Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Houseboating in the Backwaters of Kerala

our houseboat
We spent two days on a houseboat in the "backwaters" of the State of Kerala while we were on our South Indian tour.  It was the most relaxing time we had on the trip, and it was just magical.

fish eagle
The bird life along the lakes, rivers and canals was more than abundant and the word teeming seems to be just the right choice.  We saw bee eaters (very difficult to get photographed clearly) and horn bills, eagles, hawks, ducks of all sorts, cranes, herons and the list went on and on.  I am no bird expert, but I do love to watch them.  And try to photograph them.  I didn't have  much luck while on the houseboat as most of them were either very small or very far off and the engine vibrations were enough to make most of my shots either downright blurry or not quite in focus, at best.  Too bad, but, hey!  I got to see them!

local fishermen
Life along the lake, canals and rivers looks exotic and lovely.  There are long dikes with a single line of houses built on them, all strung out like beads on a string.  On one side, river (or lake or canal) and huge rice fields on the others, protected by the levees and dikes.  Some of the canals are narrow and you have to use one of the local canoe-like boats to get through, but others are wide and many houseboats are busy going in all directions.  It bustles.

The local people just ignore all the houseboats and the curious tourists who travel on them.  They have real things to do and can't be looking back at the lounging visitors.

It was so beautiful I just sat out on our front lounge and watched it all pass by.  Boats, birds, children swimming, women washing clothiers, ferries going from one side to the other, power lines stretched across the canals, temples, churches (there are lots of Christians in Kerala), little shops, bigger shops....the list of things to gape at was long and varied.

I will always think of Kerala as a technicolor place!  The greens were vivid, the oranges striking, the browns were deep and rich.  There was color everywhere.  It was truly beautiful.
waiting for the ferry
Even the locals were decked out in technicolor clothing.  Everything was bright and pretty.

Our houseboat was extremely comfortable.  While it was hot and humid outside, all the cabins were air conditioned, so sleeping was very nice.  Each cabin had either twin or double beds, depending on what was required, and each had its own bathroom with a very nice shower.  Big windows looked out on the passing scenery, should you wish to lie about in AC comfort and just laze away a hot, sticky afternoon.  The food was prepared by the chef on board and it was excellent.  We brought out own beer, which was served to us ice cold.

It was some good time we had on the houseboats!

I am off to California for about two weeks in the morning, so there will be an interruption in my posting.  As one of my favorite bloggers, Mary Ann Moss, likes to say...."Talk among yourselves."

Monday, February 24, 2014

Lino Block Printing Class

I took a wonderfully fun and surprisingly productive lino print class over the weekend at the Schack Art Center in Everett.  I have taken several printing classes there since the first of the year and I've learned a lot.

This plate is the original plate I carved and the one I did all the black ink only prints with.

The teacher for this two day class was Betsy Best-Spadaro.  I have taken one other class from Betsy.  You can find my blog post on that class here and here.  I always learn so much and have a great, fun time in her classes.

This is the plate that I carved away everything except where I wanted to print red.  

This is the design I came up with.  As my friend pointed out, it came from an old sweater I wear all the time, right down to the checker board detail.  And I hadn't noticed.....oh, dear.

elephant only plate, printed in gray

Of course, once I got into the design it became apparent that I was going to have to carve three blocks to get the print I wanted.  (In color, that is.)  Betsy was gentle when she confirmed that, yes, I had to cut away my elephant.  It hurt me but I did it.

Here is the red ink only plate after carving away every thing that was not to be reel
 I printed a few times using only black ink, before I reduced (cut away) the plate.  I do like it in just black and white.

Black prints drying on the drying rack.

A print all in black on the drying rack
 Here is the print in black and white.

And here it is printed in gray, red and black.

All the prints drying on my dining room table.
 I absolutely LOVED this class.  I'm taking another two day class from Betsy next month.  Stay tuned....

Friday, February 21, 2014

South India Continued

saris for sale
 One of my favorite things to do when I travel to new places is to walk through the local markets.  South India had wonderful markets, where everything was for sale.  Soup to nuts, as my grandma would have said.

The man is carrying sugar cane.  The sugar cane harvest was in full swing when I was there in January and sugar cane is used in the Pongal Festival (a harvest,/new year festival/Thanksgiving celebration).
turmeric root

I love all the terracotta pottery that is for sale.  Small dishes, cooking pots, vessels, puja plates, bird houses, water containers and on and on.  All functional, all beautiful, all showing the hand of the potter.  Unfortunately it's very hard to pack, heavy and doesn't travel all that well....

rice, grains, dal for sale

Oh, how I love the bananas!

All the wonderful, fresh and sometimes exotic vegetables made me wish for a kitchen so I could try my hand at cooking up some wonderful Indian vegetarian fare.

These are some of the colorful powders that are for sale to use in making the wonderful designs you see everywhere outside doorways during Pongal.

Fancier water vessels than the terracotta ones,metal cooking pots, mesh baskets....


....and strainers and shawls.  Anything you might need can be found at the markets.  They are colorful, noisy, energetic and fascinating!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Chennai (Madras)

South India is, indeed, very different from Northern India (at least the parts where I traveled).  The temple architecture is very different, with the temples in the south being heavily ornamented with figures of the gods and goddesses, all painted in bright hues.

The devotional instruments (lamps, flowers, offerings of milk and rice) remain the same.

Walking through the markets is always fun.  There were more tropical fruits for sale, as you would expect.  All the vegetables and flowers we saw were beautiful.  The carrots a big, bright orange, the pan leaves so very green, arranged so beautifully in this basket.

Mounds and mounds of roses!  I hadn't seen so many roses for sale since I was in Morocco and Tunisia.

Always bananas.  I love bananas and I ate as many as I could while on this trip.  The small, extra sweet ones that are so common are my favorite.  Several of the fellows on this trip were more fond of the red bananas, but I am a purist I guess.  The yellow ones are for me.

 We saw so many women with flowers decorating their hair.  I don't remember flowers used this way so much in Northern India.  The saris were bight and beautiful.  I am not astute enough about Indian fashion to recognize the differences in color, pattern and style from the north to the south, but even to my untrained eye, the clothing was subtly different.

We were there during the lead up for the Pongal Festival.  These chalked designs in front of houses and businesses were everywhere and are a part of the festival.  Pongal is very important in the south, especially in the state of Tamil Nadu.  It is a religious festival that celebrates the harvest and the sun beginning to move north again.  There are special foods, especially a sort of porridge made with rice,  and the mood is very happy and upbeat.

I especially liked visiting the Shore Temple, which is situated right on the Bay of Bengal, in a village south of Chennai.  We were lucky enough to be able to visit in the late afternoon and so were treated to the sight of the moon rising up behind the temple spires.  It was beautiful!