Saturday, 23 November 2013

Sipping Chai in Boulder, CO ...still

Buddha and the orchid, my sunny patio, Boulder, CO
Apologies to readers for my long lapse in posting. For those of you who have been following my blog for the past two years, you may know that I am now working in my hometown of Boulder, CO (USA) after two years spent living and working in Chennai, South India, as a technical writer.

I am still employed as a technical writer at a high-tech company and doing some freelance work as well. I am planning a trip back to South India in February, if the Universe smiles on me. My new employer has offices in India so I hope to visit the offices in Chennai and Bangalore.

My husband, David the writer, is back in Tiruvannamalai for the winter months to work on some writing projects that involve translators in India. It will be a couple months till we are reunited. He keeps me posted on the happenings there and sends frequent photos of our home and the wildlife on the path to Skandashram.

Monkeys on the path to Skandhashram,
Tiruvannamalai, South India
He was in Boulder with me for nearly six weeks recently during which time we did lots of hiking...and eating! Thank goodness for Skype since that and email are our main avenues of communication.

David tells me that the rainfall amounts are still in deficit mode in South India although Tamil Nadu did receive a nice steady rain about a week ago due to a passing cyclone. (Deepam was a wet event but the flame could still be seen from atop Mt. Arunachala.) There is worry that this season's monsoons may fall far short of what is needed for a successful growing season.

Power cuts have been up to eight hours a day in Tiruvannamalai so our solar panels are proving to have been a great investment. I still continue to plug away at my book although working full time is definitely cutting into my free writing time. I am having to set realistic goals to avoid feeling like I am slipping on my self-imposed deadlines.

Our dog named Puppy, the porch wildlife,
Tiruvannamalai, South India
The dogs and cat that call our house home seem to be doing well. We lost one dog, named Winnie, to old age while I was in the USA. India is not an easy place to be a dog or cat but she had a long and happy life running around in the fields around our home.

Namaste~ And an early Happy Thanksgiving!

Climbing beans growing in front of our home
with Mt Arunachala in the background,
Tiruvannamalai, South India

Mt Arunachala though the coconut trees, Tiruvannamalai, South India



Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Indian Government Clears Way for Visas on Arrival (VoA)

Cattle fair, Tamil Nadu
(photo by Geraldine Westrupp)
Great news for tourists to India this week from the Indian government. According to an article in the Times of India:

"India is set to roll out the red carpet for foreign tourists. The government on Monday cleared a slew of measures including extending visa on arrival (VoA) to 40 countries, establishing an online application system for visas and facilitating visa on arrival for pensioners and those attending conferences.


The decision means foreign tourists will be able to apply for an Indian visa from the comfort of their homes while citizens from 40 countries including the US, the UK, Germany, France, Brazil, Russia and China among others will avail visa on arrival when they land on Indian shores. The government has also agreed to extend visa on arrival to foreign travelers above 60 years of age from all countries and cut down the time taken to give visas to groups that are keen to attend conventions.
There has to be a change in mindset towards the way we treat foreign tourists. All representatives of government agreed on extending visa on arrival to 40 countries and initiating an online system as soon as possible," planning minister Rajeev Shukla said.
According to sources, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had also discussed the issue with top officials of ministries like tourism for relaxing visa norms for more countries.
In 2012, India received 6.58 million foreign tourists, up 4.3% over the previous year. India'sforeign exchange earnings in 2012 from tourists were $17.74 billion, showing an increase of 7.1% year-on-year. However, the last few months have seen a dollarless growth.
Times View
Making it easy for foreigners to visit India should be high on any government's agenda given the tourism industry's enormous potential to create jobs and earn foreign exchange, both of which are of critical importance at the moment. Tourism is the single largest employer worldwide and that's a big plus for a labour surplus economy such as ours. Tourist-friendly measures such as visa-on-arrival and online visa application should be extended to as many countries as possible. We hope that the impetus provided by Chiranjeevi continues even if he quits the Cabinet. While relaxing our restrictive visa regime is a good first step, much more needs to be done to attract visitors to India in terms of improving our soft and hard infrastructure."
Here's a link to the online article:

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Working in India as an Expat

Ayyappa Pilgrims at the
 Arunchaleswara Temple, Tiruvannamalai, India
(photo by Geraldine Westrupp)
About two years ago I decided to move to India for the next chapter of my life. My two daughters were in college, I was single, and I wanted to travel again. I had been a Peace Corps volunteer teacher in Kenya in the 1980’s and loved the experience.

