Sunday, September 28, 2008



One of the important components of my life here is being able to talk with family and friends on the phone. With, we can not only talk for free, but see each other on webcam. IT'S WONDERFUL! When my daughter, Suzie, had her half-sister, Katie, and Katie's one-year-old Brooke visit this week, we had a Skype date. Here are the photos Gopal took while we talked. (Gopal is the one who makes all these things happen.)

Brooke and Ramon

Brooke, Ramon, and Dexter
Suzie and Brooke

Suzie and Dexter

Dexter and Brooke


More Coonoor photos

We found the missing pictures of our ride from Coimbatore to Coonoor. Here are a few. (I added more than usual to represent that these unpopulated, forested slopes were the only view we had from the bus for over two hours, ya know?)

Kim, I put this one in for you, but it's hard to see. This is the Cloak Room at the Pondicherry bus stand with a large picture of Sai Baba prominently posted. Every nook and cranny, store and home, bus and rickshaw has a shrine or some religious pictures.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Mahabalipuram - Archeological Site

The above photos are from the bus window between Pondicherry and Mahabalipuram, where there are ancient temples built in the sand on the shore of the Bay of Bengal.  "Mahabalipuram was already a centre of pilgrimage when, in the 7th century Mamalla made it a seaport and began to make temples fashioned of rock.  ... It was through Mahabalipuram that many Indian colonists, who included sages and artists, migrated to Southeast Asia.  The proper name of the site is 'Mamallapuram', after Mamalla, an honorific of the Pallava king, Narasimha Varman I (630-668), who created the earliest of it monuments." Dept. of Tourism, Tamil Nadu

The Five Rathas
"These rathas (actually Vimanas) perpetuate the forms of the temple in use when they used to be made of perishable materials.  A Pallava who must have been something of an art critic or art historian decided that these styles should be preserved in eternal rock.  Outside Mahabalipuram except in Kazhugurnalai, there is nothing like these rathas anywhere in India."
Carolyn reading the Dept of Tourism pages to edify her companions.
She's still reading to them.
Krishna, wearing a new outfit that comes with a very long scarf (she hates long scarves), and the day is incredibly hot (scarves suck on hot days)
The Five Rathas are fantastic!
Still reading to Krishna and Gopal, whether they like it or not.
Mahishasuramardhani and the Adivaraha Mandapas
View from the top - so close to the shore
The Shore Temple - on the beach
Can you see how the water and wind have corroded the stone?
On the other side of the fence surrounding the Shore Temple

Needless to say, the tsunami of 2004 overwhelmed these sites, and the community has done their best to restore the sites and their surroundings.  To me it was not evident.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

New passport

With my replacement passport in hand, I would like to tell you about getting it. We went to Chennai several weeks ago to apply for the passport at the American Embassy there. Although things were very chaotic at the window there, and we had to go through pretty exhaustive screening, I was able to hand them everything I had brought. She seemed relieved that I was so organized, everything was there; we just needed to make out a self-addressed envelope to have it dellivered to my landlord's address here in Pondicherry. The passport arrived at our Pondicherry landlord's house while we were in Coonoor. The mailman wouldn't leave it with them and had a hard time understanding why I wasn't there. The first day the post office was open upon our return from Coonoor (Monday, September 22nd), Krishna and I went to the post office to get my passport. After talking to about 7 different people, I finally ended up with a supervisor. Because I didn't actually live at my landlord's address and because the only ID they would accept was my passport (my California drivers license was no good), I was not able to get my passport. They required a letter telling them that I had moved from my landlord's address to our actual address, which I did. When the supervisor eventually returned to his desk, I handed him the required letter, and he took it over to the another worker's desk. Krishna and I spoke with her briefly before we left. I dedicated the whole day Tuesday to waiting for my passport. By 4pm, we were wondering if mail delivery was still happening. We asked neighbors and also checked to see how clearly marked our address was. The neighbors informed us they usually bring mail around 11am, and we realized our building was not marked clearly. In fact, our building number was on the building next door. That neighbor told us our address was actually 95A Vellala, not 95.
So, I went to the post office, armed with my husband (a Tamil speaker and a man) and photocopies of my stolen passport and stolen PIO card for ID.) It turned out, taking Gopal with me made all the difference. After about an hour and a half, I had my passport. We were within reaching distance of it for a long time, but we had to jump through many more hoops and learn that my letter was never passed along to the postman and no one spoke English well enough to understand what I had written, so the poor mailman had delivered it again to our landlord's house. Sigh. (In the meantime, at the post office, a package my daughter had sent me to my landlord's address was handed to me, while my passport laid on the table in front of me for another hour.)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Coonoor and Ooty 9/15-21/08 (hill stations in the Nilgiri Hills)

