Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Bird by Bird

Kingfisher. Photo from
I read a book once about how to be a writer. The book was called Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. In one chapter, Lamott described how, many years ago, her younger brother was frustrated with the enormity of a school project he had to complete on birds. He just couldn't seem to get started on it and kept procrastinating. He asked their father for help and her father said, "Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird." I like that advice. To me it means breaking down a big challenging project into smaller bite size pieces.

My 'bird project' is my work on a book I started over a year ago about my experiences in India. Sometimes it all seems so huge and impossible. Will I ever find the words to make the story come alive to the reader? Much of writing for the public involves taking a risk and putting yourself out there, so to speak. It's easy to get caught up in wondering how good the story will be instead of just writing it down. Lamott also covers this in her book; she calls it writing a 'shitty' first draft. It doesn't have to be perfect, just get something down on paper.

Anyway, as I continue to craft my first manuscript, I need to keep remembering that it won't be perfect the first, second or even the twentieth time around. I need to accept this and start taking each chapter bird by bird.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

What do Tiruvannamalai and Chennai have in common?

Elliot's Beach, Besant Nagar. Photo: Aine Edwards
Having lived in all both locales for at least a few years, the answer is that Tiruvannamalai and Chennai (both located in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu) have tried with varying degrees of success to clean up their local environment for future generations.

Chennai has recently installed public toilets as a pilot project on Elliot's Beach in Besant Nagar, a suburb of Chennai. Although there is some controversy about the location of the toilets, it's still a step in the right direction. Plans are being made to locate additional public toilets in slum areas of Chennai.

A recent article in the Times of India covers this problem of lack of toilets on the public beaches and the best place to locate them:

In Tiruvannamalai, garbage is always a headache after the monthly influx of pilgrims doing pradakshina (in Hinduism and Buddhism, the rite of circumambulating in a clockwise direction and image, relic, shrine, or other scared object) on the monthly full moon; close to a million people flock to the base of Mt. Arunachala each month to circumambulate (walk around) the holy mountain. In their wake, mountains of garbage are left behind.
Pradakshina Road, Tiruvannamalai, South India

Although the town has managed to keep abreast of this monthly event, garbage is still a huge problem on the Pradakshina Road year round. Recently, members of Shanti Malia Ashram have been actively spearheading a cleanup of the Pradakshina Road. Hundreds of tractors full of trash have been collected and water tanks, historically used for bathing, have been cleared of refuse. 

It's heartening to see some progress in caring for the environment in Tamil Nadu. The beaches are so lovely and when I lived in Chennai, my favorite walk in the morning was near my flat on Coastal Road in Kalakshetra Colony. It's nice to see Tiruvannamalai and parts of Chennai raising awareness of the garbage issue.
Trucks hauling away garbage on Pradakshina Road,
Tiruvannamalai, South India.
Tamil Nadu is a state full of exotic scenery, miles of sandy beaches and unusual wildlife. I hope that future generations have the same chance to see it in all its splendor.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Summer in Boulder, CO
The good...summer has come to Boulder, Colorado and our small garden is in bloom. It was a rather long winter here in Colorado with snow storms until mid-May. David dug up a nice patch for a garden just outside our patio and planted flower boxes and hanging baskets with petunias and pansies; it really is a colorful feast for the eyes.

The bad (not so much bad, but it's hard to apart again)...David has gone back to India to tend to his book business, check on our house in Tiruvannamalai and entertain visitors from the US who arrive in a few weeks' time. We had a great time doing 'Bouldery' things like hiking, attending concerts at the Boulder Creek Festival, running the Bolder Boulder (a 10k race) and taking long bike rides.

The ugly...three of our four Indian dogs were killed by either a bigger dog or another ferocious animal one night while David was away. The dead dogs included my two favorites; a sweet dog named Puppy and a new addition that Puppy brought home one night named Puppy's Wife. Both were timid dogs but very trusting once we earned their trust with bowls of rice and yogurt. It is heart breaking to think those dogs are now gone and the only dog left is the stoic old dog named Black Dog, who must be greatly missing his friends.
Day lilly

Again, I feel the tug of wanting to be in two places at once some days, especially when loved ones are far away...even much loved dogs.

Monday, 19 May 2014

How to Live and Work in India

Bharatnatyam dancer. (
Are you looking to chuck it all and run away to a foreign land? Maybe your children have left the nest and you are looking for a new adventure? Have you been itching to resume a life of travel now that you are single again and want to work abroad?

