Friday, March 30, 2007

Bollywood Dancing

I started doing Bollywood dancing at the beginning of March.'s great fun, not to mention an excellent workout! There are about 12+ ladies and Arun (the instructor). "We love Arun"!! We look forward to Mondays and a Wednesdays when we get to strut out stuff "Bollywood style". Who says exercising has to be boring...

Edith, Liz, me and Monique

Monkey see, Monkey do....Well, not really! We practice and try to remember our steps.

Positions everyone...this is how we start our new Kannada dance.
And this is how we did it on TV later that same night!! Double LOL...

On Wednesday the TV9 (local Kannada channel) cameras were there to do a feature on expats in Bangalore. Something about loving Karnataka/Bangaluru!!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Happy Ugadi!

We've been in India for almost 6 months and I'm still very confused as to when the public holidays are. Like all the Hindu GOD's that I'm still trying to get my head around as well, there are just too many to fathom. I did a bit of research on the Public holidays/Festivals in India:

India, being a multicultural and multireligious society, celebrates holidays and festivals of various faiths and special interest groups. There are three national holidays: Independence Day, Republic Day and Gandhi Jayanti. Hindu festivals of Diwali, Ganesh Chaturthi, Holi, Ugadi, Dussehra, Sankranthi/Pongal and the Islamic festivals of Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Adha, Muharram, and Ramadan are the most popular religious festivals in India. A number of festivals are common to most parts of India. In addition, many states and regions have local festivals depending on prevalent religious and linguistic demographics.

Hindus celebrate a number of Festivals all through the year. From celebrating the advent of spring to celebrating the win of good over evil, Hindu religion and culture provide its followers endless reasons to celebrate. Given below is the list of just a few of these festivals that are celebrated with great zest and fervour.
Diwali or Deepawali
Ganesh Chaturthi
Dussehra or Daserra
Raksha Bandhan
Krishna Janmastami
Gudi Padwa
Durga Puja
Maha Shivaratri
Bhaubeej (Bhai Dooj)
Hanuman Jayanti
Guru Purnima
Karwa Chauth
Ratha Yatra
Gita Jayanti
Kumbh Mela
Thrissur Pooram
Laxmi puja
Kumar Purnima
Saraswati Puja
Vasant Panchami
Kojagiri Purnima
Anant Chaturdashi
Nag panchami
Vat Pournima

Today - 19 March is Ugadi

It is believed that the creator of the Hindu pantheon, Lord Brahma started the work of creation on this day - Chaitra suddha padhyami or Ugadi day. Also the great Indian Mathematician Bhaskaracharya's calculations proclaimed this day as the start of a new year, new month and new day from sunrise. Ugadi is celebrated with festive fervor in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.The Kannadiga New Year day Yugadi that falls in late March or early April is celebrated with devotion and delight.

Ugadi, marking the beginning of a new Hindu lunar calendar is a day when mantras are chanted and predictions made for the new year. Traditionally, the panchangasrayanam or listening to the yearly calendar was done at the temples. Ugadi is also the most auspicious time to start new ventures. On Ugadi day, people wake up before the break of dawn and take a ritual head bath, after which they decorate the entrance of their homes with a toran of fresh mango leaves signifying a good crop and general well-being. People also splash fresh cow dung water on the ground in front of their homes and draw colorful floral designs or rangolis. Usually the festival dinner starts with jaggery and neem leaves symbolic of joys and sorrows interwoven in life. In Karnataka, special dishes are prepared for the occasion called "puliogure" and "holige".

Happy St. Patrick's Day - 17 March

O, what a grand even'n tis was!!! What better way to spend a Saturday evening than tapping your feet to the beat of Irish music, sing along's, yummy food, attempting a few lord of the dance moves and for us lucky ones a couple of cool prizes !!!

The St. Paddy's Evening add that I designed for the front page of the Rangoli.

I've attended a couple of St. Patrick's Day parties over the years but realised that I don't really know much about the folklore. It all actually sounds a bit strange doesn't it...wearing green, chatting of four leaf clovers, shamrocks, lucky leprechauns, and kissing some big rock called a blarney stone. After a bit of research it all made sense. Here's what I found out.

Did you know that Saint Patrick's name at birth was Maewyn Succat? He was born somewhere near the end of the fourth century and took on the name Patrick or Patricus, after he became a priest, much later in his life. At the age of sixteen Maewyn Succat was kidnapped from his native land of Britain, by a band pirates, and sold into slavery in Ireland. Maewyn worked as a shepherd and turned to religion for solace. After six long years of slavery he escaped to the northern coast of Gaul.

