Friday, December 24, 2010

Celebrating Christ's Birth

Wishing all of you a most blessed Christmas as we celebrate Christ's birth. 

This photo was taken at a church in Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu in India.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Immaculate Conception Church, Christmas Eve

In true Indian fashion, even the churches are lit up for festivities. Here we see the Immaculate Conception Church in Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu.

Merry Christmas to all!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Decorations in Tamil Nadu

Going through Chennai and other parts of Tamil Nadu at this time of year, one can find decorative stars illuminated at night. These are typically hung in front of homes and businesses of Christians (although I'm sure others have gotten into the decorating spirit as well). I have seen fake trees for sale, but they look, well, "made in China-ish." The stars are rather pretty though.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Photos from 2010

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Here are some photos from 2010 - India, Thailand, and Sri Lanka
Happy Holidays and a Blessed Christmas to all!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tourism to Chernobyl?

Been to Timbuktu? The Hindu Kush Valley? Kayaked down waterfalls? If you're looking for a place to visit that will shock others, try taking a tour to Chernobyl. Yup, visitors can now tour inside the 50 km exclusion zone around the site of the world's largest civilian nuclear accident. You can visit the power plant and ghost-town villages such as Pripyat eerily left as it was when it was abandoned in 1986.

As for me, I think I'll pass...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Education: Extra Obstacles for Indian Girls

Girls in India, particularly in rural India, face extra obstacles that make it not only challenging to go to school, but to stay in school. Rural families, unable to afford the cost of educating all their children, choose to send their sons instead. For those girls that do make it to school, puberty brings with it extra problems. In many schools, toilets are either dysfunctional, inadequate in terms of numbers, lack water, lack privacy, or don't exist at all. In a survey of 80 schools  conducted of a district in the state of Andhra Pradesh (north of Tamil Nadu), 52 had no drinking water facilities, 57 had no toilets, and five had toilets but without doors or water. In the latter case, children had to use the open space behind the school, and since that was used by boys, social norms meant that girls did not feel comfortable using the same space. Girls sometimes deliberately dehydrated themselves to avoid relieving themselves at school. For those living in dormitories also without adequate facilities, girls sometimes skip the evening meal hoping to avoid going out in the dark and defecating.
When such basic needs are not being met, how can we expect India's girls to stay in school, particularly for those whose home issues already makes it challenging? 

Last year, our elementary school's Roots & Shoots program raised money to build toilet facilities at several schools in Tamil Nadu.

Note: More information from the survey can be found in the Hindu Newspaper, Dec. 12, 2010.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Syrian Christian Kerala Home

A marked contrast to the homes of Tamil Nadu, Kerala homes have steep roofs and employ wood and laterite, both of which are abundant in this neighboring state. Such long, sloping roofs help protect the walls from the heavy monsoon season. The ornate gables, so prevalent in Kerala homes, are not only decorative, but also serve as vents, enabling the house to "breathe" and stay cool, particularly in the summer. The gable in the Christian home above had some vents in the shape of crosses.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Wooden Temple Chariot

I love the wooden wheels on this temple chariot, located at the Dakshina Chitra ethno site. No information was given about it, but I presume it's rather old, considering its all-wood construction. Now rather plain, only remnants of of color remained. With vibrant color and decorations of flowers, this chariot must have looked grand as it paraded the Hindu gods around the town.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Lamp Niches, Brahmin House

These niches, located throughout the Brahmin house (originally from Ambur, in Tirunelveli district in the south of Tamil Nadu), once housed lamps. The small clay lamps with either ghee or oil were lit in the morning and evening for ritual purposes. Such lamps (or diya) symbolizes knowledge and removes darkness, which represents ignorance.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Courtyard, Tamil House

Courtyards were often an integral part of homes in Tamil Nadu.  They helped promote airflow, give light, and sometimes cooking or other daily functions occurred here.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Chettinad Woodwork

My favorite element of the Chettinad house was its elaborately carved woodwork. Made from Burmese teak, the door, entryway, mantles, and columns exuded richness. Particularly beautiful was the decoration near the top of the door frame. Upon closer inspection, one can see horses and riders, elephants, and various figures.

Purple Labryinth

Purple Labryinth, originally uploaded by melissaenderle.
Another monsoon day in Chennai enabled me to work on this pastel painting of a tulip.

