Wednesday, March 26, 2014

By the airport

View from airport - our apartment complex is behind airplane's tail




We live by the airport.
Not such a big deal,
lots of people live by airports
and put up with extra traffic ...





Airplane landing by our apartment - taken from across the street



and flights that arrive and depart
in the wee hours of the morning and disturb your sleep.




Plane landing with Mahim creek in foreground

Near the airport is a creek
and a number of slums / suburbs
The new terminal
Just opened at the airport.
We haven't seen it yet,
but hear good things about it.
What we have seen is the life
In the neighborhoods around the airport.





Life under the landing planes

I like living by the airport,
hearing the planes landing or taking off.
They're louder when they take off of course,
But the wind is usually from the other direction
so we get the sights and sounds of the landing planes.







enjoying the evening air - watching the planes land



I think about where the planes are coming from
who is on them, and what lives they are about to begin.
I also think about who else is watching them
and the lives they lead.




   
The planes land right over their heads



The contrast between those of us who have come to this place
on the wings of dreams
and those of us who can only leave by dreaming of wings
is so strong.


Monday, March 3, 2014

Crossing the Street

video

I've been meaning to write about the traffic and crossing the street here in Mumbai for quite awhile. During a recent professional development event (ASB Unplugged conference) , I was lucky enough to be sitting next to a good friend and colleague, Megan in a cinematic narrative workshop by Jim Sill. Great speaker and good session and I really like the approach and the opportunities for use in education. We were tasked with telling a story in a short movie using 4 shots: an establishing shot, a long shot, a medium shot, and a close up.  Great speaker and good session and I really like the approach and the opportunities for use in education.

I chose to show how to cross the street in Mumbai. A couple of notes about this:

1) The corner we're using is the one nearest our school and apartment
2) It was shot mid-morning - a very quiet time of day in the neighborhood. 
    The good news about that is that it made it a little easier to shoot without getting run over.
    The bad news is that it really doesn't show how tough it can be.
3) I had a little difficulty with the sound - the crossing clip sound was messed up so I copied some audio and replayed it ;-)
4) Thanks to Megan for her patience and great acting !

So this is my first attempt to include a little movie clip in the blog. Hopefully it will work OK.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Playing Tennis in Mumbai

Playing tennis in Kurla, our neighborhood in Mumbai, is an experience that needs photos to tell the entire story.
First, you must walk down the street in your culturally insensitive tennis outfit. You hope that by carrying your tennis racket you are signaling that you are very aware you are wearing a short skirt and sleeveless top, but this is the outfit you wear when you are going to play “LONG TENNIS.”  If you happen to be on your way to the club between 4:00 - 5:00 you will pass the garbage truck. Now passing a garbage truck in Mumbai is not like anything you have ever experienced before. The garbage which you (or your housekeeper) placed in a black plastic bag and set outside your apartment door has been dumped on the road along with everyone else’s garbage in your entire apartment complex. There are men behind the garbage truck sifting though the garbage. You suppose the garbage is being sorted into recyclable items, but you walk on the other side of the street to avoid all the neighborhood dogs that have gathered for a tasty meal. Sometimes you are extra lucky and the dogs follow you to the other side of the street.



After you cross the street, you enter the club. A young woman that works at the club unlocks the gate. Then you and your tennis partners begin to play.


It takes a lot of concentration to play tennis in Mumbai. Just as you are getting into your stride, the workers at the club come to sweep the area around the court. They laugh and talk as they bend low to sweep with their short, branch-like brooms. Then the stray dogs, one who has two puppies, run past the court to romp on the cricket field next to your court. Sometimes there are men or boys playing a match of cricket. Sometimes the match is accompanied by a loud speaker with drums, music, singing, or announcements blaring at decibels sure to permanently damage your hearing. 

Do not let your attention wander even if you notice bright lights and sparks from men installing a window grill without any safety equipment on the twelfth story of the high rise apartment building that towers over the club. 


Do not let your attention wander even if workers are painting lockers with a power sprayer two feet from the court.


Playing tennis in Mumbai also calls for a certain amount of confidence as well. The fitness room looks over the court. Often you will notice men who are taking a break from the running machines watching you play in your short tennis skirt and sleeveless top. 