After much research on the possibility of teaching in an international school (I still have a current license to teach math/science in Colorado), I initially leaned toward working as an ESL teacher in South Korea. (I had taught English as a Second Language in Kenya). I went through the arduous process of getting a work visa from the South Korean government that entailed loads of paperwork and an FBI background check.

At the same time, for a number of reasons, I began to research IT jobs in India. I found my first position as a technical writer in India though a website for technical writers called TWIN.( http://www.twin-india.org/) It bills itself as ‘the single largest community of India-based technical communicators, editors, and language professionals.’ After two months of interviews, I was fortunate to be sponsored and hired sight unseen by my Indian employer for a software training center in an area of Chennai called Ashok Nagar. The visa process was time consuming but once submitted, I received my employment visa in four days from the Indian Consulate in San Francisco.

I subsequently left that position and found another position, again through the TWIN website, working for a multinational company with offices in Chennai and Bangalore. So, if you are looking to work abroad in India, it is definitely possible as a foreigner... but it does take some persistence.

I have written more about my experiences finding work in India in a post from 2012:

http://www.sippingchaiinchennai.com/2012/12/finding-job-in-india-as-expat.html

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

UK Guardian Article on New Delhi RapeTrial

Protesters at a candlelit vigil in Kolkata after
the cremation of the Delhi gang-rape victim.
 Photograph: Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP/Getty
World news is abuzz after four men were convicted yesterday in the brutal rape and murder of a young Indian woman last December on a bus in New Delhi, a crime that has stunned and outraged the people of India.

An article was published in the UK Guardian yesterday that is one of the best pieces of journalism I have read in a long time. I found it informative on the economic plight of India's marginalized population and the events that lead up to the night of the brutal gang rape. It looks at the background and family history of both the family of the convicted men and the family of the rape victim. It was difficult to read in parts, so please be advised.

Here is the link:





Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Rain on Opposite Sides of the World

Mt Arunachala, Tiruvannamalai, South India
After a week of record breaking heat in Colorado cooler weather has finally arrived. I have been watching the Tiruvannamalai weather reports as well since it has also been hotter there than normal for this time of year. It looks as if the rains have finally arrived in South India since the faithful weather bloggers of Chennai (billed as 'an enthusiastic group of amateur meteorologists') are posting excited comments on their site. (http://keaweather.wordpress.com/)

Boulder Flatirons, Colorado
Today the high is only 66 degrees Fahrenheit in Boulder (about 18 Celsius). My husband has just arrived from South India recently and is feeling the 'cold'. I am personally enjoying my sweaters that were in storage for two years... immensely.

The mountains west of our apartment here in Boulder looked amazingly like Mt. Arunachala with wispy clouds obscuring the view of the higher peaks this morning after a major thunderstorm last night. Winter weather seems just around the corner on a day like today.





Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Commuting in a Different Land

Autorickshaw driver waiting for a passenger
Now that I am working in the US again for a spell, I am back to a morning commute with all of the other 'lemmings packed into shiny metal boxes'. I don't really mind being a lemming right now as I'm happy to have found well paying work, but I often think back to my morning commute in Chennai.

