Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Scary mannequin exposé

This is an exposé on the scary mannequin's inhabiting the bazaars of Delhi. I've known small children to cry when they see some of them.

There are the sad children of war...

There's Miss Molded-head, who changes her clothes with the times but not her hair. Not to mention that she feels terribly marginalized because she looks nothing like the Indian women for whom she is modeling those clothes...

Miss Fallen, who has landed on her face so many times that her nose is scarred and she hides under her hat...

The dancing instructor--"Where should my feet go?"

And not to be left out: The freakishly excited, armless bride and her melancholy, bald bridesmaid.

Full saree experience

The push the shove, the stepping on toes--yes, this is the market.
And today: saree shopping.

The colors and cloth and sparkle were spread in great piles before me. Waiting for me to choose.
But alas, I can't wear those bright colors; I need something more subtle, so I moved on to another shop.
And another.
And another.

Finally, I found a nice jade green with enough sparkly-ness to satisfy most.
The shop keeper whispered the discount he would give me for this find and I accepted.

Now it was on to find the petticoat--'cause sarees have petticoats. And the man in the petticoat shop can find the shade to match perfectly with whatever you've bought. Skill.

Next stop was the tailor, who sewed the blouse for me.

All I've got left to do is to figure out how to wear it.
I've been watching videos to help me learn.
In this one, I appreciate that the Indian girl doesn't know what she's doing either!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Restoration elves

There is restoration happening at Humayan's Tomb.
Inconvenience regretted.

But that doesn't mean anything is closed, just don't mind them as you come through the entrance and walk around all the dirt and rubble.

And don't mind their boots in the walkway, either.

Avoid the scaffolding, though, it is probably not the safest.

Then there was the place behind the green screen where we could hear the sounds of elves with hammers.
Really, that's what it sounded like.
A dozen or so men with hammers, chiseling away at slabs of sandstone for the restoration work.

Photo photu

What's the tourist attraction?

Yes, this bold little girl's phone camera shot is not the only picture I was featured in today.
So I returned the favor.

There were also the children asking for their "photu" to be taken. They were cute and less demanding than many.

Humayan's tomb

It is (apparently) a common mistake of children, but Humayan's tomb is not to be confused with the Taj Mahal.

And I would add another warning: That Humayan's tomb is not to be confused with Akbar's tomb.

So, keep that in mind...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Airport upgrade

I was appreciating some airport upgrades.
Like how the airport now has those gangway things so that you don't have to walk on the tarmac (or out in the cold). Or how there are all kinds of new budget airlines flying in and out (cheaper prices).

The military still hangs out on the tarmac, though.
I don't think that will be changing for quite some time.

Loaded shikara

Is this why Kashmir is considered a dangerous place? They load shikaras with gas cylinders?

I am reminded of the ridiculous opening scene in the movie Mission Kashmir when a shikara explodes.
Who would explode a shikara. And why?

Well this guy might, but not intentionally.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Same same but different

The seaweed is still around.

Seaweed and other things about Kashmir are the same since the last time I was there.
The houseboats are all there, too.
And the shops selling funny, furry things to Indian tourists who are cold.

But there are a few differences.

The anti-India sentiment, for one, is prevalent.
Spray painted words like these are everywhere.
"Go back India" is written on the roads.

There is less friendliness in the air.
I felt like smiling at everyone because I was back to visit--but my smile was rarely returned.

Kashmir can make itself so disagreeable and hard to love. What a shame.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Shikara ride

My favorite thing about Kashmir is the lake.
The people.
The quietness.
The slower pace.
The beauty and culture reflected in its environment.

On this cold November morning, my friend offered to paddle me around the "block" of her neighborhood.

You can find anything you're looking for right there on the lake: groceries, phone charge, plastic buckets, sweaters, potato chips, pharmacy, carpets, shawls...
The shops were open, waiting for someone other than the locals to visit. The tourists have been missing for months.

The houseboats, too, are waiting for guests. Everything has been newly painted and repaired. There has been lots of time to fix those things you might otherwise never get around to.
All that's needed now is for someone to come back and enjoy all the fresh paint and improvements.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lessons of spell check

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am today going to be thankful for spell check.

I live under the illusion (delusion), that I'm a pretty good speller. But it is probably not true.
What has saved me from being exposed to this truth for years is the power of spell check. Auto spell check, that is.
It automatically corrects each time I type "nad" instead of "and, or "teh" instead of "the". True, those are really typos and not spelling mistakes.
But auto spell check has kept me from knowing the truth about myself.

