Tuesday, 16 December 2014


Oh my, how time flies! I don't intend to leave it so long between posts...honest!

I've been so wrapped up in work, play and home life that I'm usually worn out by the time it comes to catching up on here.

I am working on a brand new website for the organisation where I work which, as project manager, means I have had lots to do including maintaining communication with the web designers who are based in Germany, making 'wire-frames', and treading the fine line between making executive decisions and allowing the team to all have their say. Been just a bit stressful but we're into the content phase now which, once it's done with, our part should be over for a time. It's been fun too and I'm learning a lot.

I started Zumba classes twice a week in the evening. I did a little in the UK and loved it but hadn't done it in a class environment before (it was easier from the safety of my living room!). It's been great! I've been looking for a good exercise for getting my heart-rate up and the class environment pushes you to actually do it – I find it waaaaay too easy to let things slip if left to my own devices!

We've also been going through a bit of a tough time with K. He seems to be going through a rough patch, lots of frustration, screaming and crying. We've been trying to be patient but to have a fuss each and every morning about having a shower, getting dressed, having breakfast, getting to school etc starts to wear you down. I have to admit, I'm not well equipped to deal with high intensity negative emotion as my own childhood was full of it so it gives me the realisation that I need to work on myself in order to help him. Not easy but I think we'll get there. There is always ups and downs.

I've been baking lots too. C's café are still selling my cakes and in a bid to cater to the influx of guests and tourists, I've been adapting some recipes to be vegan. I didn't realise how much I enjoyed it and it's a wonderful feeling when you hear that your vegan apple crumble sold out in one evening! I have plans for the new year for a number of new treats and have been inspired by a work colleague who is not only vegan but has a gluten free diet so I have a whole stack of GF flours to 'play' with.

On Friday we're heading to Goa for 3 weeks! I am incredibly excited...or at least I will be once we're on the train and I can forget about all the 'things' I have to do. We were going to see C's dad who lives there but he will be away for the first 2 weeks renewing his visa so he's let us stay at his house and use his motorbike so it's saving us a tonne of cash (it's peak season in Goa). We'll find somewhere nice for the last week and enjoy seeing C's dad for the first time since our wedding 2.5 years ago.

I also treated myself to a new smart-phone with the last of my birthday money, as a staunch Nokia basic phone user for many years, it's been a steep learning curve. I now have an instagram account if you want to 'follow' me >>> http://instagram.com/dandelioness1/

I'm struggling to feel festive, it wasn't too bad last year but this year, maybe because we're going to be away I just can't get into the spirit. There are parts I don't miss, like rushing around for presents but I kind of miss the cold, the excitement in the air, the food and general snuggly feeling. it's too hot for that here!

Anyway, I have to sign off as it's already 9.30pm and I've not stopped all day!

Wishing everyone a happy Christmas and a wonderful new year. 

L xx

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Catching up!

My blog has been neglected this past month. Sometimes words flow and other times they just don't. Anyway, the boys have gone into town for fireworks for the Diwali celebrations today and tomorrow so I have a moment to catch up.

The day after my birthday was the beginning of the 2 week half term for K. As a working mum, I have mixed feelings about school holidays, I put too much pressure on myself to try and maintain my usual workload at the same time as taking time off to be with my son. This made it rather stressful and serves as a reminder to me to slow down and give myself a break, sometimes the work just has to be put on hold.

The first day back to school, the 6th of Oct was K's 5th birthday.
It doesn't feel so long ago that he was this big

 Coming to festivals with us from 8 months

With his bright and shining personality.
I'm so proud of how he's grown and dealt with the changes that we've encountered in this past year. He's becoming much more aware of himself and is surprising us all the time.
I made a special birthday puja for him before anyone else woke up and filled the house with flowers from the garden.
Opening his biggest present in the morning!
He went off to school with a bag of sweets to share with the whole school as is the custom here and we had a small birthday party at our house in the afternoon for his specially selected friends. It all went really well, me and C struggle a bit with kids parties - last year we'd not long arrived in India so were ill prepared but this time we had a paddling pool out, a treasure hunt planned and a good mix of kids.