Since I had no car in India and was too afraid to drive a moped in the nonsensical traffic, I opted to either take a public bus, an auto-rickshaw or a taxi to my office on RK Salai Street near Marina Beach. It all depended on how much time I felt like spending getting to my office and how much energy I had. The taxi was much faster but expensive. The bus was a steal at 6 rupees (about 10 cents) and the autorickshaw ride always involved much haggling with the driver. It takes a lot of energy to get a good fare with an autorickshaw driver as a Westerner. My Indian friends would tell me to take whatever fare they were offering and tell them I would pay half. Then the dance would begin. The driver would shake his head or laugh hysterically. I would begin walking away, pretending to look for another autorickshaw. The driver would usually call me back and agree to my price...plus an additional 20 rupees. I'm sure the price was still too much, but I could only bear haggling for about 5 minutes tops. I only took an autorickshaw if I had a lot of energy to expend.

The walk from my flat to the Besant Nagar bus stand took me past colorful shops selling medical supplies, fresh veggies, milk and bright Indian saris. Some mornings I would get up early and stop at Muragan's Idli Shop (http://www.muruganidlishop.com/) opposite Vilankanni Church to eat a plate of steaming idlis (steamed rice cakes) and relish the hot flavor of the accompanying sambar, a deliciously spicy South Indian soup. I would wash all this down with a cup of coffee South Indian style, lots of milk and sugar, but in a very small metallic cup that you pour from one cup to another to cool off.

South Indian coffee
Stopping at Starbuck's just doesn't compare with the delights of a South Indian coffee shop. The orderliness of the Colorado highway on my way to my job here is a bit dull in comparison to the mayhem on Chennai streets where one dodges pedestrians, cows and and freewheeling bus and autorikshaw drivers. Ah, India, you have spoiled me forever....

Monday, 19 August 2013

A Magical Pull

Mt. Arunachala, Tiruvannamalai, South India
There are many routes to get to Tiruvannamalai, South India depending on where you start and just as many reasons for making the winding journey there. You may travel there to ease the turmoil in your heart or head, 'pull a geographic’ or to simply bask in the spiritual glow that seems to permeate the temple town tucked under the watchful shadow of Mt Arunachala. Yes, the reasons for being there are many and the results of the time spent there will vary. Some Westerners arrive and never leave. Others make a return trip every year to winter at one of the many ashrams that circle the base of Mt. Arunachala. They come to avoid the dullness and bitter cold of their home countries and slough off the trappings and worries that seem to come along with a busy, sedated life in the West.

The pull of Mt. Arunachala can be mysterious and life events play out as they may or perhaps as they were already karmically (cosmically?) predetermined. One can never really be certain of such things. When you find one day that you are a ticketed passenger on bus number 122 bound for Tiruvannamalai from the Koyambedu bus stand in Chennai passing Tindivanam, Gingee Fort, and the sugar cane processing factory just outside of Tiru-town, it means that you are on a journey to a place that may change the course of your life forever. Lucky you.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Sipping Chai in Boulder, Colorado

The Flatirons, Boulder, Colorado
It just doesn't have the same ring to it (Sipping Chai in Boulder), but I have touched down in my hometown of Boulder, Colorado. I am doing some work for an IT company here at the moment. My corporate job in Chennai fizzled out when the company closed its Chennai office and moved everyone to Bangalore, but not without laying off about a third of the Chennai staff. Since I was already commuting over four hours each way to my home in Tiruvannamalai on the weekends, adding another few hours to get to Bangalore was not even an option. There was no way I could do it and have a life in Tiruvannamalai. In addition to the office closure we were told that no telecommuting would be allowed, so working from home was not an option either.

Anyway, it's nice to be back for a number of reasons, like being able to call my daughters without using Skype at weird hours of the day, but I do miss my life in Tiruvannamalai. Life is much simpler in rural India. My husband will come back and forth to visit me here, but our home in India also needs looking after. There is the garden to keep hydrated, although with the ongoing drought in Tamil Nadu water has become very hard to come by. Two new bore holes were drilled on our compound in the past two days but no water pushed its way to the surface. I can't say I miss the heat though. Today in Boulder it is cool and cloudy...and I love it. For the past two years, my box of sweaters has been waiting patiently for me and we were reunited this past weekend due to the chilly weather in Boulder over the weekend.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Indian Top Blogs Directory 2012-2013


Huntington Gardens, Los Angeles, CA
Apologies for being remiss in posting to my blog of late. I have been travelling in the US visiting family and friends. My daughter, Maya, graduated from Occidental College in California two weeks ago, and it was such a wonderful day for her and our entire family. (She graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude.)

