Archive for the ‘Seattle’ Category
Watching Brazil live from inside the stadium was one of my cherished dreams since my childhood days. Last evening it came true!!! And believe me, it was awesome, terrific, superb … (many more). I liked the atmosphere, the spectators, the match and the players. Let me describe and share my experience with the readers.
Seattle is not known for football (or Soccer) matches. Only this year they have announced a team in MLS – the soccer league in USA. The team is a brainchild of Paul Allen (co-founder of Microsoft) and is sponsored by Xbox 360 (Microsoft). The Qwest field, the major soccer arena of our neighborhood, is also an American football cum soccer ground. It’s big and can draw upto 70,000 crowd. The fun-fact about the stadium is that it is architecturally optimized for noise reverberation – so that fans enjoy being noisy.
Last week, when I heard about Brazil to play Canada in a friendly in Seattle, I didn’t actually feel excited. As a core sports lover, I do not like anything that’s less than serious football, especially an “International Friendly”. Players are not motivated at all to show something and the reward of winning is meagre. Also I was aware that Kaka and Ronaldinho are not going to be a part of the match. Overall, I was less enthusiastic about getting tickets. As the D-day came closer, my mood started to swing. The day before the d-day, I was almost hungry for a ticket. The ticket-price fluctuaions were interestingly similar to those of the price of an idol before the Saraswati puja. The price went up before the night of the match and stayed high throughout the morning. But it started to fall while an hour was remaining. I bought it from a colleague whose friend fractured his leg on friday (how unlucky he is) and decided not to go for the match. I was not interested to watch the match from the third floor and settled for a ticket on S-9 (extend the smaller goalkeepers’ box to get me at 17th row from the ground level). It cost me $75, where I could have managed a 3rd floor ticket at around $30-$35.
On the day I started off around 5 in the afternoon. The match was scheduled to start at 7:30pm. I roamed around the arena and discovered a wonderful music named Samba. I was aware of Samba from the time I had a love affair with Brazil, but I never thought I’ll be attracted to this. I loved Brazil because of the skill and their passion for football. But this music has something related to it. It has the rhythm of Africa with the mysticism of Amazon. It’s certainly a sophisticated blend of tribal music with a modern beach rhythm. I recorded a few versions of it (see here and here) and happily walked into the stadium. There were lots of Police protection and I was allowed inside only after the thorough bag search.
There were a lot of spectators and the supporters were almost 50-30-20 in ratio (Brazil-Canada-Neutral). To point to an evidence of an overwhelming Brazil supporters, one can look at the business outside. Outside the stadium there’s a huge crowd (before the match) and a string of small temporary roadside stalls. Most of them were actually selling Brazilian food and some standard American fast-food. In USA, people do participate in business in an intelligent and opportunistic way (in India people do this also but only a fraction of overall population actually get a fair chance to show their business skills). The monopolistic T-shirt vendor was selling a Brazil T-shirt at $129 and a full-length brazil flag at $60 where the same items for Canada were priced at $100 and $35 respectively. As expected, the price started going down as the match started (I heard from others).
The match started and I was worried with my camera. I was in a dilemma to watch the match through my eyes or through the 10x zoom camera. Before I understand anything a Brazilian attcak started from the side we were sitting and Robinho dodged passed a defender. I stood up cheering and the goal was scoed off his pass. I clicked at the time it was scored and my eyes were not on the camera at all. However, it’s a factor of beginners’ luck that I clicked at the right time and captured the shot off Diego getting into the net. I was never lucky enough for next four goals.
Canada, surprisingly, equalized within a few minutes. A long cross was misjudged by all Brazilian defenders or may be because they were short in height, was headed in by the tall Canadian striker (Friend). The match actually opened up after this. There were a few lapses in Brazilian defense and Canadian strikers missed golder oppourtunities to score on a couple of occasions. Both the time, they were one-to-one with the goalkeeper and once it went just outside and the other time the shot was saved by lucky Julio Cesar. Towards the end of first half, Brazil went ahead once more, with a header from Luis Fabiano.