Hunting for clues in the community garden...
Cake time!
My new favourite chocolate cake recipe.
He had a great time as did the other kids which is what matters and we were all asleep by 8-9pm. Funny how a 2 hour kids party seems to drain energy more than anything!
Since then we've been plodding along. Mostly working and then home stuff like the garden, cooking etc. Until a week ago, the weather was still really hot and humid so have been dealing with heat rash and living in a permenantly sweaty state which might have contributed to my lack of interest in blogging!
I have seen some interesting bugs recently, mainly caterpillars.
Beautiful red dragonfly
A hitchhiker on my motorbike
A hairy caterpillar whose hair gives you a very nasty sting if they touch you, these also like to dangle from trees on threads!
An interesting horny caterpillar on my kumquat tree on the balcony
A spotty one on the front step
I finally visited the Matrimandir alone for the first time a few weeks back. I'd only previously been twice, once on each visit to Auroville and whilst it was a wonderful experience, it's nothing compared to going in alone and really connecting (or should that be disconnecting???) with you and the universe. As a guest to AV there is a whole process to visiting and I wanted to wait until I was fully integrated into the community before going in. I had planned to visit on our 1 year anniversary of arriving in AV but I had a cough at the time and couldn't go as it's a place for silent contemplation, even breathing sounds loud! 
One path to the underneath of the Matrimandir
Hard to give an impression of the magniture of the structure
The lotus pond beneath the Matrimandir.
I had a beautiful experience, sat in silence, trying to observe and gain clarity to some recent events. I now feel a better sense of direction and it inspired me to start volunteering one morning of Matrimandir duty a week. I just do an hour between 7-8am on a Tuesday. My job is to sit outside the main entrance to the Matrimandir and check who is going in. It's only really for Aurovilians at that time of the day so there isn't much to do but there is an occasional guest with a pass to check but mainly it's just a lovely place to sit and a lovely time to be outside. My duty was cancelled this morning but should be back on next week.

Since last Thursday we've been experiencing real monsoon rains, it's rained almost constantly. This morning we were informed that 91cm of rain has fallen in the past 5 days. This is amazing news as the past few years have yielded very little rain. It refills the village wells and ponds as well as our own AV reserves. It's been drier today but might still rain some more. I genuinely love enjoying the rain so much, it is a refreshing attitude and one I can't imagine having back in the UK.
We just bought a hammock chair which has been my favourite monsoon viewing spot


 It's been lovely!
Other than that we have been planning our trip to Goa. We were struggling with finding the right dates to go but have settled on going over the school Christmas holidays so that K doesn't miss his school end of term performance. He'll miss the first week back in Jan as we plan to go for 3 weeks but it seems less of an issue. We have booked an overnight direct train from Chennai to Goa which is the best option for us. Flying is quicker but considerably more expensive and there were cheaper options but it involved 2 days travel which eats into our holiday time. It will be nice to have a break and also to see C's dad who lives there. Can't wait!
Tomorrow is Diwali and tonight we will go to Bharat Nivas for the kids fireworks fun. See this post for a bit on last years event: http://ourindiaventure.blogspot.com/2013/11/hi-there.html
Anyway, think we're all up to date now. More soon I hope!
Love, Laura.


Monday, 22 September 2014

Just over 1 Year...

...ago we landed in Chennai airport and made the 3 hour drive down to Auroville to our new home and new life. Those early days and weeks passed in a blur of paperwork, visiting friends and getting unpacked.

There is now a feeling of familiarity about this time of year, certain flowers in bloom, fruits in season and bugs and butterflies around. It's nice to be reminded visually of our first moments here. It's been amazing. Sure, there have been a few tough moments, K struggling to settle in the beginning, the heat and tempers of the summer but I honestly don't remember a previous year that I've felt so happy, so right.

