Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tearing down the Family Farm Barn: The End of an Era

These three photos are of the family farm (established 1858) barn in the process of being taken down. The Amish have purchased it for the support beams and some boards, which will be used for making expensive furniture.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

India Reflections

So now my four years in India are over. I've met such wonderful, warm people, both at school and within communities around the country. I've had the opportunity to experience glimpses all over "Incredible India" –from the temples and churches of Tamil Nadu to the lush coconut backwaters of Kerala, to the deserts & fortresses of Rajasthan to the snowy mountains of Kashmir. I've been fortunate to have witnessed a variety of handicrafts being made. It never ceases to amaze me how India's artisans are able to transform simple threads into masterpieces; zardosi, silk saris, bandini tie dyeing, ikat weaving, and endless types of embroidery. Such a rich artistic heritage. Reflecting back though, I would have to say that India's greatest wealth is its people. I will miss the many citizens of India who were my colleagues for four years, as well as the many others I have met while living and traveling in the incredibly diverse subcontinent.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Last Drive to the Chennai Airport: India Reflections

The school driver has come to take me to the airport. Nightfall Has brought some relief from the heat, but it still is just as humid. On a main street, we pass by old familiar scenes; stalls pouring steaming hot filtered coffee, others frying samosas and other various quick Indian foods, a store selling school uniforms (the new school year had just begun), others displaying sari material, and numerous sweet shops. Women stringing garlands of fresh jasmine and other flowers worked alongside those hoping to sell bananas and neatly piled mangoes. Reading the sign "Hotel Runs," I had to chuckle one last time at its rather odd naming for a restaurant. Along the way to the airport, we passed by churches, Hindu temples, and a mosque. Construction for the upcoming Metro and several larger hotels was underway, both signs of growth and modernization in the city. Finally we arrived at the airport, which also was undergoing construction. For now at least, the scene was as chaotic, crowded, and colorful as it always has been since I've lived here. Perhaps that just is a part of India that will remain in one way or another.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Last Ride from School: India Reflections

School has ended. Lots of hugs and goodbyes, adding in phrases such as "keep in touch on Facebook." After four years teaching at the American International School in Chennai, it was time to move on to yet another chapter of my life. An autorickshaw driver took me on the familiar path back to my apartment, now empty of my belongings. We scoot past the road in front of school, its one side still a long ways from completion, despite over a year and a half of construction. Once on the IT highway, we pass by modern complexes housing various software and IT companies. The light in front of us is red, causing an immediate backup in traffic. The autorickshaw driver wiggles his yellow contraption through the space between a city bus and a produce truck; a motorcyclist squeezes between that. Immediately the heat and humidity hits inside the still vehicle. Concrete walls are painted with colorful slogans of the current movie star-turned political leader of the state. People congregate in an unmarked area for boarding busses. A bullock cart hauling potted flowers ambles by. Cheap sandals are sold next to a cart overflowing with fresh mangoes. Incense from a Hindu temple momentarily intermingles with smells of the street. Now past the strong odors of a poultry shop, we turn on the street where a sari-clad woman picks out select produce, next to a man sitting on the sidewalk repairing shoes, and a coconut seller after that. Turning at the next corner, the driver pauses momentarily to let a truck pass through the narrow space remaining from an unfinished pipeline project. Following the entrance to a Pentecostal missionary, we arrive at the spot I hate most about my neighborhood (and actually India as a whole) –garbage. This eyesore is a perpetual sight, strewn about in front of an apartment building. At least the goats are enjoying themselves there. Having turned onto my street, I glance at one of several apartment construction projects going on, transforming the neighborhood from its primarily single-dwelling homes. Spotting the small convenience store I had frequented for basic supplies over the past 2 1/2 years of living in this neighborhood, I motioned the driver to stop. My last ride in these yellow 3-wheelers –my primary mode of transport– was over. I presented one last doctor's prescription at the tiny pharmacy and watched as one customer searched through a selection of phone recharge cards and another eagerly grasp a small glass bottle of Coke presented from behind the counter. It took the manager a bit longer than normal to find the diminutive packet amongst the myriad of small boxes labeled with several meds each, but thankfully he was successful. To the right of the pharmacy was a small Hindu shrine, with its jasmine garlanded idol inside. Although I didn't yet see the local who dutifully tended the shrine and swept up around it, he cheerfully waved at me minutes later as I walked towards my apartment. Spotting the cluster of bamboo in front of a building, I knew mine was next. Soon I would be transferring this tropical scene for a Midwest American one.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Books are for Everyone

These children seemed so engaged in the books before them. While it is likely that they are supposed to be selling the books/coloring books to passers-by on the street, I can hope that these young kids are able attend school and experience the joy of reading.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Refreshing Coconuts

Coconuts are a major part of South Indian life. In Kerala, it is an essential ingredient in almost every meal. Tender green (young) coconuts are a favorite drink, renowned for its refreshing rehydrating qualities, particularly in the horrid heat of the summer. With temps hovering in the mid 100's (40-43°C) here in Chennai,  this inexpensive drink is a sure bet.