Monday, June the 16th, 2003

The deal was to start typing this before I got home. There, there are other things waiting, like not starting on the work for the second conference. Since a few days have passed since I’ve gotten here, many details will be forgotten, but then again they shouldn’t be so important if I can’t remember them now. It’s been typed out in the hotel room, in the airport, on the plane, at Periamma’s home and home in Ann Arbor. There will thus be a discontinuity of thoughts or repetitions at times.

As an abstract, (for those lazy to read the whole thing) the place was very different and nice. The trip started off a little “not so great” and ended up being the most fun I’ve had in a long time. Ate well, stayed in a nice place. The campuses of M.I.T and Harvard were very impressive. The talk went off well, and most of the other talks were very interesting and thought provoking. And I took a lot of time in the final day, to go sight-seeing. Walked a lot, and enjoyed the concept of public transport being able to take you where ever you want to go. Made a small bunch of contacts and “friends” in this trip. All in all, definitely a nice experience.

Things didn’t start off so well. Point being, I kept cool, and sorted stuff out, MYSELF. Everything from the tickets, to the hotel reservations, to travelling and finding my way around.

I had checked my bag in all the way to Boston, which was in retrospect not a smart move.

Then there were no activities for a while after the security fiasco. I waited near the gate for the flight. The airport is very nice here and it’s huge. Need to take an internal train to get from point to point. Eventually, took off to New York, my middle destination. The flights are less than an hour or so in length and feel insanely short. We get in, have a beverage, and before you know it, the captain is announcing descent. Arrived at NY with no more incidents, till then.

The deal with these terminals for checkin are that they are split up by airlines. Which is a good thing. The bad thing is that they are in disjoint buildings, which are far away. Another confusion was my ticket was issued by an airline, but the actual “carrier” was another airline or some such nonsense. All these incompetent fools are so irritating. Moving between these buildings, which aren’t really close, is not “people on foot” friendly. It’s designed for cars or waiting for a bus. Since I only had like an hour, couldn’t wait for the bus. Walked far away and found a terminal. There the lady goes, “I know your ticket says this, but we meant you should go to that ‘carriers’ terminal. You don’t have too much time so take the BLAH bus to BLAH BLAH.” OK I say, remain calm, and walk all the way back to another terminal in a different building. Make it well in time.

Here, the security screening and so on were handled the same for everybody, and they did scrutinize some people more, but only if the ‘preliminary’ screenings came up with something ‘suspicious’.

Again, uneventful and short trip and I was in Boston. It is a pretty place. Periamma had given me Ashwin’s cellphone, and I used it the one time on the trip to tell her I had reached there safely. Strolled down to baggage claim, waited, nothing happens. So ask some of the baggage handlers there and find the lost baggage claim office. There, there is this set of sweet old lady types. You want to scream, but you automatically won’t. Smart employment strategy.

Told them about the general events. They saw the tickets and decided their people would have been just as confused as I was and that’s why it isn’t here. She also tells me that there are flights very often between NY and Boston, so it should come soon enough. Waited for just under an hour for the next flight. When it didn’t come on that as well, I returned, gave her the hotel contact details and left.

(As luck would have it, it supposedly arrived on the next aircraft. If I remember correctly, I had arrived there at 12:00 PM and waited there till 1:00 PM or so. The baggage arrived at 2:00 PM.)

I had, earlier found out from the internet and Ashwin about how to get around the city. Took a bus from the airport to the subway system, called their ‘T’. Found my way after a couple of train shifts to Harvard Square, in the middle of Cambridge, they “yuppie” part of town as Periamma puts it. It felt perfect.

Walked around for quite some time looking for the hotel. The place was beautiful. I then began to realize how much I missed the concept of crowds. The streets were filled with people. They were dirty, the roads were noisy, the cars moved slowly, there were homeless people and beggars on the street, smells from restaurants, coffee and tea shops, small hawkers… so much I have been “shielded” from in all this time. It felt good. Ann Arbor, in comparison, is some sanitized, sterilized, noiseless, smell-less, all “happy happy” people zone. It feels very different and not-real.

Found the hotel eventually. (“Losing” the suitcase was a good thing. It wouldn’t have been easy to walk around for the first time looking for things and lugging that around.) Checked in. The hotel is a very small quaint place. I think I was the only non-European in the hotel. Which meant, people spoke a lot less in English, but also meant the breakfast they served there was awesome. Made a few phone calls to the luggage people to find out status. They didn’t know at the time. Then decided to go out and eat, before heading off to find M.I.T. Armed with a map and some change, left, found a small pizzaria close by, which became my staple dinner place. Grabbed a sandwich and walked towards M.I.T. About 40 minutes, a few wrong turns included, later, I found the auditorium where I was supposed to register for the event. Did all that paperwork, picked up some brochures, some maps and left. The bag they gave was something so stupid looking, like some jute bag of some freedom fighter. Even Gandhi would’ve been embarrased to touch this bag. It was so funny to see people in high tech suits and laptops on one side, with this “pai” on the other. To make matters even worse, it was made in Pakistan. Yes, I look at ALL the details.

Walked around the campus for a while, and took some pictures. Got back home later that evening, and called the airline, again. Surprisingly, I used the phone, like 5 times, in ONE DAY. Was impressed. Now the lady at the other end told me it had been found by 2:00 PM and it was on their delivery truck since then. It was now 6:00 PM, but she also told me not to really worry as they do take time to get to places. Again, they put the nicest people on these sorts of jobs, it’s very hard to really stay mad.

In a little while, it arrived at the hotel. Signed for it and got my stuff. Nothing of great importance was in the suitcase, just some clothes, but still. Don’t remember what I did after that. I think I checked some email and prepared to sleep. Mailed my professor the contact details, to work later on the presentation. No dinner, had eaten late in the afternoon.

Overall, I was pretty proud of how I handled things that came up.

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