Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The First Real Day

Hi, all! My name is Beth Karabin and I am currently in New Delhi, India, working for the ITC Maurya Hotel. Here is a link to the official website: http://www.itcwelcomgroup.in/Hotels/itcmaurya.aspx They have some pictures up, so you can get a feel for what the hotel is like. I'm not allowed to take pictures myself, so this will have to do.

My internship is in the front desk, reception, and sales/marketing areas of the hotel. It runs from May 25 to August 14. I'll be chronicling my time on the job on this blog. If you'd like to contact me about my time here, feel free to! My email is karabieo@uwec.edu.

So today is Tuesday, May 26. Technically, it is not my first day, but yesterday, I just took care of some administrative things and they sent me home early to sleep off my jet lag.

I got to work around 9:30 and went to the HR department, where they had me wait for about half an hour. This is typical of Indian culture - time is much more flexible here. It's okay to be a little bit late and it's understood that you might have to wait for things. The hotel doesn't treat guests that way, but they are working with a lot of important international guests, so it wouldn't do to offend.
Finally, around 10, they sent me to the training room, a little room with a computer bank. They sat me down and had me read the Powerpoints that I normally would have watched in the formal induction. But because I am the only trainee starting right now, I got to fly solo. Most of the Powerpoints were about ITC (a huge Indian conglomerate that manages almost a dozen little branches - tobacco, paper products, food, hotels, agriculture, packaging, etc.) There were also Powerpoints about the hotel chains and about the Maurya in general, which was cool. Then, of course, the necessary safety training information. Every job gives it to you when you start, whether it's a five-star hotel or a Pick 'n Save, but it's good to have refresher courses every now and then. Around 12, Andrea, my roommate, found me and took me on a tour of the hotel proper.

Andrea is from Germany and she is doing the same internship I am doing. She is farther ahead of me - she's been here for five months and is now in the sales department. She will be leaving in a month, but until then, she's been showing me around and getting me acquainted to the area.

So Andrea took me on a tour of the hotel. See, up until now, I'd only been in the basement, which feels a little like the basement of Disney World must feel. If you didn't know, the actual park part of Disney World is all built on the second floor. Underneath is this network of tunnels where all the ride controls, break rooms, offices, etc. are hidden. That's what the basement of the Maurya is like. There are people all over the place in their various uniforms - butler, receptionist, chef, administrator. All along the corridors are the inner workings of the hotel, like the elevator mechanisms, the food pantry, the cafeteria, the lockers. It's like its own little city! It's very excting! Or maybe that's just me. Anyway, the hotel proper.

The Maurya is named after the Maurya Empire, a very powerful and very influential empire that picked up the pieces after Alexander the Great vacated the area. The hotel is themed on this concept, with modern interpretations of the architecture, art directed at the period, and the feel that the hotel itself is a huge palace of Maurya era.

The hotel upstairs is absolutely GORGEOUS!! The Maurya has 442 rooms and is divided into three sections, based on luxury (and price): the main building, the Towers, and ITC One. The main building is the business rooms, the lowest priced (still coming in at around $425). The main building also has the Presidential suites, complete with their own private terraces. The Towers is a little more pricey business class. They have their own rooftop lounge-bar area, reserved only for those guests. There is also a women-only floor that has special precautions, like a security locked elevator (you need to use your key to access the floor) and video phone door answering systems. Then ITC One is the upscale, right below the extra-classy suites.

You can see pictures of the lobby online, but it doesn't do it justice. There is a little lounge area near the main reception with a huge domed ceiling and this beautiful, vibrant painting inside. Then, windows line the main lobby to give you a view of a pretty garden and the pool. Near the pool is the spa, where one of my flat-mates works. The spa is unbelievable! Walking through it felt so glamorous, so luxurious... The Maurya prides itself on the height of luxury and ambiance and let me tell you, they are masters at it. All along the lobby, the pool, the spa, there were little bowls of water with fresh rose petals floating in them. The spa smelled like wonderful potpourri - just stepping into it was relaxing. And the hallways feel like walking through a palace!

Andrea showed me some of the restaurants. I was glad I'd done some training beforehand, because I'd read about all the amenities and areas of the hotel, so it was like a little review for me. There are six restaurants (which I am going to list because I'm being quizzed on this tomorrow): the Pavilion is open all day and is like a little coffee shop; the Bukhara is Indian food and has been named the best Indian food in the world; the Dum Pukht is Avadhi food (another type of Indian?); the Chinese restaurant is called My Humble Home; the Western grill is called West View (both the West View and My Humble Home are rooftop restaurants, so when it's not 108^ like it was today, you can look out over the view of Delhi - more on that in a bit). There is also a sort of "bachelor's bar" called the Golf Bar and an Irish pub called Dublin. Andrea showed me all the reception areas as well. I will be working at one of them; probably Towers. Then she took me up to the Towers lounge, which felt like one of the houses in Newport, Rhode Island, the ones built by the old money during the turn of the century. Lots of gilt, but in a different way than Versailles. The carpet was super-thick; it was almost hard to walk on! The manager of the Lounge knew Andrea and he showed us around and joked with us. He brought us out onto the terraces (both of them) and pointed out some famous nearby temples.

One of the things the training Powerpoints said was that the Maurya is located on Delhi's only Green Slope, or something like that. I didn't know what that meant until we went out on the terraces. There are plenty of trees in Delhi - they aren't as straight-trunked as American trees; they kind of twist around each other like the trees they plant in sub-Saharan exhibits at the zoo. But they are green and leafy and nice-looking. But from the terrace, one whole side of the hotel faces this ocean of trees, just leafy green for...not for as far as you can see, but for pretty far. And all of that surrounded by the white-brown buildings of the city. It was beautiful!!

After the lounge, we went back to the basement to eat lunch. Lunch was tasty again. Spicy, but I think I can handle it. It's spicy, but the flavor is great. I think I am falling in love with Indian food... After lunch, we went back to get a SIM-card, which would make my phone work internationally. That is, if it had a slot for it. That's right; I bought the cheap phone and there is no slot for a SIM-card. So I have to go buy one tomorrow after work. It's not too expensive, but still.

After the SIM-card thing, I went back to finish training. The second half of training was nowhere near as interesting as the first. The Powerpoints were interesting. They were on customer service, "defect" reduction (which in the hospitality industry means making sure your guests aren't grumpy), and different projects the Maurya is working on to make their hotel more luxurious. Some of them were kind of obvious points, but a refresher is good, I guess. But then fatigue started to hit in (jet lag is still waking me up at 4:00 in the morning) and I started losing it. I chatted a little with the other trainees in the room, but there were five of them and they were all Indian, so they kept switching back to Hindi. The training manager came in at some point and chatted with us. She told me I look British and the other trainees agreed. They said my face and my expressions look British and until I speak and reveal my accent, I could pass for British. I was amused. ^_^

At 5:30, I went home. I ran into Andrea in the parking lot and we shared a ride back to the apartment. Tomorrow, I will be quizzed on everything I learned today by the training manager. I hope it goes well......