Friday, October 17, 2008

Catchy catchy...

This post was started about a week ago... yeah, it's been one of those weeks

It has been a weird week- preceded by a nice long weekend in Varkala, Kerala and then a few days of feeling under the weather. And yes- we have the monsoon rains back again the last week or so. If I understand this is part of the "retreating" Monsoon, and is not likely to be as long of a rainy season as the previous one. Monsoon seasons, Indian Holiday seasons, not to mention the coming "Western" holidays make for an increased level of chaos and hub bub. It has certainly been festive. Well, to catch you up, I'd better just dive right in! Ready, set, ....


Last week was Dasara-Vijaydashmi (hope I'm spelling that right!) and this is when, among many other things, people decorate and do a pooja with their vehicles, as well as other work tools. The idea, if I understand correctly is that this pooja will ensure that these tools work good and properly in the next year. Well, our car was not excluded from these festivities!

It was quite fun to drive around and see all of the festively decorated vehicles. Ours actually looked quite simple!

Also last week, I received this:

Yay! I count!

I have now voted, even donned the "I voted" sticker around the house just for fun and now we just keep our fingers crossed that they arrive sae and sound and actually get counted. Yeah. That would be good.

So since last week was the big Dasara holiday, Bryan and Maya had time off from work/school so we headed out to Varkala!

Varkala is a small beach area in Kerala State. For those of you are are not aware, Kerala is the state that is at the South West coast of India. It is referred to as "God's Own Country", has the highest literacy rate in all of India, and is the home of many beautiful, warm and generous people. It is a breathtakingly beautiful spot in the world and other than being far more warm and humid than Bangalore, is absolutely idyllic. We chose to go to Varkala because while it is a little bit of a tourist destination, it is described as a "laid back" one. Perfect. I've been to Goa and wanted to experience something a bit different. Also, as it was "off-season", due to the effects of the retreating monsoon, the prices were far less than Goa. Yay!

We didn't really do a lot. We enjoyed being able to walk without the interference of traffic and such and we also enjoyed a lot of relaxing, whether it was by the pool, or overlooking a beautiful sunset with a Rs. 100 Mojito in hand. Life was definitely good.


I think I am already ready to go back....

Monday, October 06, 2008

Not sorry...

So, I am slowly marking off "things to do while in India..."

Saturday night I wore a Sari for the first time. Our opportunity was provided by an OWC fundraiser, "India Night". It was the perfect time to try a sari. I have to admit that I was a bit nervous. I had heard stories of saris slipping down or off at inopportune moments and I was certain that if it would happen to anyone, it would be me. I have never really been a "girly-girl", rarely wear skirts or dresses and generally wear jeans or here, the salwar kameez "Indian pants-suit". The highest high heels I ever endure are rarely over one inch, and lots of sparkly jewelery? Ummm... nope. Not me. So a sari, along with all of the traditional accessories, is the antithesis of "me".

Some weeks ago I knew that this event was coming and so while at one of the many, (and a particularly good one) handcraft and handloom expos, I oggled and purchased one and then two silk sarees. My choices felt limited due to my coloring. There are many bright and beautiful colors here in India, but given my light brown hair and light olive toned skin, not many of them look good on me. There are some that work but given my aversion to sparkly, I tend to be drawn the simpler, subtler designs. These are the ones I purchased

So, the plan was to meet up at a friends' house and aided by her dear housekeeper Violet and daughter Ruby, we were folded, tucked, pinned and adorned.

Marian gets draped by Violet

We were SO grateful for their help. I'm not sure how one could put a sari on unaided! We felt like we were getting ready for a wedding or something. Then the finishing touches, our flower garlands, were put on. These were a gift from our drivers, who were very concerned that their "madams" looked respectable and proper in their Indian attire.

Me, Marian and Jackie

A small photo shoot followed and we were then off for the event itself.

Our men-in-waiting!

A lovely garden setting, Indian food and chaat, Hindi music and singing... it was a lovely night and all for a good cause...

The full sari shot- including head!

Now, at this time I feel inclined to share a story about one of those causes.

A couple of months ago I joined the OWC charity committee. My "job" is to act as a contact for some of the charities that we support. Finding out what their needs are, acting as a conduit for that support, and ensuring that funds are used properly and appropriately. While on a visit to one of the charities last week my friend and fellow committee member, Andrea, asked if I would like to join her in visiting Home of Hope. It is one of "our charities" and is a home where people go who are homeless, unable to care for themselves, mentally ill or disturbed, sick and dying... really a last stop for many. They are brought here by concerned citizens, police officers, etc... Here they are provided with a place to sleep, medical care where possible and needed, and some food. They are kept alive and cared for. This facility is Christian, meaning that the organizer is Christian and inspired by Christians like Mother Theresa. It is not a church, nor is it a conversion center or anything else of the sort.

Well, a couple of weeks ago there were some troubling things that happened in our area. In Orissa there has been trouble between the Hindus and Christians for some months and here in Karnataka there were some epoisodes where churches were attacked and ransacked and holy relics were destroyed. Something like this happened in Bangalore and when it did there was a situation where the organizer of Home of Hope was wrongly accused of making trouble and arrested. He was held for three days, beaten, and in subsequent news stories was apparently passed off as someone who takes advantage of people's donations and gets all of this money and... this is just so not true. If you could see this facility. There are people everywhere, of all ages, (yes, including children) and they currently house about 250 people in a facility that is meant for 150. The organizer, Raja, lives on site with his family and this is what they do. Because of these accusations, many of his local supporters have stopped (hopefully only for the time being) giving donations. This is someone who has been well respected and honored in the community and this situation has hit him very deeply, not just in terms of being able to do his work, but also on a personal, emotional level. He is hurting. Locally, we are trying to get food to him ASAP and support Home of Hope as we are able.

If you feel so inclined, it would be such a support to him to get some help at this time. He is very burdened at the moment and even small contributions can go surprisingly far in India. They have a website - New Ark Mission - also linked above and they are already all set up for Paypal.

If you do make a donation, let me know in the comments... you won't be sorry. ;)

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Next Best Thing...

I have to admit that I am finding it hard to blog these days. Keep thinking "a post is due..." but then I open my computer, read my emails with links about politics, serial bombings, the economy, energy scarcity, bailouts and such and I am quickly overwhelmed and drained. If I were smart I would just not read these things, but somehow I feel like it is important to understand what is going on in the world at the moment. These are interesting times, as the supposed Chinese curse would describe, and I have a sense that if I am aware of what is happening then I can stay afloat in this crazy world.

But luckily there are distractions.

Living in Bangalore we are of course introduced to other cultures. You would think in a country like this it would be "All India, All the Time!", and you are partly right BUT we were invited to a special get-together over the weekend that was "All Aussie!" It was the AFL Grand Final.

AFL: Australian Football League
Grand Final: Just that, like the Superbowl in the US.

Some of the kids watching Footy

What a party. Australian Football, or "footy" as they call it, is very, very different from American Football. The ball looks similar but that is about the only similarity there is. These guys chase, kick, "handball" (a move that looks like an underhand volleyball serve), and bounce the football as they move down the field in an effort to score points. They do this all with no protective clothing (other than mouth guards) and do so with typical Aussie grit and balls. It is a fast moving game and luckily is far easier to understand than cricket, which despite my best intentions remains a complete mystery to me.

There was of course good food,

Australian brekkie

good drink, and good friends...

Brad, Rob and Steve

I am also a fan of American football and while this in no way took the place of the Autumn games that I am missing from back home, it was good fun. I am a fan.

The Winners!