Friday, August 28, 2009

Changing Seasons

Somehow, even though the seasons here are quite different, I still feel a new season coming on and it leaves me contemplative. Maya is back in school again, I start up again next week with classes as well and I find myself organizing things and going through various piles of life remnants that are scattered around the house. This is the only area of control I have over my life at present. We are still waiting to hear about the contract extension, though are feeling more confident that it will be approved and are just waiting for the process to be completed. Still, it is six months only. Through June of 2010. That is only 10 months more here that are guaranteed. Not so long in the scheme of things. When people ask me how long I have been in Bangalore I at this point reply with "it is coming up on 2 years". Two years. That seems like a long time, and yet it has passed so quickly that I can hardly believe it. I sometimes find myself realizing that I have good friends here, I like it and feel comfortable. Yet at the same time, I also find myself growing weary of the noise, the lifestyle and the inability to get around on my own more easily. Don't get me wrong, I'm not feeling depressed, just... well, like I said - contemplative. The times, they are a changin'...

There are stories to tell- I went to Singapore with my daughters last week. I have visited more charities and taken some interesting pictures... I will leave you with this. Some of the many reasons why I love India. Can't help but feel that its future is on good hands.

Friday, August 07, 2009

New Zoo Review

Well, the class is over. My brain has been sucked dry and now it seems as if my body has relaxed enough that it feels it is okay to get sick. great.

I am truly looking forward to getting back to photography classes in September and in the meantime am sorting the stacks of paper that have accumulated in the last eight months. In other news, our life here is in state of "wait and see". My husband's current contract ends Dec. 31st and we are waiting to hear whether a six month extension has been approved - or not. We would like to have the extension so that my youngest daughter can finish out the school year here. Better yet would have been a 1 1/2 year extension so that she could finish her schooling completely since she is starting the IB program, something that is not so readily available should we return to the states. But we really don't know; there have been so many expats who have had to suddenly go home in the last six months, there is no guarantee that the same won't happen to us. There is also no guarantee that my husband will have a job elsewhere. So, we wait and will see. What else can we do? That said, it is a frustrating position to be in.

So it's Friday. How about a photo and a little story? Okay, can't choose one, so how about three?

So, one of the charities that is supported by the OWC is called Navachetana. It is a residential home for adults who have mental difficulties. The current home that they live in is adequate, but is rather dark, has no garden, and is on a rather noisy street. They don't get out much. It is not ideal, but my understanding is that they have had a hard time staying in houses because of costs (increasing property values in Bangalore) and prejudice. There does not seem to be a lot of understanding about mental illness in India and the honest truth is that many people are quite superstitious about such things. Not everyone, but enough that it makes a difference in these people's lives.

Now, as I said they don't get out much, BUT a field trip was organized to the nearby Bannerghata Wildlife Park and Zoo and we came along to "help". We drove the approximate 1 1/2 hours to get there (I love being outside of the city!) and quickly met up with our group. First up was the safari. Yes, we saw lions, and tigers, and bears .... All through the caged in windows of our private bus. Now, there are two stories in that last sentence. First was the caged in windows. They didn't used to be caged, but rumor has it that a young child was attacked through an open window of one of the buses some years back. So now, they have metal grills. Quite logical if you ask me. Now, the second interesting mention above was PRIVATE BUS. The buses for the safari are notorious for being over-crowded and all of the bodily joys that that experience would give you. To have a private bus for our group was a real treat and much appreciated by us all. Though we must have been quite a sight. A bunch of white people with cameras armed and ready "accompanying" a group of somewhat reserved and quiet Indians who seemed only moderately interested in the wild animals just outside. Well, I had fun anyway.

This is Gracie, she is quite the model don't you think?

After the safari, we had lunch and then went into the zoo. There are many of your typical zoo animals: birds of multiple varieties, crocodiles, leopards, elephants, monkeys. Yes monkeys. That was pretty funny actually. There was a cage with some sort of monkeys inside, then outside was a group of wild and free monkeys who truly seemed to be teasing them. They were even stealing their food. Priceless!

