Kerala

The long awaited break came when a friend visited me from her teaching post in China.  She came to Chennai and then we took the bus to and from Pondicherry.  After that, we flew to Kerala.  We didn’t do the typical trip of going on a river house boat, or going down south.  We went for the cool air, the breeze, and to coexist with the beautiful green forest way up on the mountains.  There we took a few hikes, a yoga class, chatted, had a massage played games, and watched some cultural performances.  Maybe it was just what we needed to get a way from the hustle and bustle of the cities both of us had been living in.  One thing for sure, is that I want to get back to Kerala and experience all the other amazing historical offerings and more of the beautiful landscape that makes up this huge state.  The food was good, the people were welcoming, and the air was fresh.

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After we landed, it was quite  a journey to make it up the mountain.  We went from desert, through palms and into jungle.

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Masonry– everywhere.  There’s nothing like stacked stone walls.  I love the craftsmanship.
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I never was never tired of the tall palms.
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Finally up in tea and coffee farms!

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Our hotel villa had a lovely stained glass window that separated the sleeping area from the sitting area.
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High ceilings, a sitting area outside to hear the brook behind the property, and no air conditioning.  We actually didn’t need it.
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Bridges were everywhere on the property, taking us to meals, the pool, the game room and spa treatments.

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Tiled roofs of villas.  The traditional Kerala tile, which helps maintain a nice temperature for the whole place.
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An interesting abstracted map of Vythiri.
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Hello friend.  They were everywhere, more pictures to come showcasing the animals, flora and fauna.
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We were headed up there! Way up there, even beyond up there.
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A view from one of the 9 hairpin turns on the way up.  Can you see the elephant?
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Unfortunately with beauty comes waste.  Always a duality in this country.

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More Pondicherry

After looking at this blog, you might think that I actually lived in Pondicherry for 4 months. Well, that wasn’t the case, but I did visit more than the average tourist.  Mostly because it was close and I visited some lovely friends often.  And of course, anyone who came to visit me, also came to Pondy.  Here are a few more pictures from around the sleepy colonial part of town and a little bit to and from the beach.  There was so much art on every corner, and also random, unexplained things, like: lectures,  decorated auto rickshaws, and signs that I didn’t know the meaning of.  I loved the quirkiness of the place and would go back to visit anytime.

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Ain’t nobody got time to follow that rule.  The road is understood by it’s honking.
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There aren’t too many decorated autos in south India, but this one was a real treat.  It belonged to a local orphanage.
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Mystery lurks around every corner in Pondy- no one knows what one might find.
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My friend and I walked around and ran into them setting all of these chairs up in a middle of the road.  Then hours later, when we were walking back a full on presentation and lecture was taking place under the banyan tree.  About what?  I do not know.
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Old school.
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Out and about in Pondy.
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Urban mixes with the country side, bringing graffiti to all the areas.
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Fishing nets.
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Palm roof.
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View from the What’s Up? Cafe at Serenity Beach.
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Don’t forget! 
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A little statue in a hotel room.
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There is a street that is constantly lined with motorcycles.  I decided to play around with the view from the mirrors.

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More fishing nets, I watched them pull fish out of these delicate next for a while one day.  It really takes a lot of people to fish with nets like that.  I can’t even begin to think how hard it must be to untangle, repair, and handle that kind of netting.
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In search of a wife?  Here’s how to find one and how to be one.  This book scares me.
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Are the methods easy?  I dunno.  You’ll have to try!!!!

me

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Darn parental units, always cursing our lives like that.
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Gandhi Statue in Pondicherry.
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A lot of these trucks are seen in and around Rajasthan, I actually hadn’t seen a lot of decorated trucks in Chennai. This one was a beauty.
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Typical.
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I wonder what they’re honest about?

c

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They do try.
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Waiting for a ride.
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In south India temples are everywhere.  Even next to tv service repair shops and window replacement stores.
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Part of a Banyan tree in Auroville.
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Leg room? On a bus?  How did that happen?
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You know me and maps.  This one is made of metal.

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Goats.
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Dogs resting in holes in the ground, because it might be cooler?
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Girls on their way to school.
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Staircase to nowhere.
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Deity in a tree.

