El Santuario de Chimayo, NM

   Inside are the healing sands of Chimayo, a wall of hanging crutches and a statue of the Holy Child of Atocha surrounded by little shoes. Photos of people line the walls, the smell of hot wax, whispers, a couple wearing Harley t-shirts pray at the alter. We are not allowed to take photos or videos inside. This isn’t a tourist attraction, it is a living sacred place and it feels it. 

 

A portion of the wall of childrens shoes

     It’s heartbreaking to see how many people have come here with their hopes and prayers for the people they love, but there is something beautiful in the ritual and belief. I don’t believe, but I’m willing to accept that there are many things we don’t know.

This Little Truck Book

  

I didn’t think I would write again until traveling to India (or anywhere else worth writing about) but I have had some new developments with Sound Horn Okay! After returning home from India I finally came up with a solution for the book cover (realizing I had to differentiate the cover from the back) and began hand inking the title graphic. I also sold a book, so I made a drop spine box to house it. I have been included in the Spring Printmaking issue #25 of Uppercase Magazine (for the creative and curious) so I thought I would do a little shameless self promotion. Check it out at uppercasemagazine.com. It is a beautiful publication that has had issues on type, children’s books, quilting, calligraphy, color and all things creative, including many articles on living an independent creative life. Now who wouldn’t want that!

I have also submitted Sound Horn Okay! to the Boston Printmakers Biennial 2015 juried exhibition. It is being juried by Willie Cole, whose work I love by the way. Just knowing he is going to lay eyes on my book is thrilling. Wish me luck!

 

I am amazed at the number of countries that have viewed my blog at indiacloudhouse.com. I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t heard of one of them. Can you guess which one? Perhaps I’m not alone…..

Cambodia

Belgium

Sudan

Brunei

Poland

Switzerland

Pakistan

Iraq

Singapore

Mexico

Phillipines

Brazil

Indonesia

Spain

Vietnam

Egypt

Saudi Arabia

Thailand

Germany

Italy

Hong Kong SAR China

Canada

France

Netherlands

UNited Kingdom

Malaysia

Australia

Tomorrow I’m off to Evanston Print and Paper Shop, where I keep my press, to print the colophon for my book. I’m taking Venkatesh and Ashwin with me for some printing fun. The best way to spend Mothers Day!

One Little Indian Boy

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We are back home in Evanston after four and a half months in India, three nights home, and then a week visiting family for the holidays near Boston. It feels strange to be living in this quiet and cold environment. It’s nearly silent and I miss the cuckoo bird in the morning. We have also returned with a little boy who has fully embraced being Indian. This is exactly what we wanted for him, but I was surprised at the extremity of his feelings. He loves speaking Kannada (so much that he tells me I shouldn’t speak American), he only wants to eat Indian food – especially curd rice eaten with his hands, and he wants to be a Hindu. When he asked me why his Pati and Tata don’t celebrate Christmas, I told him it’s because they are Hindu. How surprised was I when he stated ‘I’m a Hindu Mummy, I don’t want to celebrate Christmas’? What? What kid doesn’t want Christmas? All year when he asked for toys, our tag line has been ‘you can have a Lego on Christmas and your Birthday, but not now’. I was afraid we might have a Hindu Fundamentalist in the making. đŸ˜€

Right before coming home we went to Mysore to attend a pooja for Ashwin’s cousin Sila. It’s something that is done around the time of a child’s first birthday and is for health and long life. Ashwin was a bit jealous of the attention Sila was getting, and Autie Vinuta invited him to take part with them. Ashwin sat up front with her and was so entranced by the whole process, he watched intently and even put his hands together without being told. Everyone commented on how sweet and well behaved he was. Nice to hear considering all of the bad behavior we had been having lately! He was really trying hard to be his own person, apart from Mummy and Daddy, while he was in Bangalore and it was very hard to tolerate at times.

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Ashwin took to the priest very quickly. They sat and had conversations before and after the pooja. He said they talked about his school, but that night when we went home he started to sing shlokas (Hindu chants) all on his own. We didn’t know he knew them!

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Afterwards he had a traditional meal on a banana leaf, South Indian food eaten with the hands.

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The day before leaving Bangalore, Ashwin’s school – Heritage Kids, had Sports Day. They had been training for it for over a month and Ashwin was going to be the one to hold the torch at the beginning of the games. Upon arrival he got very nervous and absolutely refused to participate. At the last moment we got him to stay up front and he and his friend Yushu were led around the sports ground with the torch. As always, when he doesn’t want to do something he pretends to sleep. So the man in charge of sports day had to hold his shoulder and push him around while he snored with his eyes closed.

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In  the end he won the lime and spoon race and stood up on stage to receive his medal with all the kids in his class.

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He was pretty proud of himself.

