Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Inspiration

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

I draw inspiration from many different places and people. When I write, I write mostly for myself. But it is nice when other people read what I write and appreciate it too. So I do write for other people. And I love the comments that I get on my writing. 🙂

I write to capture the interesting things that I experience. I write to capture the details of my struggles and triumphs. I write to celebrate the amazing beauty in the world. I write to engage in meaningful (and sometimes meaningless) discussion with some incredibly interesting minds. I write to investigate and work through issues I find challenging. I write to pay tribute to the amazing people I know.

And when someone tells me that they read what I write and they find it interesting, then I write for them. And sometimes, that interest is enough to inspire me to get my thoughts out of my head and onto the screen.

So to all the wonderful people who are my inspirations: I thank you! To those who show me the world, I thank you. To those who share the ups and downs of my life, I thank you. To those who invite me to look at the world in a different way, I thank you. To those who agree with me, I thank you. To those who disagree, I thank you. And to those of you who actually read my drivelling random ramblings, I most definitely thank each and every one of you!!! 🙂

P!nk

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

One of my Sri Lankan friends played me an English song that she likes. It’s from a film. I can’t remember it now, but it reminded me of the likes of Avril Lavigne and P!nk etc. Which got me getting lost on You Tube watching P!nk videos.

I really like P!nk.

I’ve just bought her Greatest Hits… So Far!!! album. Which I think is awesome.

I love some of the messages in her songs. I love the humour in her videos. I love how she doesn’t take herself too seriously. I love the strength and weakness and pain and joy that she communicates through her music.

What I love most is the positive messages for young women that she has. I even love the fact that she is quite aggressive and uses quite strong language (don’t listen to her stuff or watch her videos if you don’t like swearing and/or adult themes – probably not a good idea to recommend her to children unless you’ve listened/watched yourself first).

‘Stupid Girls’ is a great song about why we let our media portray women as stupid, brainless and vacuous.

‘F**kin’ Perfect’ (which certainly does have some bad language) is a message to young women that no matter how bad they feel about themselves they are perfect! The video for this song brings me to tears every time I watch it.

‘Conversations With My 13 Year Old Self’ (not on the greatest hits album, from I’m Not Dead) is P!nk talking to herself at 13 and telling her that she understands her problems but not to worry, life will get better.

‘Dear Mr President’ is a letter to the president asking how he sleeps at night given the state of the rest of the country.

‘Raise your glass’ is anthem for the people who “are wrong, in all the right ways”.

‘So What’ is a hilarious song about getting over a break up – you really have to watch the video for this one. Her ex-husband makes an appearance in it.

Plus a lot of her stuff is just good, punky, rocky, poppy, music.

So, P!nk has officially made it on to my list of heroes/role models. I have quite a long, loose, diverse list of such people. I don’t generally try to emulate other people, but I do take inspiration from some aspects of who they are and what they do. Both from people I know personally and people I only know of.

Spurs

Monday, December 6th, 2010

I’m not a fan of football. Or sports generally for that matter. I do like watching some internationals – I quite like the World Cup. But that’s more because they are events rather than for the sport itself. That said I do know what the offside rule is and while I find some of the rules and strategy of football to be somewhat incomprehensible, it does make more sense to me than Aussie Rules does.

But I understand that my views on football are not shared by all. In particular, Sam (Stan’s son). He is a fan of football. His team is Spurs. They were playing against someone (from Spain perhaps, can’t remember) during his holiday. He really wanted to watch the match. Due to time differences the match was due to start just after midnight Indian time.

Technology is a wonderful thing. When one has a laptop with wifi, cash, determination and is staying in a touristy area then anything is possible. Well, watching the football is possible.

So armed with said laptop Sam, Guru and I trawled the sea front at Kovalam looking for likely places. It was after midnight so not many places were open but Sam did think that the Sea Face hotel looked promising.

We wandered in, tried to explain what we wanted. Eventually worked out that they did have wifi, you could buy vouchers for an hour, we could sit outside by the pool and watch it. They couldn’t sell us any drinks.

