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Date: Tuesday, 21 Jan 2014 06:33
Its true. We're in yet another country, though THIS one has a full four seasons so it is time to dust off the 'ole knitting blog and take on my knitter alter-ego persona. Snidknits is back in business!

China. I never thought I would live here. And I have to say that while I like it now, it would have been a very difficult place to move to six years ago, at the start of our expat adventure. The language is a huge challenge, but after about six months of class is feel like I can communicate. Converse? No. Communication basics only. The larger Chinese cities have a lot of English speakers (well more anyway) but in Hangzhou, where we live, it's far less common. 

But what about the yarn?! So, knitting is definitely more of a "thing" here. At a local mall I regularly see a group of Chinese women sitting around knitting but I haven't had the ability to talk to them much... But, thanks to Ravelry, I found another American knitter in Hangzhou! Last week we met up for lunch and yesterday we and another friend of hers (who is pretty fluent in Chinese!) went to see the yarn stores. 

Dude. Yarn. Wool. Cashmere. Mink (mink?!) yep. Mink. 

And the prices were quite good. 

A cone of Cashmere about the size of a small Watermelon. 

A lot of the yarn is sold by the "Jin", 1 Jin being 500 grams. I bought some yarn for a sweater I'd like to make. It was 50 RMB per jin. I bought two. That's ten 100g skeins and I paid 100 RMB = about $16 USD. I'll keep you posted on how it knits up. 

Here a clerk is winding yarn from one cone to another to get the amount that a customer wants to buy. 

Apparently many knitters here do machine knitting. Their items are, as they describe, "practical, not beautiful". Because of this, much of the yarn available is fingering, or even lace weight. They often combine yarns together when knitting, often times even using thread in the knitted fabric. A couple of the boxes of yarn I bought even had thread included in the same color. 
My partners in yarn, Kimber and MJ. 

After checking out all of the little shops at this "yarn mall" we then headed to the other side of the city to visit the "nice" yarn store. 


The quality of the yarns is a step up (prices a bit higher too) and here they actually had knitting needles and a group of women knitting in the back!

They were quite impressed with our knitted items and want us to come back and hang out with them! 


I can't wait. What a fun day!

Author: "Cindy/Snid (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "China, Chinese yarn, expat, knitting"
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Mabuhay!   New window
Date: Friday, 05 Aug 2011 16:29
Welcome! Yes, I am now in the Philippines and welcome you to a new chapter in my life!

We have been here for a bit more than a month now and while the first few weeks were difficult for me (they always are in a new place), I am starting to settle in a little and we have been able to expand our circle a bit and see some of the Philippines which I will now share with you.

First, where we live. Makati. This is the "center" of the city, well the business hub at least, and we live in a tall apartment building. Now, I have not lived in an apartment in quite some time so this is a different environment than what I am used to. Many of the residents going in and out are a bit dressed up. There is a "medical center" near our building that seems to do cosmetic surgery rather than true medical care. I kind of feel like I don't really fit in around here, particularly when I put on my camera backpack and flip-flops and head out the door while waving to the concierge. I kind of feel like a slob, but Bryan says I look "artistic". (I have seen some pretty sloppy artists - not sure that is much consolation!) anyway, we do have a nice view:

One direction looks inland towards the hills, and the other side gives us a glimpse of Manila Bay and the occasional stunning sunset.


It is a very different view from what we had in India!!

Bryan and I have been able to get out a bit and see a few things. First was Intramuros, the oldest part of the city that contains the remains of a fort built in Spanish colonial times. This is actually in the Metro Manila area and not actually so far from where we live, though with traffic... yes, traffic. We got it. Now, truth be told, we did not spend a lot of time exploring the area on this particular day as it was a bit hot. Like indescribably hot, humid and wet. It's like that a lot pretty much every day, but this day was exceptionally so! So, a little explore, Bryan got to try out his new toy a bit-

(yes, we now have twin cameras)

Hot hubby

and we did the barest bit of exploring before we dashed back to an a/c taxi. Interesting fact: there is a golf course that runs around the old walls of Intramuros, in what was originally the moat. Not sure you'll find that anywhere else!

Intramuros Golf Course

A couple of weeks later we decided that we really needed to get out of the city and see another facet of the Philippines. Like, how about exploring one of the over 7000 islands! A quick read of a blog-friend's post led me to book at - Coco Beach. It was close(ish), relatively inexpensive and available at short notice. Perfect! We had a two hour drive down to Batangas, and then a one hour boat ride to the island of Mindoro where the resort is located. We were lucky. The weather was cooperative with our trip over and we had no issues. Heard some horror stories from others who were less fortunate, but that's the adventure of traveling by boat during Typhoon-Monsoon season. The first day was relaxing, with a good meal at one of the restaurants. We had a conversation with the chef and it turns out that he drives a "tricycle" during the day, which is actually a motorcycle within a sort of cage that provides a roofed side-car for passengers as well as a cover for the driver. He offered to show us around the island some the next day, so we arranged to meet at 9am in Puerto Galera.

