One of the things I’m looking forward to the most when I come back from vacation is a singing project I’ve recently become a part of. A Hindustani classical artist in the area, along with some other singers and musicians, is composing a CD of music set to English translations of poems written by a person associated with the Karmapa’s temple in Sidhbari. I am singing the melody on at least two of the tracks and helping, where I can, to compose the tune and to give bits of advice on whether the composition sounds Western enough or not. My friend Taylor is also helping out by singing, playing guitar and playing drums. I’m so excited that I can use my voice again in a way that is culturally satisfying to me!
A relative of the bride paints the floor in preparation for a wedding ritual. This wedding was between Indu, one of the daughters of Joginder, my landlady’s gardener.
Guests are served food on banana leaves until they can’t eat anymore.
Three generations of women watch from above.
Someday these girls will have a wedding too.
From the left: my landlady Didi, her friend Monisha, and Kishwar, my neighbor
Joginder, father of the bride, and Maya, Didi’s daughter and my neighbor
Me under the welcome bower.
The sisters of Indu and the rest of the bridge’s family wait to welcome the groom.
The groom approaching the bride’s house.
The two sides meet and the sisters give the groom a hard time, bargaining for time left with the bride.
Silver bells around the wedding canopy.
The bride and groom.
I also have a new house, which I am thrilled about! Some awesome features it includes: space to entertain guests (and a place for one other person to sleep), a working shower head, a lovely landlady named Didi, it’s a 20 minute walk to work (uphill), and a cute neighborhood dog named Ginger. I’ve really been settling in nicely there and getting to know the expats in the community I’m living in. In January, when I get back from my extended vacation, Ginger will be living with me for two whole months! With the addition of a dog and my new space heater (it gets COLD here in the winter), it will feel even more like home.
In October, I got my own column on the AWAJ team’s work schedule!
Right before I moved, I singed my arm hair in a gas stove fiasco, which was 99% hilarious and 1% terrifying.
An adorable mouse I caught in my house with some cheese.
A gathering of mothers and daughters for the Mother-Daughter Fair (Maa Beti Mela) in October in Shahpur.
Jagori volunteers prepare to help teach at a school in Badanj: from left – Eva, Ceinwen, Clarke, and Cheryl
Eva learns to knit from Radha, a Jagori team member.
New volunteer Anshi from Chandigar (left) and Vandana, Jagori team member, enjoy tea after work.
Welcome to my house! You’ve just entered the front door.
My living room/guest room.
My bedroom ad work station.
A very impromptu dinner party: from left – Cheryl, Clarke, Ceinwen, and Marie
Some holidays I missed telling you about: For Diwali (a festival involving worship of Laxmi (goddess of luck and good fortune), I ate lots of good food, sat in on a pooja (prayer) ceremony welcoming Laxmi into the house, went to many Nepali neighbors houses for singing, dancing and more food, and set off fireworks with my immediate neighbors and some fellow volunteers. For Thanksgiving, I helped my landlady’s daughter, Maya, make garlic bread, and at Thanksgiving dinner (chicken and bacon casserole, salad, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce made from dried cranberries, gravy, green beans, and pecan and pumpkin pie) with Didi, Maya, my co-worker Vasu, her mother, two Australian nuns of the Chinese Buddhist ordination, and an Englishwoman named Jo. We talked about feminism and what solutions we saw to the world’s problems and ate far too much food.
Manju creates an incredible mehndi design on Clarke’s arm for Diwali.
My arm, ready for Diwali.
Clarke, Marie, Cheryl and I
Hanging garlands of marigolds to welcome Laxmi into Maya’s house.
Footprints to guide Laxmi’s way.
The essence of the goddess herself – a high concentration of gold.
The priest makes a mandala out of grain for the pooja.
This decoration symbolizes the nine planets.
The priest ties a red string around Maya’s wrist, which connects her to the pooja.
Maya blesses and feeds Ganesh.
She garlands him with marigolds.
After the pooja.
Maya’s laptop was also blessed because it played a sacred song after the ceremony.
Diwali lamps being lit.
Over the past two weeks, I said goodbye to nine volunteers who had become my close friends here: seven of them were from Canada, one was from Switzerland, and one was from Scotland. It was really hard saying goodbye to them, and I’ve realized that a lot of people will come and go over the course of my fellowship. At the same time, I am so lucky to have known these women and I now have friends in three countries I never had friends in before! Eva, a volunteer from Germany, and Anshi, a volunteer from Chandigarh (India) will be working with me until at least the end of February, so I’m in good “foreign” company.Though it’s always hard to say goodbye, I look forward to new volunteers coming and going, so we can build friendships and communities together, even if the latter are only temporary.
A beautiful morning for hiking that mountain (the smaller one) ahead of us!
A donkey carrying slate, which is still mined in the Dhauladhar hills where I live now.
Mastram and Marie cross a bridge…
…and we stumbled onto the set for LOTR! (Just kidding, but it does look like that, right?)
A view of Dharamshala.
Marie takes in the air.
Raj (our guide/friend) is truly King of the Mountain.
Shrine on a hill.
We made it!
Me and the mountains.
Our LOST shot – me, Eva, Marie, Clarke, Cheryl.
Raj chilling on a tree.
Mastram, Eva and the valley.
Marie and Cheryl pointing out the top of the mountain we climbed!
Getting ready to paraglide (on a different day).
Eva gets ready to go.
There she goes!
The landing strip.
Such troopers – Marie, Eva and Taylor.
Next post: A very Rajasthani vacation from October!