My daughter, Maya, and me at her college graduation in CA











We are currently staying in Sante Fe, New Mexico at a lovely home near the Plaza and can walk to the numerous art galleries and eateries close by. Tomorrow we are off to visit more family in Indiana and Iowa.

We have been watching the weather in Tiruvannamalai and Chennai and were happy to hear that the south westerly monsoon has arrived to South India. Friends living in Tiruvannamalai report significant rain in the area. My husband is happy that his garden is being watered by the rain gods while we are travelling.



 PS. I just received an email from Indian Top Blogs Indian Top Blogs 2012-2013 notifying me that I have been included in their 2012-2013 directory. The actual ranking for the 2012-2013 will be released on July 15, 2013. Great news!


Thursday, 9 May 2013

South Indian Summer

Arunachaleswara Temple at dawn, Tiruvannamalai, India
Today marks the start of a 'heat wave' here in Tiruvannamalai, South India. I had to chuckle a bit when I saw this on a weather forecast since it has already been 100-102 F for the past week or so. Today it hit 108 F with a heat index of 118 F. I didn't know thermometers went that high. We actually had a funny incident last week when a friend picked up our outdoor thermometer to read the temperature and it crumbled in his hand. The plastic has just had enough, I guess.

The Tiruvannamalai Animal Sanctuary helped us out again last week with free medicines for one of our dogs who was attacked by a vicious dog somewhere outside of our property. I found the dog (called White Dog)  the next morning on our back court yard bleeding and barely able to lift his head. He had some big gashes on his legs and head and his ears were pretty torn up. I am happy to report though that after 10 days of oral antibiotics, which we syringed into his mouth three times a day, he is back up walking around and looking much more like himself.

Next week, we are off to the US for a family event and a break from the heat.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Reflections on a Tumultuous Week of World News

Boston Marathon runners
This past week has been a blur of violent events from around the world, which I have read with a sense of shock and sadness mixed with anger. From the terrorist bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon to the rape of a 5-year-old girl in New Delhi; from the devastating earthquakes in Iran, Pakistan and China to the killer blast at a fertiliser company in a small town in Texas, so many lives have been lost or changed forever.

As an American living in India for the past two years, I was incredulous when I first heard the news of the Boston Marathon bombings. This lasted for about 30 seconds before I burst into tears as I read the news online over my husband's shoulder. I used to run marathons as purely a recreational runner and have done the Boston Marathon five times. My parents waited for me at the finish line one year and I remember the volunteers at the end of the course being phenomenal, mostly retired folks who just wanted to somehow be part of the event. It made me physically sick to think of any of them being in harm's way.

I am from Boulder, Colorado, which is a huge running town in the US and is the location of the Bolder Boulder, one of the largest 10-k races in the country. The race draws over 50,000 participants each year and is held on Memorial Day in the US. This year, I will be in Boulder for the race and plan to walk it with my husband and members of my extended family. I think there will be a big turnout this year, in particular.

I find it appalling that such a soft target as a running event would be used as a terrorist target and pray for everyone who suffered a loss or injury in the blasts. I also pray for everyone killed, injured or traumatized in the events of the past week worldwide.

Namaste~


Thursday, 11 April 2013

Scenes from Life in Tiruvannamalai, South India

 Arunachaleswara Temple,Tiruvannamalai, South India 


It will soon be two years since I moved to India to take a job as director of a technical writing training program in Chennai. I have spent my weekends and worked from home part time in Tiruvannamalai, a town about four hours southwest of Chennai. Tiruvannamalai lies at the base of Mt. Arunachala and is famous for being the home of  Sri Ramana Maharshi, whose ashram is located here.


