Friday, November 28, 2008

Far, far away from Mumbai...

It is certainly ironic that our entire crew of 21 people were together for the first time in over 3 weeks on the day of the attacks. Luckily, we were safe and have now begun dispersing by train, bus, plane or taxi to continue our separate projects before reuniting in Chennai around December 13th. I only have a few minutes to recap some of my recent adventures...

This is the house I got to live in for a couple of days right on the backwaters, the entire house is made of brick and coconut palm leaves!

This is my new buddy, Ashish, the twelve year old boy who I lived with and learned from.

This elephant was being bathed by a bunch of men, but generously helped them out with the spots they couldn't reach.

This eagle is one of the family "pets" at the home I stayed in. Seriously, it would eat from their hand and I could even get two feet away from it with my camera - you'll have to wait for the book to see those shots. :)

Riding the bus is always an interesting experience here. On the way back to civilization all the women were standing in the middle and I thought it was a cool view...

I absolutely loved the colorful rainbow that this train was! Only in India can things be so dirty and beautiful at the same time.

I made a quick trip to the twins village on a motorcycle - this is my self-portrait.

Although I didn't get as many photo opportunities with the twins as I had hoped, I got a couple beautiful shots - these girls were my favorite!!! Next up - my recap of Kanyakumari...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Quick Check In

Just wanted everyone to know I am safe and sound in Kanyakumari - the very southern tip of India where three oceans meet! I am with my entire class and our instructor for our "midterm" and to celebrate Thanksgiving together. Anyways, I know some people are worried with the stuff going on in Mumbai, but I promise everything is fine... I will have time for a more thorough update later!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Roughing it

Hello to all my faithful blog followers! Tonight I find myself thoroughly exhausted in a tiny (and I mean tiny!) cubicle with an extremely filthy computer, trying to make up for four days without a computer or internet access. Unfortunately, I still have no way to share new photos, but I will give you a mini update and add pictures later. I went to two more theater performances last week, after returning from the houseboat trip and both were intense and amazing! On Saturday, in the pouring rain, I took a train, then a bus, then two autos (rickshaws - but the locals just call them autos so now I do, too) and then trekked by foot through the mud, to the home of the ladies who helped me make the coir in the backwaters. There I stayed for two days and nights, in their home with no bathroom or even running water, and had the pleasure of observing and participating in their simple lifestyle. Various family members from three generations moved in and out of the home (and the homes around them) during my short stay. It rained most of the time and their electricity was often not working, but complete harmony that existed even while eight people crowded onto the porch for five hours with nothing but the light of a kerosene lamp, was quite enlightening. The kids don't have toys, they just truly enjoy each other's company. Amazing! When I left them, I headed north to find the "village of twins" before I have to be at the southern tip of India for our class mid-term and Thanksgiving rendezvous. I found some of the twins today and enjoyed a beautiful scenic trip on a motorcycle along the way. I am looking forward to returning to my "home base" in Trivandrum tomorrow and seeing my classmates tomorrow night! It has been quite an adventure but I am very tired! the lights just turned off so I'm outta here!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Behind the scenes: Kerala Backwaters

So today I feel more like myself. I woke up ready to shoot, but plans changed as they often do in India, and I ran some errands and have been staring at this computer, editing 1500 pictures from the last five days. On Sunday morning, I left on a train with my friends, Raj & Susan, to jump on a houseboat in the backwaters of Kerala. The trip was AMAZING! The whole point was for me to see all of the elements and industries available for story topics in the backwaters, and decide what I wanted to focus on so we could eventually find a family I could live with for a couple of days while I shoot my story. The possibilities were endless and I was quickly overwhelmed. But meanwhile I took a ton of interesting pictures and learned so much about life in Kerala and the resourcefulness of the communities that live in this beautiful region. I even got to make coir, which is rope from cocunut husk fibers. I also had a personal photographer documenting my journey. (Thanks Susan!) By Tuesday I was exhausted and coming down with a cold, but full of ideas and inspiration. Here is a behind the scenes look at my trip... (I will post some of the pictures I took later.)

Oh - I forgot to mention that we ate amazing food on the trip as well! Every meal consisted of several different flavors of all colors and consistencies - and every single one was delicious!


Who knew I would ever love tea with milk and sugar?!?!

This is where I got to make the coir. Of course I had the help of these lovely ladies.



...and then I got to keep my rope as a souvenir!

This deck was a typical spot to relax and a great vantage point for shooting.

