Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sims Park, 21 June 09

Gopalsami, Carolyn
Sims Park has many, many healthy bees. There's a 100+ year old tree with several very large hives.

As we were heading toward the exit, Gopal fortunately stopped someone to ask the name of the flowers (Salvia). Just as she told us the name of the flowers, a dead tree fell right next to me. I had my back to it, but I could hear it and I could see the expression of a woman facing me. I screamed bloody murder because I thought I was going to be crushed by a huge tree. Thanks to Gopal, it missed me. My heart is still pounding. It was not my day to die. This picture shows the tree behind me.Recovered

Birds in my yard

You probably know the surviving bird species that live in your neighborhood. Here are the survivors in my neighborhood in alphabetical order. These are the ones I can identify. I don't see all that well any more, and there are probably a couple small brown birds I haven't identified.
Asian Koel
Common Myna
Common Raven

Eurasian Blackbird

Grey-winged Blackbird

House Crow

House Sparrow

Oriental Magpie Robin

Red-whiskered Bulbul

Rock Pigeon

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Monsoon beauty

While I was in California, freezing to death, Gopal was enjoying the early stages of monsoon here in the Nilgiri mountains. I didn't understand what that meant, except that it apparently rained every day. Well, at least for the time being, it means hot sun in the morning, clouds building in the afternoon, a little thunder and breeze, some rain, then more clouds over the mountains for the rest of the day. It is incredibly sweet weather for someone like me who loves rain in the mountains. And the light changes are magical. On Friday, 12 June, when the rain came in the afternoon, it came in a deluge. It was spectacular.
Here's a rainbow from the sun shining through the rain

A flower vendor showed up in the pouring rain, setting his basket down on my windowsill. How fun is that?!
(We buy strings of flowers to put on our home temples.)

This is the flower vendor heading back down our driveway.

Later, the rain had subsided and the sky was golden. Couldn't get a good picture of it.

So, I went outside to get a picture. You can at least get the idea.
(And, you can see how flowering shrubbery has burgeoned all over the place with the rains!)

After the sun went down.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Karagam procession 6-6-09

"Karagam is a folk dance with musical accompaniment, performed balancing a pot on the head. Traditionally, this dance was performed by the villagers in praise of the rain goddess Mari Amman and river goddess, Gangai Amman, performed with literature with water pots balanced on their heads. In Sangam literature, it is mentioned as 'Kudakoothu'.
This dance has two divisions - one, Aatta Karagam and the other 'Sakthi Karagam'. More often it is danced with decorated pots on the head and is known as 'Aatta Karagam' and symbolises joy and merriment. The former is performed only in temples, while the latter is mainly entertainment in nature. This is one of the more popular rural dances today. Earlier it was performed only with accompliment of the Naiyandi Melam but now it includes songs also.
Karagams were once performed for mulaipari ceremony when the dancer carried a pot of sprouted grains on his/her head and danced, balancing it through intricate steps and body/arm movements. Today, the pots have transformed from mud pots to bronzeware and even stainless steel in modern times. The pots are decorated with a cone of flower arragements, topped by a paper parrot. The parrot rotates as the dancer swings along. This dance is very popular all over Tamilnadu, though its birth place is said to be Thanjavur."

Here's a video of a Karagam procession that started in front of our house. You can see decorated cones on top of two young men's heads. Soon they stop at our driveway where two women give an offering of food and ritually wash the dancers feet. After the holy man ends his ritual there, another man begins teaching the young men dance steps.

WorldNomads travel insurance

In preparation for my trip from India to California in March, Gopal and I shopped around here in India, thinking we may be able to pay less for travel insurance here, but when we tried to sign up with Bajaj, their questions and requirements for proof of this and proof of that became unreasonable. So, we asked for our money back (and got it), got on line, and quickly found WorldNomads insurance.
I ended up paying $239 for 3 months, although I only needed two months and a couple days, just to be safe.
After one week in California, I fell and the injury I incurred on one of my toes became infected. To make a long story short, it was a difficult infection to heal, and I incurred hundreds of dollars in bills. Of the $583.78 I incurred, WorldNomads paid $563.96 (97%). I paid the medical bills, then submitted the receipts to WorldNomads in Amsterdam, Denmark. I had the reimbursement by the time I got home to India. I spent $15 each time I mailed them receipts ($31 altogether).
I highly recommend WorldNomads and plan to use them again.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

27-31 May 2009, return to India

Dexter went to school the day I left, so he could get his nap. He wasn't interested in the big farewell thing, so here's some shots of him before he left for school. I won't see him for at least a year.

Suzie and Ramon took me to the airport (Ramon took time off work to take me to the airport), and Erica, Joan, and Sharon met me there, hanging out with me until I needed to go through security. What a godsend. It was so nice to have their company as I went through the rigors of the international terminal check-in. I'm very lucky.
My flight from San Francisco took off Wednesday afternoon, 27 May; I landed in Chennai, India, on Friday, 29 May at 3am. Needless to say, I crossed a date line in there somewhere. Whew, that's terribly long. So good to see Gopal.

The following day, we peeked into a housing show going on at the auditorium across the street from our guest house. Just wanted you to see it. Looks the same, huh? The main difference was that many of the booths were empty, but that could be because it was only 9:30am, early by Indian standards.

This was one of two solar energy booths

After a hideous train ride from Chennai to Mettapalayam (3-tier car, unable to sleep), our equally hideous taxi driver (picked a fight with the autorickshaw drivers at the train station and offended everyone else on the road all the way up the muntain to our home!) stopped so we could get some breakfast en route to home further into the hills. Ugh! I was surprised how welcome the South Indian food was (this is pongal, a minimally spiced, very traditional rice dish, sambar and chutneys served on a banana leaf).
When we stopped at a railroad crossing on our way up the mountain, I realized that this train may be driven by a steam engine. Sure enough!