That morning brought some rain, well - a LOT of rain. We took a boat to Puerto Galera anyway,
brave good-swimming souls that we are. By the time we arrived we were wet, but that was just the beginning. We got soaked as it rained and rained. But we trudged up the hill to see the waterfall (hah! water was falling alright!)
And by the time we were finished there it stopped raining for a bit and we were able to actually see some sights!
Bryan and I are definitely not the same size as your average Filipino, but we managed to enjoy our cozy space anyway...We got a quick look at the market...
And greatly enjoyed our tour with "The Cook".
The return boat trip was much drier and more enjoyable and we took a little detour to enjoy it a bit more... really was incredibly beautiful out there.

An enjoyable weekend at a fun and laidback place, we would definitely go back!


So, that's a quick synopsis of our first month. Soon I'll post about my first photo shoot here with a wonderful NGO called Sambat Trust.
Author: "Cindy/Snid (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Asia, Coco Beach, Intramuros, Manila, Mi..."
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Date: Wednesday, 22 Jun 2011 20:24
Today, while sorting through and packing things up I came across a brass bell. This is a bell that came from my parent's arts and crafts store from when I was a kid. I seem to recall that it was made in India. I remember when I was a child I thought of India as a very far away and exotic country. Another world from the California suburban neighborhood that I grew up in. I can recall looking at Time-Life picture books that featured images of "native" people from all over the world. I poured over these pictures as a child growing up. Fascinated with the colors of traditional costumes and the wide variety of facial characteristics... human beings were so different the world over! But it was the India books that really grabbed me. There was a richness and beauty there that was captivating.



I know, I am using a lot of flowery language here, but you are going to have to forgive me. For this week is a major one for me and I am grasping at my words, trying to explain how I am feeling. You see, in one week I will leave the place that has become my home over the last 3 1/2 years. My dear crazy India. I may have been captivated with the pictures as a child, but I have fallen in love with the place as an adult and to say I am going to miss it... words can't explain.


The people, its culture, the noise, the cows, the traffic, the autos (rickshaws)... all weave together to create a country that really is like no other. Some don't like it, but I have grown to consider it a part of my daily life. I now get nervous when it is too quiet and the chaos that greets me as I walk out the door soothes me truly.


So, before I wax on to the point of using every literary catchphrase that exists to mankind, I will sign off and simply share some of the faces and places of my dear India. Enjoy.





Oh, and next stop on our life journey? Manila (in The Philippines).
Author: "Cindy/Snid (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Bangalore, expat, India, photography"
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Date: Friday, 18 Jun 2010 00:00
...in a helluva year.

So, my oldest daughter is getting married in July, to an Australian that she met in India (his mom and I are friends) and as part of the immigration stuff she had to get a health check up. After her chest x-ray she was told that she had an enlarged heart, then it was a mass, then a cyst.... Now, after several more checks, CT scans, and MRI's she has been diagnosed with a rather large neurogenic tumor that will have to be removed surgically. Dude. Enough already. Now, I should say up front that she is likely to be just fine post-surgery so I am not too worried, but the surgery will be two weeks before her wedding. Can you think of a less opportune time?! So, just think about pre-wedding stress and add all of this into it and, well - heck, maybe it's better. There is SO much that we just will not be able to worry about. So we will go with the flow.
On the good news front, my son graduated from high school and I was there to see it! He's the one in the middle with the unmistakable smile.


So yes, I am back in the states - again - and enjoying the sunshine, the sun setting late, the flowers and all of my favorite summer fruits (peaches, strawberries, plums, apricots, nectarines!!! Yum, yum, yum!), my family, BBQ's and all of the other quintessentially Californian enjoyments that can be had in June. My son has graduated from high school, my eldest daughter has graduated from university (though was not able to attend said graduation due to the aforementioned medical issues), and several family members have had birthdays. A good life.

Stay tuned for more philosophical mutterings.
Author: "Cindy/Snid (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Wednesday, 05 May 2010 11:56
Where she was

It has been over a month now. My mother passed away on March 28th. I feel like I had a good chance to say goodbye to her and I am grateful for that. Even before she passed I missed her, but having her really be gone is a different thing entirely. I am comforted in the confidence that I feel that I will see her again. Still, it hurts.



Back in Bangalore, I am picking up the pieces of my life here. The house hunting resumed as we have to vacate this house. Really we are glad to as we have grown tired of the never ending leaks, too-close construction noise and hassles. The good news is that we did find a new house, just-right size (felt like Goldilocks looking at houses, most far too big, or small!), nice open kitchen with lots of counter space for Maya, a garden that is a usable size. We couldn't be happier! Other aspects of my life are slowly coming back as well, though it is a sad thing that so many friends have left or will soon be leaving Bangalore. I have to edit the contact list in my phone again. Still, I am not entirely alone and I am getting back into the swing of things. But normal, after what I have experienced in the last 5 months, is different. I am changed.

Moonlight on Construction

Somehow going through something like this adds a depth to your life, another dimension and perspective, you can no longer "fit" into your previous self. I am still processing what all of this means to me, still discovering who I have become really. I have had days filled with tears, I have had moments when I wanted nothing more to do with the world, but I am now at a place of equilibrium. For the moment at least, I am okay. I take comfort in knowing that life goes on, that there are celebrations to be had and friends and family to enjoy them with. That is the good stuff of life.