Awesome. So we faffed for a while getting the vouchers and the instructions and then finding the right seat by the pool that meant we were close to the hotel (stronger signal) and we could watch the moon (almost full) reflecting off the waves. Well, perhaps that was only an important consideration for me. 🙂

We got connected, eventually. Sam got a text from one of his mates that told him that Spurs were 3-0 down. He wasn’t happy. Well, actually he was happy. He was happy that we were in the process of being able to watch it. Sam was looking for a stream that was actually working. He found a couple, though many of them were really jittery and kept hanging. Which does make football even more incomprehensible than it is when you can see everything that is happening.

Found out they were 4-0 down. Found a stream that mostly worked and that Sam was happy with. Just in time for half-time.

I had some soy sauce and wasabi almonds in my bag so we snacked on those – really tasty. And the guys from the hotel provided us with drinks (soda water, Diet Coke). Which was nice, but odd, since I’d asked if we could get drinks (I thought I’d made it clear that I meant non-alcoholic) and they’d said no at the beginning. Ah well, sometimes you can, sometimes you can’t. We ended up with drinks so can’t really complain. 🙂

We did see the Spurs goal 4-1 which made Sam very happy indeed. And then, with about 10 mins left of the match, the second voucher expired. It turns out it was for 1 hour or 60MB so even though we hadn’t used the time, we’d obviously exceeded the data limit. Sam was happy enough that he’d made the effort, seen some of the match and figured there wasn’t much could be done in the last 10 mins anyway so we packed up and wandered back along the beachfront to the hotel.

It was now gone 2. So most definitely bedtime.

But here is not where the story ends.

The next morning at lunch we bumped into some other British people, including a guy with a Spurs shirt on. Sam asked what the final score had been 4-3. He was both pleased, much better result than he’d been expecting, and pissed off that with 10 mins to go we’d packed up and missed the last two goals. Ah well.

I must say, for a football fan, he showed remarkable equanimity. No screaming, yelling, swearing, tantrums, throwing things etc. Or perhaps he was just on his best behaviour. 🙂

I think that Guru enjoyed the adventure of it as much as I did. And Sam enjoyed the actual football. So everyone was happy. 🙂

Well, I was mostly happy. I did scold (I love that word) Sam and Guru for doing interesting things. I’d already told them that I was behind on updating my blog and that the more interesting things that happened the further behind I got. I’d made it quite clear that I wanted them (and Stan and Tamil) to stop doing interesting things so I wouldn’t have so much to write about. But they just didn’t listen. Ah well. 😉

Small World

Monday, December 6th, 2010

The world is a very big place. I know, I’ve got trains across a small part of it and that took ages. And yet, the world is a very small place.

When I was in Nepal trekking to Annapurna Base Camp we stopped for lunch one day in Dhoban. It was freezing and misty and drizzling. So Tiffany and I dashed into the dining room to try and warm up and to wait for lunch.

There were some other people there, including a Spanish girl who is now living in England. She looked about as cold as we felt. We did envy her the enormous blanket she was wrapped in. 🙂

We chatted away, as you do when you meet people while travelling. She finished her lunch and headed off. We met her a couple of days later on her way back down again. Said hi, commiserated over the lack of the view due to the clouds and carried on.

A month later I was sitting having breakfast with Stan, Guru, Sam and Tamil in the German Bakery in Kovalam in Kerala, Southern India.

The Spanish girl from Nepal walked in with a friend and came up to say hello! We chatted a bit about Nepal and India and what we’d being doing since we last saw each other. And talked to her friend about how amazing Nepal is. 🙂

Cool!!

It turns out it was her birthday and her friend convinced us to sing Happy Birthday to her. Which was lovely!

The world is a big, small, surprising place! 🙂

Houseboat

Monday, December 6th, 2010

We spent a night on a houseboat! Cool!

We were Stan, Sam, Tamil, Asok, Guru and me. The houseboat was near Kochin.

So we piled in. Got settled. Ate, drank and were merry.