The second half was more eventful with Canada started a few long-rangers from outside the box. And they succeeded with their approach, getting the second equalizer before the 60th minute with what is arguably the best goal of the match. The player number 6(Guzman) dribbled and ran from left to right and struck with his right foot to the right hand side of the golie. The awesome power did not allow Cesar to react in time though the shot was not placed that well. The joy was spoilled within a few minutes with Robinho cashed in on a weak misdirected back-pass from the goalscorer himself (that number 6) and scored the winner. Adriano came to the ground after 65th minute but Brazil never really attcked after they regained the lead for the third time. Last ten minutes it was all Canada and Brazil was defending to stay in the lead. They succeeded and the end scoreline was 3-2.
After crossing a huge traffic and an over-crowded bus I came back to my house at around 11pm at night. It was a great day and I did not miss to upload the pics on Orkut and videos on youtube. I don’t think the story ends here though I this is my last sentence on this blog. I have got the taste of watching football live … and immediately started planning to be in South Africa in a couple of years.
[My first Toastmasters speech - inspired by a TED talk from Barry Schwartz]
When I started my journey of life a couple of decades back, a dogma was handed over to me. The dogma was – if you have to get a better future, you have to maximize your freedom. The way to maximize the freedom is to maximize the number of choices – so that I can decide more freely – a problem that probably was a part of the society we lived in.
I started my life in a small village and them moved to a small suburban town – mainly to have better choices of education. After the school days, I moved to the nearest cosmopoliton city for my graduation in computer science – to choose one from the better available jobs. Once I finished graduation, I latched into one of those but did not stop looking for better ones. I changed the city to join Microsoft at Hyderabad to have a better opportunity anywhere in India. And now, I’ve moved to US and may be looking for global choices in future. Well, everything implies an explosion of choices at each step.
Let me move out of the career and look at the options available in some space we use very frequently – a communication device. When I was a child, we used to have only a phone connection that used to sit at a fixed location. It was used for the sole purpose of voice information exchange. Now we have so many cell-phones available with so many features to choose from – a cell phone with a torch, with an FM radio or with an electric razor (you’ll soon get one in the last category if you haven’t got one yet), that it’s difficult to convince yourself that the device was actually invented for voice information exchange.
Once I am sure that I really have for a lot more choices than I used to have, I tend to question myself whether it is good for me or actually bad for me. Let me see it from a different angle. I can remember I went to a doctor last week with some problem in my teeth. The doctor said, you’ve a cavity in the teeth. So, you can decide to extract the teeth, or you can keep it as it is or you can have a root canal treatment on it and explained benefits and risks for each of them. Then he asked – “Which one should want to go ahead with?” I said “Doc, had you been me, which one you would have chosen?” Doc smiled and said “But I am not you.” As per my dogma, it should be an improvement of my life as I get to choose the process of treatment. At the same time, it’s a shift in the burden of decision making from someone who knows something, namely a doctor, to someone who knows nothing. And as the technology has advanced, we can work from anywhere at anytime. The effect is that I have to make a choice at every moment “should I work now”. If I have to make this decision continuously while watching the TV in the evening, then it certainly affects the quality of entertainment I get from the TV.
To summarize, availability of more choices is not a boon, but most of the times it is actually a burden. The very first effect of more choices is that it causes paralysis of decision-maker. Everytime I try to invest money I have to decide on where to invest – on real estate or stock market? If I invest in real estate – should I buy an empty land or an apartment or a duplex house? Should I buy it now or once I can have enough money to purchase one in the center of the city? I defer the decision for tomorrow and then that tomorrow never comes. So, I am actually loosing money only because I have more choices and I want to take the perfect decision.
Even if I somehow escape the paralysis and happen to make a decision, the presence of more options will deduct from my satisfaction. A week back, I went to garment shop to buy a pair of jeans. After trying out tens of different ones – I came out with one that indeed is hundred times better than the ones I previously had. However, I did not feel happy because although I got a better one, I did not get a perfect one. And the notion of what was perfect was raised higher in the process of trying out various options, those are better than the other in at least one aspect or other.
