Saturday, February 28, 2009

one more time around

Good morning! It's a quarter of ten here in Tamil Nadu. Here is your Inside India tip for the day:

If you don't have a converter for your American -electrical device of choice- simply insert a non-conducting instrument (like a ballpoint pen) into the topmost part of the plug and push up until you feel or hear a click. Then plug in your -electrical thing- and it should work. I tried this yesterday with my camera battery recharger. I don't even think the top plug thingy was disabled, I just plugged in my charger and it worked. Don't try it if you're not willing to risk frying out whatever it is you're plugging in though. I've heard other people having great success with this low-tech method of modification.

Yesterday I wrote of renting a cycle, yeah? It's a dream. Soooo much cooler (not to mention swifter) than walking. There is an ingenious little mechanism attached to the rear bracket that, when engaged, will circle the back tire and lock it. Cool! The rental cost (since I know you're all interested in comparisons) is Rs 25 per day, which amounts to .50 or $15.00 a month.

There is a running list in my head of nifty things to tell you all about this place I'm parking my sweaty self in for awhile and I should write them down as they happen and occur to me...maybe I'll do that once I'm situated in my new little home. I'll be staying in Prayatna community at Dimitri's House for Rs 190/day (about four dollars). There is a small community kitchen too, so that's nice. I've yet to see it.

Here the City is arranged in communities, which can be more or less involved with each other and each other's lives....from communal meals to pretty much just being neighbors with a common craft or something. There are so many communities, and many guest houses - some communities have no guest houses. This ain't no tourist attraction, but Auroville is a place where guests are welcome to come and stay for a short or long time.

If you want to live in Auroville, you can apply and go through a process. You are a Newcomer for a period of one year and after that you can be an official Member. Or you can stay on indefinitely as a guest. I plan on moseying around for awhile and checking out different communities...I feel much more able and free now that I have my own transportation.

This afternoon I'm going with Catherine to Johnny's. I'm buying Catherine's purple Ladybird bike, and Johnny 'is Auroville', says Saraswati. Apparently he's a right character! An Australian who has lived here since time immemorial, in the forest just over there and dons a lungi (an Indian man's short wrap, like a skirt, normal attire for farmers especially) and turban. Like a fish to water, it sounds like.

So I guess Johnny hosts an open house every sunday, with all sorts of folk and food. I'll bring along a pineapple and a huge pack of dates. Wanna know how much that costs? The pineapple is Rs 15 (remember that 50 rupees is an American dollar) and this big-ass pack of dates...and I do mean about a dollar.

I'm looking forward to seeing what-all goes on at Johnny's. After today I'll not have a regular internet connection...I'll need to pay for it at the Solar Cafe, so my time on the web will be much more infrequent and limited. But I'll let you all know what's up as I can. In the meantime, here are some retro pictures from the Buddha Smiles School outside of Vellore, where we did the permaculture and natural building course:

The concrete portion of the school. It needs to be concrete in order for the government to recognize it as a proper school. Our Night Watchman, Tata, is in the foreground. He's a character too.....he's called Tata, which means 'old man' basically. There are many Tata things here...brand names and such. I think his given name is Swami.

Here's a view from atop the ridge, just to the east of the school. You can see the palapas (bamboo and thatch tents...where that rat lives and ate my backpack....) to the left in a double row, and the cob school house with the red tiled roof.

A couple of shots at dusk. The colors are so washed out in the photos...the sunsets are quite brilliant. The sun is a huge huge thing and really deep orange. (oops I just viewed my blog and it looks like I reposted some images here. gah.)

This is the cob structure that we scraped and rennovated, since the termites have been eating it for the last three years. Hopefully I'll be able to post pics of some of the interior and mosaics that we created, when I'm hooked up again with the 'net.

Here's Tata again, sitting on the porch of the Office.

Here he is once more. I love how his face shifts. He's carrying water down to the cow shed.

Ok that's it for now.....'til sooner, or later....

happy birthday, part two

Today while we were at Matrimandir for the morning city-wide meditation (concentration) I realized that not only is it Auroville's 41st birthday today....yay!!!'s mine too. Again, yes. I was born in the United States at 12:24pm on the 27th of February. India is 12 hours 'ahead' in time while I celebrated my birthday on the Indian day of the 27th, I hadn't really yet been born. This morning at 12:24am (Indian time) I was born in the USA. Yah? Yah! Two birthdays for me!