Once home, we did celebrate Christmas. The Santa at Heathrow was hard to resist and we stopped to tell him where we would be on Christmas Day.
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We had a great time decorating our tree…

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And now that we are home again, we are settling into this strange and quiet life. I love my hot shower and I’m so happy to escape the ants, but somehow everything seems a bit duller here in this Chicago winter. We all miss Bangalore very much and Ashwin misses Tata’s dog, Bubble, the most!

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I think he may be waiting still for Ashwin to come downstairs to go to school.

Gandhi’s Ashes

Aga Kahn Palace

Aga Kahn Palace

Gandhi, his wife Kasturba Gandhi, and his secretary Mahadev Desai were held at Aga Kahn Palace in Pune during the Indian Freedom Movement from 1942 to 1944. Both Gandhi’s wife and secretary died while being held here. Their ashes and a portion of Gandhi’s ashes reside in the garden of the palace. During Gandhi’s stay here, he would walk the path to the memorials of his wife and secretary to have Samadhi (or meditation). I walked this same path and found it very moving.

Kasturba Gandhi and Mahadev Desai's ashes.

Kasturba Gandhi and Mahadev Desai’s ashes.

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Gandhi's room.

Gandhi’s room.

I know it’s strange, but I was somehow impressed by Gandhi’s bathroom, located through the door on the left. It’s a simple 1940’s bathroom with a pedestal sink and grayish white marble. There is a long thin tub and I kept thinking to myself ‘Gandhi bathed here’. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a good picture of it.

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Happy Singapore Thanksgiving!

Paul's smoked turkey

Paul’s smoked turkey

Another International Thanksgiving spent with the Suellentrops, only this time it isn’t in Evanston, it’s in Singapore. Leah and Paul were ambitious enough to invite 40 people to their home for the holiday. As usual, they invite those who are displaced and have nowhere to go, only in Singapore, that includes everyone! This year there were lots of Australians and Brits, some Americans, an Indian, a Mexican, a Somali-Italian, a couple of Philipino and one real Singaporean. It was a full on ex-pat experience.

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Singapore is a beautiful and strange place. It is very green, with beautiful gardens, rain trees and slices of tropical rain forest, yet it’s completely modern and clean. All street vendors are organized into indoor hawker centers, to regulate food safety and to keep the streets clean. The food is local and affordable, and it’s very good. The best meal included steamed dumplings filled with pork and crab that melt in your mouth. I’m salivating just thinking about it.

I think almost everyone has heard that gum chewing is illegal in Singapore, in order to keep the sidewalks clean. Spitting is also illegal. Crimes are taken very seriously and punishment can include deportation or lashings and the verdicts come quickly. Recently there was a riot in Little India and the next day 29 people were deported. Most Indian, Sri Lankan and Philipino work in the service industries as housekeepers, gardeners and road workers, but not taxi drivers. Only Singaporeans are allowed to be taxi drivers. Foreign service industry workers have strict rules. They must be home by curfew, 11 o’clock, and they can’t stay the night anywhere else. After the riot, the government ruled that they are not allowed to assemble in groups larger than three. I’m not sure how that can be enforced in Little India or Arab street, where there are crowds of people, but the law is there if needed.

Arab Street

Arab Street Mosque

In downtown Singapore there isn’t a trace of anything old. The buildings are all new, shiny, angular and modern. I saw one old defunct railway station. Paul said, if a building is old here it is probably empty and waiting to be torn down. The waterfront was really interesting. We could see many freighters in the water as we flew in to the airport and then saw the containers stacked up at the waterfront with a skyline full of gantry cranes. This whole area is in the process of being moved up the coast in order to develop this valuable waterfront area. We went to Arab Street one day, through Little India, and there you can still see the old buildings. This felt like real life, and not the super expensive polished version that I had seen so far. It felt like people really lived here.

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Arab Street shopping

If you want to own a car in Singapore, you have to buy a 10 year license that allows you to purchase one – the license (not the car) goes for about $80,000. All cars are imported to the island and they can cost four times the amount you would pay in the US. All in all you need about $200,000 to buy a regular car. The rich in Singapore are very rich. They live in neighborhoods with huge gated houses and drive luxury cars. Old cars aren’t seen in Singapore, they are shipped to Malaysia. There seem to be a large group of ladies who lunch, and many stay at home Dads – spouses who accompany their significant others with high paying corporate jobs. Many have been transferred by their companies who pay for the dream house, the car, and school for the kids.

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Leah and Paul are living the dream, with a beautiful house and pool that abut an old rail line that has been turned into a beautiful walking trail. This is a slice of tropical rain forest full of birds, monkeys, butterflies and monitor lizards. You can walk or bike all the way to Malaysia if you like. Their house is so comfortable and quiet you don’t ever want to leave. Even they say, ‘this isn’t real life, but it’s really nice right now’. I agree. We had a great time, in a lovely place, on our Thanksgiving holiday. We relaxed and watched movies, swam in the pool, saw some new things and ate some delicious food with good friends. Thank you Leah, Paul, Tristan and Betty!

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220 volts = one dangerous Christmas tree!