I'm getting used to lots, I don't flinch much at bugs (well...except cockroaches), I have perfected the sideways Indian headshake (the universal sign of yes, no, maybe, I don't know, it doesn't matter...etc...) and I can even say a few words of Tamil (it's a slow process as it's an incredibly complex and ancient language). The growing changes over the first months, the nervous feeling about venturing out on my own, my first drive on my moped, my first solo trip into the nearest town. It's nice to feel at home here, I feel it all the more as tourist season slowly starts up again and fresh faced hippy kids shakily drive their mopeds about town looking lost. I love how much I've learned by living amongst people of such different cultures (about 40 nationalities live here), I've discovered kombucha and kimchi, laddus and lemon soda
I miss some things about the UK, fresh air for example, like real fresh cold air. It cools briefly here during a storm - during which I go out on the balcony and embrace the coldness and the wet, but otherwise it's hot, humid, sweaty which gets draining after while - not to mention I am currently blessed with prickly heat rash, the result of constant sweating which feels like thousands of pins being stuck into your skin simultaneously. I miss the ease of finding things I need or want, I had such fun trying to find split pins for a craft project with K, the blank looks of each and every shop keepers face followed by being handed a multitude of other pins, drawing pins, paperclips, etc until I backed off and decided to ask the folks back home to send me some...I (sometimes) even miss convenience food. Here my idea of convenience food is a jar of freshly made pesto from the food co-op, instead of making my own, to go on my pasta - the occasional frozen pizza and chips wouldn't go amiss (or a cider for that matter!). But all that aside, and I'm sure within weeks the novelty would wear off, those longings are not an everyday thing.
My 30th birthday was yesterday and as my 20s have drawn to a close I am reminded how far we've come and how sure I am that we made the right move. No, it's not perfect, there are always jobs, chores, errands, 'things' to do, issues to deal with, people to try to understand or tolerate but at least we're doing all this in a place that facilitates our growth, nurtures our spirits and gives us joy in our hearts.
Roll on the next year!
More soon, with love.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

What a month!

Wow, this past month has just flown by!
So the 1st was C's birthday, we went to Pondy in the evening (K at C's mums for the night) and had a lovely dinner in a fancy hotel on the sea front. These nights that we get child free are so important, it's nice to reconnect and relax a bit!
A few days later 2 huge truckloads of earth were delivered to our community to be used to raise the level of the communal garage. Obviously K was delighted!

The floor is now filled and compacted and the next stage is to cover with concrete. This is funded with the community account (each adult pays 200rs/£2 a month into this account for such projects) and projects are decided on at our monthly community meeting. Sadly not everyone participates in the meetings but me and C like to keep active in this area and I think it's good that a few of us younger residents show some interest in what happens.
The 15th marked not only Independance Day on a national scale but also the birthday of Sri Aurobindo, the guru of The Mother, who dreamed up the concept of Auroville. The community celebrate by having a bonfire at the Martimandir amphitheatre. I hadn't been before (the bonfire is lit at 5am!!) but I wanted to go so made the 4am wake up call and cycled there. It was quite exciting and nice to be going for the first time alone. I enjoy having that time for reflection, to connect with my own experience of life here.
I found a spot at the back, to enable me to take the whole scene in. It was very quiet, people only speaking in very hushed tones if at all.
Then the fire was lit, there was still silence in the amphitheatre, only the crackling of the swiftly ignited fire could be heard. After about 15 minutes, a recording of a reading of some of Sri Aurobindo's writings was played which added to the mood.
(I've not read his work and not much of The Mother's either - luckily not a prerequisite to living here. I tend to follow my own path spiritually and use bits of certain religions, philosophies and ideas to shape that path. I guess being raised by anarchists taught me not to conform too much to any one ideal. I'm glad that I am able to feel that way and live here without prejudice - in reality their collective work isn't meant to be seen as a religion...)
Then we watched as the sky grew lighter and the birds started singing. It was a very beautiful thing to witness and I felt very connected to the collective as well as myself.

At around 6am I cycled home again, feeling elated. I had enough time to get changed and headed back out to attend my yoga class. I got home at 8.30, energised, tired and happy.
One reason I haven't updated my blog this month is that we had an earsplitting thunder and lightning storm which hit our hub and blew it as well as our PC. We still have our laptop but we had no internet for nearly 2 weeks which was initially devastating as it represents my link to my family and friends back home but after the cravings wore off, I found myself being much more proactive!
I finally made a project this month that I had been meaning to make for ages. I'm always looking for ways to reuse waste creatively and found this project on Pinterest:
Here is my version which K is very happy with. He's just reached an age where dressing up is a big part of his play.