The burden of choice becomes heavier once it attacks my psychological space. A decade back when I used to have only a single kind of jeans available, what did I do if I find it to be wrong? I used to blame the rest of the world. Once I have hundreds of options to choose from, I actually have to admit to myself that if the choice is not perfect, it has to be my fault. This can send my thought process into an eternal space of depression. I am afraid whether I can resist it.
I have already written about my experiences in USA in my bengali blog. I will update the reader with an English version soon.
My travel plan was like this : Kolkata-Mumbai (Jet Airways), Mumbai-Seattle via Amsterdam (NorthWest/KLM). It started with a bad experience in the flight to Mumbai. The Jet Airways offerred me a raw deal – asked to have Vegeterian meal. I don’t like it. So, I decided to go for a Satyagraha – to reject the food. I am not yet aware of what caused the debacle but I know that it is a open secret now – Jet wants Indians to become Vegeterian. I had been offered a Vegeterian meal in Jet thrice in my last four journeys – those too within last three months. Is the Jet Airways going to become another budget airline?
Whatever the Jet plans, I was interested in having more food at Mumbai Airport. Once I gave my luggage to the Northwest officials, I was free to take a look at the city, since I had almost 4 hours of time. I went to a luxurious hotel nearby and had the buffet dinner at Rs. 900 (all inclusive). Then I realized the mistake that I should not have committed.
In Mumbai, the Domestic and International Terminals are 4kms away from each other. And I have to take an auto to travel to the International one. The domestic terminal doesn’t allow people to get in with an international ticket. So, I can’t use the inside shuttle service for transit. It’s a warning for all transit passengers in Mumbai airport – don’t come out of the Domestic/International airport before the transit. However, getting an auto was not that difficult in Mumbai and I at least unloaded my luggage beforehand.
I should write something about both these airport terminals. The domestic terminal looks gorgeous and as per my knowledge it’s been renovated by GVK. The international terminal was equally bad – and it’s under renovation. As expected, the good to better conversion first takes it to the worse state. The road beside the international terminal had also buses plying on it. And the international travelers had to make queues jostling with the commuters waiting in the bus stops. There are no electronic board showing the correct terminal one should choose. It’s pathetic – worse than an under-construction road. To make it worse, there were no signboards saying that it’s actually under construction (and offering a ray of hope at the end of the tunnel that we’ll show you better things next year) – wrongly putting permanent bad impression in foreigners’ mind.
I was on time and was able to board the flight to leave the country successfully. The first NorthWest flight journey was far from satisfying – the quality of food was not good and they offered breakfast twice in a nine hour journey. Come on, isn’t it a punishable offence to offer only BREAKFAST in such a long route to Amsterdam? I believe it is.
However, the Amsterdam Airport impressed me. There was a quiet book store – full of people who’re trying buy a journey assistant. I bought a book named “The State of Africa” since I have quite less knowledge about the entire continent and I believe it has a lot of things to offer to the rest of the world in near future. The problem stated with the coffee shop. All the pricing written in the shop were in Euro and I didn’t have it. For a item like a cup of coffee, I was not interested to use my card. Hence I asked the “May I Help You”-lady if the shops accept the US Dollar. She assured that they do. However, there was a fine print that she omitted from her sentence. Now I stepped up to a nearby shop and asked the shop person -
“Do you take United States Dollar”.
“What’ the problem with it, except that it’s value is getting lower day by day …” – he laughed and said.
“Well …”, I said “let me have a cup of hot coffee”. It was marked to cost 3 Euros, i.e. close to 4.5 dollars.
Now at the time of payment, I gave him a 10 dollar note and he returned a few coins. I saw those are Euro coins. That’s what they do – they “accept” dollars and pay the change in Euros. How can we say that they “accept”? Well, definition does matter … what else I can say. I only can blame myself for creating 4 Euro non-performing asset. I should have asked a few more questions.
I was planning to take a city tour but I had to abort it since I did not have any EU Visas. It was another hard reality – in Singapore we had no problem, but Europeans don’t trust us.
