Sunday, August 30, 2009

Shaggy had two puppies

Shaggy had her puppies last night in a wood pile across the creek. I went over there for the first time so I could see her with her babies. Here they are. They are so small, it's hard to see them. They are on her fluffy tail, behind her hind leg. One is spotted, the other brown.

Friday, August 28, 2009

25-27 August 09, Ganesh's birthday (Vinayaka Chaturthi) and Mike's birthday

Ganesh's Birthday

Ganesh or Vinayaka Chaturthi is dedicated to Lord Ganesh (son of Shiva), the elephant -headed god of all good beginnings and success. The festival celebrated as the birth day of Lord Ganesha, is a ten day long event held annually in South India especially with great fervour in Maharashtra. It falls on the fourth day of the bright fortnight in the month of Bhadhrapada (August -September).

I put two brief videos of Vinayaka Chaturthi we witnessed in downtown Coonoor on Tuesday, 26 August. The one above, was full of kids who were waving to me. Unfortunately, in both videos I did not show you very clearly the large Ganesh statues in the truck with the boys.

Mike's Birthday

August 27th was my son Mike's birthday. He would have been 40. I wanted to do something to remember him, and Gopal suggested having a feast for our whole colony in Mike's memory. So, that's what we did. Jayanthi, Mariama and Shashi all pitched in and actually did all the work. They cooked vegetable biriyani and raita (they call raita thiyeer chutney, yogurt chutney). We added laddu (an Indian sweet), fruit, beetlenut, and candy. Gopal did puja with the food as prasad. At 8pm, Gopal and I (accompanied by Shriya of course) took enough dinner for each household, one by one. It was really nice.

In the morning, Gopal cleaned the living room, including doing this Sambirani ritual, purifying our home with herbal smoke.

While Gopal was doing the Sambirani, Mariama (the kolam artist) was creating a beautiful birthday kolam

Jayanthi started to help with the kolam

The sun was extremely hot, so Gopal put up an awning for the occasion

Here's the finished kolam. It was much more beautiful than you can see here. (Before dinner, Shaggy chased a kitten right through the kolam and pretty much ruined it!)

Mariama, Mrs. Chandran the milk lady, Carolyn, Jayanthi preparing the food for cooking

In the meantime, this kitten charmed his way into the house. We were vulnerable to his charms because of the rodent problem in our house, ya know?

I put this picture in because, most of the time, the ladies were cooking by candlelight because the electricity literally went out 5-6 times while they were cooking.

Carolyn, Shashi, Mariama

Jayanthi, Mariama and Shashi cooking

After we distributed the dinner to our neighbors, Jayanthi, Atul, Gopal, Vijay, Shriya, Mariama and I settled down for our birthday dinner. Having Atul and Shriya, the children, with us that day was particularly special because they had been staying with an uncle while their mother is away where her father is dying.

Remembering Mike

At the end of the day, we evicted the cat. Here's Shaggy really wanting to catch the kitten. (On the right, you'll see where the landlord's son used our chalk and wrote on the front of our house. sigh)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Badaga Temple, 16 August 09

On Sunday, Janaki invited me to go to a local Badaga temple for a celebration with her, her daughter from Coonoor, and Jayanthi. As it turned out, I walked to the temple with Jayanthi, Shemi and Shriya (7). Janaki came much later. Here's a video of the festivities when we first arrived. We had a wonderful day. Shemi left fairly early, leaving Shriya with me.
In the video, you will notice that many of the people are in white, which is a traditional Badaga temple dress. Also, you will see a collection of bags and baskets which hold 'prasad' (food, flowers, incense, etc., brought for the puja; the food items will be blessed and brought back home). Each prasad package included a cocoanut which a priest broke open, emptied, and returned to each package. I gave my cocoanut to Jayanthi who grinds them outside the house on a grinding stone into chutney.

On our way home, we stopped at Jayanthi's brother-in-law's home where his wife fed me coffee, dosa and kuruma. When we left, she gave me a bag of fresh beans from that village's garden. They are very beutiful, so I took a picture of them today as I prepared to cook them.

Mariama showing me how to cook the beans. Yum.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Indian Independence Day, 15 August 09

We bought a little video camera in Chennai, so I finally started experimenting with it. On Indian Independence Day, I took it out front and just started recording. When everything was said and done, it gives a good slice of our life here.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Certificate in International Perspectives on Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation

I know that's a mouthful, but I have just been granted this certificate. I took a 3-month course, a joint certification program through PRIA (Participatory Research in Asia) in India and the University of Victoria in Canada. My goal was to learn how to monitor and evaluate community projects in India, Nepal and Bangladesh for funding, since JAC was to become a fundraising organization and would be funding projects in southeast Asia. The course started my first week in California (early April) and ended in mid-July. I worked my butt off but was ill-prepared for the amount of work involved, the serious traveling I had to do in the middle of it (not to mention the Himalayan Fair), and my total lack of social-work experience. By the end of the course, I was literally expecting to fail the course, not because I didn't learn anything. On the contrary, I learned an enormous amount but felt my lack of social-work experience did not allow me to even imagine how I would apply what I learned on the ground in India, for example. But, I did my best, and they not only are giving me this certificate, they're giving me an A! (I wept.) I am deeply proud of myself. If any of you know about participatory monitoring and evaluation, you'll know what an impressive process it is. I feel so blessed to have taken this course and highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn how to do deep monitoring and evaluation in a way that will empower stakeholders, create valuable data, and lay groundwork for further development.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sunday Satsang

On Sunday evenings around 5pm, neighborhood children gather to learn Hindu mythology and bhajans from Gopal. We are reading and discussing Ramayana now.

Our garden

I love our garden. Here are pictures of it. The pictures really aren't showing the vibrant colors nor the lushness of the surrounding foliage. The rather crude fencing is to keep the cows and donkeys, not to mention dogs, out of it. We are constantly reconstructing the fencing, repairing damage, etc. One of the vegetable vendors, Devaki, brings flowers given to her by her custmers. These are flowers on broken stems that we stick into a hole in the red soil and water. Most of them keep going.

Carpentry work in our home

We have a room upstairs where we have our office and a spare bed (mattress on the floor). The stairs were a glorified ladder which was very frightening to climb up and down, particularly since there is no railing around the opening for the stairs on the second floor (and the floor downstairs is concrete, if you follow me). So, we finally hired a carpenter to make a new stair.

This is the old stairway.

The condition of our bedroom while the work was being done.

While the stairs were gone.

This is the saintly Sahayanathan (translates to Supreme Helper) working - no power tools, all hand work. (You can see my neighbors in the background.)
Here they are. My neighbors Mariama, Shemi, Janaki, and Jayanthi

He put new shelves in the kitchen.

Here are the new stairs with railings.

And, here's the bed he made, getting the mattress off the floor. Sigh.
We are waiting for him to come and paint the stairs, railings, shelving, and woodwork. If the transformation is exciting, I'll put pictures in the blog (but I sort of doubt it.)