 

Sri Ramana Mahashri
My husband, David, is a writer and has lived in Tiruvannamalai for the past 36 years. He is originally from the UK. His sister, Geraldine, who is a photographer (www.wildphotographyholidays.com) made a lovely video of this area about five years ago (before I even met David), which he sent out as a Christmas card to friends.

I thought readers would enjoy this short seven minute video set to Indian music, which includes scenes of friends and their children swimming in our well, a house being constructed near ours, and some lovely shots of the garden and Mt. Arunachala during the Deepam Festival.









Tuesday, 9 April 2013

India tourist visits down 25% following fatal Delhi gang rape

Golden Temple of Amritsar in Amritsar, Punjab, India
(by snapsandblabs.com)


I recently sent a link from the UK Guardian to a friend from Ireland who lives and works in Chennai. Erin (not her real name) is a 40-year-old business woman who has lived in India for eight years (off and on) and acts as a business liaison for Irish companies considering doing business in India. She has her own consulting company based in Chennai.

It was an article with the headline:  

India tourist visits down 25% following fatal Delhi gang rape - Tourism industry survey contradicts rosy government picture, showing tourists are shunning India over sexual assault fears

Photograph: Manpreet Romana/AFP/Getty Images
 To read the entire article, click the following link:
 http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/31/india-tourist-visits-down-delhi-gang-rape 

I had just hit the 'send' button when two minutes later I got an email back from her saying, "I can't believe your timing. I was just attacked in a guesthouse in Mahabalipuram (a popular coastal tourist area one hour south of Chennai) two nights ago by a man with a knife."  

According to Erin, a man had knocked on her door at the guesthouse not long after she had retired for bed. Thinking it was her friends who were in the room next door, she opened the door a crack but the man pushed his way in, threw her on the bed and drew a knife. She tried speaking a few words in Tamil to the intruder, but he did not respond so she began to shout and ran for the door. My friend is tall, an avid surfer, does yoga and is in great physical shape. (She was actually in town to surf with her friends that weekend.) She was able to push past him and began shouting and pounding on the door of the room next door where her friends were sleeping. The intruder ran off into the night when her friends opened their door, but Erin was very shaken up, needless to say.

It's not surprising that tourism is down in India due to the recent sexual assaults making the international news. What is particularly troubling is that the Delhi incident, the Swiss tourist incident, and my friend's attack all occurred when there were other people close by like husbands, boyfriends, and groups of male friends (as in Erin's attack).

The response by the police and other officials has been less than reassuring. My friend reported the assault to her embassy but did not report it to the local police since she waited more than 24 hours and it was too late to make a report, she was told. 

Tomorrow, my friend heads back to Ireland for an already planned trip home. She still loves so many things about India and is in the business of encouraging others to do business here. She says that she has already gone back to the guesthouse in Mahabalipuram and shared a room (this time with a friend), because she does not want this incident to keep her from enjoying her passion, surfing, at a place she has been visiting for the past eight years.

The locals who know and love her were outraged by the incident and believe that the attacker was from another town. He was observed again on a surveillance camera at another hotel in town, so hopefully, he will be caught before he can assault anyone else.

It would be a shame for tourists to by-pass India since India has so much to offer, but officials will have to take these cases of assault very seriously to encourage travelers, especially women, to continue to visit this exotic and mesmerizing country.


Monday, 1 April 2013

How Does Your Garden Grow?


Soursop fruit (just starting to grow)
The temperature continues to rise here in South India as summer has officially set in. The mornings are still relatively cool but the afternoons are steamy. Our temperature and humidity gauge shows 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees F) in the morning. Not so bad to wake up to, but by mid-afternoon the temperature has been hovering around 36-40 Celsius the past week (97-104 F).

You can imagine that it takes a lot of work to grow fruit trees in this heat because they need so much water to keep them alive during these hot periods of the summer. My husband, who works from home, spends many hours during the summer dragging the hose pipe around the garden making sure that the trees get enough water to survive the intense heat. He planted the trees six years ago when he moved into the house and many were small saplings, not even a foot high. We have well water that is fed by a reservoir so are very dependent on the rainy season bringing enough rain to keep the well full for the summer stretch. Thank goodness, we had enough rain this past year to see us through the summer season.

