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Sep. 6th, 2009

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We were literally welcomed with flowers.  Sankalchand Patel College of Engineering (SPCE) is very glad to have Michael here. Our first day was full of welcoming meeetings and greetings.

Thursday night, we flew from Delhi to Ahmedabad--the largest city in Gujarat.  Michael's faculty coordinator, Professor Hiran Patel, was waiting at the airport with a big sign with my husband's name.  He and the driver loaded our luggage into a large Chevy labeled Noonan Dental College (it shares the same campus as SPCE).  Professor Hiren Patel and the driver gave us each a decorated package of flowers as a welcome gift.  We had about a two-hour ride to the campus and Visnagar. Michael and Hiren and I chatted a bit (the driver didn't appear to speak English). I think Hiren was a little surprised that we had been to India before. However, we had been to the tourist sites. Now, we were going to rural Gujarat, where very few non-Indians go. It's almost all new to us.

Our faculty coordinator and personal host, Professor Hiren, is young, enthusiastic, bright, positive, and completely fluent in American English. He is very open and honest, as well as knowledgeable about his culture and ours. Hiren had personally initiated the process of applying to the Fulbright-Nehru scholar exchange program, and pursued it through the two-year application process.  He and the college have never had a visiting foreign scholar before, and they are anxious to make us feel welcome.  Hiren and his family spent a couple years living and working in Birmingham Alabama, so he has experience with the United States; his colleagues regard him as their resident expert on Americans and American culture. Now he teaches networks and security at SPCE; he is the head of the computer engineering and information technology departments as well as running the college's IT services. He is also finishing his PhD dissertation in network security (border gateway protocols). I don't know where he finds the time to help us so much, but we are immensely glad and grateful to have such a warm, tremendously helpful guide.

On Friday morning, the college held a small welcoming reception for Michael. We had coffee and cookies with the college's president. There was a faculty gathering Friday morning, where each of the college's department heads stood and introduced themselves.  They presented us with two more packages of flowers each. I was invited to all of these too, though I mainly sat to the side. The faculty are mainly young men in their mid-30s. The department heads included even the dental and MBA graduate schools. The president and principal are traditional, older men and wear white kurtas and lungis like Gandhi wore. The younger faculty members dress in modern polo or button-down shirts and trousers.

Michael's office is several large desks in one end of their totally modern conference room. They set up a desktop computer for him there too.  Michael's favorite feature is a coffee button, where he can press a buzzer and someone will arrive with fresh Indian chai coffee (made with thickened milk and cardamom/spices). They invited me to telework from there too; I will see how it goes with internet in our apartment.

The campus is stunningly beautiful, with tropical flowers and palm plants everywhere. (I promise to post pictures soon.) We're still in monsoon season, so it's very hot and humid. We have air-conditioned living quarters; more about that later.

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