Quiet Night in Bangalore
Author: "Cindy/Snid (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Friday, 26 Mar 2010 05:42
We are still here.

My mom is a wonder.

I am soaking up the beautiful Spring weather - so incredibly gorgeous. The hard part is trying to decide whether I can be happy (so hard not to with beautiful weather) or if I am sad. I think I am both. Watching someone die brings out all of your feelings and beliefs about spirituality, religion, etc. I am a believer. I believe in God (though not a personified one necessarily) and I can feel happy that my mother is going to pass from this world into another realm of experience. I know that she believes that as well and it is an incredible comfort. But that does not mean that this is all easy.


I really did not expect that I would still be writing about such things, I would have imagined that my mother would have passed by now, but the human spirit and its will to live are incredibly strong in this woman. Could be some of that famous stubborn streak that seems to run thick in our family (I'm told we can thank the Irish for that). We are now at two weeks with no food and a few days with virtually no liquid due to her inability to swallow without coughing and hacking for 5-10 minutes - and that is when I can get her to open her mouth. Really, how is this possible?

Now all of this is not without rewards though. At first glance she can appear to be completely unresponsive, but spend a bit of time with her and you will notice the little expressions - the raised eyebrows, the pursed lips, the smile and sometimes even a wink. She is still there. The other night as I was going to bed and turning over her care and attention to Ari and Brenton I called from the kitchen on my way to my room, "Good night mom, I love you!" and I heard her say from the other room "I love you too". I stopped dead in my tracks and felt such joy and gratitude. I know what it takes for her to speak and to do it so clearly is not easy for her. It was a gift I will cherish for all of my days.

So I am still here, as I have said before, watching every breath and the increasing spaces in between.
Author: "Cindy/Snid (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Sunday, 14 Mar 2010 06:52
I have a confession to make.

This is no longer a knitting blog.

I just don't really knit that much anymore. I occasionally pick something up and work on it, but it really hit me when I went to Stitches West a couple of weeks ago and very easily breezed past booth after booth of lovely fiber and yarn. There was no yearning to stop and touch everything, no dreaming up of projects, no drooling over the cashmere (though this is the one thing that I did actually purchase). I still knit, but I can no longer define myself as "a knitter".

I think part of it is that since taking up photography again, my artistic-creative needs are being met in that way. It is possible that knitting was a placeholder for this part of me. I still appreciate patterns and textures, I just find/create them with my camera more these days. It is certainly a shift in my identity, in a way. But, it also made me realize something; knitters, crafters, spinners... you are all artists.



Now, on to other news. So, above I said that I was at Stitches. Well, the astute or "in the know" among you will realize that this event takes place in Santa Clara, California. Not Bangalore. So, yes, I am in Santa Clara. Many of you reading this will already know, but for those who don't I will give you a short run down of what is going on in my life.

I came here with my family at the beginning of December so that we could be here for the holidays. One week before we left I spoke to my mother on the phone and she had just been diagnosed with cancer. By the time that we arrived her diagnosis had changed from stage I and highly treatable to stage IV and not curable. Now, it was treatable, the idea being that she could prolong her life by doing chemo, so my mom was ready to get started right away with treatment. The short version of the story is that she had a really bad reaction to the chemo which lead to her having a couple of strokes. This made her go from a fully functioning, still working, driving and living independently human being to an invalid. She lost all movement from the neck down excluding her left arm and hand. She was still able to speak, but did not always make sense.

After one week in the hospital, they transferred her to hospice care and we had to move her to a convalescent hospital. Now, I have to say here that I NEVER thought that I would put a family member in such a place, but there was no other choice. We did find a nice place for her though and I really have no complaints about the care she received there (not sure about the food though!) After 7 weeks there I was able to have her moved to our home in Santa Clara. Our tenants had coincidentally moved out recently and she had become stable enough to care for her at home.

We have been here two weeks now. We miss some of the characters from the convalescent hospital (there were some great ones!), but here it is peaceful, the garden is blooming, we hear birds chirping and we can relax a little more. Mom is dying. I know this. She knows this. At this point, she is not really eating or drinking anything, so I really don't expect her to last too long. I am just grateful that she is here, that things are calm and peaceful and she can go at her own pace.


So I am here caring for my mom. I am occasionally overwhelmed. I am sometimes in awe. I am amazed by how beautiful she is, how gloriously strong her body is, and how "present" she is when I least expect it. My mom is an amazing human being and I am so incredibly grateful to be able to be here with her through this.

