Tuning in and out, and tuning back in.

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Empty seats, before I started a workshop for my host affiliate, NalandaWay.

I feel like I should apologize for the long absence.  I have been wanting to blog about my experiences more regularly but so much is going on that it’s hard to settle in and write.  I think that has been an ongoing battle for the entire time I’ve been here.  That, and trying to post with poor connection quality.  Posting, adding pictures, and videos has been quite a challenge.

I hope to maintain more of a balance for the next 2 months while I’m here, so I can share more of my experiences with you.

One of the goals of my Fulbright program is to create more lessons, curriculum and programming.  Not only for my host affiliate, but also for my own use.  I’m going to be spending the next few weeks focused more on what that looks like, and try to put it all together in more of a complete package.  A lot of people don’t really realize how much work goes into planning lessons that are well rounded.  Writing lessons that other people will understand and use effectively is actually really challenging.

One of the the things I hope to include in this package is identifying ways to include regional and local arts into the curriculum.  What I’ve been noticing in the school visits is that they WANT to include more arts programming, but are having a hard time fitting it into their curriculum.  I am hoping to make some short lessons that can be used anytime, across the curriculum.  It can be a challenge for teachers of other disciplines to buy into the importance of the arts, but if we figure out small ways to make learning more artful…then we got the hook.

I’m also creating some mindfulness exercises.  Short 15-30 minute mindful breaks that teachers and students can do together without any extra materials.  One of the biggest concerns here is testing pressure.  In fact, schools begin testing next month, and it lasts for about a month.  There is immense pressure on students to perform well so they can move on to the next standard (grade), and also pursue higher education.  They have pressure they put on themselves, peer pressure, teacher pressure, and maybe most importantly parental pressure.  Wouldn’t it be great to implement these activities to help students (and families) be more aware of their situations so they could act to change how they feel about their situation?  I think so.

So there is still a lot to do, in a very short amount of time.  So, I apologize for the delay in sharing the experiences I’ve had.  I will be taking time this weekend to share pictures and hopefully post more lessons that I’ve created since I’ve here.  When I first started this blog my goal was to post at least 5 times a week, but I just had to let that dream go.  My new goal– just try to create blog content that is meaningful and maybe sparks new ideas and generates conversation.

So don’t tune out, tune back in!  I’ll be here!  Keep checking back.

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Graffiti art in Pondicherry/Puducherry. This kid looks like he’s waiting, I hope you’ll wait while I figure out my blog posts.

More from “Pondi”

Just some snap shots around my friend’s neighborhood.  There were some fun shots being taken as I looked down from the roof of their apartment building.  It seems like you get even more of a peak at real life when no one things you’re watching.  Big thanks to the little boy busting a move on the top of his roof top!  But, my roof top is higher then yours!

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This kid was dancing, jumping off the tall stool, and stretching. He was hilarious to watch.  We made our presence known when we were looking out the window, but that didn’t seem to stop him.
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Yeah, why don’t we give time a break.  Come on.
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Cracks in the street started my map series for my artwork.  These cracks are amazing.
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Color, floors, a quaint doorstep to where?
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Nice empty streets, not too many of those in Chennai (except on Sunday mornings).
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More quaintness from Puducherry.
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So many of the gates are extremely decorative, you could just take pictures of these all day long.
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Don’t front, city style.  Such a strange representation on a main street in Puducherry.
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Inspiring color combos and pattern.
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Old, rusty doors.
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These are IN FACT chocolate butterflies stuck to the ceiling of a chocolate shop.
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Roof tops.
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More roof tops.  You see a lot of variety.  There are thatched ones, flat ones, corrugated ones, plastic covered ones, and a mixture of all of them.  People make due with what they can get.
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Roof advertising, “Vote for him”. (I’m not really saying vote for him, this blog in no way supports any candidates of any political background or country)
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These bikes were just propped up against this wall, we followed the line of bikes and it led to a bike shop.  All the parts are used and re-sued for other bikes.
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Duality of it all.
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We thought there was a lot going on here.
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Old, yet colorful. Showing it’s wear well.
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Train, cathedral.  Both are really easy to hear from this vantage point.
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Zooming in.
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I’ve noticed this in Chennai too.  There are quite a few buildings that are just cut off, or 1/2 torn down.  From what I can tell, at least in Chennai, they decided to knock part of the buildings down to build the road through the area.  I am not quite sure what is happening here, but that’s what it reminds me off.
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Little side street, where my friends live.
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Chartreuse, if there ever was such a color!!
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Thatched roof on top of the apartment building!
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A look from below.
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Signage.
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More gates.
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More color, another thatched roof, kolam, and tree poles.
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COLOR!
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ferme, for sure.
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So much happening.
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No goats this time, and no train….hummmmmm.
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A simple one to end on.