 We also had a call from the RRO regarding our visas and were asked to come in on the 18th to collect them. We arrived just before 4.30pm as requested and sat for about half an hour before being told that due to a power cut, they wouldn't be ready that day and to return the following afternoon. The next day we returned and sat for over an hour, during which time and number of men sifted through piles of applications, doling them out to various people. Finally they found C's, then after another painful wait, they found mine but not K's as apparently they made (another) mistake with his and had to redo it...!!! So, me and C are finally legally here but not K yet. Hopefully his will be ready in the coming week...we'll see...

Then on the 21st I started my 'Newcomer orientation week', which is a week spent with people who also joined Auroville at around the same time. We visited a number of interesting places and projects, a large number of which I'd not been to before and some I'd only seen a little of:
It was amazing to see how much hard work goes on here. We don't always see because we focus on our work, our home, our friends but when you get the chance to see the bigger picture it is an affirmation of why we're here. Our base for this was the Tibetan Pavillion in the cultural zone of Auroville which is a very beautiful place to spend time. I felt very at home there and it was only place I took a photo during the week (I usually snap everything but fancied having a week off from that, to really focus on the activities instead of getting the perfect shot)
Well, only 2 photos - couldn't resist this lotus either!
Last week, I finally got an upgrade! I've been driving the moped for almost a year now and it felt like the right time to get a bigger bike. This is the most popular bike in India, the Hero Honda Splendour. It's more economical with petrol and is a fairly small bike so easier to handle as a woman with a small build. C's bike is not so practical for a family so this will be our family bike. We got it second hand for 18,000rs (about £180) and we should be able to sell the moped for around 10,000-12,000 (£100-120) which will offset most of the cost. It will take a little time for me to get used to it though as it has gears which the moped does not.

Friday marked the beginning of Ganesh Chathurti, a 10 day festival celebrating Ganesh (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ganesh_Chaturthi)

K brought home a handpainted model made with earth which we have put on the balcony.

It's been a packed month, am sure September will be no exception either. Will be back next week with reflections of our first full year here.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

One month to go...

...before we've been here for a whole year! It's just flown by, seems only a few weeks ago I was writing about our new house and life. Anyway, I'll have a proper time for reflection next month.
As always, the time has gone quickly, especially since we're settling back into the school routine and the hustle and bustle that goes with it.
I've started a side project to make a few extra rupees each month by baking cakes and desserts for C's cafe. At the moment I'm making 2 a week (a crumble and a batch of muffins or a fruit loaf or flapjacks for example). It's good as I'm only working in the mornings at Eco Femme and can bake from home in the afternoons. I love baking too so it's a win-win situation.
I've also just started an online course with Coursera, my third to date but first in a year as we had all the moving to do. I signed up for Social Psychology this time (previously did 'Intro to Psychology' and 'The Social Context of Mental Health and Illness'), a 7 week course of which I'm nearly at the end of week 3. The last time I did one of these courses I was a stay at home mum living in a flat in the UK and now it's been a little hard to keep up with it all as well as working, housework, childcare etc etc etc. I'm sticking it out though and really learning lots too. I think it's an amazing platform that allows people to continue learning, I thoroughly recommend having a look at their site...
My yoga classes have started up again too (my teacher took a break for a month) so as you can imagine, I'm pretty fully booked. Phew!
So this month, I met a few more beasties, firstly this rather huge cockroach. I moved here with a pretty bad fear of most bugs but have got so much braver. I still can't get over my fear of these though...
(on my first trip to India, I saw my first ever cockroach whilst waiting for a train. From a distance I was mildly interested but looked away to see if our train was coming. I looked back to see where the roach was to find it sitting on my shoulder waving its long antennae at me. I gave an unearthly shriek much to the amusement of the locals and flung it off me. Since then they have become an issue to me.)
...luckily we don't have too many...*shudder*.