So, more another time, and it is good to be back.
Author: "Cindy/Snid (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Friday, 28 Aug 2009 11:26
Somehow, even though the seasons here are quite different, I still feel a new season coming on and it leaves me contemplative. Maya is back in school again, I start up again next week with classes as well and I find myself organizing things and going through various piles of life remnants that are scattered around the house. This is the only area of control I have over my life at present. We are still waiting to hear about the contract extension, though are feeling more confident that it will be approved and are just waiting for the process to be completed. Still, it is six months only. Through June of 2010. That is only 10 months more here that are guaranteed. Not so long in the scheme of things. When people ask me how long I have been in Bangalore I at this point reply with "it is coming up on 2 years". Two years. That seems like a long time, and yet it has passed so quickly that I can hardly believe it. I sometimes find myself realizing that I have good friends here, I like it and feel comfortable. Yet at the same time, I also find myself growing weary of the noise, the lifestyle and the inability to get around on my own more easily. Don't get me wrong, I'm not feeling depressed, just... well, like I said - contemplative. The times, they are a changin'...

There are stories to tell- I went to Singapore with my daughters last week. I have visited more charities and taken some interesting pictures... I will leave you with this. Some of the many reasons why I love India. Can't help but feel that its future is on good hands.

Author: "Cindy/Snid (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Friday, 07 Aug 2009 13:09
Well, the class is over. My brain has been sucked dry and now it seems as if my body has relaxed enough that it feels it is okay to get sick. great.

I am truly looking forward to getting back to photography classes in September and in the meantime am sorting the stacks of paper that have accumulated in the last eight months. In other news, our life here is in state of "wait and see". My husband's current contract ends Dec. 31st and we are waiting to hear whether a six month extension has been approved - or not. We would like to have the extension so that my youngest daughter can finish out the school year here. Better yet would have been a 1 1/2 year extension so that she could finish her schooling completely since she is starting the IB program, something that is not so readily available should we return to the states. But we really don't know; there have been so many expats who have had to suddenly go home in the last six months, there is no guarantee that the same won't happen to us. There is also no guarantee that my husband will have a job elsewhere. So, we wait and will see. What else can we do? That said, it is a frustrating position to be in.

So it's Friday. How about a photo and a little story? Okay, can't choose one, so how about three?


So, one of the charities that is supported by the OWC is called Navachetana. It is a residential home for adults who have mental difficulties. The current home that they live in is adequate, but is rather dark, has no garden, and is on a rather noisy street. They don't get out much. It is not ideal, but my understanding is that they have had a hard time staying in houses because of costs (increasing property values in Bangalore) and prejudice. There does not seem to be a lot of understanding about mental illness in India and the honest truth is that many people are quite superstitious about such things. Not everyone, but enough that it makes a difference in these people's lives.

Now, as I said they don't get out much, BUT a field trip was organized to the nearby Bannerghata Wildlife Park and Zoo and we came along to "help". We drove the approximate 1 1/2 hours to get there (I love being outside of the city!) and quickly met up with our group. First up was the safari. Yes, we saw lions, and tigers, and bears .... All through the caged in windows of our private bus. Now, there are two stories in that last sentence. First was the caged in windows. They didn't used to be caged, but rumor has it that a young child was attacked through an open window of one of the buses some years back. So now, they have metal grills. Quite logical if you ask me. Now, the second interesting mention above was PRIVATE BUS. The buses for the safari are notorious for being over-crowded and all of the bodily joys that that experience would give you. To have a private bus for our group was a real treat and much appreciated by us all. Though we must have been quite a sight. A bunch of white people with cameras armed and ready "accompanying" a group of somewhat reserved and quiet Indians who seemed only moderately interested in the wild animals just outside. Well, I had fun anyway.

This is Gracie, she is quite the model don't you think?


After the safari, we had lunch and then went into the zoo. There are many of your typical zoo animals: birds of multiple varieties, crocodiles, leopards, elephants, monkeys. Yes monkeys. That was pretty funny actually. There was a cage with some sort of monkeys inside, then outside was a group of wild and free monkeys who truly seemed to be teasing them. They were even stealing their food. Priceless!

I also appreciated the helpful signs.


We wandered around the zoo for about an hour and then gathered and said our goodbyes. It was a fun trip and a great way to spend the day and we all appreciated getting out of Bangalore for a few hours.
Author: "Cindy/Snid (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Friday, 24 Jul 2009 16:49

I am still mostly sitting on my backside doing schoolwork these days, but only two weeks left of this class. I admit that I do get distracted by Facebook (am finding a lot of old friends there these days!) and listening to good music on a regular basis, but I have not actually gotten out of the house so much. My dear husband though, some weeks ago he, well insisted that we should go away for our anniversary. So, we did, to Fort Kochi (Kochin/Cochin) in Kerala. The last photo I shared was from that trip as well. But today I wanted to tell a little about the laundry that we visited, the dhoby khana.

As we entered the area, we saw a large area covered with poles and ropes. This is where they would generally dry much of the clothing, but of course, this being monsoon season, few were using this area to dry things.

As we came around the side we saw the work spaces that each of them use. Each has their own assigned space where they wash the clothes. Looked like hard work.


Nearby was a covered shed, where at this time of year they hang most of the laundry to dry. Notice how they don't need clothespins?


Inside is where they also do the ironing. Wow. These are some serious irons. This guy, who I was told was 70 something years old, offered to let me pick up the iron. I couldn't. Seriously. It was far too heavy. Of course, once you lift it and place it on the fabric, that also means that the iron is doing a lot of the work for you, so that is the good part.



Another man was working with a coal iron...


And finally, someone was starching shirts.



