First day at office

This is my first day at the office of our field organization, CTRAN.  The office is located on Lewis Road, which makes me curious about whether a distant ancestor of mine had a role in colonizing this area – a question I hope to explore at the local history museum soon.  Of course, I do not have high hopes of finding a pleasant history recounted.

I’m installed at a shared desk- M. is sitting about 2.5 feet to my left, and .5 feet to my right is the office wall.  Behind us is another desk with two people.  I’m separated from M. by a double cabinet under the desk.  There is one small window in the back corner most distant from me.  While I’m writing this we are out of power, so it is pretty dark.  I have the sense that these power outages must really inhibit work momentum.  One of the blessings of not being able to understand everyone around me is that I’m insulated from distractions.  In my office at Duke I would find it very hard to concentrate if I could hear anyone’s conversation- but here, its just background noise.

We just had lunch:

  • walk down one flight of stairs and to the back of the building
  • enter the “Guest House” (a small apartment in this building), take shoes off
  • enter kitchen, take a plate, scoop up a pile of rice, fill a small bowl with dal, spoon some green beans onto rice, take a small bowl of red colored cauli dish (later discovered to be 50/50 cauli/potato)
  • go take seat at table
  • eat! (with right hand only)

Someone told me that people eat lunch in the basement because it saves time, and after 15 minutes everyone returns to the office.  I figured this was an exaggeration, but it wasn’t.  Food was shoveled into mouths.  All the people at my table (all men) had taken very large quantities of rice – perhaps 4-6 cups of cooked rice. I had a much smaller serving (1.5-2) because I figured I could always go back for more – my american style of eating.  The just shoveled everything in, and stood up to go.  The food was delicious, but I really had to rush to match their pace!  Even so, I knew I should have taken more rice.  No one else was going back for seconds, and i didn’t want to either – especially because they were waiting for me to finish so they could walk me back upstairs.  Next time I know: take a *ton* of rice!

[Lunch is at 1:30.  Since I wake up at 5 with rush hour and have early breakfast, I was faint with hunger by lunchtime!  need to find out whether a snack / snack-break is appropriate. Today I just ate about 5 mints from my sole tin of TJ’s green tea mints brought from home]

At lunch, I asked S. if he ate meat.  “Yes, and I love it so much!” he replied.  “TJ does, too!” he added.  I wanted to engage him in discussion about his choice, as Gandhi is constantly doing in his auto-b., but I was too timid, and it felt too jarring to bring up.  I need to come up with a plan about how to discuss this in a non-threatening but inquisitive way that I can feel comfortable doing with anyone.

For now – back to work!  Just looked over to see that M. is reading “Wood Decaying Fungi of Mizoram”.  Awesome.

Ooh- power has just returned.