Sunday, July 13, 2008


Last weekend we went to Hampi.
We took the train there.
It was an adventure.
I'm not sure I should even tell you the train story. Really, it is a bit appalling. But it is a slice of India so I guess I will share- but please don't make any rash judgments about us OR India based on this story!

So, we decided to take the "Hampi Express", a train that runs from Bangalore to Hospet so that we could get a look at Vijayanagara or Hampi, a 400-600 year old city that is absolutely amazing. Not quite ruins, but not quite abandoned, it is in the North of Karnataka and I'll tell you right now- it is a photographer's dream. But, back to the train. I had tried to book the tickets online but kept having problems and then Bryan's assistant, whose husband's brother's cousin- or something like that- worked at the railway office said she would be happy to handle it for us. Okay, no problem. The help is appreciated as I have been busy showing Isha around Bangalore and all. So, for some reason our tickets, once we finally received them, were labelled RAC. Looked like "Reserved Air conditioned" to me. Fantastic. Well, we arrive at the station Friday night (July 4th!) and discover that RAC is actually...

Reserved Against Cancellation.

Oops! But, as our names were actually on the list that was taped onto the side of the train we were told to get on... but where? What we had reserved (and paid for) was 2nd class sleeper. But those berths were all full. The conductor took us down to the regular non AC sleeper cars and sort of waved his hand at an under-occupied area and left. We had absolutely no clue as to what was going on. Our driver had said that we might have to give the conductor 1,000 Rupees. I suspect he took one look at us and figured we could afford it. I was irritated, but felt like we were sort of stuck. Anyway, the girls found empty berths nearby and Bryan and I sat down while we waited to find out where we were supposed to be. Soon it was 11, then 12. Bryan and I also took a couple of empty berths and tried to get a little rest. Then a couple got on the train and it seems that I was occupying the berth of the very pregnant wife. Okaaaayyy. I got up, gave my husband, who I love very much, a bit of a look and I soon encouraged him to go find the conductor. Good man. He got up and came back in about 10 minutes and said that we had two berths in one of the other cars. Honestly, at this point I would have been happy with any seat to call my own, but I followed Bryan up to the next car and soon Maya came along as well and we occupied the two bunks that we had been told were ours.

Unfortunately this is not the end of the train saga. Ten minutes after I had settled into my bunk the conductor came by and said "Where is your husband?? This isn't your bunk, this is someone else's, you have to get out." Now at this point, about 1:30 am I think, I am fed up. I have no clue where we were supposed to be, I have no clue if he is telling the truth or what. But I did know that I was determined not to move from that bunk. He wanted me to "go get my husband". Nope. Not moving. He came again about 15 minutes later and I told him that he could go talk to my husband in the other car. Then, I rolled over, covered my head and decided that if he wanted me to get out of my bunk he was going to have to remove me himself.

I did end up staying there, but Bryan had to give the guy 1500 Rupees (train robbery!!!) and he found spots for all four of us. Isha was nearby and Bryan was given a spot in the car we had reserved for, but that's his story. Ugh. We survived though and in the morning we were in Hospet, about 12 kilometers from Hampi.

Hampi. Wow. Normally this would be monsoon season there, so there weren't a lot of tourists. The weather was perfect, not too hot, no rain, and a nice breeze when you needed it. We had a great guide and really really enjoyed exploring it all as well as taking turns using our new camera! (none of which are posted here... these are all from my lovely little mobile still!)

Really I think that all I can do is to show you some pictures...

A view of Virupaksha Temple from Hemakuta Hill

Krishna Bazaar

I think I just need to call him "Temple Watchman Dude"

Elephant Stables

Hanuman Shrine

Gratuitous Cute kid photo

So we did learn something interesting while we were there. We kept having people come up to us and wanting us to take their photos. Apparently some believe that if you take a photo of them that you will make them one year younger -or something like that. I figure it was a rumour invented by some eager photographer!

In a few days I will post the rest of my photos up on Flickr. And tomorrow ...we are off to Kerala!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

She's Crafty...

100 and counting... That is how many blog posts I have to read in my Google Reader. Down from 200-300. I spent the morning clearing it out a bit and hope to be a little more caught up soon (until the next trip away anyway...) So if you haven't heard from me in a while please don't be offended!

But now it is time for me to make my ongoing contribution to world wide electronic information overload ;)

Well, first I need to share a bit of good news..... (insert drumroll)

I have a FO!

The Ribby Pulli that I started in the Spring of 2007 was finally finished at the craft group meeting that we had at my house a few weeks ago.

Ta da!
Crappy pic- but you'll have to deal with it as I want to get this post up!

I can't tell you how nice it is to finish something that has been sitting around for a while!!!

Now I just need to finish the Print o' the Wave, and the husband sweater, and... well, you know. There are a few.