Oh the cafes

If I was feeling homesick, or had hankering for some western food, there was no where better than visiting a nice cafe, sitting outside or being around art and greenery.  It was a nice treat, and one I always looked forward to.  One of the best things was things about these western style cafes is that they would make the best dish they could make.  You want a waffle?  You got the best waffle.  You want a granola with your fruit bowl?  You got the best granola someone could make.  You want a creamy pasta dish?  You can get a creamy pasta dish, with homemade pasta.  All of the cafes had something special and tasty to eat, no matter what it was.  If it was on the menu, that means they were good at making it.  Here are a few pictures of a few cafes I frequented in four months.

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Fried momos from a Tibetan restaurant.
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I went to this particular cafe weekly…for the insanely good coffee, extremely consistent wifi, and impeccable service.
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The best fruit salad in the world.
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A cool beverage to sooth the palette on a very hot day.
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Dosa reign supreme in this part of the world.
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Another Tibetan restaurant. I just can’t say no to momos
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An artful cafe.
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Seriously, have you seen a bathroom door that looked like this?
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Just a lovely coffee.
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Ambience.
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Greenery.
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Someone upped their game on art and advertising. 
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But no matter what, you can’t beat a freshly made tea or coffee from your neighborhood tea walla
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The crispiness of this dosa.
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Some cafe’s like to have a theme.  There was no “bier” in this biergarten, however.
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A lunch of delicious snacks.
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Sometimes you just want some spicy tomato soup and naan.
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Beautiful flowers surround you at this cafe.
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Marble tables ready to be filled with some food and drink.
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Or..I’ll always take a view of the ocean.
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Hot coffee served fresh.
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Or- some fresh pakora, with a dipping sauce.
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Followed by a cappuccino.
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Or a freshly squeezed lemon soda.
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Who am I kidding?
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Have you ever seen a cafe with it’s own banana tree?
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Cafe art paying homage to the old and new.
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Monkey-ng around.

The Aura of Auroville

After my experience at Auroville the very first time, of course I told everyone about it. So when people came to visit me, I had to take them to at least see it.  So on the second and third trips I took my good camera and got some better shots that were closer to the Matrimandir.  Still think it’s one of those amazing experiences that will live with me forever.  I still can’t get over being inside the Matrimandir and how quiet it was inside.

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You take a little hike to get to the view point.  When it’s over 100 degrees, that can seem like an awful long walk.

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Charlene and I taking a selfie break.

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View point.
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In all it’s golden glory– some day it’s supposed to be surrounded by bodies of water, like moats.
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Parting peekabo  shot.

 

Mural Making and so much more

I was approached by NalandaWay to help with a community project they were spearheading to bring groups of students and artists together in a school communities to create a murals.  The idea was not only to improve the environment, but connect and integrate arts into making positive relationships.  I loved this project so much I think I’m mentioning it twice on this blog.  I had never posted the before and after pictures together, but I will today.

In early February I went to the school to choose the place for the mural.  The Principal and a a co-worker went with me to help coordinate and choose an appropriate place for the mural.  We decided it would be good to place the mural in the hallway, so that when kids saw it, they would be able to see it and interact with it.  The hallway itself was an elementary part of the school contained in a larger high school.  I would be working with kids in standard four, but the mural would be right outside of the door of the standard one and two classrooms.

I was so excited to be working with kids by this point.  I had been out of my own classroom since December 22nd, so I felt like it was about time to have some interaction with kids again.  The hard part would be deciding what would go on the wall.  I had seen so many murals throughout the city of Chennai, what could I do for this school that could be a little different but also represent the school?

For some reason my mind immediately stayed with the word “school” and I decided on a  “school of fish”.  I found out that, I actually would have to draw the mural and create the idea.  There just wasn’t enough time to include the students input on everything.  However, they would be able to paint, mix and choose colors.

The mural had to be created and completed in about 2 1/2 days.  It was a fast turn around, but I had some help.  Two fantastic volunteers from Fidelity came to help me sketch out the mural and do some preliminary cleaning and painting.  Without their help, it never would have been completed.

The second day, the kids would come paint.  AND PAINT THEY DID!  They loved seeing the wall come to life and already you could notice a change in the environment from just the buzz that was happening with the student painters.  They had a blast mixing colors and getting to work.  Many of the students passed up playing in the school yard so they could help paint more.    They were so focused and dedicated.  So many of the students were eager to speak with me in the English words they knew.  The students shared how proud they were of their painting with their other friends and teachers, and when students were being picked up after school, some students took their family back to the wall to show off what they did.