And happy birthday to Auroville. I am only beginning to fathom how this city works. I know there are (as all things) multiple layers, but methinks these layers are more manifold than most. It's pretty de-centralized here. Is it democratic? Unitarian? Vedic? Who IS on first anyways??

Answer: all of the above, everyone, and no one.


I wished for a bicycle for my birthday, and today I purchased one for about ummmm sixty US dollars. A sweet bike. It won't be available until March 9. I can always make it available again (translation: for sale, in the News and Notes of Auroville...where I found the original ad for said purple bike, complete with a cute little pink Ganesh sticker awwwwwwwwwwyeah) when I leave.

Here's the other bike story, and then back to this morning's 5:30am rendez-vous with the Aurovillians at Matrimandir to kick off the City's birthday: through a series of coincidential serendipitous happenstances, I am now renting a classic one-speed rickety Indian bike from Drupad's friend Raj who he hasn't seen for years but was just thinking about and Raj popped up out of nowhere going in the same direction as Drupad (I'm staying with Saraswati, Drupad, and Masha, if you'll recall...if I even wrote that is even more Gabriel Garcia-Marquez lately, so I could have dreamt it all). Raj and I actually made an appointment by phone, I understood what he was saying, and we met at Matrimandir at just past four this afternoon.

And I rode home :)

The roads here are mostly dirt, very reddish orangey dirt. They twist and wind all over the place. There is some signage, and I have a map, and my sense of direction (as I may have written, or may have dreamt) is returning, so I am fairly whizzing around this multi-kilometre wide city with gaining ease and confidence.

Oh wait, another bike story. In fact, bikes are actually motorbikes, and cycles are bicycles, best not to confuse them. On the walk back home from a pretty far-away point (to check out a house sitting gig) I came upon a young Indian unmounted from his moto, picking leaves on a tree. I bet he's in IT (info techno). He asks me where I am going, he says can you drive? I am driving from Chennai, I'm very tired. I say Nooooooo I've never driven a moto before.

I repeat this several times to make sure he understands, but he keeps saying, "Is no problem, I show no problem, brakes, go, brakes, go, like that."

So he sits behind me, I sit in front, and away we go, brake, go, brake, like that.

(of course he tries to cop a feel or two and I put a stop to that by getting off the bike...once we're in Auroville, tee hee)

So this morning, after about two wink's worth of sleep (since we were up tres late last night with much food and talk and go, brake, go, like that, for my First Birthday Celebration), we rise in the darkness and I hop on the back of Drupad's bike and we zoom off into the dewey pre-dawn. My glasses are immediately rendered completely useless, so I can't pretend to be even in a little bit of control on the back of the motorbike, I'm blind, and we're going go go go in the dark towards the soul of Auroville and I'm.....not doing too badly, actually.

We arrived in good form and fashion, and walked to the outdoor amphitheatre. There wasn't a huge crowd after all, which surprised me. People from all over the world come here, and it's Auroville's birthday after all. But anyway, it was lovely, and serene, and surreal; they'd lit a fire and as forms emerged with the dawn I saw the flower petals and garlands arranged on the amphitheatre floor....soooo beautiful, all in white.....and the tiny candle lit walkways resolved into solid roads leading away into the mists which slowly revealed a skyline of trees, the Matrimandir itself, and the twin banyans.

Now I'll post some picks, and decide whether to gabble on further. Oh but I will say that I volunteered at the Solar Kitchen today (100% solar powered, and serving no less than 1,200 meals per day). I'm really glad it worked out that way. I wanted to give something on my birthday, and I did. For weeks now I've been served meals cooked by others, a very odd experience after being accustomed to making all my own meals and gleaning and growing my own food and stuff like that, yeah? It was nice to be on the other end of the giving.

Matrimandir in the morning (it's the big globe on the left, thrown into shadow and shrouded by mist...otherwise, when it's full sunlight, it blazes in gold glory)

The amphitheatre, with the burning in the middle of all the flower petals....

Two banyans - incredible.

Saraswati on your left, her friend Linda and a little boy I don't know surrounded by more people I don't know surrounded by more people.....and yes, that is me in a SKIRT! And my Keen sandles, which Anna (Saraswati's mom) said look like tractors. Too funny.

