Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas 2010

This Christmas season finds us in the cold, snowy midwest. where December temperature averages have consistently been well below average and we've had some snow each day except three. But we are cozy in our house and the roads are always passable (midwest drivers are used to snow and enjoy mostly flat, straight, plowed roads).

As is our pattern, we spent two months in India in the spring and again in the fall, volunteering at Woodstock School. During the summer, we visited both our children's families, attended the Woodstock School North American reunion in Washington, DC, took a two-night getaway to Mackinac Island (a long-time dream of mine), and a long weekend in Las Vegas for me to celebrate with my three sisters; we are now all in our 60s. On our way to India in September, we spent a wonderful week in London with good friends Nina, Mahesh and Dhruv, who moved there from Bangalore in July.

We had our last visit to Neah Bay, WA, to visit Dirk and Tracy and family in January. In the summer they moved to Spokane, where Tracy commutes to work on the Spokane Indian Reservation. They are enjoying the amenities of city life after living so remotely for so long. Seth and Jasmine are at the local Community College and Maya is adjusting to a high school that is larger than the town she lived in before. We enjoyed visiting there in August and we're spending Christmas with them, this time traveling by Amtrak. (A different experience from Indian trains; some things better, some things not as good.)

Anjali and Domingos also moved this summer, to Virginia Beach, where Domingos is posted at the U.S. Naval School of Music. However, he spent most of the fall in an officer training course at Fort Lee near Richmond. Anjali has been building free-lance performing opportunities in the area as well as some substitute teaching in the schools.

While we are in Goshen, we live a pretty quiet life. I continue to attend a water aerobics class 5 days a week at 8:00 AM, enjoying both the exercise and the people I've gotten to know there. When the weather allows, I cook dinner for Dan's father (now 92) and friends Mary and Verna Oyer on Mondays. I visit my mother (89) in Indianapolis regularly. Dan exercises 7 days a week and enjoys racquetball. He broke a bone in his right hand in June, which cut out his racquetball and bicycling for most of the summer.

We were fortunate to see most of our extended families over Thanksgiving -- the Linds at our home on Thursday, and Lehmans in West Lafayette on Saturday. We have had many family members and friends stay in our home during the year and we are always happy to have them (and you!) here -- even when we are in India.

We are grateful for our wonderful families and friends and hope to see many of you in 2011.

Comfort and joy to you and yours,
Anne (and Dan)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Happy Diwali!

Today is Diwali, the celebration that rivals a combination of Christmas and New Year's in the west. The school is closed for the day and there are firecrackers going off most of the night.

This is our last day in Mussoorie. We will be leaving in the early afternoon to catch the train to Meerut to visit friends for the weekend. We fly out of Delhi late Wednesday night and arrive home mid-day on Thursday.

Thanks for reading my blog. I expect to begin again in early April when I return.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pushtas

Pushta is the Hindi word for retaining wall. Living in the newest mountains in the world (which are still moving), there is a lot of need for them around this area. The first photo shows what most of them look like after surviving a monsoon.

This is a place that didn't have a pushta before the last monsoon, but will probably get one soon. You can see how crumbly much of the hills are.

This is a brand new pushta on the back side of the chakkar, not far from the new Lal Tibba overlook. The holes allow water to drain out during the monsoon, helping to prevent bulging and breaking.


This is the same place, showing how the construction looks.


Here's a longer view; this is one of the biggest pushtas around.


Here are the men working on it. Every stone is painstakingly laid by hand. If the rocks are too large, they are hit with hammers until they break apart.


In this photo you can see the pyramid shape of the pushta from the side.


The large one below Landour Hospital is making good progress. It is quite far out from the side of the hill; it looks like they are doing that to widen the road (you can see the crumbly edge of the road at the top of the work area).


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tuesday Miscellany

Today, a few pictures that I've downloaded because they are interesting, but they aren't held together by a theme.

These rugs airing on the fence just before Mullingar must have been from a hotel or some establishment other than a home. I hope no one trips over that hole!


At the end of every restaurant meal, the bill comes on a tray with saunf (fennel seeds) and sugar to mix together and chew. It clears the palate very well. The sugar is often like this, in very large crystals.