Now, at the last craft group meeting... wait, let's call it by it's proper name. Back home I had Bobaknit (that is now boba-less on Thursdays. What is the world coming to???) and here we have Khelana Bajana which means "playing" in Hindi. The name was suggested by Connie. Connie is dynamic, enthusiastic, cheerful and a lot of fun. Connie's husband came here to Bangalore to learn how to make prosthetics. pretty cool. Except now her husband has received a job offer in Ethiopia that starts in a few weeks. Cool, but dang. I am going to miss Connie!

Anyway... Khelana Bajana met at my house and we knit, stitched and chatted, and chatted, and chatted! Usually we meet for about 2-2 1/2 hours. We went for almost 5 hours! We had a lot of fun, but I think everyone stayed to see me finish the sweater! Anyway, it is a great group and I am glad that Gill got it started. I'll share pics of them all another time...

Now, I have also gotten a lot of yarn recently. My husband has taken to saying that I need to learn to knit faster!

I received a package from Cookie in exchange for the test knitting I did... Wow. Really, really nice and can't wait to knit it!

Mmmmm... Bohus!

I received a package from Jo of some absolutely beautiful cotton-linen. She probably got tired of me complaining about knitting wool items in a tropical country! Jo- muah! These are SO gorgeous!!! (psst... she sells on eBay!)

Luscious colors!

I received a package from Jeni and Hannah (who is apparently no longer a blogger, but I love her anyways)- with some items that they picked up for me at Stitches West. Can I tell you how lovely it is to know people are thinking of me as they are surrounded by all of that yummy distracting fiber and yarn?!

These two will match quite well!!!

And lastly, I picked up some yarn when we were in Singapore. Yes, one of the many lovely things about Singapore is that they have real yarn shops, that carry real yarn made out of real, non-petroleum based fibers. Oh my. I unfortunately (or fortunately from my family's perspective!) only had time to go to one shop, Spotlight in Plaza Singapura (conveniently located near our hotel that was just off of Orchard Road). Truly though, that one shop was enough! I was very quickly on overload as I looked at the yarn and dreamed up possibilities...

One of several aisles filled with yarn

Some of it followed me home...

Now, luckily I did have a yarn "agenda". My real purpose was to get yarn so that I could knit a baby blanket for our driver. I really, really wanted something non-acrylic and his wife is pregnant and due on August 24th. Now apparently in India a "good luck" color for babies and such is green. I never realized how hard it is to find a nice color of green! I did pick up some yarn in Singapore though. Unfortunately they did not have enough of the type I really wanted, so I had to settle for this:

The actual color is a little more olive green

I started knitting it and realized that all of these little fibers sticking out, which looked like a "heather" finish in the yarn when it was inside the packaging, was actually little pieces of plastic! Now, the label on this says "100% wool". Sorry. No way are those little fibers wool! After knitting a swatch and washing, I decided that it was not the best choice for a baby blanket. Argh.

So then I was left with option #2. Find some yarn in India. Well I did have that cotton yarn/thread that I picked up on Avenue Road. So I doubled it (to make it thicker) and knitted a swatch. It looked nice, but when I washed it, by hand, in cold water, it lost a lot of the color. Hmmmm. Maybe not a good idea either. So, I went back to Avenue Road and found this. A nice bright green acrylic.

Okay, it is a bit TOO bright. (and this picture is pretty accurate!)

Next, I went to another craft shop. I ended up picking up a softer green (I think at this point my housekeeper thinks I am going a bit crazy about the green yarn thing!) It will work, but I have to admit that it just isn't a color I am thrilled with.

I am stuck - but hopefully whatever I do will be appreciated. It's just that I know that whatever yarn I choose to use, I will not be completely satisfied with it. I just have to accept it. C'est la vie.

Now, there is something else I wanted to share. While we were in Kuala Lumpur we went to the Craft Complex where they had exhibits, demonstrations and several artisans with shops. The exhibit that they were showing, on Embroidery and Needlework, was amazing. Photos were not allowed though so I have nothing to show you. The artisans actually do their work there in little "huts" on site and you can (if you are interested) do a little workshop and learn how to batik. Now, growing up with a mom who owned a craft store, I already knew the basics of how to batik (as well as do macrame, Tole painting, pot throwing/ceramics, beadwork, Ukrainian egg dying, etc...) but these batik pieces were really beautiful to behold.

I walked into one hut and there was a man reclining in a chair, snoring away. He had a large horizontal stand set up nearby that he had obviously been working on nearby as it was still damp with color. As I was looking around he stirred and woke up and then started chatting. Really interesting fellow. Now, there are apparently several different styles of batik work. He worked with many different styles or batik processes, but the one I liked best is called Cap, Tjap, Chap, Chop or simply Stamped.

He explained the detailed process to us and we soon came to realize that what he did took a lot of time and hard work.

He showed some of the pattern blocks that he uses...

I think this one is made from copper

... and in the end I bought a couple of pieces of fabric because they were so beautiful. Below is one of the pieces that I bought alongside some of the other stamps.

Here is a link to a fairly informative site about Batik.

It is SO easy to fall in love with textiles in this part of the world! I just want to hang them all over the walls.

Next time, either a Bangalore update OR Hampi, OR...