Leaving the gardens of Matrimandir.

Friday, February 27, 2009

celebrate good times

Hey everyone!

This is going to be short and sweet, because the house is filling up fast and we're going to make a birthday dinner...for me!! I'd like to invite all of you to dinner, at least in spirit and intention. Wherever you are on the planet, do something you really love to do (smoke a cigarette, write a poem, read a book, whatever), and do one for me if you'd be so kind.

I'm turning 40 years old while staying in the city of Auroville, in Tamil Nadu state in the sub-continent of India. You'll need to google Auroville I'm afraid, as I have no such time on hand to tell you all about it just now. It's an intentional city, a human experiment, and Auroville's 41st birthday is...tomorrow. I am not kidding. And I didn't plan all this. At least I don't think so :)

This morning I woke to feet tickling. My hostess Renata (who is Russian, an artist, and I found her through Couchsurfing) and her daughter Masha (who is 10) woke me up with flowers! (I shot upright in bed though...ever since that rat ran over me in my tent at Buddha Smiles I'm a little skittish) Drupad, Renata's sweetie, gave me a flower and a big hug after I trundled out onto the porch.

Katarina, who is a friend of Renata's and is staying for a few days, fixed us a yummy eggs and tomato breakfast...with coffee! And toast! Wow!

Then I went to Matrimandir. How can I explain that?! I was deeply moved, unexpectedly so. It deserves its own blogpost and I hope to do that in the very near future. Matrimandir is the soul of Auroville. It's a physical structure too.

I met my new German friend, Herbert, at the Terrasse restaurant for lunch but they weren't serving any Indian food so I suggested going downstairs to the Solar Cafe (where I hope to volunteer soon...they are 100% solar powered, yes, and serve up no less than four hundred meals at a time, three days a week, delicious). Herbert gave me a garland of flowers...sweet. After lunch, on the way to the beach, we stopped at a temple amid banyan trees and I gave the garland over to the forest.

We're all going to cook up something good to eat shortly....lots of sweets! And coffee! Fresh salad, who knows what-all else. It's been a really wonderful birthday. I haven't swam in an ocean since I was about twelve years old. It wasn't scorchingly, meltingly stickily hot today either. Perfect.

Some pictures of the beautiful home I'm staying in for a couple more days (it's already been a week!) before I go to a guest house in another community:

One side, with two bedrooms and the bathroom (where I am sleeping):

Panning to the left, standing outside on the other side of the bigger pond:

This side is where the kitchen and living are downstairs, and Renata's studio is upstairs (she's a ceramacist, by the way):

View of the back

and the front

And the puja I made this morning with flowers and sand and other items from around the place.....the flowers that the girls gave me are on the other side though :)

Okay now it's really heating up...Katarina came in and gave me some aromatherapy from the ashram (New Creation...she is SO SWEET) and some incense which I will light forthwith. Masha is home and so on and on and on...I love her....salut, one and all, from India, with my love and all my newly acquired microbes :)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Live from Pondy

Greetings from frenetic Pondy! All this, and it's only a mere fraction of the size of most Indian cities. And, it's one of the more laid-back cities as well. I think there are no less than two kinds of music going on in the cafe here, and of course there's the usual cacophony of sounds careening around outside unabated. At least until around midnight.

I saw two cows this now I think I've seen all four of the resident bovines. This city, at least the one I've seen so far, is oddly bereft of the usual sacreds. In other cities, there are many, and usually the ones with the long horns, which are often colored in bright pigment. I haven't heard any cow bells. Just auto bells.

Speaking of autos - the ones I'm refering to are the three-wheeled varieties who portage people around at breakneck speed. Some of them are really decked out in garlands (which is pretty common here, even on big Mac trucks), and many have rows of stickers (dieties mostly). Well I finally saw one today with two english words stickered across the back window: NO FEAR. Perfect!! If you've ever been in Indian traffic, you will know why. I think I've mentioned how whacky it is.

I was writing to a friend a bit ago, saying how hot it is here. It's actually only in the mid-80s (at ten o'clock in the morning)...but the humidity is the killer. That I've never in my life sweated from the bridge of my nose, and then trickling down off the top of my schnoz. It's incredible. I don't think I'll be able to stay here too much longer. And I don't know if I want to travel to north India, either. I'm not sure. It's hot there too....

