I've decided to retire this blog — I don't really see myself updating it any time soon, and haven't for over two years anyway. I intend to leave the content on-line for the forseeable future, but have converted it to a static site. As a result, dynamic things like search and comments aren't really going to work.

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Archive for the 'India and Sri Lanka' Category

Summing Up Three Months in One Post

Friday, April 24th, 2009

The story so far…

Our hero quit his job and was deassimilated from the Borg, travelled to India via Sri Lanka, and was last heard from on a bus from Delhi to Noida.

And now, the unexciting conclusion…

That was, as the dates indicate, about two and a half months ago. Indeed, I returned from India, as expected, in late February and have since taken up my new job (which, oddly enough, has put me back at my old desk) and have been feverishly working on the two productions that I’m expected to edit the India footage into (with, it has to be said, remarkably little success, as the rather depressing supervisor meeting I had on Wednesday reinforced).

Why the break in transmission? I’m not sure, really. I did write a few more journal entries while I was in India, but found that I ran out of energy at a certain point and really just wished I could learn how to sleep on buses, and then with the editing workload back here, combined with picking up the new job baton (a whole 48 hours after I landed back in Perth!), I just don’t seem to have had the creative energy for it.

India, for the record, was good fun. There’s been a little bit of unpleasantness since returning (nothing related to me, but it still casts a slight pall over the experience), but it was an incredibly worthwhile trip, all told. In the end, I think Bangalore was probably my favourite of the four cities we stayed in, but they were all interesting and (often surprisingly) different in their own rights. The filming went OK, but as I’ve said to a few people since returning, it really was no more than OK, and probably reminded me of why I was hesitant to get heavily involved in production units in the first place — I just don’t quite seem to have a natural feel for what needs to be shot and how the way a lot of other people do, and when you’re shooting ephemeral events in a documentary style, you have to have that feel.

I also have a huge queue of photos to upload, too, starting with some from last November (sorry Dean!) and then the photos from India. All… find . -name *.jpg | wc -l… 413 of them. (Yikes, particularly since I know I discarded at least twice as many while I was there, too.) I’ve been meaning to get started on that particular job since I got back, but the thought of sitting down and writing titles and descriptions for each of them has just sapped my energy each time I’ve opened my laptop to get going.

Tonight I’m off to the 4×4 Film Festival at uni, which is the twice-yearly competition between second and third year production students to see who can make the best four minute film. (Third years get handicapped by needing to edit in-camera, which having done it last year, is actually a pretty significant handicap for a lot of genres.) This semester’s theme is horror, which should be entertaining, and for once, I might be scared by more than the usual shoddy student acting.

In that spirit, I’ll sign off with this dodgy YouTube version of a horror film I worked on last year for uni. (We were apparently just a year ahead of the curve. That’s what I’m telling people who ask about the grade I received for it.) It’s seven and a bit minutes of… something. I’m not really sure what.

Balance of Terror

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

Date: Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 8:45 am IST
Place: Delhi-Noida Road, India

Once again, we’re on the bus. Happily, I’ve been able to get some fresh viewing material, and am presently watching the Star Trek episode Balance of Terror. (Hence the title.) Today, we’re headed for JIIT in Noida, another satellite city of Delhi. The plan is apparently to do a small group activity with the students there this morning, then visit three companies out there this afternoon before returning to Delhi in the evening.

The group activity should be interesting: we’re going to do a game design exercise, which should give us some insights into how their students are taught relative to our students. From my point of view, it should provide some opportunities to start doing some on the ground work in terms of potentially interviewing both our students and theirs, which will be useful practice both in manipulating the microphone and covering a number of groups at once; both areas in which I haven’t done a lot of work in the past.

Yesterday afternoon we went to Aricent in Gurgaon, a company who provide hardware and software to telecommunications OEMs. They were quite proud of their efforts in the human resources field; although progressive by at least the stereotype of Indian companies (only about a 42-45 hour week, somewhat flexible time), it was to a large extent the usual large corporate spin on them being a bit family, having a shared culture, et cetera.

From a filming point of view, yesterday was a bit of a bust, but that was somewhat expected. I grabbed some establishing footage outside of Aricent and then later at India Gate, but since I didn’t have any release forms on me, I decided against taking footage of Aricent employees or within Aricent itself. I’m also intending to start some end-of-day interviews this evening when we get back to Delhi: tonight should be Chris, from whom I hope to get some insight into the purpose of the trip from the university’s point of view.

On a different note, apparently PESIT in Bangalore have challenged us to a 20-20 game when we get down there. There’s already some banter going around the bus about who’s going to bat where and, more importantly, what colour box Sameera wants!

Obviously, we’re giving him a pink one.

The Road to Gurgaon

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

Date: February 3, 2009 at 2:27 pm IST
Place: Delhi-Gurgaon Road, Haryana, India

The original plan for the trip that said that most people would arrive yesterday has unfortunately gone completely out the window. A delay in the departure of the Emirates flight leaving Perth for Dubai that almost two-thirds of the group were on meant that instead of arriving last night at about 8 o’clock, more than half of the student group didn’t arrive until 9:30 this morning, after a night and (very early) morning embarkation from Dubai. Unsurprisingly, most of the bus is now asleep, and Leisa is wandering down the aisle taking incriminating photos of people who are dead to the world.

We’re pressing on with the programme regardless, so presently the bus is trooping very, very slowly down to Gurgaon for the first scheduled event: a tour of a company called Aricent. This is good, as it gives me a chance to test out some of the equipment I have in a more “real” setting, although I’m not putting any great pressure on myself to get decent footage until the Agra trip the day after tomorrow.