I was in your shoes three years ago. My daughters both went off to out-of-state colleges. I was divorced and what some would consider footloose and fancy-free with no relationship in the works or anywhere on the horizon. I did not own a home; I rented a two bedroom condo. I had over twenty years of work experience in a high tech field, and I knew I had skills that were sought after worldwide. In short, I was ready to chuck it all to live and work in India.

How did I do it? Well, it took time and persistence. I landed one job in India with only a Skype interview. When that job fizzled out after six months, I found another position within the country with an American company with offices in India.

Meenakshi-Sundaresvara Temple in Madurai, Tamil Nadu (
I have published several posts on my blog site about how I went about this, so I won't go into the details now. But, if you feel the urge to fly and others are telling you that it's impossible to find work in India as a foreigner or why in the world would you leave leave the USA to live in a developing country? Take heart. I did it and now have a life that is based in both countries, India and the USA. It is possible and my life is so much richer for taking the leap.

Here are the links to my previously published blog posts on how to get a job in India:

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

A Life on Two Distant Shores

Mt. Arunachala, Tiruvannamalai, South India
Living part time in both Boulder, Colorado and Tiruvannamalai, South India presents challenges in a number of ways. For many months out of the year, I don't see my husband as he is based in India to write about what he loves. When I am in India, I miss the connection with my twenty-something daughters who tend to call me on a daily basis when I am in Boulder. Skype has been our friend for these past few years but it's just not the same thing as sitting down to a meal or drinking a cup of coffee with those you love.

It's Springtime in the Rockies right now and the days have been chilly and blustery. We read the weather reports from Tiruvannamalai and receive emails from friends there telling us of the extremely hot weather and lack of water for the plants and trees that grow around our house there. The level of the well where we get our water is very low for this time of year and the monsoons are far off.
Mt. Audobon, Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, Colorado

We were in Indian Peaks Wilderness area snow shoeing last weekend and the 4-5 feet of snow in the mountains was beautiful and becoming more of a Spring slush. I kept thinking how nice it would be to be able to transport some of the melting snow to the thirsty trees and plants in Tiruvannamalai as they wait patiently for the monsoons to arrive.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Sipping Chai and Snow Shoeing

Again, apologies, apologies! I am back in Boulder, Colorado after another long lapse of postings.

I won't make excuses. Suffice it to say that I have been working and enduring the long winter this year in this part of the world.

David has arrived for a 2 month visit to escape the South Indian heat. It must be a bit of a shock to him. I spent the past two summers in India and the heat was unbearable some days. Napping was a must because my brain wouldn't work after the temperature reached 95 degrees in the house and 107 outside. I am not a fan of Indian summers.

Tomorrow we leave for the snowy Colorado mountains to snow shoe and see the winter wonderland at 10,000 feet. I hope to be sipping chai and a cold microbrew at 10,000 feet. More to come.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Elvis the Great

It's hard to lose a beloved pet and even harder when you are 12,000 miles away. My Jack Russell terrier named Elvis died over the weekend in Boulder, Colorado. He was being looked after lovingly by my younger sister since I have been living in India, off and on, the past few years. Elvis was nearly 15 years old and had such a wonderful personality. He died of old age and will be sorely missed. Pets are such a great part of our lives but when they die, they leave such a sad void. RIP, Elvis!! We will miss you~

Monday, 10 February 2014

Return to Tiruvannamalai

Chalk design (kolam) outside of a neighbor's home in Tiruvannamalai
After eight months away, I am back at our home in Tiruvannamalai. The weather is pleasant, the rice fields are vibrantly green and our dogs are happy to see me. My new job is allowing me to telecommute this month from Tiru so although this is a working holiday, it is a painless way to work.

The good thing about traveling between the US and India while working is that I can take advantage of my jet lag and work in the wee small hours of the morning and be pretty much done with my work day when my husband, David, wakes up. The down side is falling asleep at 4 pm, but that will all straighten itself out in another few days.

It has taken me a few days to get back into the simple pace of life here. I was frantically trying to beat the latest snow storm out of Boulder about 10 days ago and doing errands in the sub-zero weather. That all seems like a distant memory now. It's 3 am in South India as I write this now, so more when I am on a better sleep schedule.