Your wandering eye might notice an audience of families sitting on their narrow balcony on the high rise apartment building. They are watching your match along with the  young men sitting on window ledges. You hope they are enjoying the game.
Playing tennis in Mumbai also requires a loud voice. If your tennis ball happens to fly over the fence into the small area next to your court that is  behind the restaurant next door, you will need to holler to the restaurant workers, “Uncle! Help! See our ball? Throw it to us!”
Playing tennis in Mumbai also tests your hearing. You must listen carefully for the distant call from the neighborhood mosque. The sound will float over the court at dusk. When you hear this call you must make a decision, “Shall we quit since it is getting difficult to see the ball or shall we ask a worker to turn on the lights?” No matter what your decision, you will be drenched with sweat and you will be thankful for the chance to play tennis in Mumbai.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Kodai Revisited

Always so green - Poinsettia tree ;-)

After more than forty years, I returned to Kodaikanal, where I had gone to boarding school through 7th grade.
Main entrance

It had been 47 years since last I had been there - though several family members had been there since. Much has changed of course - the town is much bigger and noisier, as is the school. There are a number of new buildings that made the campus seem more crowded than I had remembered. Of course things also seemed much larger in my memories, some of which I am sure are because I was smaller and my perspective has changed.  A lot of thoughts and memories came back to me - mostly good, I think. I worried that I afflicted Nancy, Alisabeth and Rickie with boredom as I spouted old stories, but they said they enjoyed it.  I hope so.  Here's some pictures.
Chapel

Chapel interior - significant early spiritual and musical memories.
Phelps entrance









Near Sherwood dorm - I helped build it serving detention hours. Used to make forts in woods near the dorms.

Phelps Hall - my first dorm - Houseparents were Mr. & Mrs. Banks - both born in 1899.
My traveling companions in front of the auditorium.



Kodai Lake - Perumal Mountain in the background.  The school in the red roofs on the right hand side above the boathouse and the Carlton Hotel.  Stayed there.




Sunday, September 22, 2013

Day 11 of the festival, Ganesh Chaturthi

Juhu beach
Juhu Beach is a long beach.  It is a wide beach, too, especially at low tide.  Usually the beach is crowded with young men playing cricket.  But today is different. This afternoon the beach is crowded with families. Among the families there are the ever present gangs of young men—loud, laughing, their arms draped casually around each other’s shoulders. There are also the beggar children too. They are aggressive.  They paw at you, nimbly skip in front of you so you have to do a strange dance to keep moving forward. They persist until they hear a loud, firm “NEY! NEY!”


Auspicious decay

The first thing I notice as we walk along the beach are the many Ganesha statues that are scattered along the beach.  These are the statues that were immersed on auspicious days 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9. They have washed back on shore with lost limbs. The heavier ones are half buried in craters—treasures sunken in the sand. Sometimes we see a lonely ear, hand, or trunk. 

Who is Ganesha?  He is the elephant god. He is the god of new beginnings and the remover of obstacles. He is my favorite god. He was a mischievous child. He is affectionately called Ganapati Bapa. He’s the kind of god you meet and you like him right away.  You want to invite him to a party and get to know him better. I think he must enjoy this festival very much because it is one big citywide party.

Happy family
Tim and I hear chanting. Families are bringing their Ganapati (Ganesha) statues to the beach to be immersed. The families are kind and open.  They welcome our curious stares. The Ganapatis are adorned with strings of bright beads, pearls, greenery, and flowers. One family invites us into their worship. The dia (a small lamp with ghee) is lit and burning incense is waved as the family says puja (prayers.)  Puffed rice treats with sticky peanut brittle is offered.  Tim eats his and I slyly slip him my handful. Next we are offered the bananas that were laid before Ganesha. The women lovingly remove the ornaments from Ganesha, the men pick him up, and they head for the water. They all go into the water with Ganesha, but the men go farther out.  When they reach chest high, they dip Ganesha three times and on the third dip, they push him out to sea—released into the water. 

More statues are arriving. These statues are larger.  They are carried by groups of loud, raucous  men. The men are wearing t-shirts stained with red powder. One man shouts “Ganapati Bapa!”  The crowd shouts in reply, “Moria!”  We join in. “Moria!” we shout with enthusiasm as the chant begins with “Ganapati Bapa!”  This statue is 7 feet high.  The men are weighed down by its massive orange body, but it does not dampen their spirits. They are honoring Ganesha with their enthusiasm and volume. 


By 7:00, Tim and I decide it is time to go home.  The beach is getting more and more crowded.  The mood is changing from a family atmosphere to Mardi Gras. The road we came on has been changed from a two way street into one way towards the beach. Huge lorries carrying even bigger Ganapati statues, plus men and boys sitting, standing, hanging on are lumbering towards the beach.  Something hits my face.  It stings.  It is only flowers, but they were thrown with force.  It is time to go home.

Tim starts walking with purpose.  He is parting the Red Sea of people by the size of his body. We become separated. I try to push forward too.  I look anxiously for Tim.  How did he get to the other side of the street? I shout for him to stop, but he doesn’t hear me. Finally, he stops and looks for me.  When I reach him, I cling to his backpack like a little child. We find a lighted corner near a policeman and wait for Rakesh to find us.