I was also yakking to my best friend about how intolerant I am of extreme weather conditions, which I thought of as weird at first, considering how my moods can be so consistently extreme. You think I'd like the hot hot or the cold cold, right? But no. I need some moderation, dammit. Treating my moody condition homeopathically with like-minded weather is not my kind of remedy.

I'm heading out to Auroville today. I'm almost packed up and ready to go....I bought a mumu on the way to the internet cafe. This after emptying my backpack of a few items in an effort to minimize and simplify. But after being semi-scolded by a frenchwoman after a concert I happened upon the other night (spectacular tablas and ragas or durgi (??)....she said I needed to dress more modestly, especially if I am to attend any ashram functions. I hadn't planned on attending the concert, and apparently I did a major fashion faux pas: I wore the salwar (bottom half of salwar kameez) and a tank top, with a shawl wrapped around my shouders.

The shawl didn't cover enough of my neckline (though I tried to cover my boobs well enough), and the salwar without the kameez is like wearing pantaloons...petticoat...underwear!! I've seen other women do it. I guess they steer clear of ashrams though :)

Soooo....I bought the mumu for a few reasons.
1. impulse (kind of) (it was only a couple of dollars)
2. extremely modest (it's a damn house dress, ok? ha ha!)
3. ummm....yeah, modesty, especially if I'm a house guest and I need to cover up at night (my little cotton sleeper briefs would be positively scandalous)

This morning I stopped and chatted with a chai shop owner. For some reason, I steered myself over there. I always listen to those kinds of prompts. It was nice, he offered me a chair, I nibbled a few biscuits (cookies), we chatted, he spoke english

(here I should insert, maybe for the second time, that even my native english speaking skills along with my aptitude for picking up other languages has seemingly evaporated in the extreme heat of India - it's exceedingly frustrating and downright disheartening.....I have trouble understanding even native speaking english speakers, it's crazy!! nothing is at it seems any more! or maybe I'm just now recognizing that fact!)

and he asked me if I was carrying any american coin, since he collects foreign currency. I was not. He showed me, upon inquiry, how to reach the Bazaar I had just learned about, so I thanked him for the chai and declined the cigarette (even though I REALLY WANTED ONE - how weird is that?? I quit five years ago! dammit! I resisted though)....and headed into a warren of vegetable and anything-else-you-could-possibly-want covered bazaar a few blocks away.

I bought a small cotton tank top (to wear UNDER all my new Indian clothing that the tailor made for me, even the maternity-style tank tops....well I did assert that I wanted my clothing LOOSE......ali baba...!) from a shopkeeper who gave me a good price (he really did) and he speaks four languages fluently. ALI BABA!

I am such a tourist :)

Here are some pics from around Vellore:

A small shrine alongside the road to Kaniyambari, a neighboring village. Really small shrine, you couldn't really stoop inside very easily. Unless you are a very petit Indian.

The above is the main drag of Kaniyambari, the village near the Buddha Smiles School where we did our workshop in permaculture and natural building. The place where you can catch a bus is Kaniyambari. And buy food, and all sorts of things.

Sunset at the School, outside the cob building we rennovated. The building went up a few years ago; it has been chomped on by termites. The picture doesn't do the Indian sun any justice at all.

This is another little roadside shrine, quite common, and sweet.

I posted some pictures on a flickr account, you can see 'em right here.

I think that's it for now...I have some pics of Pondy, if I don't upload in a minute, I'll be back as soon as I can!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Vellore in retrospect

Hey everyone!

I'm in Pondicherry (officially, Puducherry, and to all us locals which is now you too it's Pondy). Pretty hungry at the mo, and heading for a nice meal at the ashram (Rs 20 for an all-day three-meal pass! can you believe that?? Currently it's about Rs 50 for an American dollar). But I am finally able to upload some pics, so here you go, and hopefully later I'll be back to give you some insider's views about lovely Pondy. I am feeling much more chilled-out today than when I first arrived here. And I think my blood cells are mostly replenished, because I was majorly chomped on by mosquitos the first two nights here. I finally sourced a mosquito net and some string, and now my bed is not littered with dead mosquito bodies and smears of blood upon my waking.

And for the pics:

here's a rice paddie near the Buddha Smiles school, where we all were

school kids! after a clay animal making workshop

he's the man. the guy who owns the bakery in the village. jolly!

a beautiful rangoli....