It has been nice to be home, even though it's my first monsoon season here. Turns out, at least now, monsoon is sweet. The mornings are warm and sunny, clouding up in the afterenoon, when it rains most days, at least for a while. I like it a lot. Today it has rained all day, and that's OK too.

24 May 2009, California

Michelle, Todd, Suzie, Dexter, Ramon, Sharon
On Sunday morning 24 May Suzie, Ramon, Dexter and I met my cousin Margeurite's daughter Michelle, my brother Todd and sister-in-law Sharon at The Ramp, that same bayside restaurant we had taken Margeurite and Michelle earlier. It was a good gabfest and good meal, and a good chance to see Todd, Sharon and Michelle before I left for India.

From breakfast, I went to lunch at Ishwar and Durga Sitaula's Here are Durga, Kiran, Vivek, and Pasupati all looking at photos on the laptop.

Ishwar, Lakshmi (the cook), Jasoda (Ishwar's mother), Hemanta

Jasoda, Carolyn

Jasoda, Muna, Lakshmi
After lunch, Jasoda invited me into the bedroom she shares with tenant Lakshmi so she could sneak me a little travel money for my journey as well as a can of mango juice. I adore her. Muna joined us, while poor Lacksmi was trying to change her clothes for the Nepali cultural event we were attending.
Muna (Krishna and Yamuna's mother), Laxmi (Tilak's mother), Jasoda (Ishwar's mother)
We are the grandmothers. That little gathering was wonderful for me.
Eventually, we went on to a Nepali cultural event at Laney College that lasted 5 hours. It was a wonderful, somewhat nationalistic show. I was so sick, it was hard to last 5 hours. I have to report though one of the performances was an extremely good Nepali singer, whose name I can't find. I kept the program but it didn't quite make it all the way to India, I guess.

Ishwar and Durga, my hosts, my friends


Manohara and the Nepali singer
(Does anyone know the singer's name?)
Beautiful Manohara, my friend, with whom I never got enough time

The Grandmas
By the end of this evening, I was so sick I cancelled everything I had scheduled before I left for India, I'm sorry to say. I cancelled lunch with Eliza Grace in Santa Rosa, walking with Erica, walking with Kim, lunch at Manohara's, etc. There were some truly good friends and some of my favorite people whom I never even called while I was in California. Time really got away from me. So many regrets, but so many great memories.

Friday, June 5, 2009

18-23 May 2009, California

On Monday, 18 May, I had lunch with and said goodbye to my friend Joann who will be out-of-town until I leave for India. We enjoyed being able to spend time together. That evening (and unfortunately it did not occur to me again to take photos) Hema and Mani Nepali had me over for dinner cooked by their daugher Mahima. It was wonderful food, and it was so nice to spend
time with the whole family.

On the way home from Hema and Mani's, I pulled off the freeway to film this incredible sunset. The sky was a low ceiling of gray allowing just a sliver of sunset squeazing through. But at closer examination, the wind was roaring along the top of the water of the San Francisco Bay, steam rising off the water. Wow! It was breathtaking.

Tuesday, I said goodbye to my World Liturature class at the Albany Senior Center. This meant saying goodbye to our very special teacher, Bill, with whom I hope to correspond. We have been reading "An International Episode" by Henry James. What a literate and fun group.

That evening I said goodbye to my meditation group, Amy, Barbara, Kathy, Linda (had to say goodbye to Linda last week), and Sherry What can I say. I miss them already.

Had breakfast at John Cornell's Wednesday. John is very gracious and cooks well. Thanks, John.

Thursday I got sick and am still sick here in India. It's just a bad cold, but it didn't heal because of the rugged traveling from 27-31 May.

Friday, I said goodbye to my beloved yoga teacher, Pandi, and had a very sweet picnic lunch with our good friend Stephanie at Lake Anza in Tilden Park. (No pictures there either!) That evening, my sister-in-law Sharon was unable to join Todd and me at the tenth anniversary performance of Somei Yoshino Taiko Ensemble (, so we took Mike Huhman. As they describe themselves in their website, "Somei Yoshino Taiko Ensemble (SYTE), founded in 1999, goes beyond the beat of the taiko drum to use music, theater and dance as a medium to express the human condition as it relates to its environment, community and its future." They are highly accomplished musicians, and their performances are artful and inspiring. One of the performers, Ellen Bepp, is our friend

This little video I took by mistake, having left my camera set for video, so it's painfully short but gives you a teensy glimpse of Somei Yoshino Taiko Ensemble in action.
Ellen Bepp after the performance

Mike Huhman and my brother Todd
On Saturday, the 23rd, Suzie, Ramon, Dexter and I met with my son's friends and our friends, Pandora, Tonia, Kea, and Mike Huhman for a picnic. Pandora brought her partner Clare whom I was very glad to get to know a little better. Kea brought his daugher Hilary who fit right in with the other two 3-year-olds Dexter and Tonia's son Blake. We met at a wonderful spot at Tilden Park near the Little Farm where the children could get close to farm animals. However, besides the fact I was feeling terrible, the weather was unbelievably cold. I had to leave early, heartbroken not to have had better interaction with Tonia and Pandora.
Tonia, Clare, Pandora

Mike Huhman

Suzie, Blake, Kea, Hilary

Kea and Ramon taking the children to Little Farm

Feeding the cows

Carolyn, Pandora, Tonia