Day three, was all in the details.  I was working by myself to just clean it up a little and add the details that may have been missing.  Many students came by to check in with me to see how it was going.  They offered to help again, so I let them.  They helped layer some of the details, and clean up some line work and mix colors.  One little girl came to sit with me and talked to me a while.  She told me stories about what she ate for lunch, and who took care of her.  She told me her favorite foods, her favorite cartoon, and what she liked to do in her free time.  She was a sweet, gentle, sensitive girl.  I tried to persuade her to go back to her class, but she seemed to have no interest in leaving my side.  At first I was a little worried that she may get in trouble, but no one came looking for her, and the other teachers who passed by us seemed to think that this was kind of a normal behavior for her.  She wanted, maybe needed, some attention and kindness, and I was willing to give it to her.

Below, are some before, during and after pictures.  It really was one of my most favorite experiences in India.  So much so, that I would love to replicate the experience.

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We thought about placing the mural inside a classroom, however, it would have been too high to paint with the students and only visible for one classroom.
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We decided to place the mural in a hall outside of several classrooms near one of the administration offices.
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These are a few of the students who were very curious about what were all doing there.
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Before!

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Day one is when we applied the fish stencils.
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With the help of the volunteers we traced the fishes on the wall.

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The next step was to create a border around the fish– it would eventually become water.

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End of day one! Thumbs up!
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Day two, kids come to paint– ALL day long!

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This student was really good, he actually helped paint a lot of fish and mixed colors for other students.

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Taking a moment for the camera.
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My lovely helpers.

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Posing for the camera!

 

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Lots of smiles at the end of Day 2.

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Day three, I came back to add in some details.

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My new friends, who told me all about her favorite things.

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All the student painters.

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More memories of Puducherry

It was a lovely treat to be able to visit “Pondi” many times while I was in India.  The proximity to Chennai made it an easy getaway from the busy city.  Getting there was the hard part– and making yourself return was sometimes even harder.  What was it about Puducherry that I enjoyed so much?  I suppose I would have to say it was a world away from from hectic streets, loud cars honking their horns, and a place where you could just “Give time a break”.

In many ways it was an ideal place to get away, and an artist’s retreat.  In other ways, it’s an easy breezy place in India where you can find good food, nice accommodations and feel like you’re on vacation.

I loved being close to the water, and enjoyed many great meals, but I also really appreciated seeing art on the streets at every turn, the interesting history of the city with a French connection.  In many ways this is not totally India, it’s a little France  inside India, which is strange.  Yoga is also an important part of life, there’s a big ashram, and of course Auroville is close by.

These pictures and videos represent some other vantage points, many from bus trips.  As I look at these pictures I feel happy and calm.  And who doesn’t want to feel that way?

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Serenity Beach

Serenity Beach is outside of Pondicherry.  By auto it takes about 1/2 hour.  You zoom through the town and it takes you out towards Auroville.  The beach is a welcoming sight for the traveler who just needs some peace.  You can watch the fishermen bring in the fish, take a walk, and soak in the sights.  There are some cute little cafes to stay cool in and have some awesome beach snacks.  I actually really enjoyed the tofu burger and french fries at the What’s Up  Cafe.  They also have amazing lime sodas.  You can sit back relax, take a surf class, or do absolutely nothing, and just watch the day pass you by.

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The big jetty allows you to walk right out to get an amazing view of the beach or the water.  I sat out there for a while and watched the surfers catch waves.

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View from What’s Up Cafe.  I’ll have a lime soda,please.
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Still trying to understand and comprehend the meaning of this digital art/poster.  What is going on here???

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Proof of a funeral comes back from the sea to remind us that everything is temporary.
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Fishing here takes a village, it really does.  It is tough seeing how people bring in their boats, sort their catch, and reel in the nets.  Amazing to watch actually.

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There is an amazing abundance and variety of shells if you come at the right time.  When I came back to Serenity Beach later in March, they were actually difficult to find.  Probably because of the tide.

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Lakshmi!  Goddess of prosperity.