I like this.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

when in India...

I dropped my used floss on the classroom floor the other day, discovered that I had dropped it the day before in fact, and I did not bother to pick it up. An act of conciliatory truce on my part? Or a rebellion against all I've been taught and appreciate about hygiene, aesthetics, and consideration for others?


I was too tired to walk outside to the patch of (dirt, grass) I've been using as my midnight loo, so instead I (rebelled) (conciliatoried) by hanging my ass out the classroom window and letting the piss fly where it may.

Instead of calling ahead for a hotel room or booking a bus to Pondicherry for next week's leave-taking, I am mentally gearing up (or down) for just shoving all my stuff into my rat-eaten rucksack and taking off, to land unannounced and then just figure out what to do when I arrive.

This afternoon I sat on the ground with the cook (the other is away) and chopped vegetables. Here's the conciliatory part: I didn't even flinch when she handed me koss (cabbage) from the pile of vegetables lying on the floor. Everything goes into the pot anyway, right? Right?

I am making great progress, no?

The cook I helped this afternoon: her name is Kala. She is adorable. Very open face, friendly, smiling, round, laughing. Several days ago she started calling me 'sister'. I am going to cry. So I learned the Tamil word for sister and tried it out on her, 'Vannakum sagodri!' (hello sister!) The other cook, Mageshari, tried to tell me that Kala's last name is (something I don't remember but consists of no less than eight syllables and rhymes with 'sagodari'). I repeated my clumsy attempts at Tamil Sister, repeated Sister in English, and they both laughed appreciatively. Also, like I had actually made a funny joke. They understood then what I was trying to say and beamed.

Here, verbs are used with the -ing. Also, people in our group (or, as far as I can tell, any English/western group) are referred to as 'members'.

Today, I am feeling dizzy and slightly euphoric: not as a result of the dizziness, but rather with the relief of extreme despondency and diarrhea and, as hyperbolic as it may sound, a will to live. I'm looking forward to The Great Unknown...not with eager salivating anticipation, but with at least a modicum of grinning and nervous sideways glancing, which is much more than I've felt capable of up to this point for quite some time.

This member smiling!

And I look forward to posting pictures in Pondy :)

Montezuma's Revenge,

.............Indian Style. As I write this, I am on the tail-end (hopefully) of a nasty bout of something grotty, buttocks snotty, and altogether projectile vomitty. Many of our crew have been ill over the last couple of weeks, but no one of us has been hit in exactly the same way. I'm hoping that my wretched state of body is what's heavily influencing my wretched state of mind about this supposedly superlative trancendant state of India. Because frankly, I am far from charmed.

I have been reporting when I'm in a more positive frame of mind, which I think is fitting for readership, considering that I am downright whiny-bitch when I'm feeling negative. But I have to say that....what do I have to say, anyways?

I'm sick of bathrooms that smell of piss and shit; I want to know that my meals haven't been sliced and prepared on the floor where dozens of people have walked and those dozens of people walk in bare feet which walk through fields and the fields are full of fresh cow dung and who knows what-all. Considering all that, I am pretty surprised and awed that I haven't been sick until now, even though most every day I feel a bit queasy at some point.

I want to live among people who don't spit and cough and jerk off and who knows what-all else into common spaces and places where you'd think would be a bit more sanitary.

I am in India. I realize this. I can leave at any time. Why don't I?

Because I'm not much charmed by much of anything in the way of my life thus far any more, and so I might as well be disarmed by way of drastic changes?

Because I don't know where to go or what to do?

I am serious. I can't fathom, at this point, which direction I want to go in - in a broad and figurative sense as well as a more specific and literal sense. Feels like a dangerous place to be in. But it could also be a really exciting and opportunistic place to be in.

This is as close as I've ever come to 'running away from home' as I've ever been. Just ditching it all to start from scratch. But the tried and true platitudes, those about 'wherever you go there you are', are ahhhh...well....tried and true.

I keep wanting to empty myself. And to 'do-nothing'. I feel like Gollum. You know, the divisive, bi-polar ex-Hobbit who obsesses about his Precious? Yeah, you know. That one.

It occurred to me the other day after I heaved the contents of my stomach out the classroom window where I'm sleeping that I am quite literally emptying myself. Ack.