I also appreciated the helpful signs.

We wandered around the zoo for about an hour and then gathered and said our goodbyes. It was a fun trip and a great way to spend the day and we all appreciated getting out of Bangalore for a few hours.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Laundry Day

I am still mostly sitting on my backside doing schoolwork these days, but only two weeks left of this class. I admit that I do get distracted by Facebook (am finding a lot of old friends there these days!) and listening to good music on a regular basis, but I have not actually gotten out of the house so much. My dear husband though, some weeks ago he, well insisted that we should go away for our anniversary. So, we did, to Fort Kochi (Kochin/Cochin) in Kerala. The last photo I shared was from that trip as well. But today I wanted to tell a little about the laundry that we visited, the dhoby khana.

As we entered the area, we saw a large area covered with poles and ropes. This is where they would generally dry much of the clothing, but of course, this being monsoon season, few were using this area to dry things.

As we came around the side we saw the work spaces that each of them use. Each has their own assigned space where they wash the clothes. Looked like hard work.

Nearby was a covered shed, where at this time of year they hang most of the laundry to dry. Notice how they don't need clothespins?

Inside is where they also do the ironing. Wow. These are some serious irons. This guy, who I was told was 70 something years old, offered to let me pick up the iron. I couldn't. Seriously. It was far too heavy. Of course, once you lift it and place it on the fabric, that also means that the iron is doing a lot of the work for you, so that is the good part.

Another man was working with a coal iron...

And finally, someone was starching shirts.

It was an amazing place to see.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I'm still here... I think

Truly, I wish I had not signed up for the English class that I am taking this summer. It is a good class but since it is a "short" course, one semester in six weeks, it is intense. During the course of this time I have to write and revise a short story and, well, it is kicking my butt.

But, since it is once again, still Friday somewhere, I will share with you a photo from a recent get-away to Kochi in Kerala.

Enjoy, and I will be back soon!

Saturday, July 04, 2009


No one likes to write not-blogging excuses and I will resist the temptation.
Instead I will post a few photos from my visit to Amsterdam. I really, really loved the city and will try to tell you a few little stories soon! Enjoy :)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

No Summary? No Summery either!

I was realizing today that there is no possible way that I can summarize all that I have done on this trip. It has been so amazing (and still one week to go!). You saw some shots of Paris... beautiful, right? Yep. An amazing and inspiring city. Since Paris I have also seen:

Tournai- totally cool city. Charming, picturesque, and quiet. It is like walking into a little fairytale town or something. Check it out...

Yeah... Disneyland's got nothing on Europe.

And then there was Brussels. I really should tell you about some of our adventures in Brussels. It was a bit gray and gloomy feeling while we were there but on our first day we had a fantastic walking tour where we learned all about the history of Brussels in two short hours. We saw the grand square where the town hall is, observed some of the details on the building that give Brussels a little character, saw the Manneken Pis (as well as what we think was a TV commercial being shot there...), and got the scoop on which candy/chocolate shops were the good ones.

Then we went to see the Brussels Royal Museum of Fine Arts some more art history, this time delving into the world of Flemish Primitives, Northern Renaissance, and the Flanders painters. Saw some great stuff... but no photos were allowed :(

BUT, when we came out to head back to the hotel we saw a glimmer of hope. The gloomy day was lifting...


We saw...



Now what exactly are these gold people? Well, we were asking ourselves that very question! They told us a very little bit about it, handing us stickers as they walked on. But what do you do when such a group is in front of you...

Well, duh. You follow.

So we did.

One of my classmates is now an honorary member. I think she fits in with them, don't ya think?

omg, OMG, OMG!!!!
(actually, she was quite speechless!)

Well, eventually they wandered on and I was ready for an afternoon coffee, AND a Belgian waffle thank-you-very-much! So the gold people wandered away and life in Brussels returned to normal.