Figs growing off tree trunk
I was introduced to a variety of tropical fruit trees since making my home on South India. Growing up in the USA (Indiana) and living in Colorado for the past 26 years before relocating to India, I was only used to seeing apple and, occasionally, peach trees ....and a whole lotta corn growing up in the Midwest. It's been exciting to watch the fruit trees in our garden produce bumper crops of papayas, mangoes  water apples, lemons and figs. Some of the more exotic trees (to me) are breadfruit, eggfruit, soursop and starfruit trees.



I have included photos of some of fruit trees that surround our home in Tiruvannamalai and keep us well fed with healthy treats year round.
Breadfruit (can get as big as a grapefruit)
Water apples (small, crunchy and delicious)
Two eggfruits
Papaya tree
Lemon tree
Chilies drying in the sun
It is also a good time to dry chili peppers in the hot sun and some of our neighbors have been busy picking chilies and drying them in the sun in front of their house. Other crops being prepared for storage in canvas sacks for future consumption include beans (dhal) and millet (ragi) dried in the sun along with the chilies.

Being from the suburbs of both Indiana and Colorado, I have never had the luxury of eating what is grown just outside my front door, so I am definitely enjoying this new experience of watching how our garden grows...

Beans (dhal), millet (ragi) and chilies drying 






Friday, 22 March 2013

Solar Energy in India



Solar panels on the roof of our house,
Tiruvannamalai, India
As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, we have gone solar, so to speak here in rural India. Last month we installed solar panels on the roof of our house in Tiruvannamalai. The main reason is the lack of power in Tamil Nadu due to frequent power cuts. Although big cities like Chennai have only two hours per day with no power, the rural areas in the state can experience cuts of up to twelve hours per day. Last year after we had a cyclone, we were without power for nearly a week. Another time, when a transformer blew up, it took over a week to regain power to the area. We were able to go into town to check our email and charge our cell phones, but there were no lights or fans for days so working from home was impossible.

Although we have an inverter and backup batteries, they only last for eight hours, which isn't long enough if there is an extended cut. Since summer is setting in and the sun is hot (!) these days, the solar panels are getting a real workout but have performed wonderfully since they were installed.
Solar panels on roof
Sunlit Future, based in Auroville, provides great customer service checking in with us the first week to make sure everything was up and running. They said that their business is booming all over India so the future looks bright for solar power options here. They provide a free consultation and will give estimates on what type of solar system you need based on your power requirements.

For more information, visit their website at www.sunlitfuture.in



Solar street light on the compound
Solar water heater installed by a neighbor 2 years ago

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Kickstarter Goal Reached!

Women visiting Arunachaleswar Temple,
Tiruvannamalai, South India
(photo by Geraldine Westrupp)
Just a brief entry to let readers know that I have made my Kickstarter goal of $5,000 to help self-publish my (work in progress) book called Sipping Chai in Chennai. The project link on Kickstarter.com can be found here: (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1728041947/sipping-chai-in-chennai). I have written more about the project on previous blog entries but wanted to thank my backers for their unwavering support.

Many thanks to all who pledged money to my project or other projects worldwide! I  will continue with updates via my blog and the Kickstarter website.

Namaste~

Elizabeth


Friday, 15 March 2013

The Best Time of Year to Visit South India

Mt. Arunachala, Tiruvannamalai, South India
Several friends from the U.S. have recently asked me about the best time of year to visit South India. As things are beginning to heat up here in Tamil Nadu as summer approaches, I have suggested that they delay their trip until October when the temperature becomes more 'winter-like' with temperatures in the mid-80's Fahrenheit or around 28 degrees Celsius.  Summer temperatures can reach well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit or more than 38 degrees Celsius.

