Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Travel Clinic

Last week Wednesday I went to the University Travel Clinic, an office whose existence offered me a mix of ease and discomfort: ease because there were experts who could tell me exactly what shots I needed, and discomfort because at the clinic, I knew I'd be getting shots.

I hate shots.

Previous to finding out about the travel clinic, I read guidebooks and surfed online to try to divine the right combination of immunizations. My independent searches left me in muddled confusion. Every book, every website and every chat room had a different recommendation. So I was very glad to have a couple of experts who asked me specific questions about where I was going to be, when I would be there and how long I'd be staying. All three of these variables, I learned, affect the immunizations necessary.

In addition to helping me select the right immunizations for my trip, the people at the travel clinic offered a consultation wherein we discussed more broadly how to safeguard my health. For instance, I am told never to eat anything from a street vendor, "not even a tidbit." They also gave me a 34 page booklet with rather comprehensive safety information which I am fondly calling The Book of Dread. The Book of Dread accounts for an extensive array of risks to health and safety in India and offers tips on how to avoid them. Read too closely, The Book of Dread could motivate one to never leave her house, let alone venture off to India. So for now, I am keeping it at arm's length, even if those arms are full up with tiny punctures from multiple vaccinations.

For people pondering international travel of their own, I have to say the shots themselves are a cinch. Only the Japanese Encephalitis immunization left my arm aching. But this is such an idiosyncratic experience. Just like your needs for vaccination are heavily dependent on your individual plans, your reactions to these miraculous meds depend on your individual makeup. I can't tell you what shots you'll need or how you'll react. That's why I felt fortunate to live near a large university with a clinic that specializes in this kind of thing. Still, a quick Google search revealed that there are travel clinics all over the United States. So if you're going to spend any length of time overseas in an environment significantly different than your own, I highly recommend picking up your own Book of Dread and getting a consultation at the travel clinic nearest you.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Culture, Part Ek

About 79% of Americans identify themselves as Christians. In India, 83% of the population is Hindu.

Since I knew so little about the many-armed gods who watch over me while I eat samosas and saag paneer at my favorite Indian restaurants, I decided to do a little reading. And here is my first mind-bender:

Hinduism is monotheistic. Well, it's monotheistic and polytheistic. "How can this be?" you ask skeptically.

Consult the Bhagavad Gita, one book of the Mahabharata, an epic poem eight times longer than The Odyssey and The Iliad combined. In the Gita, Krishna (God in human form) speaks directly to a warrior who is in the middle of an existential crisis. Krishna tells him that regardless of who or what people worship, they worship one true god:
However men try to reach me,
I return their love with my love;
whatever path they may travel,
it leads to me in the end (73).
In case it isn't evident from this short snippet, I have happened on a poetic and moving translation of the Gita by Stephen Mitchell, who describes the text as "...a love song to reality, a hymn in praise of everything excellent and beautiful and brave, the core from which all the glories and horrors of the universe unfold" (23).

With lyricism that could hypnotize an atheist, Mitchell translates God's description of himself:

I am the beginning and the end,
origin and dissolution,
refuge, home, true lover,
womb and imperishable seed.

I am the heat of the sun,
I hold back the rain and release it;
I am death and the deathless,
and all that is or is not (116, 117).
There's still a lot I don't know about the Hindu faith. Those pictures of gods with animal heads and rainbow complexions may still vex me for now, but I feel like they're less important than the universal beauty I've seen at the heart of the Bhagavad Gita.

Mitchell, Steven. Bhagavad Gita. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2000.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Fun Fact

So the best factoid I found in my first guidebook about India (Culture Smart India) is a recommendation to stay away from "rumble tumble" eggs. That means scrambled eggs.

These rumble tumble eggs, I read, can be "of questionable origin or age." Nevermind that they're the funnest thing on the menu.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Timeline, Part Ek (One, in Hindu)

For anyone interested in how the application process works, here's a brief timeline of what's happened so far:

March 26: I filled out an application online at I also checked the "Current Opportunities" under the "Jobs & People" link and found the Development Editor position posted there, which sounded like an excellent fit for my skills, experience and future work-life goals. The posting had an email contact for the New Directions human resources representative in Inda, so I contacted Ranjani Sridhar to express my interest in the position.

March 27: I heard back from Ranjani Sridhar and supplied him more information such as my work history and a statement of why I was interested in the position and how I felt the exchange would be mutually beneficial.

March 28: Karen Harbrow, Management Development, Pearson plc. emailed the HR representative for my branch of Pearson to get HR approval.

April 21: Heard back from Ranjani!

Srinivas (our publishing Manager Higher Education Books, and copied in
this mail)thinks you could do some development work for us based in Delhi and for some of our projects in Chandigarh (our Content Development center in the neighboring state Haryana).

At this point, I contacted my own manager (with whom I'd already had discussions about my desire to participate in the New Directions program) and the HR champion for New Directions in Iowa.

April 30: Met with local HR rep to fill her in on what had been done so far and discuss next steps. She is now working with London to complete an estimation of the total cost of the work assignment and a formal assignment letter detailing specifics like length of assignment, when it will begin, international healthcare, lodging, etc. HR advises me that the process for determining and documenting the details is well-documented and supported by the New Directions team in London. It can be completed in as little as four weeks.

So I've got to talk myself into getting the necessary innoculations soon.

I hate needles.


Welcome to my first blog. A milestone. I'm setting this up to chronicle what will be another milestone for me: my first experience living overseas thanks to Pearson's New Directions program.

New Directions is a program sponsored out of Pearson headquarters in London wherein employees accept short-term international work assignments with the purpose of increasing communication across disparate Pearson businesses (from South Africa to Hong Kong to India) and developing Pearson's people. Priority is placed on moving from established markets like those in the UK and US to the emerging markets in the places I mention above.

You can learn more about the program at:

After hearing Marjorie Scardino discuss New Directions at a talk she gave in Iowa on March 26th, I hurriedly and enthusiastically sought out the website and filled out an application.

Just about a month later, I have accepted a three-month assignment as a development editor in New Delhi, India, and the proverbial ball is rolling through the many tasks that have to be completed in order to make this assignment happen.

I'm working with HR in Iowa, HR in New Delhi and the New Directions representatives from London. This is truly a global experience even before it officially begins.

I have much to read about India, much to do to get ready and, I'm sure, much more to say. So stay tuned to learn more about how this amazing program works and to share my Indian adventure.