I was very restrained and only quoted Stoppard under my breath rather than out loud within the hearing of my fellow travellers who probably wouldn’t have appreciated an existential discussion about whether death was like being on a boat.

Stan brought his laptop and speakers and Asok stood on the prow dancing to Michael Jackson while the rest of us sang. Cool. 🙂

Apart from our singing, the lake was quiet, peaceful, beautiful. Some of us had a go at driving. Some of us zig zagged so badly across the river that we caused a build-up of traffic behind us. 🙂

Traffic Jam

We waved at other houseboats that went past. We moored for lunch. We moored for dinner and overnight. And while Stan watched over the boat, the rest of us went for a walk along the river bank. We saw a beautiful sunset. And I took a picture that I actually think is quite good. It’s a reflection of the sky in a puddle in the paddy field.

Reflection of the Sunset
We met some of the locals. The girls sang for us and showed us magic tricks and danced.

I slept really well that night. The gently rocking of the boat was lovely. And it was very gentle.

After breakfast the next morning we headed back. We drove to Varkala beach for lunch (in a Tibetan restaurant – Tashi Delek (welcome)) before heading back to Kovalam.

Jo’s Parent’s Place

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Jo’s parents live a few hours drive away from Poonthura.

We went to visit.

So we hired a van.

There were lots of us: Johny, Kath, Sam, Tamil, Stan, Guru.
Jo and Josy were already there.

On the way we stopped for a masala dosa. Think thin, crispy pancake thing with curried potatoes in it and several pots of unspecified yet tasty goo. Awesome! Well, I thought it was awesome. Sam, to his credit, did try one. But wasn’t convinced. Tamil, to her credit, knew that it would not be a good idea so didn’t try one. I don’t think I ever had a time where I thought curry for breakfast wasn’t a good idea. But my father will tell you that being picky about food isn’t really something I was ever very good. Till I discovered Nestomalt, bitter gourd and vegetarianism that is. 🙂

The drive was really nice. Indian traffic is always entertaining – lane markings are a guideline. If two lanes are marked it means that on average you will probably have two vehicles side by side on this road. It’s not a requirement though. You can have as many as 6 if you really try. Spotting the gaudiest painted house is good to pass the time (lime green and lilac stripes with bright orange highlights). Being awed (and attempting not to be disgusted) by some of the incredibly fancy churches certainly breaks the monotony.

Johny managed not to get us lost (thank you Johny). We met Jo who led us from the main road to his parent’s place (thank you Jo). We met more of Jo’s family who welcomed us and fed us and looked after us (thank you Jo’s mother and Josy for doing the cooking – ruchi karam (tasty in Malayalam – Johny had been teaching me some words in the car)).

One of those incredibly beautiful (manoharum) places that is nestled in a jungle. Where the gardens and jungle meld into one. Where every tree produces food: tumeric, jak fruit, black pepper, cocoa beans, pineapple, coffee, coconut, bananas, etc. Where the leeches just want to say hello (and suck your blood). Where the flowers look like musrooms with lipstick. Where the vines look like they were invented for Tarzan. Where the hot sun mixed with the wet jungle makes the air hot and humid and makes you sweat instantly. Where the bees make honey. Where the sweet, dulcet tones of election propaganda make you wish you had a shotgun (the Shakira song is now ruined for me forever).

We went to a nearby rock which has an incredible view of the valley. I love rocks. 🙂 Several of us walked down to the stream at the bottom which was really nice. Johny cleverly decided to talk to me in order to distract me from finishing reading the book I was reading. He’d bet me 5 rupees that I wouldn’t finish it by the end of the day. It wasn’t looking good for me. Easiest 5 rupees Johny has ever made.

All of us (except Stan who took the photo) on the rock

Next stop was a dam. I love dams. This one had beehives hanging off the top. Cool. And a really nice rainbow reflecting in the river. And, downstream from the dam was a bridge. Not just any bridge. A suspension bridge. Awesome (adipoli) And given I’m now an expert at bridges I didn’t even get too freaked out when Johny, Jo and Stan decided to try to shake it as much as they could. Lucky I’m not scared of heights! 🙂

Back in the car and back home again. An awesome day. Thank you very much to Jo and his family for proving that it’s not just the Sri Lankan’s who are wonderfully hospitable.