In Gaul, Maewyn became Patrick (a more christian name) and studied in the monastery under St. Germain, bishop of Auxerre for twelve years. He came to believe that it was his calling to convert the pagans of Ireland to Christianity. St. Palladius was appointed to go to Ireland first but transferred to Scotland two years later opening up the door for Patrick. Patrick was about sixty years old when he arrived in Ireland and it is said that he had a winning personality that helped him win converts. He used the shamrock, which resembles a three-leafed clover, to help explain the concept of the Trinity (father, son, holy spirit).

Patrick was arrested several times, but escaped each time. He traveled throughout Ireland, establishing monasteries and setting up schools and churches to aid in converting the Irish country to Christianity. Legend has it that Saint Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland. Evidently, they all went into the sea and drowned. The snake is a pagan symbol and perhaps this is a figurative tale explaining that he drove paganism out of Ireland.
Patrick's mission in Ireland lasted for thirty years. He then retired to County Down and died on March 17 in 461 AD. That day has been commemorated as St. Patrick's Day ever since. The first year St. Patrick's Day was celebrated in this country was 1737 in Boston, Massachusetts. As the saying goes, on this day "everybody is Irish!"

St. Patrick used the shamrock leaf to symbolize the Trinity, and today many people wear a shamrock to commemorate Saint Patrick's Day.

Blarney Stone
What's all this talk of kissing the Blarney Stone?
Blarney Castle is located in County Cork, Ireland. Built in 1446 by Cormac Laidhim McCarthy (Lord of Muskerry) the Blarney stone is located in the southern tower wall between the main castle wall and the parapet. In order to kiss the stone one has to lie on their back and bend backward (and downward), holding iron bars for support. It is said that the Blarney stone has magical properties. As legend has it an old woman cast a spell on the stone to reward a king who had saved her from drowning. Kissing the stone gave the king the ability to speak sweetly and convincingly.

Just what does a Leprechaun look like and why are they so special? A Leprechaun (Irish fairy) looks like a little old man. He's about 2 feet tall and dresses like a shoemaker with a cocked hat and leather apron. A Leprechaun's personality is described as aloof and unfriendly. They live alone and pass the time by making shoes. They're special because they also possess a hidden pot of gold. If you listen closely for the sound of their hammer you might be able to capture one. If you do you can force him (with the threat of bodily violence) to reveal where he's hidden his treasure. Be careful! Do not take your eyes off him for if you do he will surely vanish and your hopes of finding his treasure will vanish with him.

Why wear green?
Probably because you'll be pinched if you don't! School children started this tradition. Green is also the color of spring, the shamrock and is connected with hope and nature.

A superb effort from all the OWC volunteers that put this fun filled evening together. Complete with green decor, whiskey on arrival, fun quizzes etc.

Funny hats and even a pot of gold...

"Luck of the Irish"... Couldn't believe our luck. There were 6 raffle prizes: Marc won the 6th and I won the 3rd prize.

Angelica, Kim, Vivian and I singing, "When Irish eyes are smiling", "O Danny boy", Molly Malone"...

Geoff decided to auction off his raffle prize, two cans of Guinness. Unfortunately the Guinness sold out early in the evening and Petra must have really liked guinness as she paid a whopping RS. 1800, approx 40USD, which will be donated to charity along with the rest of the proceeds from the raffle.

The GIW's (Gorgeous International Woman) showed us how it's done.

Unfortunately the camera's batery decided to give up the ghost....The rest of the evening was spent dancing, doing the limbo and sharing the Bayley's...

In honor of the festivities I leave you with this Irish blessing: May your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow and may trouble avoid you wherever you go!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Weekend in Coorg (9-11 March)

It was time for another weekend break, "a fishing weekend for the guys".

Coorg is 260km from Bangalore, situated on the Western Ghats of Karnataka in South India. Its name is probably a corruption of the Kannada kodagu ("steepness"). Coorg is drained by the upper Cauvery River and its tributaries, which in legend have some of the life-giving properties of the Ganges. Rice is cultivated on the valley floors. Coffee plantations occupy hillside clearings. Other crops are tea, cardamom, rubber, pepper, and millet.