It was an amazing place to see.

Author: "Cindy/Snid (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Saturday, 11 Jul 2009 10:59
Truly, I wish I had not signed up for the English class that I am taking this summer. It is a good class but since it is a "short" course, one semester in six weeks, it is intense. During the course of this time I have to write and revise a short story and, well, it is kicking my butt.

But, since it is once again, still Friday somewhere, I will share with you a photo from a recent get-away to Kochi in Kerala.


Enjoy, and I will be back soon!
Author: "Cindy/Snid (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Amsterdam   New window
Date: Saturday, 04 Jul 2009 09:53
No one likes to write not-blogging excuses and I will resist the temptation.
Instead I will post a few photos from my visit to Amsterdam. I really, really loved the city and will try to tell you a few little stories soon! Enjoy :)




Author: "Cindy/Snid (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Wednesday, 10 Jun 2009 02:48
I was realizing today that there is no possible way that I can summarize all that I have done on this trip. It has been so amazing (and still one week to go!). You saw some shots of Paris... beautiful, right? Yep. An amazing and inspiring city. Since Paris I have also seen:

Tournai- totally cool city. Charming, picturesque, and quiet. It is like walking into a little fairytale town or something. Check it out...





Yeah... Disneyland's got nothing on Europe.

And then there was Brussels. I really should tell you about some of our adventures in Brussels. It was a bit gray and gloomy feeling while we were there but on our first day we had a fantastic walking tour where we learned all about the history of Brussels in two short hours. We saw the grand square where the town hall is, observed some of the details on the building that give Brussels a little character, saw the Manneken Pis (as well as what we think was a TV commercial being shot there...), and got the scoop on which candy/chocolate shops were the good ones.

Then we went to see the Brussels Royal Museum of Fine Arts some more art history, this time delving into the world of Flemish Primitives, Northern Renaissance, and the Flanders painters. Saw some great stuff... but no photos were allowed :(

BUT, when we came out to head back to the hotel we saw a glimmer of hope. The gloomy day was lifting...

huh?

We saw...


GOLD PEOPLE!!!

squee!

Now what exactly are these gold people? Well, we were asking ourselves that very question! They told us a very little bit about it, handing us stickers as they walked on. But what do you do when such a group is in front of you...


Well, duh. You follow.



So we did.

One of my classmates is now an honorary member. I think she fits in with them, don't ya think?

omg, OMG, OMG!!!!
(actually, she was quite speechless!)

Well, eventually they wandered on and I was ready for an afternoon coffee, AND a Belgian waffle thank-you-very-much! So the gold people wandered away and life in Brussels returned to normal.



So, in case you are interested, the "gold people", as I have referred to them here, are part of an art project by the Polish artist Pawal Althamer. Part of the project is to commemorate the 20 years it has been since the free elections of Poland in 1989.

Author: "Cindy/Snid (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Friday, 05 Jun 2009 02:02
St. Chapelle, Paris

I know- I missed Friday.
I have been gone now for three weeks, I think. I am not entirely sure what day of the week it is. The calendar at the bottom of my computer says that it is the 5th... which I think is a Thursday. Geez.

So I spent a week and a half and a day in Paris. Wow. LOVED Paris. I love the history, the buildings, the language (just wish I was more conversational with it), the food, the mood. Really a fantastic city. I have taken lots of photos but have not had time to do a lot of processing. I have started the Art History course that I came to Europe for and am running around striving to keep up with a bunch of younger adults who are quite fun. We have seen museums... lots of them. We have seen Cathedrals and I could now write a paper on the differences between Romanesque, Neo-Classical and Gothic architecture. I have had school assignments to complete (though thankfully not the one I just mentioned!) and have marveled at how late the sun sets here.

The "you-know-what" at about 10 pm.

I am now in Brussels, but I hope you enjoy these few photos from Paris. You'll get a legit blog post one of these days when I have more time to actually write. And now... I have to go finish a school assignment on... oh yeah, Gothic architectural elements in cathedrals!

Author: "Cindy/Snid (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Sunday, 24 May 2009 21:58

Are you ready for a nice long post? Well, get ready. I promise it is weird, interesting and decidedly English. So grab a cup of tea, or coffee if you must, and settle in for some stories of ghosts, kings and queens, witches, cats, rats and a-maze-ing adventures.

Yes, it is time to play catch up. It has been a fairly packed trip thus far and I have not even started my school course yet. I am, as stated before, in Paris now- but I would like to share with you about my trip to England.

Really, I did love London. It is busy, alive, interesting, friendly and I felt completely at ease walking its streets on my own.

Helpful British directions...

A wander down a random street would almost always lead to an interesting discovery. I never got lost and I enjoyed myself immensely. I wondered towards the end if I would regret leaving London to visit friends in the hinterlands of the English countryside. Not to worry... England has an interesting story at every turn and I was not disappointed.

I traveled by train to Ipswich to visit my friend Sally who is a former Bangalore expat. A quick one hour trip, only slightly complicated by my bulky luggage (it is hard to pack lightly for a 5 week trip!), and I was in the hands of Sally who turned out to be a most excellent and interesting tour guide! We started out right away by driving into the center of Ipswich where Sally pointed out many amazing examples of pargeting, a traditional plastering technique common to the area. Truly amazing stuff! Do look at the link for more information on how this is done.