And last, but not least, a picture of me tucked in a luggage rack on the train ride back to Trivandrum. Yes, Susan and I really rode up there so we didn't have to be squashed standing amongst a bunch of random Indian men! It was a fun spot where I was able to take some cool pictures which I will share later...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

When it rains, it pours...

Ugh, I have had a rough day. I feel like my posts thus far have been extremely unemotional, just commenting on the obvious and not my innermost feelings about being halfway around the world from my home and the people I love the most. Today all of that bottled up energy has been pouring out of my eyes, streaming down my face, and landing on my bed, my "fabindia" shirt or the book I've been reading. The catalyst for this explosion was a combination of a cold I've been fighting off and the realization that I flew to India for nearly seven weeks without fully preparing those who depend on me for my extended absence. Deep down I trust that things will work out and everyone, including me, will learn lessons about making mistakes and going with the flow, but that doesn't stop me from feeling guilty about some of the decisions I've made that have led to recent crossroads in my life. Deciding to pursue a new career as a photojournalist has been an adventure that has evoked incredible joy, but also led to personal struggles by demanding redistribution of precious time and energy. This trip to India has been inspirational and life-changing, for me and hopefully some of the people in my life as well. I hope that the courage to follow my passion and follow through despite the difficulties is something that my children will admire and learn from as they begin searching for their place in this world. At thirty-two I certainly have not found mine yet, but have begun to figure out where to look for it. Weird that when I wrote the title for this post I was referring to my tears, but in the last few minutes the rain suddenly began pounding down on the roof above me. I cherish those little signs that show up unexpectedly and give me the confidence to follow my heart and speak my mind. I feel better already. Now maybe I can plow through the 20 GB of pictures I've taken in the last few days and put some in my next post...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Make-up & Mayhem

Yesterday I went to the Margi Theater and was able to observe the solo performer preparing her make-up and then watch the show. It was fascinating to watch her get ready by the light of a single bulb and a small hand-held mirror. Then her performance was amazing: all to the sounds of four drums and two sets of cymbals, with no words and no other actors. I am hoping to attend a similar group performance next week when I return from the backwaters (which I leave on a train for at 6 in the morning - yay!)



Today I didn't do much - just walked around the Chalai market hoping to find some good moments. Unfortunately, It was so incredibly hot while I was there that I couldn't sit still. This may sound weird - but I've noticed that it is actually cooler to be walking and sweating than to be standing still in the humidity! Anyways, on my way there I saw this kitty stepping out into the light...


I realized I don't have any pictures of me in India! This was a goofy attempt to change that...


The next few images are just snapshots of the market chaos. Sometimes its hard to watch for good moments when you are trying to avoid running into another person, a car, a motorcycle, an ox, or tripping over something on the ground...




And finally, just some pretty pictures, including the sunset tonight in Trivandrum as seen from an alleyway near my guest house.



Thanks for looking - check back soon...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Random Moments & Ramblings

For the last few days, I have been doing a lot of research. Some of this research has been in the form of spending time with locals and absorbing their knowledge, some has been wandering around and just watching. I have been meeting fascinating people, tasting different foods and asking lots of questions about the way of life here. Along the way I have snapped some pictures, too. Here are a randomly selected mix of them. Most of these pictures just remind me of something neat that I have seen or felt here...

This is from an all girls school with 5,700 students, the largest in India. These girls are so beautiful and friendly!

One night, Liza and I got on a bus instead of walking or taking an "auto" - partially to save money, partially just for the fun of it. I loved the colors and light bouncing around inside!

I never drink 7up back home, but here they basically just have 7up, Pepsi and Fanta orange soda. They serve them in these used glass bottles...

One morning at the market with Raj and Susan, we visited the basket shop of a childhood friend of Raj, and we were invited to enjoy some tea and snacks. These sizzling, spicy cashews were so incredibly delicious!

On our way back outside I liked the way the light was peaking in.

Something about this picture mesmerizes me.

This market was like a department store: organized into sections like food, clothing, hardware and electronics.

And this is the beautiful Kurinji, Raj and Susan's cat.

This is totally random, I know, but I like that.

The green fruit piled up on the right kinda looks like artichokes, but are actually custard apples. They are hard to describe but the insides make a yummy dessert.
Rarely do you see these little rick-shaws lined up in such an organized manner.