The last part of the journey was a better one – from the quality of the food to the level of comfort one should have in a 10 hour journey. I sat beside a 55 year old Estonian Woman, who was not at all comfortable in English. She was going to her son’s place after a break of three months in her own country. She has her daughter in Estonia and her son in USA. So, she is shuttling between and hoping to get her daughter in USA once she gets the citizenship. She started showing a lot of old styled photographs of her journey.
The thing that amazed me was her awareness about Indians – especially of Bollywood. Once I said that I was a Bengali, she started remembering that she actually knows a Bengali actor named Jimmy. Can anybody recognize this person? I could not. Madam herself was able to recollect the actual name – Mithun Chakraborty. It’s a pleasure to hear a Bengali getting recognized in different part of the globe. It was the film “Disco Dancer” – where Mithun was known as Jimmy (the famous song : Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy …). Madam later referred to that song also and remembered the days when she used to watch at least four to five bollywood movies in a year. She also knew that Mithun was engaged in some sort of social work and about her three sons. It was really an amazing experience.
In the flight, there was an option to watch movies. I took the opportunity to watch “No Country for Old Man”. The same time she asked me to find a Hindi film from the list and she was happy to watch “Om Shanti Om”. If you think I don’t have a good choice then let me tell you that I had only one more option – Sawariya and I was not keen to torture with the Hindi film with different taste. I followed her closely while she was watching “Om Shanti Om”. She was getting drowsy when the film was been screened in front, but got rejuvenated every time a song was there. The USP of Bollywood movies are the songs in between – something I personally feel good about. But there are customers all around the globe who are ready to grab those and Bollywood gives them a unique choice to enjoy it. That’s whereexactly Bollywood makes money.
Well, I have nothing more to add to this already lengthy blog entry, and also I did not face anything remarkable before I actually landed in United States. So, that’s it for the day and hopefully I’ll be able to update you on my experiences in US.
To start with I must rewind the story by a couple of Months. I was still confused with the offer and was waiting to just somehow decide whether to leave the country. I had good options in India, and the offer from Microsoft Redmond office (The Headquarters). I decided to go ahead with the latter since I had a lot of hope with this country – United States. I believed this country can get rid of the citizenship issue my wife faces – as she’s a Bangladeshi working in India. So I decided, one of the many choices a man makes in his entire life to determine the future course of life, to move on to USA. Well, don’t ask me at this point whether it’s a good decision or not.
The process started when we filled up the visa forms and then queued up at US Embassy, almost a month back. There were virtually no questions asked at the counter and everything went on smoothly. The hotel we booked was not that good at all, compared to the rate it was charging. All other experience were smooth enough in Delhi – from buying tickets directly at the Airport counter to Sarojini Market shopping. The market is cheap, but the quality is yet to get tested. It often appears as a better maintained version of Bongobazar in Dhaka and a worse counterpart of fake markets in Shanghai.
The next part was packing. And I remembered the story of ‘Packing’ I read in 12th grade textbook. I disagree with Jerome K Jerome, it’s even tough to sit back your luggage being packed by someone else. I had two clusters of packing – a set to USA – sponsored by my employer, and the other was towards my home in Kolkata. The former team worked well and took everything even without asking. By the way, my company allows me to ship in a 40ft container but my luggage did not even take 20ft. They took my bed, bean bags and my deck chair. The other party took my TV, fridge and other Electronic appliances. It’s foolish to take Electronic appliances to US, since they cost the same. Oh! Yes !! I forgot to tell you. I was able to sell my cots and sofa at a reasonable price thanks to Microsoft’s internal groups. I think it was a win-win deal where I released my unnecessary things and someone else started off their family.
Next, it was a hectic schedule in Kolkata. Everything didn’t go well in Kolkata since I was not able to meet my relatives and friends. It was a run behind my flat at VIP road, that closed in the last hour of my arrival at the airport.
It was a Jet Airways flight to Mumbai, wherefrom I was scheduled to take the flight to Seattle, via Amsterdam. Once the aeroplane closed its gate, I knew I was out of the nation for long.