Free form plastering artwork!

After a wander around and a bite to eat at a local pub we decided to visit a couple of castles that were in the area. First we went to Framlingham (c. 1190 a.d.) where they had an audio tour that was decidedly humorous and Monty Python-esque, though perhaps not quite as informative as I might have wanted- but that's okay- I also bought the guidebook.

Inside the Framlington Castle walls

It is an interesting castle in that it has a house/building still standing inside (likely re-built and such), but this allows you to envision how it might look if you were living inside a castle wall. The internal area is smaller than you might think and apparently this is one of the larger ones. My first castle! We then traveled to the previously mentioned Orford castle (last post). This one was more of a "tower castle" but was fascinating for all of the nooks and cranies that you could climb through and explore.

My most excellent tour guide!

We did climb all the way to the top where there was a view of the North Sea in the distance. At the top we also encountered a stiff, chill wind that sent us scurrying back to the car in short order.

Orford Village

That evening, for dinner, we went to The Butt and Oyster, a 17th Century pub on the banks of the River Orwell. For the record, the "butt" part of the name refers to a type of barrel used to transport oysters back in the day. If you thought otherwise, well, I suspect you would not be alone. This was apparently quite a smuggler's haven in the 19th century and it is said that the proprietors would leave a lantern in the window if it was safe to unload. The pub is quite close to the water's edge and at high tide and they can and do serve pints through the windows to boats who come close. The essential thing about the place is that they serve a good meal with a nice view, both of which we did enjoy!

Pinmill view

We ended the evening with a drive around the local area and passed by the house pictured below. This is Erwarton Hall and was at one time the home to a relative of Ann Boleyn's. She is said to have spent many memorable years here in her youth as well as some of her last days as she awaited her destined end. She loved the place so much that she gave orders for her heart to be buried here upon her demise. Quite the story, huh? Well apparently they found a small casket that contained human remains- now dust- some years back. The story is that they removed it to London for investigation, but after some strange occurances in the house, it was decided that the casket should be replaced. So the heart of Ann Boleyn is at rest once more.

Erwarton Hall

An alternate history, one that was published in the New York Times of November 13th, 1881, states that her heart was buried, and discovered, at nearby St. Mary's church (c. 15th Century) in Ewarton. Either way, her heart clearly lies in the local area. A beautiful peaceful spot worthy of her affections.


The next day we were off for a visit to Bury St. Edmunds. Another fine name for a fine English town. And what is Bury St. Edmund's known for? Well, for being the home of the ruins of the St. Edmund's Abbey-


the shrine and supposed home to the buried remains of St. Edmund of course! Local people will tell you that they would prefer that St. Edmund became the patron saint of England as opposed to St. George. Primarily because St. Edmund was actually English, while St. George was either Turkish, or African, or something else, but definitely not English. There is also the fact that St. George, lovely admirable man that he may have been, never even visited England. Interesting point!

Besides the ruins of the abbey, the area is also home to a Cathedral, recently visited by The Queen, it's lovely gardens, a brewery (I could smell the brewing beer as we were walking through the town!) and the smallest pub in England, measuring 15 x 7 feet, The Nutshell.

We cracked the door to The Nutshell and entered for a bit of refreshment. We encountered a friendly informative barman who filled us in on some of the history of the pub. The most entertaining of which was about the remains on the ceiling. Confused? Look closely below...


Do you see the dangly thing behind the front ceiling light? That would be the remains of a cat. Discovered while re-doing some brick work, cats were apparently buried alive within such constructs in years past as a means of keeping away witches. We were told by the barman that it doesn't work, as he knows several who visit the pub on a regular basis. The cat also has the company of a rat (seen dangling to the far right of the cat above) that was brought in by a customer some years ago. Since that time, the cat and rat have been joined by a human leg bone, the skeletal remains of some other unidentified animal, a blown up blowfish, and various other oddments. This pub is apparently also inhabited by several ghosts, though how they fit inside is beyond me!

After our bit of refreshment/entertainment, we departed for the coast. These are some English Beach huts. Another odd piece of British tradition, they are usually owned, though sometimes leased, and offer a bit of holiday getaway for their occupants. You are not allowed to sleep in them- only use them during the day while at the seaside. Though judging from the brisk, crisp air there, I think they are on to something!


Well, seeing as how the British are such brave souls I decided to dip my feet in the water as well. Refreshing!


The next day it was time to depart from Suffolk and travel over hill and dale in a roundabout way to Cheshire. Time to visit another former Bangalore expat, Andrea.

Now Andrea and her husband David are more recently arrived from Bangalore but they willingly put me up in their home (their shipment from India was due to arrive shortly after my visit) and treated me to the lovely sights and sounds of Macclesfield.

