Monday, June 20, 2011

Forget every time you've been told that you don't have an accent

I was re-remembering today an observation: Indians talk with an Indian accent, but from their perspective, you talk with a really ridiculous American accent! Sure, some people here have American family or have themselves spent a lot of time in American or watch Friends and so they think you sound like Chandler or whatever, but that's sure not everybody, and it's definitely not the guy you're trying to get your 50 cent (!!!) breakfast from. Also, while it's an overgeneralization Americans tend to be pretty comfortable with the various ways English pronunciation gets mangled from Texas to Quebec to New Hampshire to Cancun, so it's likely that the person you're talking to has an even harder time than you with their conversation partner's accent. It's just a reminder that America, and even what we usually think of as the "English-speaking world," doesn't own English.

Four years ago when I was here I worked with Nels Beckman, a recent CMU grad, and Aditya, the full time employee I'm also working with this time. Nels got there first and we tried to have a Skype conversation, and Aditya and I could.not.understand.each.other at all. Nels could understand Aditya becasue they were in the same room, and Nels and I could understand each other over the finicky Skype connection because we both speak Globalized Southern American English or whatever, but my mentor and I were hopeless - Nels almost repeated everything either one of us said for the benefit of the other. Anyway, this was all prompted by a five minute conversation I had with Aditya explaining what a "thing-a-ma-jig" is.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Bangalore World 10K

Today I was a spectator at a race for the first time since I watched the Pittsburgh Marathon in 2009. Two friends from the lab, Ted and Sam, were running, and I decided to be a lazy bum (and a cheap bum, as I'm still in a suboptimal cash flow position while the slow gears of Indian bureaucracy get around to opening my bank account). My 10K was on Thursday, when Ted and Sam tried to get to the late registration and I showed them how to get to the starting line with a minimum of street crossings: getting familiar with the area is paying off!

I walked down to the race course at 7am and was able to cheer on the Microsofties at three different points in the race course. Ted and Sam are skinny fast track runners (if I'd run, they would have beat me by about 10 minutes), so the pack was pretty thin even after they'd passed my last cheering point around the 8K mark. I walked to the finish line, but then decided that was a zoo, so I walked back to the grand avenue. Cubbon Park's grand avenue isn't the most photogenic part of the park, but it's easily the prettiest if you ask me, and it's a great way to start the race's homestretch. I watched the race at a spot a few meters before the point where this photo was taken.

So, if you ever find yourself - an American who is, to a first approximation, extroverted - in a foreign country that is, to a first approximation, English speaking, and you find yourself watching a 10K, I strongly suggest you scream your voice out cheering on the runners. Because, hey, sometimes it's fun to spend a Sunday playing to stereotypes, and I the "we are loud and possibly crazy, but usually not in a scary way" is a stereotype of Americans that I'm generally happy to encourage. My spot was where I'd bother a minimal number of the quietly watching Indians, and I just yelled and clapped and cheered for about 20 minutes until my voice gave out completely. It was a ton of fun, and the runners really responded positively to the possibly crazy white guy who was soaked in sweat from the effort of jumping around and cheering. (I'm a sweaty man!) I got a great reaction for the running crowd: lots of cheers back, lots of people going from a walk to a run, dozens and dozens of high fives, and a half dozen requests for me to join the race.

As I walked home, I passed the corporate charity runners, who started later and were in big packs. Basically, the Bangalore World 10K is a 10K race followed by a 10K parade. Weird.

Sunday afternoon I was going to work on a tech report for a collaboration with CMU folks, but I cooked (man, I need to get some spices. lentils without spices are mad boring) and watched TV shows on the internet instead. Oops!