So, in case you are interested, the "gold people", as I have referred to them here, are part of an art project by the Polish artist Pawal Althamer. Part of the project is to commemorate the 20 years it has been since the free elections of Poland in 1989.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Paris Drive By

St. Chapelle, Paris

I know- I missed Friday.
I have been gone now for three weeks, I think. I am not entirely sure what day of the week it is. The calendar at the bottom of my computer says that it is the 5th... which I think is a Thursday. Geez.

So I spent a week and a half and a day in Paris. Wow. LOVED Paris. I love the history, the buildings, the language (just wish I was more conversational with it), the food, the mood. Really a fantastic city. I have taken lots of photos but have not had time to do a lot of processing. I have started the Art History course that I came to Europe for and am running around striving to keep up with a bunch of younger adults who are quite fun. We have seen museums... lots of them. We have seen Cathedrals and I could now write a paper on the differences between Romanesque, Neo-Classical and Gothic architecture. I have had school assignments to complete (though thankfully not the one I just mentioned!) and have marveled at how late the sun sets here.

The "you-know-what" at about 10 pm.

I am now in Brussels, but I hope you enjoy these few photos from Paris. You'll get a legit blog post one of these days when I have more time to actually write. And now... I have to go finish a school assignment on... oh yeah, Gothic architectural elements in cathedrals!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

"...of Cabbages and Kings..."

Are you ready for a nice long post? Well, get ready. I promise it is weird, interesting and decidedly English. So grab a cup of tea, or coffee if you must, and settle in for some stories of ghosts, kings and queens, witches, cats, rats and a-maze-ing adventures.

Yes, it is time to play catch up. It has been a fairly packed trip thus far and I have not even started my school course yet. I am, as stated before, in Paris now- but I would like to share with you about my trip to England.

Really, I did love London. It is busy, alive, interesting, friendly and I felt completely at ease walking its streets on my own.

Helpful British directions...

A wander down a random street would almost always lead to an interesting discovery. I never got lost and I enjoyed myself immensely. I wondered towards the end if I would regret leaving London to visit friends in the hinterlands of the English countryside. Not to worry... England has an interesting story at every turn and I was not disappointed.

I traveled by train to Ipswich to visit my friend Sally who is a former Bangalore expat. A quick one hour trip, only slightly complicated by my bulky luggage (it is hard to pack lightly for a 5 week trip!), and I was in the hands of Sally who turned out to be a most excellent and interesting tour guide! We started out right away by driving into the center of Ipswich where Sally pointed out many amazing examples of pargeting, a traditional plastering technique common to the area. Truly amazing stuff! Do look at the link for more information on how this is done.

Free form plastering artwork!

After a wander around and a bite to eat at a local pub we decided to visit a couple of castles that were in the area. First we went to Framlingham (c. 1190 a.d.) where they had an audio tour that was decidedly humorous and Monty Python-esque, though perhaps not quite as informative as I might have wanted- but that's okay- I also bought the guidebook.

Inside the Framlington Castle walls

It is an interesting castle in that it has a house/building still standing inside (likely re-built and such), but this allows you to envision how it might look if you were living inside a castle wall. The internal area is smaller than you might think and apparently this is one of the larger ones. My first castle! We then traveled to the previously mentioned Orford castle (last post). This one was more of a "tower castle" but was fascinating for all of the nooks and cranies that you could climb through and explore.

My most excellent tour guide!

We did climb all the way to the top where there was a view of the North Sea in the distance. At the top we also encountered a stiff, chill wind that sent us scurrying back to the car in short order.

Orford Village

That evening, for dinner, we went to The Butt and Oyster, a 17th Century pub on the banks of the River Orwell. For the record, the "butt" part of the name refers to a type of barrel used to transport oysters back in the day. If you thought otherwise, well, I suspect you would not be alone. This was apparently quite a smuggler's haven in the 19th century and it is said that the proprietors would leave a lantern in the window if it was safe to unload. The pub is quite close to the water's edge and at high tide and they can and do serve pints through the windows to boats who come close. The essential thing about the place is that they serve a good meal with a nice view, both of which we did enjoy!