Along the back side of Kulri hill, you can see why there are sometimes breaks in the water lines...


Right near the hospital tea shops, I looked down to see this boy trying to retrieve a red sweater that had fallen from the road. The perspective is a bit difficult, but the stone wall at the bottom of the photo is vertical. The whole area was extremely steep and it was fortunate that he didn't slide further down the landslide. People on the road kept throwing stones at the sweater on a ledge, trying to knock it off (he couldn't have reached it). Eventually a large rock did dislodge it, fortunately not hitting the boy.


Here is he is with the sweater, trying to climb up the steep side of the landslide, which was loose dirt and gravel. He did make it, with his family helping him over the fence at the top.


One of the most interesting things here is the phenomenon of the winterline. It is caused by refraction in the cold air. The line is very distinct and is not a horizon. I'm told that there is a place in Switzerland where it also occurs. The sunsets are very colorful. A photo like this is a classic in the albums of almost all winter visitors to Mussoorie.


Monday, November 1, 2010

More Picnic Photos

Today, a random selection of photos from the picnic. This is the farmhouse just above the fields where the oxen were plowing. Definitely vertical acreage!


Mr. Chopel took a walk up toward the farmhouse and purchased two large pumpkins from the farmer. On his return, Immu helped him with the pumpkins so he could get back across the creek. This is the same man who saved another staff member's life at a previous picnic. That one was held on the Yumuna River and many went tubing. One man who couldn't swim slipped out of his tube and got caught in the swift current. Mr. Chopel jumped in and managed to drag him to safety. He won a national award for bravery that year. People still talk about it.


Nasturtiums growing in the garden.


A vine that climbed up and into the opening at the top of the gazebo.


Pretty pinkish-red flowers. Maybe someone else can identify them.


Playing badminton without a net in the open area.


Strawberry plants in the garden!


I kept hoping someone would take the challenge and climb this tree with the rope ladder, but I don't think anyone did.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Picnic lunch

We were well-fed at the picnic. Soon after we arrived we were served coffee, tea, and lemonade (made from their own limes). In one of the flower beds I saw this stalk of celery growing. Evidently they are working hard to grow some unusual things and to use them in the food they serve.

With the coffee and tea, we had some nice vegetable spring rolls.

About 12:30 two of our visitors were served their lunch, as they had to leave early. Phil and Alan had plans to climb Witches' Hill during the afternoon. They made it up, around, and back down, and then Alan met Dan to play some squash. He's an active guy!


Here is a full plate showing the lovely rice pilau, dal, subzi (vegetable), and tandoori roti.


Rice and dal in serving line.

Subzi and rotis in warming containers.

Tandoori chicken.

Sitting in the yard eating lunch.

For dessert we had vanilla ice cream with bitter orange sauce, absolutely delicious. I ended up leaving before teatime, but I'm sure it was something good!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Picnic, pt. 2

Once we had arrived at Brentwood and been told the schedule (coffee and tea first, lunch at 1:00, tea at 3:30), many of us headed off up the hill or across the stream.

As I headed up the hill, I saw several of our taxi drivers sitting in a nice field in the sun. It looked like they were playing Parcheesi.


At one point the path was quite overgrown; a bit higher it widened and looked passable by a 4-wheel-drive vehicle.


A tree on a bluff.


A view ahead. Notice the white gravel on the path ahead.


I was with Ben, Mark, Annie, and Abhra. Phil had left earlier and was on his way down when we met. We visited for a while, then I headed back down with Phil.


The day was clear and views were gorgeous in every direction.


This view is looking down at the Brentwood facility on the left. The taxis were waiting for us to depart later in the day.