Stan’s Kids

Monday, December 6th, 2010

I timed my visit to Kerala perfectly. I’d like to say this was deliberate, but actually it was more serendipity. 🙂

Stan had told me that his kids were coming from the UK and that he was going to take a week off school to spend with them. This would mostly involve staying in a hotel in Kovalam but would also include one night on a houseboat and a visit to Jo’s parent’s place. (Jo being married to Josy, from our host family.)

Stan has a son (Sam) and a daughter (Tamil) in their 20s. It was really good to meet them both. I’d heard a lot about them from Stan. And it was also very nice to see him with them and them with him. I know he’d been missing them a lot and was looking forward to showing them India.

From a purely selfish point of view it was great to have 2 extra native speakers to talk to. I love talking to locals when I travel. But conversation is much easier with native speakers. I can use slang and idioms. I can mumble. I can make esoteric references to obscure elements of British popular culture. It’s nice. 🙂

And, most importantly, they were really interesting people and great fun to spend time with.

Kovalam

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Kovalam is a beach resort about 6km away from Poonthura.

It has tourists, tourist restaurants, internet cafes, a laundry, tat shops, a beach, a lighthouse and other things you might expect from such a place.

When Stan first arrived in Kerala he spent some time living in a hotel in Kovalam, so he knows it well. And while teaching in Poonthura he and I would frequently go to Kovalam in the afternoons for lunch and/or dinner. Or to drop off clothes at the laundry (I really hate hand-washing – I’ve tried doing it, but I’m crap at it and I hate it – I’d much prefer to pay someone else to do it for me – call me lazy if you will, but I’d been handwashing my clothes for nigh on three months and the novelty had most certainly worn off).

One very good reason to go to Kovalam is to meet up with Asok. He’s an artist living in Kovalam. A good friend of our host family, of Stan, and now of me. His English is great. He’s an interesting person. He was great fun to talk to. 🙂

There are several other good reasons to go to Kovalam. The sunset at the beach is incredible. The reflection of the full moon dancing on the waves is captivating. The toast at the Germany Bakery is real toast!!! The iced coffee at the Swiss Cafe is really good. The iced tea (with lemon and mint) at the Swiss Cafe is out of this world (Josy didn’t seem too convinced, but I think I converted Asok and Johny).

Oh, and the barber didn’t rip me off nearly as much as the guy in Nepal did (though I think I did get charged about twice the going rate – ah well).

So if you fancy a nice carrot, honey and orange salad with a killer iced tea overlooking the beach and watching an incredible sunset while chatting to good friends, then Kovalam’s the place to go.

Sunset at Kovalam

Dog Bite

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

I’m going to interrupt the chronological flow of my blog (in blog land I’m still in India) to give you an update on what is happening to me in the real world (in the real world I am in Sri Lanka).

This morning I left the house in the rain to go the training college in Peradeniya to see my friends there.

I put my raincoat on (I don’t really get along with umbrellas).

As I was walking up the hill towards the bus a dog (we think it was the one from the house just up the road) bit me. Right in my back pocket. Ouch.

There was a guy coming down the hill, he chased the dog away. I managed to do nothing useful except stay on my feet and yelp in an indignant (if ineffectual) manner.

I felt to see if I could find any blood but couldn’t so thought that was very good indeed and I carried on towards the bus. I got the bus into Kandy – standing for the whole trip (about 25 mins). It was quite a crowded bus.

My butt was getting more and more sore and I was getting more and more worried that the skin actually was broken. So once I got off the bus I found a quiet bit of the street and using a tissue I surreptitiously went looking for blood. And found some. Dammit.

So I called Suchintha to let her know. She suggested Kandy hospital. So I got a three-wheeler to Kandy hospital.