We started out that night with a visit to the nearby Bollington Festival. It seems that Andrea is not only a dear friend, she is also a talented performer and I was able to see her in a performance of the opera, Tobias and the Angel. This tells the story from the Book of Tobit (from the Apocrypha) about Tobit's son Tobias and his experiences with the Archangel Raphael. It was quite fun, accessible, and a wonderful way to spend the evening. After this performance we also enjoyed a tango performance. The dancers were good (though young and slightly lacking in emotional depth), but the music was fantastic!

The next day was a rainy one, so we ventured across the nearby Peak District (beautiful hills and valleys filled with farms, sheep, and lovely scenery) to Chatsworth, the estate and home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. Wow. What a place. I am not sure that I would be as generous as they are- to open it up to the public 364 days a year. Entry fees do help pay for the upkeep of the estate, but I might want a few more days to myself there. It is stunning. The house is amazing enough, but what I really loved were the gardens. Really, as far as the eye could see is part of their estate. The estate has also been in several films, most recently and notably, The Duchess, staring Keira Knightly and Ralph Fiennes. This film was actually based on the story of the real life Georgiana, 18th Century Duchess of Devonshire. She was apparently quite scandalous!

We explored the house...



We explored and enjoyed the gardens...


And then we ventured into the maze. Okay, mazes should be logical, right? There are only so many entrances, only so many possible turns, and once you have tried and eliminated all previous possibilities you are led to the center of the maze. Easy. Well, we tried. We did all of the above to the best of my knowledge, we saw the center of the maze through the shrubbery, we heard a delighted child in the center... but we could not, would not, find the actual path to the center. We finally gave up once the rains stopped threatening and started falling with a peal of laughter in our general direction. We were defeated.


Ah well. We did enjoy ourselves and I felt like I had gotten a true taste of "The North" of England. Another beautiful spot in the world.

Phew. Still here? Wow. I'm impressed! I hope you enjoyed my quirky stories of England.

"...and why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wings."

Lewis Carroll- who totally makes sense to me now!



Author: "Cindy/Snid (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Saturday, 23 May 2009 02:48
This is going to be quick. I am tired. It has been a long and wonderful week. I am in Paris. I managed to order dinner in French without the handy French phrasebook that I had bought and then helpfully left in Bangalore (I know a little, "un petit peu", French that is so rusty you would need a tetanus shot with it.) Yeah- my spelling probably isn't so great either.

I promise that I will get a nice long blog post up in the next couple of days. I owe you. In the meantime.. here is a castle that I saw in Suffolk with Sally this week! This is Orford castle and it is tres cool!



A bientot!
Author: "Cindy/Snid (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Sunday, 17 May 2009 02:50

...but not a dollar short. It would have to be a pound since I am in London!

I love London.

I walk down the street and hear English. But it is like 31 flavors of English. And then there are all of the other languages. In 48 hours I have heard German, Italian, Ukrainian, French, Hindi, Urdu, Scottish (definitely qualifies as a different language to my ears!) and several other languages that I cannot specifically identify.

I walk down the streets and see shops. Lots and lots of shops. Shops that have things that fit me shops. Shops that have shoes that fit me shops! Really, I haven't done that much shopping. Honest. But I have enjoyed wandering into quite a few of them and admiring the styles and fabrics and such. Don't get me wrong, I like Indian clothes, but it is nice to see something different as well.

I really can't make a long list of London sights that I have seen. I have mostly just been wandering around and soaking up the city, while trying not to get soaked myself. I did enjoy the London Eye yesterday, an exhibit by Annette Messager (weirdly comic and grotesque at the same time), as well as enjoyed the Tate Modern. Fantastic museum that. I wandered back to my hotel after that and happened to catch a bit of weather. I made it about half way and realized that I was starting to get a bit soaked- so I hailed a taxi, "Where to, love?", and avoided another 30-40 minutes of walking in the rain. 10 pounds well spent.

Today I got a late start and in the end just sort of wandered aimlessly throughout Marleybone, Regent Street, Carnaby Street, and surrounding areas. The crowds were out in droves. Walking down Oxford street was a bit nuts. It was like the traffic on the streets of Bangalore except all of the autos (rickshaws) and two-wheelers (motorcycles and scooters) are people - and you have to weave your way through without getting hit. Except I think that Bangalore drivers are better at manuvering than the people I saw today!

Now I am in my "cozy" hotel room (it is quite small!) watching Eurovision. Some of these people are really quite bad. Ouch.

Here is the "Eye" view of Parliament and the Thames!

Author: "Cindy/Snid (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Monday, 11 May 2009 23:07
T-minus 3 days and I will be on my way.

Wait... have I told you? I am off on a great adventure. On my own. Well, mostly anyway.
On Thursday I board a plane and fly to London. I will explore London and visit friends in the UK. I will travel to Paris where I have a few days on my own. I will meet up with fellow classmates from my school in SF for a three-week Art History course that will take us from Paris to Brussels and to Amsterdam. Then, my classmates will return to SF while I spend a few days in the Netherlands with some of Bryan's family and finally I will make my way back to London to return home to Bangalore. 35 days.

Will I miss my family?
Yes.

Am I looking forward to my trip?
You betcha.