Not an awful lot else to report at the moment. Our SIM cards are being organised while we head down to Gurgaon, so I should have a phone available again later this evening, and I now have a roommate in the form of Hamish. We’re going to room together for our stay in Delhi and see how we’re going after that — it seems like we have a bit in common, so that’s a good start.

Now I just need to figure out how to stop my dead cat to stop shedding!

Flying into Delhi

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

Date: February 2, 2009 at 7:21 pm IST
Place: Arrivals Hall, Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi, India

As we descended into Delhi this evening, the sun was setting. Sure, it was already down on the ground, but at our altitude it lit up the cabin of the plane in a light first the harsh yellow of the direct sun, where I could see my own shadow so sharply that I could have counted my eyelashes, then the warmer, more muted oranges and reds and pinks as the light bounced off seats and bulkheads to softly fill the plane in a beautiful glow.

It was a peaceful ending to what had been a slightly stressful day. This afternoon, I arrived at Bandaranaike International Airport to find one of those depressingly familiar Asian airline experiences playing itself out: sorry, sir, but your flight has been cancelled. Not enough people, I presume. Fortunately, I got there early enough to get a seat on the earlier flight to Delhi, the only real downside being the extra hour and a half I had to kill before being picked up.

Earlier in the day I’d set out on one of my characteristic missions to get lost in a city I don’t know very well, this time in Colombo. I succeeded a bit too well, as it turned out! After I’d been gone a while I realised that I’d left my Lonely Planet — and hence my maps — in my other backpack, which was safely back at the guest house. Ended up navigating my way back to Galle Road via the sun, then realised I was several kilometres south of the guest house and my taxi for the airport was arriving soon. Time to grab a tuk-tuk!

Colombo itself is a bit of a pastiche of places I’ve been: Singapore’s Little India with the socioeconomic state of Ulaanbaatar and road rules of Beijing, if you will.

Maybe third world cities are just starting to jade me. I hope not.

I do want to return to Sri Lanka at some point, but Colombo bores me in a way few cities other than Tallinn and Canberra have. Still, boring isn’t bad for getting over jetlag, and in Colombo House I at least had good digs. Next time I’m going to Galle and Kandy, though!

Well, that’s part of the hour and a half killed.

Here We Go Again

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

Time: Saturday, January 31, 2009, 15:22 IST
Location: Somewhere over the Bay of Bengal

I was supposed to write a statement of intent for this documentary while winging my way from Perth to Colombo. Unfortunately, that went out the window about the same time as I got less than an hour’s sleep on the red-eye from Perth to Singapore last night, so instead I’ll write a possibly incoherent blog post.

Sorry, Keith. Can we count this towards my assessment anyway?

So, to back up a step or two, let me explain why I’m currently en route to the subcontinent for those who aren’t already in the know. As part of my Graduate Certificate in Film and Video, I’ve been offered and accepted the opportunity to tag along with an ECU study tour and make a documentary about the experience as an Independent Study project. Needless to say, I’m rather excited about this — effectively, I get to spend two and a half weeks travelling around India (which I’ve wanted to do anyway for ages) and get course credit in the process.

Exactly what the documentary is going to be about is still a somewhat open question. I have some ideas — one in particular that I’d like to pursue — but it will really depend on what actually takes place on the tour. Certainly, had I made a documentary about the Shanghai trip I went on a little over a year ago, that would have turned out completely differently to any preconceived ideas I might have had.

It’s fair to say that my preparation and pre-production processes have been a bit limited. (Horrifyingly disorganised is probably a more honest, less euphemistic way of putting it.) It was basically only by the good graces of Keith on his first day back at ECU yesterday after taking leave that I managed to loan gear from the university, for which I’m extremely grateful. In effect, half of my luggage is taken up by filming equipment — and that’s without having brought any lights!

The travelling itself so far has been interesting. I decided very early on when working out the travel arrangements (travel to and from India was a problem for the individual students rather than the uni due to budgetary constraints and — I suspect — the fact that the uni didn’t want to have to deal with people like me who don’t just do things as a straight return trip from Perth) that I wanted to have a couple of days somewhere before India to unwind, get over the longer flights, test equipment, and so on.

It came down to a choice between Colombo and Kathmandu, and Colombo turned out to be a lot cheaper.

As a result, very early this morning (1:15, to be exact) I got to hop on a Jetstar flight from Perth to Singapore. I was hoping to get some sleep, but as I’ve already mentioned, it didn’t really work out that way. I had everything I needed (even an exit row seat, courtesy of a friendly check-in agent), but the combination of uncomfortable seating and screaming babies just wasn’t conducive to sleep.

I got to spend the morning wandering around Singapore in a sleep-deprived haze. I ended up walking several kilometres (probably at least 10, without having done the maths with a map yet) and that actually woke me up reasonably well. I also managed to get the critical thing that I forgot to pick up on my way out the door yesterday: the Lonely Planet for Sri Lanka!

(Side note: if anyone wants, say, two copies of the Sri Lanka Lonely Planet in a few weeks, get in touch.)

Still, my day has picked up remarkably after the early midnight horror flight. Upon checking in for the Sri Lankan Airlines flight to Colombo, I managed to wangle an exit row seat, with a nod and a wink from the check-in agent that I might end up doing a bit better than that.

Actually, I did a lot better. First class, baby! Not bad, considering I’ve never flown above regular economy before in a rather large number of flights.

Talk about helping one’s mood.

Looking ahead: tonight I’m going to try not to fall asleep too early (I have five mini DV tapes to stripe, and I need to get at least a couple of them done before hitting Delhi), then see the sights of Colombo test the camera equipment tomorrow. I’ll have another crack at the statement of intent tomorrow, too. (I might even consider shaving, although lord knows the scruffy look’s worked for me so far on this trip.)

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. Oh, more champagne? Don’t mind if I do…