Friday, 20 December 2013

Season's Greetings!

Wow, time flies when you're having fun I guess! A week long bout of flu not included! It's been crazy busy the past few weeks. I started working full time so have lost another morning (Sat - boo!) and two afternoons a week. Still volunteering as permits still not sorted but we have a back up plan to get visa extensions in case it's still not sorted by the end of Jan when our original visas run out.
Other than that we're getting into the whole 'playdate' thing. The parents here seem to be big on filling their kids' days so there tends to be playdates arranged in the afternoons, normally straight after kindergarden at 1pm as well as meeting at the main playground at 5pm for a last hour of play. For a somewhat introverted person like myself it's a bit exhausting but then it's good to get out, meet other parents and it's not really for my benefit but for my rather extroverted son. So far K has made a few friends and now we have a two week holiday so can spend a bit more time making plans.
The garden is coming along, we have been enjoying our first tomato and lettuce harvest,

as well as the greens from our garlic plants which add a lovely subtle garlic taste to a salad.

We've taken a bit of a step back from the garden as other areas of our lives get more demanding but what with the scattered monsoon rains and everything being quite well established after 3 months of growth it's been lower maintenance anyway.
I just finished a five week course on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (just Saturday mornings). I'm much less stressed anyway but thought it a good chance to refresh myself and I've learned a few good methods including Loving Kindness Meditation. There is often interesting courses available here, especially now as the tourist season has just started so I look forward to doing some more in the new year.
I now have a set of wheels for getting about on. It's a TVS XL moped, a very popular bike here. It's a good first bike as it doesn't have gears - just an accelerator and brake. It's so useful as things are rather spread out here and cycling in the heat on long distances is a bit exhausting. I'm happy with it.
Have been struggling to get in my usual festive mood. I think the cold weather really helps that cosy wintery feeling. The locals complain it's cold here now, currently 30 degrees and a mere 20 tonight - brrrrrrrrr! I did want to celebrate Christmas though, K is of an age where it's a magical time so we made a paper tree and decorated it with K's Grandma one afternoon as well as hanging up his stocking and making paper chains.

 I did spend Christmas day here on my first visit to India 6 years ago but we were childless and on holiday in Goa so it was a different thing altogether! Still no oven so no roast dinner but am hoping to stock up on cheese, crackers and nibbles and might even find an imported bottle of Baileys somewhere in Pondy - a girl can hope! We'll be having brunch with some extended family and then the day's our own - we'll see where it takes us... :)
Yesterday there was an open day at K's kindergarden including an end of year performance by the four classes. The theme was the five elements (Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Ether/Spirit). K's class did an Earth dance and it was just wonderful. It's the first performance we've been to, I'm sure those of you with children understand that big, big feeling when watching your kids perform. Lovely. Very proud mama.
 The whole school:

Looking a bit grumpy here bless him...

Inside his classroom:
The entrance to the kindergarten:

Special kolam for the open day:

These bowls of flowers are refreshed daily at the entrance:

He just came home today, his last day until the new year, with a goodie bag including this photo, his t-shirt from his performance, paints, an apple and a couple balloons. Just love this photo, have framed it already.

Anyway, that's us pretty much up to date, sorry it's been so long since the last update. The boys are out running errands so had a quick moment to myself. If I don't 'see' you before, hope you all have a lovely festive season.
Sending love, especially to my family and friends at this time.
Laura, C and K xxxxxx

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Reasons to be cheerful...

...part, not Ian Dury but a fitting title for today's post.

I've noticed that since moving here, I am more aware of all these tiny moments of joy or peace that make up the day.

It can be something small like the feeling shortly before K's bedtime when we're all fed, washed, the house is tidied and the calm of evening descends or when receiving our daily half litre of milk fresh from the local village and delivered by a smiling old guy on a moped, (churn of milk strapped to the back) who pours it straight into a saucepan for boiling. The bamboo lined, sun dappled cycle ride to K's kindergarten, smiling often and being smiled at by strangers and waking up at dawn to the sound of unfamiliar, tropical birds.

Today, K, the sisters from our community and another boy (a friend of the girls and in K's class) played in the community. They'd spend time at the girls house, race about on the cycles, spend some time at our house and then back out. The community was filled with the sound of noisy, laughing, joyful children and it made me so happy. If ever there was justification for our move, then this was it and when you add on all the other moments of total awareness and thankfulness, it's really something. Don't get me wrong, it's not all perfect but the good, far, far outweighs the bad. When we arrived K really struggled with the change and I honestly never thought it would get better. He still has his difficult moments but it is getting better all the time.