See Melissa's Artwork page on Facebook

Monday, December 06, 2010

Word of the Week: Rain

More in the tail end of the normal monsoon season, the rains of the past week have been a bit unexpected.
 In just a 24 hour period, parts of Tamil Nadu received nearly 7 inches (17 cm) of rain. In Chennai, it rained nearly nonstop (and quite heavy at times) from late Saturday morning through Monday night. Normals for the Oct-Dec Monsoon season are about 376 mm; during that time, it has rained over 562 mm (22 inches).

My neighborhood fared much better than others, with only large puddles or isolated flooded areas in the next morning. Flooded streets made things miserable for commuters who struggled to find taxis, since most did not show up for work and the few around were in high demand. Many refused to pick up people in areas known to have high water. Auto rickshaw drivers were also hesitant to go through high waters, and those that did charged exorbitant rates.  Cycle rickhaws were in big demand in certain areas.Buses (again, far fewer available since many drivers didn't show up)  operated at a snail's pace through the waters, making commutes time intensive. Downed trees and branches also added to the road challenges.
While the rain was an inconvenience to some, it was potentially devastating to others. Street vendors and flower sellers were particularly hard hit. In rural areas,  rushing waters washed away roads, destroyed homes of simple construction, and submerged paddy fields - with some expecting more than a 50% loss in crop yield. With rice such a staple part of the diet, a combination of decreased supply and likely higher prices will make their already insufficient diet even more meager.

Chettinad Mansion

This mansion was once home to a Chettiar family that made its home in the Sivaganga district of Tamil Nadu. The Nattukottai Chettiars were prosperous merchant traders who followed the British Empire into Southern Asia. Their homes combine European and Asian elements. This 19th century structure is now located in the ethno village of Dakshina Chitra, located south of Chennai.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Elderly Man, Agra

Elderly Man, Agra, originally uploaded by melissaenderle.
This is a watercolor painting I just completed of a man from the local streets of "real" Agra. He had such a kind face.

See more of Melissa's artwork on Facebook

Team Fishermen

When a fishing boat comes to shore, a number of men and boys immediately comes to its aid, helping to push the boat farther on the sand and carry the heavy-looking nets to a flat area near the huts for sorting the catch. A real sense of teamwork and community collaboration.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Separating the Rice Bundles

The monsoon weather in Chennai has enabled me to finish this pastel painting of a rural scene in Tamil Nadu.

See more of Melissa's art on Facebook

Direct Look

There's something piercing about the direct look this boy, a son of a Chennai fisherman gave me. Is it confidence? Yearning? Something else?

Friday, December 03, 2010

Pilgimmage Season

Yesterday while going to school, I noticed a couple of men holding fabric on their heads. It jogged my memory of last year when my friends and I spotted people carrying on this act both in Chennai and on our South India trip. These people are on their way to Sabarima in Kerala (in an area bordering Tamil Nadu) for the annual pilgrimage, which lasts 60 days. During this time, Hindu devotees of Lord Ayyappan are expected to perform twice daily prayers, do poojas, and other rituals. For at least 41 days, they must abstain from non-vegetarian food and "carnal pleasures." Pilgrims usually set out in groups under the direction of a leader, with each carrying an Irumudi kettu, a cloth bundle containing ritual items. Those who have made the pilgrimage and climbed the Pathinettam Padi at least 18 times are then known as a Guruswamy.
You can read more about the Sabarimala pilgrimage here

Catamaran Fisherman

These log boats - the original catamarans - are still heavily used along the shores of Tamil Nadu. Fishermen, considering the strong waves and undertow, must have great balance in order to ride so confidently. 

Three Fishermen in a Row

The sun still rising, these three fishermen are relaxing after being out in the boats very early in the morning. Note the typical plaid dhotis they are wearing, which tends to be cooler than pants.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Boats and Bundles

After the morning catch along Elliot's Beach in Chennai, the boats are pulled up on the sand and nets bundled up. Between the boats, bundles, and garbage, it can be a challenge to walk through the area.

Here Cometh the Veggie Seller

Many people cycle through the streets, hoping to sell their goods or perform a service. The coffee man dispenses his sweet liquid in tiny plastic cups to regular customers - who unfortunately promptly throw them along the curb. Milk and newspapers are delivered every morning. Carts of bananas or veggies is another common sight, with the vendor stopping by regular customers. Carrying my veggies purchased from a local store, I walked past a veggie cycle. That man's cauliflower looked better than what I had just bought! Maybe I'll be able to see the man peddling by this weekend and stop him....