Monday, December 28, 2009

Eating in India

As usual, the colors are more vibrant in this pastel than on the screen. Done two days ago from nicely ripened memories of the island.


Here in Hyderabad, there's an interesting (and slightly alarming) situation going on: politically, certain groups are trying to split the state into two. So there's a lot of protesting going on all over the city, and even worse, they are declaring frequent bandhs. Apparently, this is when the protesting group(s) declare a sort of siege on the city, in which anyone out on the roads on a bandh day is fair game for harassment or even violence. So who goes out on these days? Well, pretty much everyone who has to work or go to an appointment or has an emergency, etc.--i.e., most of the population. This leads to a "safety in numbers" kind of risk. There is talk of an indefinite bandh beginning this Wednesday, to last until the protestors' demands are met. If that lasts more than a couple of days, we will be on the roads (en route to and from the airport several times, as we are leaving Hyderabad for Jaipur tonight for New Year's) during the bandh. Wish me luck!

Besides my fur babies and friends, I am really missing good chocolate, and the ability to simply walk out one's front door and take a nice healthy mellow walk. The pollution in much of India--air, water, noise, litter--is so horrendous that it is a wonder the entire subcontinent does not simply implode. I have always savored the irony, too, of the fact that Indians everywhere are wonderfully clean and groomed and wearing spotless clothes, perfectly ironed...while daily traversing some of the dirtiest streets in the world.

Speaking of clothing, there is a marked decline in people wearing Indian-styled clothing (e.g., salwaar kameez and saris) since we were last in India about six years ago. I am bummed to see this happen. For me one of the most marvelous things about India is looking at all the women like bright, sparkling multicolored gems amidst the dust. Last time we were here, I wore salwaar kameez myself to avoid being stared at too much; this time, I didn't bother, and I fit in better in my usual clothing. I feel that within just a handful more generations, the sari will be relegated to the role of the symbolic, like kimono in Japan, donned only for the most formal occasions and self-consciously at that. It is also much harder to find tailors working in holes-in-the-wall, whipping up shirts and salwaars at a moment's notice (we are actually looking for this service while we're here).

As part of our trip to India this time, we decided we would do a bit of "medical tourism." The Husband is out getting his broken crown (tooth) repaired as I write this, for about a thousand dollars less than the U.S. price. (I've never personally experienced dentistry in India, so can't vouch for it.) I had forgotten some medication which in the U.S. costs around four hundred dollars a month (without insurance), and here cost me two dollars. We also went to go get our eyes checked, as we were overdue. The fewest savings occurred here: the exam was perhaps only ten or twenty dollars less than in the U.S., and I am finally caving in to wearing progressive lenses (oy! I'm old!) for the first time. The price is exactly what was quoted to me in the U.S., so zero savings there.

I always gain weight, perversely, when in India. The food is carbohydrate-rich and everything is cooked in ghee (clarified butter)...and delicious. I'm always careful however to eat at only-vegetarian places with a good reputation, to avoid Delhi belly. We're vegetarians anyway, and India is the only place we can travel around without spending hours just trying to track down a vegetarian meal.

Below is a video of me trying golgappa for the first time. The Husband's mother (world's best cook) stuffs a fried empty ball with a spiced potato mixture, then you have to pour in some spiced water and quickly shove the whole thing into your mouth. If successful, no liquid will leak out of your mouth and you'll achieve a loud crunch.

There's a short video of a mahout feeding an elephant. Notice the similarity to me eating golgappa.

There's also a video of me trying nangu for the first time. I'm still not exactly sure what those things are or what you'd call them. I can't believe the seller wasn't cutting his fingers off. The guy holding the little frond "boat" is our taxi driver, and The Husband was taking the video. You can see from my expression whether I liked it.

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Friday, December 25, 2009


Currently in Hyderabad (India), at The Husband's parents' house (see photo below). It's been quite a whirlwind up 'till now, and much as I've wanted to blog, electricity, internet service and my laptop have not managed to coincide until now. We were in Bangalore (glorious weather), Kochi (hottest, most humid weather I have ever tried to move or breathe in), and then the most incredible experience on the island of Bangaram, part of the Lakshadweep archipelago. On Bangaram, we underwent a complete electronics detox: no phones, computers, wireless, was great. Just fabulous snorkeling, gentle sweating in hammocks (a large palm frond barely missed me, falling from high above), precisely when I was looking up and thinking Those could fall and hit someone. Then two days in and near Munnar, a rather cold, foggy experience, not to my tastes (Scots settled there at one time; that gives you an idea of the climate), and finally on to Hyderabad.