The weather in India can be divided into three main seasons- winter, summer and the monsoons. The majority of westerners visiting Tiruvannamalai arrive during the winter months beginning in October and lasting until mid-to-late March. Right now, we are beginning to see an exodus of friends who have spent the winter here and are packing up to leave as summer sets in.

Although I work in an office in Chennai that has AC (air conditioning), the heat in the city can be quite relentless during the summer. We have moved into a new office in Mylapore as of last September, which has a back-up generator. When the power cuts take effect during the work day, there is a brief 'burp' as the lights and AC shift from the government supplied power to the generator downstairs. Our previous office space did not have backup power that lasted longer than about an hour. We were sent home on many occasions due to lack of power and stifling heat in the office. This summer should be much better, I hope!

Chennai, Tamil Nadu, South India

At home in Tiruvannamalai, we have added solar panels to the roof and now have no interruption of power during the day. The panels will keep the fans, lights and computers on during power cuts but not the AC until we switch to an AC that runs on solar power...(next year's investment!) Since the rural area where we live can sometimes have power cuts of up to twelve hours at a go, this is a huge improvement and feels somewhat luxurious since our fans stay on even when the government power is off. Simple pleasures...

For further information on the best time of year to visit India, I suggest reading an article on Climate and Weather in India by Sherrell Cook at http://goindia.about.com/od/planningyourtrip/a/indiaweather.htm. There are also numerous links such as the Indian Meteorological Department and a fun group of weather bloggers at KEA Weather Blog.

Bullock carts decorated for Pongal festival, Tamil Nadu, South India





Saturday, 9 March 2013

More Thank-You's!

Many thanks to the following new supporters of my Kickstarter project entitled Sipping Chai in Chennai.

Venkatarangan Thirumalai
Aparna
Sembian
Michele Becker
Jason Woodard and Jana Rumminger
Carol Grewal
Mark Pinto
Mahesh Rajan

For details of my project based in South India please visit:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1728041947/sipping-chai-in-chennai

Mystical South India – Tamil Nadu and Kerala Photography Tours

Flower market, Tiruvannamalai
(Wild Photography Holidays)
India is a photographer's paradise. It seems like every time I round a corner in Chennai or Tiruvannmalai there is something colorful and interesting to be captured. Many of the photos on my blog of Tiruvannamalai were taken by family members (my husband's sister and her partner) when they visited us in December and January, 2011 and 2012. I have an inexpensive digital camera that takes OK photos, but to really capture the rich colors of India it helps to have better equipment than this.

Sunset through Chinese fishing nets, Kerala
 (Wild Photography Holidays)
My sister-in-law, Geraldine Westrupp, and her partner, Martin Sammtleben, run a photography tour each winter (December-January) in Tamil Nadu and Kerala called Mystical South India. With visits to Tiruvannamalai, Mahabalipuram,  Gingee Fort, the French sea-side state of Pondicherry, and Cochin  (just some of the stops on the Mystical South India tour) visitors get a taste of South India with the assistance of two experienced photographer/tour guides. Wild Photography Holidays takes photography groups all over the world to scenic locales like Iceland, Norway, Spain, and Bhutan as well as South India. 

   Please visit their website at http://wildphotographyholidays.com/ and travel around the world through the lenses of their cameras.

    The photos on today's blog post are all from Wild Photography Holiday's website. Enjoy!

Kathakali performer applying make-up, Kerala
(Wild Photography Holidays)


Fisherwoman at Sathanur Dam, Tamil Nadu
(Wild Photography Holidays)


Sadhus, India's wandering holy men, Tamil Nadu (Wild Photography Holidays)















Friday, 1 March 2013

A Walk in Rural India

Tending his herd
Summer is slowly arriving in South India; the sun feels hotter and I wear my floppy wide-brimmed hat whenever I go outside during the day. By the end of the month we will be in full-fledged summer mode, and it will be too hot to walk in the midday sun (at least for me).