I have never in my life done anything remotely close to this. I have never traveled in any of these countries. I have never traveled on my own. Somehow it feels like something that everyone should do at some point in their life. It's my turn I guess. I will miss exploring with this guy:


But I will take lots of pictures and will keep in touch!
Author: "Cindy/Snid (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Saturday, 09 May 2009 14:43
Yes, I am late, but I know that it is still Friday somewhere... like in Hawaii!
(although given how s-l-o-w Blogger is these days, it might be Saturday even there by the time this goes up)

So, this will be quick, I have finals to get back to and photos from a very busy shooting week to process, but I wanted to share with you... Though since I could not pick just one photo you get to see a few :)


The Bangle Ceremony

Last weekend we went to a wedding. Indian weddings are full of pomp and splendor. An "old school" Indian wedding would typically last one week. Now they have the abbreviated version which lasts 2-3 days, but they are VERY full days! So we arrived at about 6 pm, stayed until about 1:00 am, headed back to the hotel, slept (some), woke up at 7 am, returned to the wedding hall and stayed until about 12:30 pm. We had far more rest and far less to do than the bride and groom, but they held up very well and seemed happy once the day was winding down some...

Blessing the Bride and Groom


South Indian Silk Sarees

So here are some images for your enjoyment. I am still in the middle of processing all of them, but once I have I will post them to Flickr and make sure that I get a link here for you. They really are fun to see!

Saree Ari!
Author: "Cindy/Snid (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Friday, 01 May 2009 15:53

Wow. I am really grateful that we took the many recommendations to visit Santorini. It is absolutely stunning.

We arrived on Wednesday, after a barely 45 minute flight from Athens and were picked up by a charming young man who gave us lots of helpful tips about the island (several of which we didn't get to make use of!) The plan was to do some serious relaxing on the island and we got right to that.


We stayed in a hotel that overlooks the caldera, or the sea that has filled in where the rest of the island was before the massive eruption that took place a long time ago. We had gorgeous sunsets, saw the cruise ships coming in everyday, and had a mostly sheltered spot to absorb some sun while staying out of the still slightly chilly breeze. What more could you want?

Sunset from our hotel

It wasn't long before we were itching to get out and take some photos though. It was really apparent that the island is probably one of the most photogenic places I have been in my life. I obviously was not the only one who felt that way as we saw photographers everywhere that we went. Who can blame them. The light, the colors, the fresh air and calm atmosphere make this a true paradise. We felt like we were living in a dream. The buildings on the island have a real sculptural quality to them, born out of the traditional construction techniques that combine rock walls and then stucco. As we were arriving at the start of the season we saw quite a few places getting a fresh coat of whitewash and again saw many flowers in bloom, among them one of my favorite flowers, scented geraniums.


We stayed just outside of the town of Oia (pronounced "ee-ah") that is just plain beautiful. It is filled with cliffside cafes, shops and hotels that descend down sets of steps, but no worries, there are donkey taxis that can help you get up and down! It is said that Santorini is the most beautiful Greek island, it is also said that Oia is the most beautiful spot on Santorini. Dang. We soaked it in, enjoying our many strolls to and from the town, often accompanied by "stray" dogs following/escorting us home. Not sure that they expected the tasty "tips" that we gave them once we arrived, but they certainly enjoyed them and we would sometimes wake to find the same dogs waiting outside our door in the morning :)


We did do a little exploring on this not so big island. One day we ventured out to get to other end of the island but due to some road work we were diverted through a little town (a "traditional settlement" as the sign called it), got turned around and ended up headed the other direction. Given the size of the island, it is actually quite amazing how easy it is to lose your sense of direction and get turned around! We decided that this is because the island is shaped like a large crescent. Hard to explain, but trust me, it was confusing. (add to this the fact that maps are a little vague there) but regardless, given the size of the island, you are never lost for long. It is merely an opportunity to find a different place or a different way of getting to some place you didn't think you were going to!


Santorini is also known for their wine. So naturally, we stopped at a couple of wineries while we were there and tried some. Some may have even made its way back to India.

Easter on Santorini:


On Friday, which was the Greek Orthodox Good Friday, we were told that there is a not to be missed experience at a village called Pyrgos. They celebrate the burial of Christ and then the whole town is lit up with lanterns. We observed on our way there that most other towns also had lanterns (large cans filled with sawdust and some flammable material) lining the roads awaiting lighting, but Pyrgos has the fortune of being at the top of a hill so it looks a lot cooler once all of the lanterns are lit. It really was a treat to observe this. We had also intended to attend a church service Easter Eve... they are suposed to be incredibly special and beautiful, but instead we were all quite tired and ended up tucking into bed quite early that night. Sometimes that is just the way it works out.


Finally on Sunday, Easter Sunday for the Greek Orthodox, we had the fortune to go to Santorini Mou for a traditional Easter meal. What a find. Good food, serenades by Mihalis, even stray cat and dog company (truly, all of the island owns and cares for the animals there!). If you ever get to Santorini, do drop by and have a meal there, I promise that you won't regret it.

Finally, I took many more photos than I will post here... do go take a look and enjoy a bit of Spring from the Greek Isle of Thera/Santorini.

Author: "Cindy/Snid (noreply@blogger.com)"
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