On my way to my room yesterday, I came across a man knealing in the street lighting a candle. I stopped and watched him while he worked.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Lazy Day & Lasagna

So I finally had a very lazy day. I felt like I should do something productive but I just wanted to lay around and read a book. After a while I got myself up and went to the zoo. I know this picture is out of focus but I just thought it was humorous that I had to buy a ticket for my camera to get into the zoo and it cost more than mine! Of course in US money they both added up to less than $1.00. I'm pretty sure this is Rafiki from the Lion King - he happily posed for me, but where is his stick?
Since I have been here I am fascinated by the people who sweep the streets and sidewalks with branches. I heard these ladies giggling as I took their picture.
I just liked the reflection here - this is right before it started to rain again.
What a cutie - he couldn't stop staring at me even though everyone around him was so excited to see the giraffe!
I think this giraffe is a supermodel in the animal world. He (or she) strutted across the enclosure and back, stopping a couple times to pose for me in the middle. It was weird and he reminds me of a seahorse in this shot!


After I made my way back to my room, I got dried off, finished my book and went out to dinner with Liza at a wonderful "western-style" restaurant where I ate some meaty lasagna. It was sooooo good... On our way there, the light on the water in this alley caught my eye so I had to capture it.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Pictures...finally!

I finally found an internet connection fast enough to let me uplaod pictures! I added some to a couple of the posts below from the school I went to and the train ride. These are some pictures I took yesterday in Kerala. I thought this little truck was adorable filled with fruits and vegetables when I came out of my hotel room in the morning...


Above is one of the alleys that leads to the guest house / hotel where I am staying. Below is kind of a self-portrait of me outside my room - I love the lock on my door!

This is an amazing view of the backwaters of Kerala down in Kovalam. These waterways are what attracted me to Kerala in the first place and where I will be spending a lot of time in the next couple of weeks. I will probably be lucky enough to stay with a family that actually lives on the water and document their way of life with pictures - yay!

And this is just some women walking down the main drag in Trivandrum. The sun is so harsh here that many women walk around with umbrellas during the day.

India is Fun!

I am having a blast in Kerala! Since I got here yesterday morning, my friend Liza has introduced me to so many amazing people who are also great resources for my stories. Both Liza and her friends have also provided me with invaluable tips about being a solo woman traveler in India and I feel lucky that my phone is quickly filling up with numbers I can call when I need help or advice. The rest of my time here is already booked with exciting adventures that include more monkeys, schools on the shore of a lake, living with a family in the backwaters, houseboats, crab fishermen and more twins! 6+ weeks sounded like a lot before, but I think it will fly by. Still can't upload my pictures, but tomorrow I will be trying out a different internet connection so cross your fingers for me...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

16 Hours on a Train



Yesterday afternoon I hopped on a train around 4pm and arrived at my destination of Trivandrum, the capital city of Kerala, around 8am this morning. The train station in Chennai was extremely crowded and smelly but the chaos was exciting. I was thrilled to be venturing out on my own, away from the security of my group members, and to explore another section of India. My friend, Muthu, had helped me purchase the appropriate seat on the train so that my sleeping bunk was the most desirable (up high) where I could easily protect my belongings while I slept. Unfortunately, that same seat meant I was not right next to a window but I could see out well enough and the two hours of daylight at the beginning of the trip were beautiful! On a shorter train ride I will probably opt for a window seat instead, so that I can take better pictures but I enjoyed this ride anyway and spent most of the time reading or sleeping... Once again I will update with some pictures when I get a better connection - hopefully tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Education in India





Yesterday was amazing! I spent several hours at an incredible school in Chennai that includes orphans, special needs children, low income, and everyone else from the age of 3 to 17! It is a very special place where the children receive dental and medical care on site and the doctors are volunteering their time. I LOVED it and can't wait to spend more time there when I return from Chennai. I am having trouble uploading pictures but I wanted to provide updates for those of you who are wondering what I'm doing. Internet here has been a real pain but as soon as I find a good connection I will add the pictures that go with the posts...

More India...

Here are a few more shots from my first few days...  Tomorrow I leave the big city of Chennai on a 14 hour train ride to Kerala.  I will be spending the next three weeks there and I hear it is beautiful...



Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Welcome to India!

These are a few images from my first days in India. Unfortunately, I can't share my best ones because they will hopefully be published in our book when we return so you will have to wait to see those.

Yesterday I saw monkeys and it made me happy! :)

I loved this little girl - she was very persistent and very smart. I wanted to take her home with me but instead I bought one of her necklaces...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

13 Hours in Hong Kong


So we had a pit stop in Hong Kong, on our way to India... Here is our group (minus one traveling from Italy) by the Bruce Lee statue on the Avenue of the Stars.We had a tour guide who took us to some markets, a park, and other very tourist-y spots.  These are my favorite shots...