On Thursday, I walked back to our house after shopping at several stores near Ramanasramam. It's about a 45 minute walk if one takes a path south of town. It was noon so the sun was high in  the sky and there wasn't a cloud to be seen. There used to be a short cut through the local college campus but that is closed now, so I followed a path I am not familiar with and got a bit lost. I knew I just had to keep Mt. Arunachala behind me and head for some electrical poles in the distance; I wasn't very worried about being off the main path. 

I recommend getting lost in rural India because you meet a lot of friendly people asking where you are going. I cut through one field full of Nubian goats; they looked surprised to see me tromping through their grazing land. An elderly man tending the goats must have seen me coming in the distance and wondered what this foreign woman with the floppy hat and sunglasses was doing carry two bags of groceries through his field in the midday sun. "Where are you going?" he asked in Tamil. I pointed off in the distance since I still don't know the word for 'home' in Tamil. He smiled and nodded his head (Indian head nod) as I wandered off in the direction of our house, still another 30 minutes away.

By the time I got home, I had met at least a dozen other friendly people working in their fields, tending cows and goats or working on the government road project near our house. I wish I knew more Tamil because I really wanted to explain where I was going with my bags of groceries so that is a priority this month, learning rudimentary Tamil. 

I was feeling very overheated by the time I got home, so it might be my last walk in the midday sun until after summer has ended. I have much respect for the workers here who labor in the hot sun for eight or more hours per day for very low wages. I was bushed after just a 45 minute walk in the heat ...




More Thank-You's for Pledges!

Mt. Arunachala, Tiruvannamalai, South India (G. Reinhard)
Many thanks to the following people who have recently pledged funds for my Kickstarter book project at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1728041947/sipping-chai-in-chennai.


 Venkatarangan Thirumalai
 Maya Kumar
 Megan and Michael Whittaker
 Karen Koch
 Rani Kumar
 Gokul Raj
 David Kosakowski and Family

I truly appreciate your support!

Elizabeth
          





Monday, 25 February 2013

33% of Goal Reached on Kickstarter!

Young woman laborer carrying tiles
Just a quick entry to let you all know that I am at 33% of my goal for self-publishing my book Sipping Chai in Chennai. Thank you to all of my readers that are supporting me in this endeavor to tell the stories of single working mothers I have met while I have been working and living in South India for the past eighteen months.

Please click here to see a detailed description of my Kickstarter project.

If you are not familiar with Kickstarter, please read the information below and go to the URL listed below. It's a great way to become involved in many creative and helpful projects worldwide!


  1. What's Kickstarter?(http://www.kickstarter.com)

    Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects. Everything from films, games, and music to art, design, and technology. Kickstarter is full of ambitious, innovative, and imaginative projects that are brought to life through the direct support of others.
    Since our launch on April 28, 2009, over $450 million has been pledged by more than 3 million people, funding more than 35,000 creative projects. If you like stats, there's lots more here.
  2. How does Kickstarter work?

    Thousands of creative projects are funding on Kickstarter at any given moment. Each project is independently created and crafted by the person behind it. The filmmakers, musicians, artists, and designers you see on Kickstarter have complete control and responsibility over their projects. They spend weeks building their project pages, shooting their videos, and brainstorming what rewards to offer backers. When they're ready, creators launch their project and share it with their community.
    Every project creator sets their project's funding goal and deadline. If people like the project, they can pledge money to make it happen. If the project succeeds in reaching its funding goal, all backers' credit cards are charged when time expires. If the project falls short, no one is charged. Funding on Kickstarter is all-or-nothing.
  3. Why is funding all-or-nothing?

    All-or-nothing funding is a core part of Kickstarter and it has a number of advantages:
    It's less risk for everyone. If you need $5,000, it's tough having $1,000 and a bunch of people expecting you to complete a $5,000 project. 
    It motivates. If people want to see a project come to life, they're going to spread the word.   
    It works. Of the projects that have reached 20% of their funding goal, 82% were successfully funded. Of the projects that have reached 60% of their funding goal, 98% were successfully funded. Projects either make their goal or find little support. There's little in-between.
    To date, an incredible 44% of projects have reached their funding goals.