I keep trying to strip down the equation of happiness. If it wasn't about funds and finances and I could do anything - anything at all in this world - what would it be?

There is a long, confused silence that answers me when I look inside there. That's what frightens me, to be honest. What the hell is up with that, anyway?

Typical midlife crisis?

Having said all that, I will now relay some of the more quirky and endearing aspects of India that I really DO appreciate and marvel at, just to prove to myself that I do have a sense of humor, dammit:

Did I write about the traffic? It's insane!! There is definitely some sort of order in this chaos, and if you've ever read anything about the way people and autos and such travel in India, it's all true. It's like they're all in a hive, or part of an ant colony with invisible antennas. And they're silently mind-melding and communicating with one another. People are always finding and filling in the gaps in traffic, winding and wielding their choices of transportation with an amazing grace and finesse. Not that there aren't collisions...but considering the number of people travelling at any given time - which is many and varied - I'm aghast that there aren't more deaths, dismemberments, or at the very least, minor scrapes. I've seen women riding sidesaddle on the back of a bike (motor bike) holding very tiny babies, cruising down the highway, crammed in between huge autos and all manner of vehicles, and everyone honks and wheels merrily on their way.

I love how casually affectionate many of the boys and men are with one another here. It's really sweet.

I don't know if this is a term other people use, but we like to say 'IST', for Indian Standard Time, or, Indian Stretchy Time. I'd like to see how a Dominos Pizza delivers anything in 30 minutes or less. Buuuuut then again, it's India, and magic does seem to coalesce.

Well - the workshop is going to end in a few days. I have no plan, really, as to where I'll go next. Maybe I shouldn't plan anything, and practice the do-nothing-ness. Just board a train and go somewhere, or just land in Pondicherry on a whim and a prayer.

I pray for a modicum of cleanliness. May Shiva strike me down for maligning this most magnificent country, contributor to the cradle of our civilization.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

heigh ho!

Other things I like about India:

The chirping geckos. Sugary treats that make your teeth scream. ChaiiiiiiiiYAH!!

I'm sitting here inside a compact room, with a FAN, in the semi-dark. It's the office building, and there's a bedroom upstairs. I love this building and I would love to post a picture of it for you all and I will when I encounter a connection with greater speediness. I really need to cool down, it's been a hot day, it's still a hot day, and there's more to come. I worked outside for the whole morning and up to lunch.

I've just been informed that 'There's tea by the way'. Again? Already? O yo yo!

So this afternoon we are all going to put on our wrinkled, least-dirty finery and trek over to the neighboring rice and turmeric plantation to Manni Appa's place. He's a great guy. He fed us coconut (tengai) and papaya (papali) one day, when it was just Matt, Kate, Sugar and I here before all the workshop/work camp participants arrived. He has a very large teeth to match his very large smile. Nice resonant voice, about 70. I've seen him a few more times here and there, when I'm walking the neighborhood (which I love to do at dusk especially, when the lightening bugs start winking into existence and the frogs are out in droves).

Manni Appa has invited us all to his home in the village (not the rice paddy) for...something to eat. I could say dinner, or 'tiffin', but who knows? It could be tea and loads of snacks. We're to meet him at 4, which is an odd time considering that the traditional meal time for Indians is pretty late evening. So we're all properly mystified. I'll bring my camera and hopefully my appetite (I tried to hold back at lunch but I was so damn hungry after digging that hundred foot long ditch we're turning into a swale that I ate maybe more than I really needed to oh well).

There are, of course, people coming and going as I type. Kate (who has come down with the shingles, poor girl) just gave me a bite of (all things) a Kit Kat bar that Chris bought her in Kaniyambari last night. Kumar, the resident property caretaker extraordinaire, is always in and out and sometimes likes to sit and watch me type or browse the internet. He also likes to come out to the ditch and watch me (or sometimes us) work. He's a real sweet heart. Yesterday, for reasons unknown to me, he urged me stridently (how's that for a double adjectival descriptor?) to not pick up the rocks I was unearthing. I'm boggled. The closer I got to the rock - bending over - bending over closer - the more he said, 'ma'am! ma'am! please! please!' to sway me from picking up that rock. What did he want me to do instead? Bust it up? Leave it there? What does he know that I do not??