Kandy hospital is an interesting place. Very busy. And most people there seem to be pregnant.

Information told me to go to admissions.

Admissions told me to go to room 3, a doctor would be in at 8 (it was 6:50).

Room 3 was the Anti Rabies Observation Room. There were some seats out the front of room 3 so I perched (sitting is a bit painful) and waited.

It is important in such situations to retain one’s sense of humour. Do not get angry and upset when you are sitting outside the Rabies room and watching your fellow patients shoo stray dogs away. Just smile, stifle a laugh and think that it’ll make a great blog post. 🙂

I called my insurance company to see what they had to say, they told me to make sure to get the wound washed and to get the rabies injections (one today and one in three day’s time).

At about 7:40 a nurse appeared and I was given a piece of paper. At 8:40 I got to see the doctor. And had a chance to look at the wound for the first time. More of an abrasion than anything, about 5 cm long, some blood but not actually bleeding. The doctor asked about my immunisation record. Fortunately, in my money belt with my passport I have a list of all the immunisations I’ve had which gave the dates (Dec 2008) of the course of rabies injections that I had.

So we decided that I had to get a booster injection today and another on Saturday. And that I had to go straight home and wash it with soap and water for about 10 mins. No chance of getting it washed or dressed there it seems. (What do I think this is? A hospital? Ah well.)

Off to room 12 (the injections room). I think I jumped the queue but it’s a bit hard to tell. The nurse gave me one injection in each arm (new needle – yay) and told me not to wash it. The other patients who were in the room seemed to enjoy watching me unbutton my shirt enough to pull it down over my shoulder for the injection. I couldn’t roll my sleeves up far enough and there wasn’t sufficient privacy to be able to take the shirt off. Ah well.

It seems I was then free to leave, so leave I did.

A three wheeler back to the house for a partial shower from the waist down so that I could wash the wound but not wash the injection sites. Warm, soapy water. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

Then the lovely woman I am staying with (Suchintha’s mother), who used to be a nurse educator at Kandy hospital cleaned it with an antiseptic wipe (ouch, ouch, ouch) and put a band aid on it. Kath’s first aid kit comes in handy yet again – I really wish it would stop being so bloody useful!

Breakfast, nap, lunch, panadol. I’m sure I’ll survive.

It seems the dog that bit me is owned by one of the houses up the street and has bitten people (i.e. Suchintha’s father) before. Apparently it has been immunised. So I probably didn’t need the injections. But I can’t be 100% sure that it was that dog or that it has actually been immunised. Better to be safe than sorry.

So I’m sure I’ll live. I’m hoping the pain and the swelling will go down. I’m hoping to get to a tailor soon to get the rip in my trousers fixed (I only have two pairs of trousers, losing one to the teeth of a dog is not a good thing). And I hope to get to the training college tomorrow.

Ah, the joys of travelling! 🙂

Poonthura

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

Poonthura is a small fishing village in Kerala in southern India.

I stayed in and around Poonthura for about three weeks.

There was another volunteer (Stan) who was teaching there at the school (St Thomas) and staying with a local family.

So I invaded! I stayed with the family too.
Thank you Johny for giving up your bedroom for me and for burning tea for me.
Thank you Josy for cooking lots of very lovely food for me (the carrot and coconut thing was incredible) and for not kicking me too much in the mornings.
Thank you Jo for taking us to your parent’s house and for making awesome chappathis.
Thank you Jament for your big smiles and for welcoming the freaky foreigners.

I went to the school with Stan. I went to the school without Stan. I went to Trivandrum (the big city). I went to Kovalam (the beach resort that’s about 6km away). I went to Kanyakumari (the tip of India). I went to visit Jo’s parents. I went on holiday with Stan and his kids (which included a houseboat for one night). I went to visit some of the other people in the village. I did some conversation sessions with some of the neighbours. I helped the next door neighbour with some of his tuition classes (which also meant I got to teach maths again – yay). I had a lovely time.

So thank you to Stan and my Poonthura family and I can’t wait to come back and see you all again in January. 🙂