Taj Garden Hotel in Coonoor
Savoy Hotel in Ooty
Garden at Savoy
Ooty Lake

Horses in the Ooty streets
Tribal Museum near Ooty
Erulappan and Gopal

Tribal Museum
Erulappan, Gopal, and Umesh
Since we're leaving south India at the end of this month and are particularly fond of Tamil Nadu, we decided to check out the Tamil Nadu hill stations. The heat is too difficult for me, and the hill stations are cooler. That's why they were colonial hangouts. Gopal and I caught a 7:30pm bus from Puducherry to Coimbatore on Monday, 9/15, where we caught another bus up into the hills to Coonoor. We arrived in Coonoor around 9:30am the following day. The view from the bus en route to Coonoor was gorgeous, mountains and forest for over an hour with hardly a building to be seen. Unfortunately, our new camera somehow misplaced our pictures of our ride up, as well as most of our pictures of Coonoor. The irony of this is that we fell in love with Coonoor, and unless we find another place more wonderful, we would love to live there. We looked at a couple rentals available in January. We'll see. We need to look at a couple other areas of India before we commit. We spent three nights in Coonoor, one night in Ooty, then took a bus back to Pondicherry. We weren't very crazy about Ooty but found a great Tribal Museum outside Ooty, thanks to an autorickshaw driver, Umesh. The museum was closed, but the security guy, Erulappan, opened it and gave us a personal tour. It was very special in many ways. If we settle in Coonoor, we are going to get involved in NGOs in Ooty assisting the Nilgiri tribal people and helping at the museum. Another interesting aspect of Ooty is that there are more horses wandering the streets than cows! Apparently, people have a hard time affording the upkeep of the horses so let them wander loose to feed themselves.
Note: It would be fun to get a comment here and there. You can click on "Comments" at the end of the post and leave an opinion or note if you feel like it.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Karaikal 9/9-11/08

Bal Chander and Aatreyee
Our host and hostess in Karaikal

Our Karaikal home

Aatreyee in her kitchen

Beach at Karaikal
The trees in the background were planted after the tsunami

Self portrait of BC
On the way home from the beach

This one's for Dexter
Ice cream at another beach the next day

South Indian dinner at a wonderful little place
(that's Kumar, our terrific waiter)"BC, my camera battery went dead. Please bring your camera and take pictures of this wonderful place for me!!"
I didn't know until later, that the restaurant was full of BC's students who were laughing at him while I was telling him which picture to take.
(Kumar's son in blue)
Outside restaurant
Shopping after dinner
After ice cream, after dinner, after shopping, we had sodas at
7 Eleven cafe

From the bus leaving the Karaikal bus stand the following morning

Gopal, Krishna, and I took a 3.5 hour bus ride from Puducherry to Karaikal on Tuesday, 9/9/08, to visit our friends BC and Aatreyee. Bal Chandar is teaching Pathology in a medical college down there, so we stayed with them in Staff Housing. We had a wonderful couple of days with these two young people. Gopal and Krishna had known Aatreyee when she worked for Joint Assistance Centre/India years ago. She has since been working at Human Rights Law Network, publishing a book, "Child Marriages and the Law in India," in 2005. I met Aatreyee five years ago when she visited Gopal in California. We had not met her new husband, Bal Chander, until she brought him to meet us in Pondicherry a couple weeks ago. We really enjoy their company and are proud to call them our friends. Karaikal, where they live is an uncongested, coastal town - very clean and uncomplicated. We really like it there. If we don't find a nicer, cooler place, we may have to come back to Karaikal to look for a place to live. In the meantime, we look forward to coming back to visit.