This feeling is summed up for me in the track 'You Set The Scene' by Love (track here if you're interested - Love (I was at this gig <3)):

"You go through changes, it may seem strange
Is this what you're put here for?
You think you're happy and you are happy
That's what you're happy for."


"This is the time and life that I am living
And I'll face each day with a smile
For the time that I've been given's such a little while
And the things that I must do consist of more than style
There are places that I am going."

Just perfect (and no apologies for indulgently quoting lyrics at you - this track sums things up better than I can - haha!)

So, just a little post this evening, just a reminder for me really to take pleasure from all the little things in life because they add up to so much.


Monday, 11 November 2013

Hi there!

Hi, time for a bit of an update. I have to wait for the perfect moment to write as our lives here are filled with busy-ness.

Things have been going really well, K is settling into kindergarten after a difficult first few weeks. It was quite a big change for him after only going to nursery twice a week in the UK but he seems so happy and settled now and he is getting on well with the other children in the community too, they often spend the afternoons cycling up and down the main path and exploring/playing games.

Since the beginning of Oct when K started kindergarten, C and I have been working as volunteers. C is working in the Pour Tous kitchen - which is linked to the food co-op of the same name - so people can get ready made lunches at the same time as getting their groceries. He's enjoying it as in the UK he worked in a number of kitchens but never had the freedom to make what he wanted and I know he's also learning lots which is useful for cooking at home!

I'm working in the same area at the clothing co-op called Nandini. It works on the same basis as Pour Tous, to become a member you contribute a certain amount of mony each month and the idea is that you take what you need and if you go over your allocated funds then it's not a problem as it should balance out over the year if you take less at other times. It's a nice place to work and I get to meet many people which is invaluable as a newcomer to AV. It also look as though I will be taken on with a full maintenence once I am officially a Newcomer which is a great start. All the service based jobs within AV are paid on a maintenence, full or half depending on the hours worked. As well as getting money into our account (money isn't used within AV, rather everyone has an account with a four digit number and you give the number when 'paying' for things in shops/restaurants etc), a maintenence covers money towards the health fund, the AV contribution (everyone pays a monthly contribution of around £30 to Auroville in general), a little towards our Pour Tous account and towards meals at the Solar Kitchen. Also once I receive this, K will receive some money for clothing/meals etc which is a great help.

So we're pretty busy, but happy at the same time. We all have our afternoons free together at the moment as we're both just volunteering part time for now. We're spending quite some time on our garden which is doing really well. Our tomato plants are flowering, the basil and lemongrass is flourishing and we have planted a pineapple, ginger, garlic, coriander, spring onions and lettuce in pots and troughs on the balcony. I want to get some more herbs planted and I really want to try growing cucumbers at some point. Hopefully today I'll be getting a potted lemon tree for the balcony which I'm excited about. We're also getting the front of the house looking nice, slowly it's looking less like a building site although it's hard work as the soil needs totally digging up and reworking with compost and a little sand. It's worth it though. :)

The beginning of Nov marked Diwali here so there was much celebration and fireworks. We went to a fireworks 'display' on Friday the 1st which was very different to a British display. Instead of a display of carefully choreographed fireworks watched from a distance, the children all lined up and received a big handful of sparklers and assorted fireworks and then gathered in a relatively small space and just lit them. It was chaotic and I just know that something like that would never happen in the UK (health and safety nightmare!) but nobody got hurt and everyone had a great time. Here's a few pictures:

The following day we were awoken to the sound of fireworks going off all around. It continued all day and well into the night. In the evening C and I climbed onto the roof and watched the fireworks going off. The sky above Pondy just 8km away glowed so I can only imagine how they celebrated their festival of lights - maybe next year we'll brave the chaos and go.

Art outside the old Pour Tous shop for Diwali made from coloured powder.
and a kolam outside the new Pour Tous being made - just beautiful.

  We finally got a little rain a few days later, here's K enjoying the novely. It didn't last but for one day I enjoyed wearing a cardigan and socks for the first time in two months. It also softened up the ground so the gardening has been a little easier.

Here's the birds sheltering on our window sill.

A few days ago we went to my first Indian wedding, a colleague working in the same area as me and C got marrried and as is customary, everyone gets invited. We went along for the evening celebrations. Here we are dressed up and ready to go (K's photo taking skills are very good)
 and the hall before it filled up
K was given some candy floss which kept him entertained
and it got a bit loud
The bride and groom arriving
The musicians leading the procession
We didn't stay for the whole evening but it was fun to go along and offer our congratulations to the happy couple.
That's about it for now, it's lunch time and K needs picking up from kindergarten in half an hour. More soon and as always, thanks for reading.


Saturday, 26 October 2013

Our trip to Mahabs.

So last Sat we donned our helmets and made the 100km road trip up the coast to Mahabalipuram.