Pinmill view

We ended the evening with a drive around the local area and passed by the house pictured below. This is Erwarton Hall and was at one time the home to a relative of Ann Boleyn's. She is said to have spent many memorable years here in her youth as well as some of her last days as she awaited her destined end. She loved the place so much that she gave orders for her heart to be buried here upon her demise. Quite the story, huh? Well apparently they found a small casket that contained human remains- now dust- some years back. The story is that they removed it to London for investigation, but after some strange occurances in the house, it was decided that the casket should be replaced. So the heart of Ann Boleyn is at rest once more.

Erwarton Hall

An alternate history, one that was published in the New York Times of November 13th, 1881, states that her heart was buried, and discovered, at nearby St. Mary's church (c. 15th Century) in Ewarton. Either way, her heart clearly lies in the local area. A beautiful peaceful spot worthy of her affections.

The next day we were off for a visit to Bury St. Edmunds. Another fine name for a fine English town. And what is Bury St. Edmund's known for? Well, for being the home of the ruins of the St. Edmund's Abbey-

the shrine and supposed home to the buried remains of St. Edmund of course! Local people will tell you that they would prefer that St. Edmund became the patron saint of England as opposed to St. George. Primarily because St. Edmund was actually English, while St. George was either Turkish, or African, or something else, but definitely not English. There is also the fact that St. George, lovely admirable man that he may have been, never even visited England. Interesting point!

Besides the ruins of the abbey, the area is also home to a Cathedral, recently visited by The Queen, it's lovely gardens, a brewery (I could smell the brewing beer as we were walking through the town!) and the smallest pub in England, measuring 15 x 7 feet, The Nutshell.

We cracked the door to The Nutshell and entered for a bit of refreshment. We encountered a friendly informative barman who filled us in on some of the history of the pub. The most entertaining of which was about the remains on the ceiling. Confused? Look closely below...

Do you see the dangly thing behind the front ceiling light? That would be the remains of a cat. Discovered while re-doing some brick work, cats were apparently buried alive within such constructs in years past as a means of keeping away witches. We were told by the barman that it doesn't work, as he knows several who visit the pub on a regular basis. The cat also has the company of a rat (seen dangling to the far right of the cat above) that was brought in by a customer some years ago. Since that time, the cat and rat have been joined by a human leg bone, the skeletal remains of some other unidentified animal, a blown up blowfish, and various other oddments. This pub is apparently also inhabited by several ghosts, though how they fit inside is beyond me!

After our bit of refreshment/entertainment, we departed for the coast. These are some English Beach huts. Another odd piece of British tradition, they are usually owned, though sometimes leased, and offer a bit of holiday getaway for their occupants. You are not allowed to sleep in them- only use them during the day while at the seaside. Though judging from the brisk, crisp air there, I think they are on to something!

Well, seeing as how the British are such brave souls I decided to dip my feet in the water as well. Refreshing!

The next day it was time to depart from Suffolk and travel over hill and dale in a roundabout way to Cheshire. Time to visit another former Bangalore expat, Andrea.

Now Andrea and her husband David are more recently arrived from Bangalore but they willingly put me up in their home (their shipment from India was due to arrive shortly after my visit) and treated me to the lovely sights and sounds of Macclesfield.

We started out that night with a visit to the nearby Bollington Festival. It seems that Andrea is not only a dear friend, she is also a talented performer and I was able to see her in a performance of the opera, Tobias and the Angel. This tells the story from the Book of Tobit (from the Apocrypha) about Tobit's son Tobias and his experiences with the Archangel Raphael. It was quite fun, accessible, and a wonderful way to spend the evening. After this performance we also enjoyed a tango performance. The dancers were good (though young and slightly lacking in emotional depth), but the music was fantastic!