I'm learning how to use tools here too. The mumti, for instance. A sort of backwards shovel that, once you know how to wield it, works wonders. Long poles of rebar flattened at one end and pointed at the other are great for busting up compacted soil and general digging too. I need to hire a handsome Indian boy to give me a massage three times a day. I should be positively ripped and rippled with all this labor. If not for all the tea and biscuits, hee hee.

Well my internet time has mostly expired, and I must go freshen up best I can before our appointment with Manni Appa. We'll meet his family and most likely the whole neighborhood. Sugar (who is one of the permaculture teachers, and who lives thirty minutes south of Eugene, and who I'd not met before landing in India) went into Vellore yesterday for some vaccinations and once she was back in our little village, the night watchman spied her, took her by the elbow, spun her around, and escorted her through his own little village. She ate a lot of snacks last night. I anticipate this afternoon and evening to be something similar.

But then again, who knows??

What I do know is that now more than ever the more I try to plan, the more I am surprised and confounded. This time in my life in this part of the world is most certainly a good way to become great friends with surrender.

(I still wish that the children would not pee in the showers or on the ground outside of the loos...but then again...I pee in the showers, so what's the harm?)

Happy February 2nd! Sugar and I looked at each other yesterday and realized out loud that we didn't have any rent due! woo hoo!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

magical mystery tour

Somehow, things happen. Even moreso in India. It's sort of like rubbing a genie's bottle, I guess. Part of it is shell-shock. Things happen here in ways I can't fathom, by virtue of being raised in western culture. So when it takes a half hour to buy a bunch of bananas, I'm shocked (well, I used to be, but now that I'm gaining on being a semi-seasoned traveler, I barely bat an eyelash now). Or, for another instance, when one of us is wishing for a particular item (say a tool for a job), one will suddenly and most certainly appear. Virtually out of thin air.

I think these sorts of things happen all the time. I even noticed it before landing in India. But now, it seems even more, ah..magical and mysterious and appreciated.

Things I love about India, or at least this area we're inhabiting for several weeks, which lies some tens of kilometers from any very large city and is surrounded by rice paddies and families who make their living making and firing bricks:

The canopy of stars you can see at night.

The way the earth's shadow falls across the moon here. Imagine a sickle moon in the States. Now turn that shadow a quarter clockwise. That's how it looks here. Last night the moon was verily blood-red.

Add some fireflies to the mix.

And for good measure, goats braying, and cowbells clanking, all accompanied by the farmers' 'haAAye!!' to herd or direct said livestock.

The ever-present and contagious sideways head-bobble. It means yes, no, maybe, all three at once.

Ear-and-side-splitting movies playing on buses. Possibly even more frenetic than japanese anime!

Grubs the size of pachyderms. They're probably loaded with protein, and they remind me of a pale anus canal with those mucus membranes they sport.


Let's's nearly Tea and Tamil time, so I'll try to relay one fun thing before I sign off: yesterday a member of our crew arranged a cob workshop with the school children here. Kate is an artist from London who works with children a lot. We all gathered in groups according to animals. Did you know that in India, cows say Maaaaa, and monkeys say Coo CoooCoooooo? They do! We all sat around making animals and stuff from cobclay. Great fun, and one of the guys in our group made percussive music to accompany us. I took pics but the connection is too slow to upload right now.

Also, we were visited by some people from Vellore (population several hundred thousand, about a half-hour's bus ride away) to speak about traditional Indian medicine. One guy whose name I can't even remember (most Indian names being multi-syllabic in a big way....which is why they love the name Victoria) - he spoke about the body and the other guy spoke about plants. The guy who is a doctor (of sorts, I'm sure there's another more venerable and accurate name for his profession in Indic) took our pulses and will let us know what's out of balance within a week. There are three pulses he listens to, all by resting his fingers on your wrist. There was a lot of talk about hibiscus being especially potent and efficacious for women's health. COOL!!! One of the things I'd like addressed while I'm here are some female imbalances!

okay I hear people gathering for the tea...I'm doing great today, I've switched from natural building back to doing gardening and permaculture where I find more inspiration and happiness. This was a big decision for me on a lot of different levels. I'll try and flesh it out at some not-too-distant time, but suffice to say that I basically stood up for myself and I'm still alive despite some people's disapproval (in fact I feel more alive the last 48 hours than I have for many days).

waiting to take you away,