It's a world heritage site with one of the oldest temples in the whole of South India as well as being famous for it's stone carvings. I went there with C six years ago but we only had the briefest of stays there overnight last year on the last leg of our two day journey back to AV from Goa. More info here: Mahabs Wiki Page. We left at around 8.30am and arrived about two hours later. After a late breakfast we went for a wander. 
We went in one of the many shops selling the most beautiful carvings...

...before heading to the park containing some of the main attractions. Here is me and K by the free standing rock known as Krishna's Butter Ball:

Then we stopped to take in the view:

Here's a carving from between the 7th - 9th century:

And a temple carved entirely from one rock:

Finally ending up at the Pancha Rathas, a  five monolithic pyramidal structures named after the Pandavas (Arjuna, Bhima, Yudhishtra, Nakula and Sahadeva) and Draupadi. Despite their sizes each of these is carved from one single large piece of stone.

And for a little perspective of how impressive they are:

After a rest at the hotel we headed out to the shore temple - built in 700 - 728 AD. One of the oldest structures in the whole of South India.

Mahabs at dusk:

The next morning we headed out to Croc Bank just a few km North of Mahabs (Croc Bank)

Most of the crocs were just lying about although one gave us a smile!

Interesting to see the types of reptiles found in the wild in our area. After the crocs we headed to the snake house and saw a talk and display of the four venomous snakes which was a real education for both me and K. So far I'd just seen two rat snakes which are harmless. K really jumped when the keeper make the cobra strike!

After that we went back to Mahabs for some lunch before heading home. About half an hour from home we drove into torrential rains - a little bit of monsoon. Was so nice to get home and dry.
There's not really been any rain since even though it is officially monsoon season. C keep tracking it's progress down to us online. Because AV is on a plateau we seem to miss rains that even hit Pondy just 8km away. We all want the rain!
Anyway, that was our trip. Was so nice to have a night away and I look forward to more in the future.
Thanks for reading. Laura.


Friday, 18 October 2013

Our House part 2

Hi there!
I wanted to talk about the outside of our house today. It's a big thing for me and C as for all of my 10 (and C's 8) years of town living, I never had a garden which for someone raised in the country is not so nice. I had a few potted plants but that is not the same.
Our house was the last to be finished in the community so the ground outside of the house is not in great shape. Very hard with varying amounts of cement, bits of wire, plastic etc embedded within it. It's going to take a lot of work but it's so satisfying to see the results of said hard work. We also have a total of 8 troughs on our 2 balconies so have a lot of space to fill!
One of the first things to be done was to have some steps built to our front door. Before we just had earth which once monsoon kicks in will quickly become mud. We had two workers come and dig up the ground in front of the door, then they laid bricks where the steps would be and filled it with concrete before returning the next day to cover the concrete with various shards of slate in a mosaic style pattern. Here are the before, during and after photos:

We're really happy with it and the work only came to the equivalent of £20.
The next part has been to create a kind of boundary as our house in on an end of a block. This means that people often walk over our garden to get to their houses and it's useful to know what kind of area we have to work with. When we arrived there were blocks of stone marking a boundary which needed moving and replacing with bamboo, it was under one of the stones that I met my first scorpion! C had to kill it as we have to be very careful that K doesn't touch one of these.
Here's the bamboo boundary:

Two of the plants we have been given is the desert rose which you might be able to just see in the above photo, it has started to flower and has the most beautiful blooms:
On the balconies, we are now growing basil plants which do well here as well as tomatoes, tulsi, lemongrass and a baby papaya tree. K has been 'given' the papaya tree so hopefully he'll see it grow, be transferred to the ground and eventually eat fruit from it.


Here are the basil plants on the left, including some wild basil on the right side of the left trough. In the other trough we have some tulsi and then lots of baby tomato plants. They're doing well so far and it has been so satisfying to eat home grown basil in our pasta sauce.

This is a leaf of a type of succulent which grows baby plants all around it

Here it is  getting bigger with another new plant (not sure of the name)

A friend of ours, who we stayed with last year has lived here for 30 years and has a very well established garden, she's kindly given us a number of plants and has invited us to take cutting of whatever we like. it's a great help as it could get very expensive to buy all the plants we'd like. Looking forward to growing more and filling up the other troughs soon.
That's all for now as have to pop out before lunch.
We're off up the coast to Mahabalipuram (Mahabalipuram Wikipedia link) for a night tomorrow. I first went there with C 6 years ago and it has so many wonderful carvings and temples to see. There is also a crocodile sanctury/zoo nearby which we plan to take K to, will report back on our return. I also want to show you photos from our visit to the Auroville Botanical Gardens at some point.
Thanks for reading.
Laura x