia, I stumbled on the announcement of his 50th anniversary of teaching at UW. Wow! A pretty solid career, safe to say. He was one person i felt compelled to typewriter a letter last fall, letting him know a former student was off to staff the consulate in Hyderabad. I haven't gotten a response, but i assume it let to a smile.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Sick. Flu-like symptoms. I'm blaming the monsoon...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Posting Script

PS. I really liked Janani's visit.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Old Structures on Top of Hills

Janani's four days in Hyderabad were the perfect chance to hit two of the city's best tourist attractions, which I had yet to prioritize in 6 months of Hyderabading: Golkona Fort and the Qutb Shahi Tombs.

The fort is the reason there's the city of Hyderabad today, even though it's many miles from the city center. For years, the three-walled bastion on a rocky outcropping was one of the wealthiest strongholds in all of India. From the 13th century Hindu Kakatiya emporers through 16th century Muslim Qutb Shahi dynasty. All the great diamonds of the world passed through the walls. Gold. Pearls. Spices. Some of the richest men in the world sat on thrones here. My first impression was how similar it felt compared to contemporary castles in Europe like Hungary's Eger Castle.

By the 1600s, though, the water situation was getting dreary, so after a big famine the kind moved a few miles to the east, on the banks of the River Musi and built from scratch the Hyderabad we know and love.

The remains, though, are a jumbled blend of fortifications, temples, mosques, markets and lawns.

India: a whole lotta new and old, side by side. The newest residential developments from the top of the fort:

Raghu's favorite top-secret destination within in the largest fort wall? The biggest tree i've ever seen...and climbed into.

And the tombs of the Qutb rulers? Amazing monuments to a different day and age, even as they slowly crumble.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Quotes of a Mid-July Week

“I don’t mean to be rude, but couldn’t they find someone more qualified than you who wasn’t retired?”

An “ahem” anonymous vice consul, introducing himself to the new ambassador to India at a reception at the Consul General's house, who has come out of retirement now for the second time to take over the reigns of Mission India while a permanent ambassador is selected/nominated/approved. Ambassador Burleigh sports a bow-tie well. Nearly a septegenarian, he’s still quick with stories and smiles of his career as a diplomat, much of it in South Asia. I would have a pretty good time sitting down for dinner with the ambassador and Professor Joe Elder.

“...he says, with an earnestness that would be laughable in a person who wasn’t from Wisconsin.”

Janani, quoting “A Visit from the Goon Squad.”

“You are not a commoner, sir.”

Raghu, madder than I was, when he wasn’t allowed to drive into the V.I.P. parking area at the airport Sunday morning when we dropped Janani off, catching the next leg of her trip to Bangalore.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Turning 31

Turning 31 is less exciting than turning 30, but more exciting that turning 32, I would imagine.

A delicious dinner at N, complete with gentle seasonal breeze and chocolate cake, even if my likely-to-be-stunning rendition of the French National Anthem was hushed just a few stanzas into the song. And check out this guest list of VVVIPs:

Matt and Kim
Benny and Amy
Liz and Steve (and Julia)
Guest of Honor: Janani Ramachandran
Chief Guest: Jeremy Jewett

Sadly, the “You and I” paparazzi must have missed the invitation...

Monday, July 11, 2011

You and I

celebrating american independence: jeremy "with a friend." no big deal.

oh, and the cover title of this week's edition of "You and I?"


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Monsoon 2011 – The Great Internet Blackout Edition

Weeks and weeks with a blog update, but with good reason. Many a good reasons:

Spent a week in Chennai in mid-June adjudicating visas on a week-long TDY assignment. The exchange was concocted as a way to improve cross-polination, of sorts, across the five posts in India. Things go more smoothly for everyone if we all understand the intricacies of visa law in a similar manner; it’s still a bit of a work in progress.

The weekend before, came early to enjoy a great day at the beach with 151st classmate Maureen, her husband and cute son Noah. Almost ran into student-exchange-sister-by-extension Julia the Lufthansa flight stewardess in Chennai, too. Close but no cigar. She flies into India once a month, though, so we’ll plan something someday.

Monday through Friday were interesting, a good chance of pace. It’s fun to see another consulate’s procedure in motion. They’ve been at things in Chennai since 1867, after all, so they’re a bit more polished than our operation in HYD. And it was refreshing to be in a building with twice as many Americans to meet and befriend and such modern conveniences as: a cafeteria, a canteen shop, a public-access library, a meeting hall, conference rooms and interview booths that actually work. The city itself is a bit more drab than Hyderabad, and our weather’s certainly better, but life in Chennai has some perks: better flights, a more international population, better driving destinations, and a slightly more “civilized” city.

And the weekend after, roadtripped to peacefully Pondicherry. I’ve long romanticized the former French colony, now administered by the central government, and it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in the neighborhood, even if it wasn’t as cool as Goa.

From Chennai, bus is the best option to Pondi. If you select a private air-conditioned bus, it’ll take about 4 hours and $30. The “station” is a bit of a shock. A jumble of modern buses, jammed into a crumbling stockade of little private stalls, each selling tickets for only one of the buses. Tourists, locals, animals, shipping freight all milling around at various speeds, buses coming and going without timetable but with plenty of honking. Once you manage to find the right number stall, and get pointed onto the right bus, though, you’re pleasantly sound-proofed from the bustle. The seats recline, Bollywood is played, and the chaos of India flashes past the window as you cruise along as the king of the road.

Make sure someone lets you know when the bus gets to Pondicherry: there’s no bus station, of course, and none of the shop signs along the road they drop you off on are in the French you’re hoping for. I was a bit skeptical as I held a map out to a late-night autorickshaw driver, but he nodded and five minutes later the streets started to broaden and I saw the first signs of beautiful French.