Auto rickshaw drivers, the ultimate symbol of adjusting and overcoming

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When moving to India, one of the first things that come to mind is the traffic. You hear stories about how the streets are clogged with all sorts of transportation, inclusive of pedestrians and animals with all the modes that come with them. It’s a barrage of sensations when you take your first ride through traffic. The honking, the jerky movements that ebb and flow with each corner. There is also the passing, the abrupt stops and the very many bumps you hit along the way. It’s a lot to take in. Since I’ve been in Chennai, all I do is ride in autos. That’s my main mode of transportation, except for my feet. It’s not exactly the cheapest way to get around, but it does get me there fast and amazingly safe and comfortably.

I’ve probably ridden in 64 autos. I’ve had the same driver twice. By the time I leave India I could potentially ride in almost 400 different autos. The one thing I’ve picked up on with the drivers is their intensity. It doesn’t matter how they drive the auto. They can be aggressive, assertive, or even relaxed. Anyway you have it, they’re still focused. They have to be. Everyday I come with in centimeters, no millimeters of the person next to me. Sometimes, I think, there is no way he can get out of this one. But he does.

These drivers know their vehicles. They know how much pressure to put on the brake and how much gas to give. I have to tell you, I often get a little nervous for the open road because it’s the pedal to the metal for these guys. They see an open road and all of a sudden you feel the wind whipping through your hair, you’re looking for something to hold on to, you grab tighter to your belonging….. Then you realize- you’re really only going 35 miles an hour. It’s a sense of awe, freedom, and the ultimate thrill ride!

Drivers pay attention here, such minute attention to everything around them , that they’ll call out to someone to “Move over”, or “Watch it”, or ”Put your lights on”. Once I even understood that my driver was telling a driver in a car that his door was open, and another auto driver that he was about to lose his sandal. There are hand signals, there are waves, horn beeps to communicate with other drivers and pedestrians. There’s also a lot of giving directions. Many times I have witnessed a brotherhood of auto drivers actually helping out one another (particularly the younger ones) with directions or maybe explaining which roads to avoid. There is a strong camaraderie, to a certain extent.

Let’s get back to their nerves of steel and being able to adjust and overcome. Not only do massive amounts of drivers know the ins and outs of the different parts of the city, they’re focused on the streets themselves. Just this morning I was noticing the eyes of my auto-driver.   His eyes were wide open, awake and focused. He appeared to be very vigilant in watching almost everything that was happening right before him. He knew how to gauge slowing down and when to pass. How does he remain so steadfast and aware? What does he do to train the brain to stay so aware?   Driving is a learned skill, but to drive like this is even more specialized.

I’ve met old drivers and young drivers and the things they seem to have in common is the ability to know when and how to adjust their driving. They don’t seem to hold on to near misses and slamming to a screeching halt. They don’t seem to even worry when they are within millimeters of an object or person. It just is. They adjust. They do what they need to do to get me to my location, but they have to be flexible in how they get me there. No one can really predict the quality of the road, the amount of people who are using the roads, or what other obstacles get in the way (cows). He knows he has a job to do, and he will do it.

We can learn a lot from sitting in auto rickshaws. And I’m pretty sure someone has already studied the mindset of an auto driver, but one thing I can tell you, it’s not just know the roads, and being able to maneuver around all the obstacles that get in the way all day and everyday, it’s the focus and intensity they bring to their job. At times they too must feel that they are so in it. Is there a perfect ride for an auto driver? Is there a certain feeling they get from getting some from point A to point B? Or are they not really attached to the outcome? Do they just do what they need to do? Are they focused on the present, and being in the moment?

Either way, I’ve gotten used the auto. No matter what, I usually really enjoy riding in them. Everyday I thank my driver and I’m truly amazed that he navigates his way from where I work to where I live safely and seemingly undisturbed from the experience. Yes, they have a job to do, but I think in a way they are teaching me that you can find challenges everywhere in life, but you always have to adjust and overcome.

Studio time

It’s been a little difficult to try and make art regularly in Chennai.  I’ve moved around to 3 different places since I’ve been here, and it’s only been a month! I have one more move in store, but it coincides with my traveling schedule! How ironic.  So, on the weekends, I’ve been trying to use the materials I’ve brought with me to just keep exploring ideas.  It’s all about the exploration, and then maybe when I get home, I can use those nuggets to complete other pieces.  I haven’t found maps yet, but I just stumbled across some Tamil newspapers and started to cut those up for some “little guys”.  But for now, here are the first ones I’ve done.

All the pieces are 6″ x 8″.  So tiny, compared to a lot of my other works. BUT- that is what I have time and space for.

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Chennai Two
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Chennai One
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Chennai Four
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Chennai Three