Tomorrow: lunch

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Staff Picnic

This week has been Activity Week for most of the school. Grades 6 and up have left the campus, most going on hikes and other outdoor activities. Even the young students here have gone off for day trips and camping overnights. That leaves the support staff in the various administrative offices, including ours (Development and Alumni Affairs). On Monday I was happy to hear that there is an annual picnic for the support staff during this week. So yesterday at 9:00 many of us were at the school gate to pile into at least eight taxis for the hour-long drive to Brentwood Sanctuary. I hadn't even heard of this place, but many others had been there before. The drive went all the way to the west through Library Bazaar and down the Kempty Falls Road. A few kilometers above the falls, we turned off onto a non-metalled (read unpaved) road that went another couple of kilometers to the Sanctuary. The Sanctuary part is for the Himalayan Quail, last spotted in 1876 in this area. We arrived to find two buildings, one containing about 4 rooms with attached baths, and a number of tents set up for overnights. There was a very large grassy area, a stream, and other amenities. The owner of the Tavern restaurant also owns this property. It isn't advertised, but by word of mouth many schools and other organizations in Mussoorie know about it and have activities there.

One of the first things I saw was the double swimming pool. It didn't seem very clean and the water was icy cold; no one went in.


As I walked onto the grassy area, I saw two little rivulets running into the stream below. They were small enough to just step across. The ground was very wet all around.


The stream had lots of rapids and small falls; it was beautiful, as was its sounds. Later they put on some loud music with a speaker sitting outside; we got them to turn it off -- we were there to see and hear nature, not loud music!



As we arrived, we could see some farmers plowing their fields with oxen right across the stream. Each field was terraced and very small; one looked about 5 x 15 feet!


As I was watching, the farmer tried to turn a corner too sharply and one of the oxen went down. He managed to loosen the yoke fairly quickly and the ox was soon up and working again; it didn't seem to be hurt.


Later we saw them set loose to have their lunch at the edges of the fields.


Tomorrow: more pictures of the picnic


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Last Word

Finally, more than two weeks later, the last of the Writers’ Festival posts! As I said in the beginning, the entire event was fantastic. I hope you’ve gotten a little taste of what those of us fortunate enough to attend were able to hear. I’ve provided quite a few links to information about the presenters and some of their organizations for your exploration.

The last session was actually titled “The Last Word.” As had the morning session, it focused on conservation, sanctuary, protecting nature, especially the Himalayan Mountains near where we live here.

Prerna Binda, who spoke on tigers to the children on the first day, talked about the power of words, and what “wildlife” actually means. Her book The King And I: Travels in Tigerland celebrates the tiger, worries for their future, mourns their passing and hopes that they continue to rule the wild, forever. She mentioned so many writers who have written books and articles about conservation and wildlife and ended with these words: “Write and Spread the Message.”



Jim Curran, who spoke earlier about conquering fear, showed slides of many of his paintings of mountain scenes. Rather than trying to duplicate photographic-style pictures, his mountains are stylized and give the sense of what it might be like to be there.

The final speaker of the Festival was Shailaja Bajpai, an Indian Express journalist whose novel, Three Parts Desire, is due out later this year. It takes place in Delhi, New York, a small town in Uttar Pradesh, and an unnamed hill station -- and sounds like one I will enjoy reading!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bazaar Visit

No matter how often I go into the bazaar, I always see something new and different that I never noticed before. I’m not sure if I’m not observant enough or if it’s just that most places are so small that it’s easy to miss them. Sunday afternoon I kept my eyes open and my camera at the ready.

I've seen this framing shop on Mullingar Hill frequently, but yesterday it was decorated nicely -- maybe in preparation for Diwali next week.


On the hill into Kulri after the clock tower, a new ditch has appeared.


At the lower end of the ditch is this sign -- "Sawadhan -- Caution" then seewar karya pragati per hai -- sewer construction is on (meaning, not transliteration). I presume the small lettering is the authority in charge.


Also on the hill down toward Kulri; how can such a tiny tea stall make enough to stay in business?


Fish shop; the muchli-wallah told us it is from the Yamuna River near Dehra Dun and was delivered fresh that morning.


Another tiny restaurant -- I'm quite sure they aren't related to the larger Golden Restaurant near the Clock Tower.


One of several vendors laid out on the road selling plastic items -- toys and household goods.


And just below the hospital, a bit away from the regular food shops, is this meat shop. It says "Jhatka" above the picture of a goat and "mutton shop" below. The bird is probably a chicken. You can see the English words "Jhatka Mutton Shop" in the window.