Ruby AEB Vanderzee

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sula Winery and the road to Nashik

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Beneath the Jubjub trees

The Banyan is the signature tree of India, with it's mangled multiples of Madusa tendrils.

The giant prickly fruits of the Jackfruit tree is edible if you dare!

Auyyappa Temple Festival

You never know what you'll see driving down the street in India.
We happened upon Temple Day- not sure what Temple Day is, exactly, but they sure know how to dress up an elephant.

Felt like Carnival!

A King without a child found one in the forest. They sent the King into the forest to find a tiger for milk for the child, thinking the tiger would surely kill him. The King rode on the tiger out of the jungle, much to the surprise of the people. This is the story of one of the many temple festivals celebrated in India.

A true story about Auyyappa Temple festival is that of a magic eagle which comes and circles the temple five times every year on the same day before disappearing again into the forest.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Many Happy Returns

Indian birthdays are so sweet I might just come back next year to do it again.
I celebrated my 31st b-day on the 13th (any good omens there for the year to day palendrome?)
Many well wishes from friends near and far and many little surprises in the office.
My staff gave me an Aquarius coffee mug and some ornate bindhis. My partner surprised me with a peradot and sterling ring- the ring of commitment to Mooptroop I presume.
They bought me a lovely cake and in the Indian tradition, only once you cut the cake do they sing (while clapping). The first piece was smeared on my cheeks, like tribal ceremonial paint, with the expression and handshakes wishing for 'Many Happy Returns."

My colleagues Leah, Prakash and Martin and I stayed in due to political rioting that evening and had a lovely evening of storytelling and order in paneer tikka masala, my new favorite, served of course, in a heartshaped dish!

Gods and Goddesses

Temples, temples, everywhere.
Shoes off then go ahead.
Step inside.
Ring the bell.
Ram, Sita, Genesha, Shiva.
Say a prayer.
Mark your head.
Firetemple, fare thee well.

Monday, February 18, 2008

More Memories from the Taj

Dosas in a daze, Lady Fingers, Pomme Fritte and bones

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The India Trio Travel Team Extraordinaire

Carey Fayne- Doctors Without Borders, Nurse and PhD candidate at UW-Seattle
JoRo- NPR audio Engineer
Ruby-, CEO of an idea

We traveled South to North and then back to Mumbai. (Central/West Coast) We went by plane, car, autorick, ferry, boat and train.

Our itinerary was as follows:

Mumbai-Goa (on GoAir) Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday

We stayed for 3 days near Condolim right on the beach of the Arabian Sea in a nice airy room. We ate all our meals with our feet in the sand. A colleague from Animation Dimensions has a mate there from architecture school. The man, Kunal, generously and graciously took us out to a fine meal of King fish tandori , garlic prawns and the local dessert called bebinka, a dense layered cake. Feni is the local firewater made from either cashews or coconut. Josh and Carey loved the stuff, but it was a too strong for me and put me right to sleep!

Goa-Cochin (on Jet Airways) Monday, Tuesday

This got us to the South Western state of Kerala- claimed to be Gods Own Country.
The fleet of taxis down there are distinctive old white Ambassadors. We stayed in another Guest house of a lovely Catholic family whose 10 year old volunteered to be our first Mooptroop participant. We filmed her doing her Social Studies homework. We rose at 6 to be taken to a small brick building in an athletic field to take in the morning practice of a sport only found in Kerala called Kalaraipayto, an ancient martial art. We got footage of kids practicing for our first Moop webisode which will be focused on sports.

Allepi (bus) Tuesday, Wed, Thursday
Then we traveled down to Allepi by ferry and local bus. We passed thru Temple Festival where elephants are dressed in gold armor and ridden by gold clad folks carrying tall umbrellas. Allepi is also called the backwaters, or the Venice of India. We went straight to the Lake to hire a house boat, including a staff of three who drive and provide gorgeous meals. We spent two nights on two seperate boats, the second significantly nicer than the first. The food was spectacular. Fresh fish, spicey dishes, freshwater king prawns. The boats are somewhat futuristic in their curvature, but the scenes on the shore are from the old world- dugout canoes and women smacking laundry on rocks, wadding into the water.

Ama’s Ashram (bus) Thursday
From Allepi we took another series of buses (very cheap- maybe $2.20 for a two hour ride) to a remote village where the Ashram of Ama-gi, the Divine Mother is. We arrived just intime for her procession out to her long white Mercedes limo, decorated in marigolds. Ama was off to travel. Over 2000 devotees live there. There is a beautiful temple and an aura of love around the place. Everyone wears all white punjabs which Josh promptly purchased and hasn't taken off since, I don't think.

Vilcara (rickshaw) Thursday / Friday
Then a night in Vilcara, aka the Cliffs of Dover (our nickname, not theres)
A happy find, and an unplanned stop. We decided we didn’t want to stay at the Ashram so an hour south in an autorick to a beach town on the cliffs. A boardwalk lines the cliff overlooking the water and a night in a beach shack with a hammock outside. A nice dinner overlooking the sea and a restful night under the mosquito net.

Trivendrum (Ambassador taxi) Friday
The drive to the airport midday was along the sandy coast. Fishing nets and sculptures line the drive into the very mellow, small airport of Trivendrum.

Delhi (Kingfisher air) Friday, Sat, Sunday

We flew to Delhi and were surprised how beautiful it was. We went direct from the airport to an Ayurvedic clinic called Ashtang to receive the arcane hot oil to the third eye treatment. Deeply relaxing. We had a very nice hotel in New Deli by the trainstation. Out to dinner for dosas. The next day we rounded up train tickets, did some shopping and took the slow, old blue train 3 and ½ hours to Agra. To the Taj Mahal and back again. Sunday, we stopped into the Ganhi Smitri to see his moving last steps and wonderful museum.

Back to Mumbai for all to return to work in our three various locations. Josh and Carey both flew off that night. Josh direct on Continental to NYC. Carey on Ethiopian Airlines back to Kegali for a boat and Jeep ride back into the heart of Africa, her post in the Congo.

See pictures below.

Gandhi-ji and the Smitri


Delhi is the most beautiful and cosmopolitan city we visited. It was surprisingly clean and sophisticated as compared to the rumors and picture I had in my mind's eye.
It is very much like Washington, D.C., and beautiful Capital city. We had ayurvedic treatment on day one. Day two we trained to the Taj in Agra. Day three we went to the Gandhi Smitri, where Gandhi spent his last 144 days and the site of his assassination. A very moving stop with a wonderful museum.


First Glimpse of the Taj Mahal

It's so beautiful it inspires tears, so powerful, like the sun, it's hard to look straight at it for too long. It's best taken in in little sips, step by step, rounding through from the red brick fortress surrounding her, down the long path and reflecting pools to the greatest monument of love. She must have been an amazing woman. What a great trip to make just before Valentine's Day.

Temple Day in Kerala, traveling South to Ama-gi and Vilcara

House boats in Allepi- The Venice of India

Breakfast in Fort Cochin, Kerala

My dear friend Carey Fayne joined up for a week of touring India from her post in the heart of Africa. She works for MSF- Doctors Without Borders. This is the 5th country we've traveled together. Our friendship started at the UW Madison after being casual acquaintances from different High Schools in Madison. We worked together in 1996 in an orphanage in Santa Cruz, Bolivia spending languid Saturday's picking lice from each other's hair. If that's not bonding, I don't know what is. Friends for life!