Most of Pondicherry is a beautiful-to-behold grid of streets, a most excellent change of pace of the usual Indian “urban planning.” The three or four blocks closest to shore are lined with well-cared-for colonial buildings. Ancient trees, sidewalks, French-quarter-esque balconies, street signs in French, the whole shebang. For centuries, Pondi was the headquarters of French interests in India, to this day France still has a consulate in town. These days, the old colonial buildings house the Pondicherry government, which oversees four or five enclave cities up and down the coasts of India, all returned to Indian possession by the French in 1964. There isn’t a lot to see and do, but that’s half the charm. You can STROLL in Pondicherry, an exceptional rarity in India. So everyone – locals, Indian tourists, and a smattering of westerners – strolls with a smile on their face.

The Promenade comes with recommendations. Modern, trendy feel at a great location, right across the main promenade from the shore. The hotel has a good brunch, a hidden pool that makes a great oasis, and an under-utilized rooftop bar with a great view. You can get a room in Pondi for less than $100, but why would you want to? Website

And it was in Pondicherry, naturally, that I picked up three French wives.

Andrew and I elbowed our way into their conversation at the restaurant late on a Saturday night. They had been looking at us, we took that as permission. In delightful French accents, they explained how they had come to India to volunteer in an orphanage and practice their English. They lasted one day in the village before they left, unhappy to find out that the program was actually a school, the children were older than expected, and didn’t speak English. They retreated to Pondicherry to concoct a plan, and were willing to consider an invitation to Hyderabad.

I flew back to Hyderabad, while they mosied their way northwestward on the train. The next day, I finished packing six months of affects – as the last holdout in Alcatraz – and moved a curvy mile away to my brand new apartment! Expect a fuller tour soon, but know that it’s spectacular. Four bedrooms, four balconies, five baths. A great kitchen, huge living areas, and a sitar-emblazed puja room! The colony is peaceful and green and quiet and lovely and calm and fantastic. It’s so much easier to be happy in India when you have a place to call your own and finally make your own.

But settling in is hard work. And frankly I knew I’d need a woman’s eye and touch to make the new place a home. So why not three? And what society is more cultured in such arts than France? Within a day, the ladies were helping me furnish and adorn the apartment with the right touches of color. They helped me find everything in need for a more-than-modest kitchen, and were pretty good chefs in their own right. With their help, hosted a perfect little dinner party with a blend of friends, hopefully the first of many. Plus, added bonus, the ladies were traveling with a video projector, so in the absence of a television, we watched movies on the wall.

One day while I was sitting at my desk, they sent an SMS. “We have a surprise for you Jeremy!” I smiled the whole afternoon. When I got home, a fish bowl and four gold fish on my ten-seater dining table! “One is Delphi, one is Sophie, one is Marie,” they said proudly. “And this one is Raghu!” Delightful sentiment. Alas, the next morning, we awoke to find Delphi floating. And during breakfast, Raghu went belly-up, too. (He laughed a lot when he learned this in the car an hour later.) Marie made it two days longer. Twelve later now, only Sophie swims on.

Sadly, after two weeks or so, they’re gone now, all back to France. Delphi to keep delivering other people’s babies and Sophie and Marie to continue their studies. Bon voyage!

The only downside to the new palatial set-up is...the Internets. I miss it. A lot. I like the 21st century. I like my friends. I like the Daily Show. I like the Interweb. I want it back.

But getting anything done in India is, well, a battle. My home is pre-wired for the internet, which is cutting-edge in India. It blew the BeamTelcom guys away when they came to hook up the cables. After an hour, they decided it was installed improperly because they couldn’t figure it out. The building electricians spent an hour twisting wires before determining the same. It took a week for the landlord’s electrician to come and pronounce that he’d prewired everything for a different internet provider, not BeamTelecom. The consulate electrician decide a week later he could probably get it to work with BeamTelecom, but those efforts have yet to come to fruition.

Even posting this update was a 4-hour struggle. I flipflopped over the hill and down the road to the first mall. Not only did the bookstore coffee house not have wifi, but it took 46 minutes to receive a strawberry swirl, or something along those lines. The second mall didn't have wifi either. Marching off to a "net center" down the road, i ran into a long-lost friend. back in hyderabad despite her best instincts, who graciously offered a ride to the ONE PLACE IN HYDERABAD with wifi! This is ridiculous. The 21st century in one of India's most cyber-saavy cities...and there's only one damn place to get on the internet. CyberCafe's don't exist. i speculate it's a two-prong issue: 1. if you're a member of Indian society who is "on the web," you're wealthy enough to have a computer and internet at home. and if you can't afford those luxuries, you don't have any interest in the same. 2. india jumped from chiseling fancy things in stone straight to super high-tech cell phones, skipping over laptops and the need for public WIFI, i guess.

(Opp, just interrupted mid-keystroke by a request from a "Beyond Coffe" customer to explain why i had refused his L1 application last week...)

So instead of the internet, I read. I clean. And I feed my one remaining fish.

Also in the review mirror, the Fourth of July, my first as a diplomat abroad. Andrew and others put a lot of planning into the consulate party at a local hotel, but I was pretty detached, I didn’t have any time to volunteer over the past few months. Heavy rains couldn’t dampen the spirit, even if it did reduce the turnout. Pleasantly so. And the skies did clear for a nice firework grand finale.

And the twin excitements this week? Turning 31 will likely prove anticlimactic, as who would want to be any older than 30? But as long as I continue to act closer to 25 than 35, I figure I’ll be just fine. The better birthday present will be a visit from D.C. friend Janani*, swinging through Hyderabad on a month-long pre-graduate school heritage journey of sorts.

(* Not pronounced as it looks.)