Kolam in the morning

There is a custom in Southern India, of women drawing figured on the ground to bless the home. They start by sweeping and cleaning the doorstep and then draw a figure. I was able to watch this a couple times. It was amazing! The shapes and creativity that they did was wonderful. Someone would come every morning and draw one on our doorstep as well. It is called Kolam. Check out the wiki article, it’s short.

Whirl wind adventure on the other side of India

Here is the first Installment of the “Weekend Adventure India 2012.”  I haven’t had time to sort through the pics and stuff, but I’ll start sending them out.

So first, we left from Thenkarai, where we were at and drove through the mountains of Tamil Nadu and Kerela to the other side of the sub-continent.

We stopped first at a wildlife reserve and took a boat tour for an hour and a half of the area.  It was awesome.  Periyar National Park was the place, and the boats were very cool!  We were top deck, wearing our life preservers and taking shots.  There was collection of Monkeys hanging out near the dining arrangements, but we were fenced in by gates, so they just watched.

The shores had barking dear, some king of warthog/pig, and water buffalo.  Sometimes they have elephants and of course tigers, but not for us.  I have included the picts here.  It was awesome.

The Palace in Madurai

Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal (palace) This is the palace of a past ruler, I have a picture of the history, and It is HUGE.  Built in the 1600s, and used to be part of a large complex, it is still standing because of its history and a later ruler who kept it up.  It is amazing.  It has a large court, and beautiful straight and arranged columns.

I have several pictures of the columns and the artwork in stone.  It is built entirely of stone, no wood in the construction.  The artwork in the halls is amazing! The balustrades and statues are carved with such detail—all by hand.

The central court is where the subjects would congregate as he would do daily business.  Then in the Back corner was the living quarters—and a huge indoor pool/bath for the family.  The artwork in that room was incredible.

The archeologists filled that room with statues from several ages of India’s past. Most were statues of the gods of the the Hundu, such as Vishna, Shiva, and the like.

The Hindu religion is fascinating.  There is not true leader, but there have been multiple people with guiding principles that has divided Hinduism over and over until there are many sects, similar to the Reformation movement of the Christians over the last several hundred years.  Then there would come up a wise man, with thoughts about a shift or about an emphasis on a certain god and there would be a following, and then a whole new sect would be born.  There is incredible tolerance between them in general, and its amazing to see them interact.  The men and sometimes women wear the signs of their god on their heads, ash in a line across the forehead for Shiva, and a vertical line for Vishna.

Even with those movements, the temples are shared by all.  They are beautiful and the stonework, craftsmanship is unbelievable.  Here are some shots.

My first day

Please note I have a lot of links to Wikipedia in here, try them out!!

So, it’s my first real day here in India.  I’m in Chennai, Tamil Nadu.  I had about 4 hours sleep from when we landed.  We got up and went around town with a driver, and Dr. V’s wife’s nephew, Rom, who was our guide.

First off…NEVER drive in India, just don’t.  Not worth your life.  Imagine if Americans, Particularly Pittsburgh Americans decided that road laws were “guidelines” or even less, a suggestion.  If drivers weren’t as talented as they were.  We’d be dead (and yes my dear, we’re fine, I’m fine, we’re all fine!).  Not to mention, you add every other vehicle is a three wheels motor taxi, and every other vehicle after that is a motorcycle.

For example:  We flipped a U in a break in the wall, and I was on the Passenger side, front seat: this was oncoming traffic:

Later I saw the cows, and the goats.  Oh, and I loved the picture of the woman carrying her  3 yo on the back of the bike.  I’d never be able to do that at home, I’d be disowned.

Bike on the Road

Now you may or may not remember that Cows(and goats by some kind of extension) are holy to the Hindu, so there are these random cows and goats, that do not belong to anyone in particular that wonder around.

So, our first destination was a couple temples in the area, Kapaleeshwarar Temple in Chennai, a beautiful temple of Shiva with many other gods associated with it inside.  We weren’t aloud to take pictures inside, so just a few outside shops.

Later we went to the Shore Temple one of the oldest temples in this area, built a LONG time ago.  I have to go get on the train, so I’ll write more later, and update this post.


Arrival in India

As I was traveling my last leg, I left Frankfurt and flew SE towards the Persian Gulf. We actually flew over Bagdad, Dubai. I saw the Black Sea, and portions of Qatar…over the India Ocean. I have seen Iraq from above. That was just cool. I grew up knowing about these places, but now I have sen them, traveled over them, pretty cool.

As soon as you get off the plane, you feel the hea=t and smel a mix of sage and jasmine in the air. Lots and lots of people with a myriad of languages, and ethnicities. The trafic is insane, dropping off people and trying to get out of it can nearly kill you.

We got a taxi from the airport to the home we are staying in. I am so glad I don’t drive. There was so much honking and lights flashing. Which is considered polite here.

The air has a distinctive smell in the van we are riding in. Stronger jasmine sent with some flowers are draped on the rear view mirror. The city is a mix of new and old buildings. The roads are like spigetti, I thought I was going to die…just kidding sweet wife… the driver was very skilled…and there was a lot of honking.

We got to the home safely, tok off our shoes, got our room with large fans and a cooler. I slept like a rock.

On my way to India, reading Indian History

I was reading about the Indus river civilization, and it’s amazing to think that they created fabrics! They were industrious, lots of trading, and had huge cities for that time. Apparently they were the largest old civilization of their time.
Pretty Cool.
Can you imagine an ancient civilization that we have NO idea how to read their writing? Or to even understand it?


On my way…

plane Wing

And that is the semingly small plane for the puddle hoppin plane I boarde to start me trip.  I’m heading from pittsburgh to washington DC, there to meet up with my group to head first to Germany..too bad my sister won’t be able to see me…and then to Chenai(Madras) India for day 1.

I kissed Julie and the boys goodbye, walked Gracie to her bus with the family this morning…she was sad…and now I’m off.   I’ve never flown over and ocean before.  Never left the continent.  I already mis my family.

The plain is particularly loud…prop planes, go figure.

Blog ya later.


Boy do I have a fat face..

I’m Going to India!

So, this is my first trip abroad. I’ve always wanted to go. And with the grace of my Sweetheart, Julie, I am going to India for 2weeks(2.5 counting the travel. I’ve never left the continent.
I will be flying Thursday to Germany, and then to Chenia, then taking a train to Madurai to work in the hospital there. I’m excited and nervous. It’s like a new rotation, with people I don’t know, in a place where customs are completely different. I’m taking our camera and my laptop, as I’m staying in my host doctor’s house, and can leave them safely there. I hope to post daily, while I’m there and tell my stories.
Here goes nothing!