When we see his car, we dive into the coolness, safety, and peace. Our tiny capsule of calm crawls forward.  People walking, motorcycles, trucks are inches from my face. I watch them through the glass. I see a truck that is decorated with palm branches. My mind wanders . . . Palm branches in a parade.  A ride to Jerusalem with a chorus of “Hallelujah!”  and people waving palm branches. A ride to the beach on lorries decorated with palm branches with a chorus of “Moria!” Baptism— immersion in water. A symbol of new life. Ganesh Chaturthi— a festival with immersion. A symbol of creation and rebirth.  All around the world hymns are sung, prayers are said, and holy people are present.  Ganapati Bapa moria! 



Friday, September 20, 2013

Summer Vacation

The summer of 2013 has been over for us for a few weeks now.

Nancy at the castle in St. Andrews
We began again back at school here in Mumbai on August 5, after almost two months of time off to travel and see family. In many ways it was the first real summer vacation Nancy and I have had together.  Before this we had usually taken a week or two off here or there, but not an extended period of time like we did this summer.
Waterfall in the Lake District
This summer's vacation was pretty special and was broken into about 4 sections. First, we had a good time, just the two of us, exploring England and Scotland.


Then we separated for some professional development, Nancy heading to Connecticut and New York for a visit and writers workshop and I went to San Antonio for the big ISTE conference.

Mt. Rainier - Yes, I took this picture - I was gob-smacked!
We re-united in the Pacific Northwest where we had a great time visiting family and enjoying the outdoors.





Hiking in the Olympics with Jen & Eric






















Finally, we spent a couple of weeks at a rented cottage near Lake Michigan where we could hang out and enjoy family and friends.
Hanging with family and friends at the beach.
We have never had a summer so full.  The life of the international teacher is lots of hard work, but also lot of good vacation and travel!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Breach Candy revisited

A short story:

They spent a relaxing Saturday wandering through a few art galleries, including a photography show at a nice restaurant where they had lunch.  There were three of them that day - the couple and their good friend the art teacher. After the last gallery, the art teacher invited the two of them to have a drink with her at her club, Breach Candy.  They gratefully accepted and asked the driver to head through the thick traffic in that direction. On the way, the man mentioned that he had something to say about Breach Candy - a story from when he was here as a child.
They entered the club, where the art teacher signed the two in as guests, and then they stepped into the inside pool area.
"Yes, this is the place - very much as I remembered"
She took a picture of him standing by the pool, then they walked through to the outdoor pool and around to the restaurant area.

Old guy by the pool -55 years later

They took a seat on the balcony with a view of the Indian Ocean in front of them and the large outdoor pool to their right. After ordering drinks and appetizers they relaxed and continued their conversation. The man began to tell his story about Breach Candy..

"We used to travel through Bombay on the way to and from boarding school in Kodaikanal. The trip took 3 days and we would spend the night here in Bombay. There was always a group of us - all the missionary kids from the Arabian Missions in Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman. If we were lucky, Air India would put us up at the Taj Mahal hotel. Can you imagine a large group of rambunctious American kids running around the quiet restaurants and lounges?
Anyway, when I was four or five - four I think, though it's possible I was five or six now that I think about it - my mom travelled with us.  We had some time in the morning before our flight to Madras and we got on the Air India bus and come over here to Breach Candy to swim before heading to the airport. I think there must have been about 16 or 17 of us kids of all ages from my youngest brother Steve who was a baby to high school juniors and seniors.
It became time to go to the airport and my mom told all of us to get out and get changed and hustle out to the bus. I stayed in the pool a little longer because there was something I just had to do. After playing some more, I got out and headed to the little changing rooms to get dressed. When I found no others around, I panicked, started crying and took of out of the club and ran down the street looking for everybody.
In the meantime, all the others had gotten dressed and climbed on the bus. The bus started off for the airport and my mom started counting noses. She counted several times before she realized that not only was she short one person, but that person was her little Timmy. She too panicked, stopped the bus and ran back to the club where they told her that a little boy had run down the street. As she went people pointed her along where the boy had gone. 'Little boy? White hair? went that way !'
She found me after a shopkeeper had stopped me and given me some candy and kept me in his shop until someone came along."
The man stopped talking for a few seconds. "So that's the story. What do you think?"
"Wow, you're lucky you were found."
"Actually, I wasn't - they swapped me for another little boy. The real me is still wandering around old Bombay somewhere begging." He laughed at his own joke, thinking it quite clever.
They finished their drinks while watching the rain shower come in over the ocean and descend on the club. After it was over they walked back out to the street and called their driver to head home.