It wasn't until I switched to using Thunderbird as my email client that I realized what auto spell check had been keeping from me. Thunderbird, you see, has a excellent feature of underlining in red those words I misspell, but it does not correct them for me. It tells me it's wrong, but makes me fix my own mistake.
Having done some teaching, I know this to be an excellent way to learn something--fix your own mistake. Ironically, it's even the method for learning spelling I most often recommend.

Because of this feature, I have learned that I consistently spell 'receive' and 'sacrifice' incorrectly.
Every time.
I even had to fix the above typed 'sacrifice'. But (cheer) I got 'receive' correct.

And this week I learned that I have no idea how to spell 'ulterior'. Huh. Who knew it wasn't spelled with an 'A'?

So, yeah, I'm thankful for spell check. For both the automatic and the non-automatic types.
The automatic for the beautifully blissful time-saver that it is, and the non-automatic for helping me learn how to be a better speller.

And because spell check has reminded me of other lessons I learn when a Gentle Hand underlines something in my life and patiently waits for me ask Him how to fix it. Sometimes I've been blind to my mistakes. Other times I've no idea how to get myself out of the mess I'm in.
But no worries, 'cause way more faithful than spell check is my Father's love for me.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thoughtful patterns

Maurits Cornelis Escher was a pretty smart guy, mathematically speaking. He didn't do so well in school as a youngster, but he turned out alright anyway.

He was fascinated with the the idea of infinity, the infinite-ness of pattern and repetition, the impossibility of the human mind to grasp the idea of the infinite.

My favorite of his works is this one: three worlds. I like the reflection, depth and the subtle repetition of shape.

Escher's tessellation patterns were some of his most ingenious works.
They are thoughtful and well planned. He spent hours perfecting his designs and the pieces all fit together just as they should.

Thoughtful design.
Those ideas apply to more than just tessellations.

How about the way we develop patterns of repeating mistakes in our lives.
Or how those who love us continue to forgive us for these mistakes.
Or maybe how with some intentional thoughtfulness--and with the Hand of the Infinite, we can be renewed to create different and better patterns within our lives and relationships. Patterns that will echo eternal beauty.

Again, art imitates life.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Wearing snakes

Would you like to wear a snake?

This is apparently, a popular desire of tourists. Maybe they don't know they want to try it until they see the man with a snake around his neck and he charms them into wanting to try it for themselves.

And if you want more fun than just wearing a snake, you can check out the snake shows, too. I hear they put snakes in their mouths because their hands are already full of snakes, and it's really impressive.
I don't know, I sat out on that fun.

Elephantine wood carving

The floating market tour includes a stop at the woodcarvers'. Dozens of craftsmen sitting around carving and chiseling.

Elephant carving seems to be a specialty.
This is some detailed carving.

The wrinkly, textured skin feels real.

I mean, just look at that ear:
that's skill.

Floating market...of tourists

"Can you want something?"
That was my favorite question of the day.
Really, the floating-Thai-trinket seller woman was asking DID I want to buy something, not whether I could want something. The question and it's pleading tone amused me. Couldn't I just please want something so that she could sell it to me and make some money?

The fruit, coconut and souvenir sellers had hooks they would reach out as your boat passed and pull you over to convince you to buy things.

There was a theatrical feel to the market.
The women wearing traditional hats were well made up with lipstick and dyed hair--a little bit incongruous to the village women you might otherwise see wearing those hats.

So could I want something?
Well, I'm afraid not even the plate of frogs on sticks tempted me.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Love affair with 7Eleven

Thailand loves its 7Elevens.
I wanted to go get some potato chips the other day and upon reaching the main road was uncertain of which direction to go...

But silly me--a 7Eleven is never far away and I would have found one in either direction. And there would be another across the street from it so I wouldn't even have to worry about maneuvering through traffic.

There are certainly more 7Elevens in one square block than what I grew up with in driving distance from my home.
Out of curiosity, I checked and this is what wikipedia says about it:
There are 5,409 7-Elevens in Thailand, half of which are in Bangkok, making Thailand have the 3rd largest number of stores after the US and Japan.
Huh, don't count out the Japanese, I guess; they love 7Eleven, too.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy phone service

When I arrived in Thailand, I put my Thai sim card into my phone and turned it on.
The screen lit up and told me I had a signal. Before I left the airport, I decided to "top up" my minutes.
It took 2 minutes for me to hand over the money and have enough time on the phone for my stay here.
How easy is that?

It was only two weeks ago that I had a terrible customer service experience in India--where I live and pay and pay phone bills. They had shut off my phone service with no warning and wanted passport photos and new documents and signatures submitted.
It was days of trying to figure out what they wanted and how I could get it turned in to them.

So different here.
So easy.
So peaceful.
So happy.
That's the name of the service, and that's what it made me.