We stayed at a Home Stay (Guest House) - Victory Home. We arrived on Friday night and on Saturday morning Marc and Ingo went fishing, while us ladies just enjoyed the tranquil setting and each others company. We went for a lovely walk through the coffee plantation. Later ,we all sat around on the lovely varanda enjoying a cup of the excellent Coorg coffee and tried our hand at diabolo.

We all really enjoyed the traditional spicy Coorgi cuisine, very different from South Indian food.
The coffee plants, in blossom

The ripe berries are picked and sun dried.

I couldn't resist taking a photograph of this little boy playing on the heap of ripe "coffee" berries.
Starry Starry night!! We were all absolutely amazed by all the stars...a rarity when you live in the City.

Sunday morning bright and early the guys went fishing in the Cauvery river, with the hopes of catching a Mahseer. No luck there, as apparently the crocodiles get to them first.

Diya, Maya, Marc and I with our driver Nagraj in the background.

We collected the guys and headed off to Dubare Forest Elephant Training Camp, 15km from Kushalnagar. The reserve forest is famed for its amazing variety of avian fauna.
We fed the elephants banana's and some of the left over "Ragi balls" which was meant as Masheer bait. Marc doing a good job feeding Kupti...

The ele, trying to feed me...

Some of the training in progress.

The guys decided to walk over the rocks and the ladies took a short boat ride back to the other side of the river.

We drove past a beautiful field of flowers (marigold's, I think).

Another funny sighting - a semi manual steam roller. The guy walking along side was actually pouring water over the drums as it rolled down the road.

We arrived in Bylakuppe, where we walked around a small flea market for a while, had lunch and then visited the largest Tibetan settlement in India outside the Himalayan belt.

Both recent refugees from Tibet and those born elsewhere, live here in a landscape and climate that is a far cry from Tibet but, as one monk pointed out, with one crucial consolation: they live without fear and practice their faith in freedom. With the cross-border migration of thousands of monks in recent decades, India also seems to have emerged as the destination for higher Tibetan Buddhist studies. But unlike most Tibetan settlements in the Indian Himalayas, the monasteries here appear to be larger and more opulent (more ostentatious at any rate).

Kim and I admiring the amazing temples.

The shiny Namdroling monastery even has gigantic gold-plated statues of Tibetan deities.
a face that tells the story.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Ingo's Birthday Bash


Kim and Ingo invited us over for Ingo's birthday party on Saturday. As per usual the "Lishke's" entertained us with great food incl. Ingo's infamous Bongo-Bongo soup and Kim's special Tiramisu.

This is the picture I used on Ingo's b-day present. We had a coffee mug made with the "Cruising Route 44" pic on it.

Cathlene and Morne (a South African couple that has lived in Bangalore for the past 8+ years), Vivian and Carol enjoying the deserts.

Chung, Ravi, Shashi, Vivian and Carol

Nathalie, David and I lounging on the floor discussing the In's and Out of Bangalore.

The hostess Kim and her mom, Vivian that slaved away the whole day to prepare for the party.

Katja, Shashi and Nikhita

Chung and Nathalie relaxing...

Stuart (a travel agent) entertaining us with all his travel stories.
Marc the travel bug, taking it all in... "Mmmmm, where can we go next"!!

The great thing about having a private party is that you don't get chucked out at 11H30, which is always the case in Bangalore thanks to the ridiculous curfew. We sang Happy Birthday to Ingo at 12 O'clock and then ate more desert... a delicious cake with fresh fruit and custard that Nathalie baked.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Hasta Manana Andy and Diana

Hasta Manana dear friends, 'til we meet again!!
Don't know where, don't know when
San Francisco, Costa Rica or South Africa...
Hasta Manana, until then!

I guess the best part of being an expat is the fact that one gets to meet such amazing people. We unfortunately said goodbye to two of those amazing people, A & D that will be getting back to their life as they know it in San Fransisco.

D doing her corporate IT thing and A going back to being a surf instructor and doing what ever a co-founder of an adventure company does. Check out:

ALL THE BEST TO YOU BOTH! You'll be missed!!!

Andy, David, Marc, Ingo and Joe

The four of us - Happy to have one last drink together, but sad to see them go!!

Carol enjoying her pink Margarita, or not "a little less salt next time, please"?

Carol and Kim catching up on the weeks happenings around B'lore

The Girls - Diana, Kim, Carol, myself and Heather