Then I lifted the rock up which we use to keep the back door open one bright Sunday morning to find that a battle had been waged between two vicious beasties. In this instance, the scorpion appeared to have won. I left them be as both have a nasty sting. They were gone an hour later.
I also saw this beautiful specimen catching some afternoon rays. He let me get quite close before running up a tree.
Last week I took a trip the the botanical gardens and returned with this most beautiful pink hibiscus. It's just a baby and I think I'll keep it potted on the balcony. It's just lovely.
We've also just planted a new crop of tomatoes and cucumbers, we think that by monsoon season they should be big enough to deal with the rains. C bought a net which we've attached to the roof above our balcony and running down to the trough below so the cucumbers have a sturdy thing to climb up. It's a better spot for them as it gets the afternoon sun rather than the midday sun which killed off our first attempt after producing just two cucumbers.
This is the tree in the centre of the campus where I work, it provides much needed shade and has a huge perfectly tuned windchime (see in the branches to the left) made just a short distance away at Svaram. It adds a peaceful atmosphere to an already happy environment (and I really want to climb the tree!).
Artwork on the wall by my office.
K and the Ganesh shrine by the Solar Kitchen, where the staff make morning puja

 Me on the balcony in the afternoon sun.

Last sat I was invited to a ladies afternoon with some friends and new faces. We drank some wine (such a rare treat), had a swim in the pool, put on a mud mask and then made a puja on the beach at sundown before being joined by our respective partners and kids and having a pot luck dinner. Shortly before we left it started to rain and we got to drive back home with the lightning flashing overhead and a cool, gentle rain refreshing us. One thing I've observed since we moved is how alive I feel, especially during moments like this.

I'm rather an introvert so don't have a constant need for company but when I do share a nice day with good people it nourishes my soul and eases my homesickness, my few friends back in the UK are greatly missed. 

Anyway, that's all for now. C will be back from his evening of work soon and I have to do some more work on my studies before bed. It's C's birthday tomorrow and I won't have much time for studies until Sun. C's mum will have K tomorrow night so we can go to Pondy for a nice meal and then Sat morning we're off to the fancy resort nearby for a swim and lunch with the family.
More soon,


Friday, 4 July 2014

One week in...

...to my new job and I am feeling very positive indeed. I feel very lucky to have arrived at this point and to be working with such strong inspirational women for such an important cause. Even the drive there is joyful, butterflies and greenery all around as I trundle along on my moped.
I'll try not to go on too much about the evils of disposable sanitary products on here but well...they are pretty evil! If anyone reading wants to discuss further or to ask questions please feel free to drop me a line at laura@ecofemme.org :)

Anyway, summer is slowly drawing to a close here, people are returning from their nice cool holidays and K is back to kindergarten on Mon. It's been tough coping with the heat, I feel that maybe in hindsight it was harder that I realised. Tempers are frayed and the permenant sweating leads to itchy heat rash. K has been pretty hard work as a result too. Still, it should be getting progressively cooler from now on.
At the beginning of June I met another new kind of praying mantis, they are just fascinating to watch. I'm getting much better with bugs since moving here (although not the cockroaches - urgh!)
K having a play outside with his 'sunbrella'

Our community in bloom - the tree (Delonix Regiais or Royal Poinciana) known as a Realization tree here, fitting as it's the name of our community. The pink flowers are Oleanders and have the most amazing scent.

Me and C had a welcome day/night away in Mahabalipuram to celebrate our 2 year wedding anniversary. After the stress of weeks of hot, sweaty, grumpy, bored 4 year old, it really was nice!
This is the shore temple from a distance.

Here is me sitting on a stone lion :)

This amused me, needless to say, we didn't go in!

The next day before we left for home, we visited the Tiger cave, just a little distance away. I'd not been before and it was a nice way to finish off our visit.

K's been spending lots of time on our balcony as it's shaded and he has a big bucket to splash in. He's also been doing chalk drawings on the floor...

He's all into superheroes at the moment so every pose looks like this!

Another beach trip...


A few nights ago we had a wonderful but brief downpour with the most ear splitting cracks of thunder and flashes of forked lightning.

I really love the tropical storms, they're so dramatic, especially as the house only had mesh on the upstairs doors and the windows are covered by small slats of single pane glass. You feel so connected to it. It's exhilarating!

I got these shots on our small side balcony once the rain had stopped.
Anyway, that's it for now. It's getting late *yawn*.