The next day was a rainy one, so we ventured across the nearby Peak District (beautiful hills and valleys filled with farms, sheep, and lovely scenery) to Chatsworth, the estate and home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. Wow. What a place. I am not sure that I would be as generous as they are- to open it up to the public 364 days a year. Entry fees do help pay for the upkeep of the estate, but I might want a few more days to myself there. It is stunning. The house is amazing enough, but what I really loved were the gardens. Really, as far as the eye could see is part of their estate. The estate has also been in several films, most recently and notably, The Duchess, staring Keira Knightly and Ralph Fiennes. This film was actually based on the story of the real life Georgiana, 18th Century Duchess of Devonshire. She was apparently quite scandalous!

We explored the house...

We explored and enjoyed the gardens...

And then we ventured into the maze. Okay, mazes should be logical, right? There are only so many entrances, only so many possible turns, and once you have tried and eliminated all previous possibilities you are led to the center of the maze. Easy. Well, we tried. We did all of the above to the best of my knowledge, we saw the center of the maze through the shrubbery, we heard a delighted child in the center... but we could not, would not, find the actual path to the center. We finally gave up once the rains stopped threatening and started falling with a peal of laughter in our general direction. We were defeated.

Ah well. We did enjoy ourselves and I felt like I had gotten a true taste of "The North" of England. Another beautiful spot in the world.

Phew. Still here? Wow. I'm impressed! I hope you enjoyed my quirky stories of England.

"...and why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wings."

Lewis Carroll- who totally makes sense to me now!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Bonjour et bon nuit!

This is going to be quick. I am tired. It has been a long and wonderful week. I am in Paris. I managed to order dinner in French without the handy French phrasebook that I had bought and then helpfully left in Bangalore (I know a little, "un petit peu", French that is so rusty you would need a tetanus shot with it.) Yeah- my spelling probably isn't so great either.

I promise that I will get a nice long blog post up in the next couple of days. I owe you. In the meantime.. here is a castle that I saw in Suffolk with Sally this week! This is Orford castle and it is tres cool!

A bientot!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A day late...

...but not a dollar short. It would have to be a pound since I am in London!

I love London.

I walk down the street and hear English. But it is like 31 flavors of English. And then there are all of the other languages. In 48 hours I have heard German, Italian, Ukrainian, French, Hindi, Urdu, Scottish (definitely qualifies as a different language to my ears!) and several other languages that I cannot specifically identify.

I walk down the streets and see shops. Lots and lots of shops. Shops that have things that fit me shops. Shops that have shoes that fit me shops! Really, I haven't done that much shopping. Honest. But I have enjoyed wandering into quite a few of them and admiring the styles and fabrics and such. Don't get me wrong, I like Indian clothes, but it is nice to see something different as well.

I really can't make a long list of London sights that I have seen. I have mostly just been wandering around and soaking up the city, while trying not to get soaked myself. I did enjoy the London Eye yesterday, an exhibit by Annette Messager (weirdly comic and grotesque at the same time), as well as enjoyed the Tate Modern. Fantastic museum that. I wandered back to my hotel after that and happened to catch a bit of weather. I made it about half way and realized that I was starting to get a bit soaked- so I hailed a taxi, "Where to, love?", and avoided another 30-40 minutes of walking in the rain. 10 pounds well spent.

Today I got a late start and in the end just sort of wandered aimlessly throughout Marleybone, Regent Street, Carnaby Street, and surrounding areas. The crowds were out in droves. Walking down Oxford street was a bit nuts. It was like the traffic on the streets of Bangalore except all of the autos (rickshaws) and two-wheelers (motorcycles and scooters) are people - and you have to weave your way through without getting hit. Except I think that Bangalore drivers are better at manuvering than the people I saw today!

Now I am in my "cozy" hotel room (it is quite small!) watching Eurovision. Some of these people are really quite bad. Ouch.

Here is the "Eye" view of Parliament and the Thames!