I've managed to do almost no art. It seems we are continually in a vehicle, or planning itineraries, or trying to find internet to check email, or falling into bed exhausted from being too many hours in a vehicle. The couple of times I have tried to do some pastels, various things have happened: ants come running to swarm over the pastel sticks (perhaps they taste good?); there is not enough light indoors to see properly (and during the day, we're too busy trying to get from one place to another to do any painting); there is no surface to put everything on and my back protests from leaning over on the floor.

And I do have some pastel-traveling tragicomedy to share: firstly, security luggage people seem to find a case of pastels under X-ray to be quite dangerous-looking. In two different airports, I've had to unwrap the whole package: triple plastic bags taken off to reveal bubble wrap; bubble wrap peeled off to expose the case itself; unlatch the case to show all the little pieces of color. I explain them as "artists' chalks," which seems to go over best. In one particular airport, in heat and humidity you could swim in, I had to go through this procedure, and realized the hard way that I hadn't fitted the velcro cover part of the case exactly aligned...and guess what happened...yes, they all fell out. Right onto the security x-ray conveyor. In front of a big, angry queue. About two hundred little pieces of pastels (and all their dust), from all their little foam holding places. Not a happy thing.

More to blog later, if possible.

I'm really feeling out of touch and missing art and all of you, my art blogger friends!

This (above) is my favorite of the sketches. A big, friendly Belgian man in the airport (the same one in which all my pastels spilled out in Security.)

With The Husband's parents at their house in Hyderabad.

Magnificent low tide on Bangaram Island. That's The Husband wading.

The Husband enjoys his favorite, paper dosa.

Dinners on the island were a marvelous affair: firewood-cooked gourmet Indian food under the stars and next to the waves. I finally saw phosphorescence, too. It was electric blue. Something I'd always heard about and never actually seen.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Another bitterly cold day today. They say it will get better soon. Fingers crossed.

I'm supposed to be writing a final exam to give my college students tomorrow. Well, I've got all night, right? I first had to blog, because this will likely be my last blog until India. I will blog when possible from there too, so please stay tuned. We leave on Saturday for 3.5 weeks in central and south India.

I usually have absolutely no idea what images may form when I start a pastel. It's always an interesting process to start that way, to try to have no fear of the medium nor fear of wasting materials. It's challenging to try to approach it so fearlessly but I love it when it works.

I have decided to bring pastels on this trip, for the first time. I anticipate a lot of unforeseen possibly tragicomic misadventures (can you say "colored powder explosion in your suitcase"?).

Note tail and leg inside the radiator. This boy likes to stay plenty warm (and camouflaged, to boot).

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

She promised me ice cream

The snow and extreme cold continue. (As I write this, it's 3 degrees F, with a wind chill of -14. I have to leave for work in a few minutes.) I was desperate to do something in bright colors, since around here we're only seeing in monochrome. I had a lot of fun doing this in a completely in-the-moment, deliberately childlike way.

I knew that the foxes and deer in our neighborhood have been getting bolder and bolder... But today I was genuinely shocked to look out the window and see a fox, in broad daylight, taking his sweet time to sniff and stroll around my yard and all the neighbors'. They eat cats around here... (Our Jellyroll never did come back.) I didn't have my camera, but my neighbor/artist/friend Sam has a photo of a couple of them on her roof here.

The deer, too, beautiful though they are, have become more than a nuisance in our neighborhood, eating cherry trees, roses, and garden tomatoes with equal relish. Woe betide the human who takes a casual walk down the sidewalk in fawn season...there's a matriarch who doesn't hesitate to charge you, even with leashed barking dogs at your side. I used to think it was kind of funny...until it happened to me. That's when I realized those things are big. And those shiny black hooves look pretty sharp too.

Must...stay....warm. Must....stay...warm...

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Blogging interruption: Alter ego

People, I've long suspected that little Rumi is a feline alter ego of Bonnie Luria's puppy Cloud. Her December 7 post photo confirms it.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Door under the stairs

Can I just kvetch for a moment and say how snowy and bitterly cold it's been...And how much I hate having to walk dogs in this weather...? Okay, thank you. Now, on to other doors under stairs.

Nothing to do in this cold but stay indoors and admire your own yoga moves on blogs...

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Landscape 5

Simple, bold, blue: a beloved triumvirate in my studio.

Rumi, camouflaged.
If it weren't for his collar, I wouldn't have noticed him. (Yes, that's the T.P. that Mr. Innocent Lynx decorated the bathroom with the other day.)

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Chefchaouen 6

Since photographing this one, I added a small signature in the bottom right-hand corner, which balances it nicely. How I love these blues! And that swash of school-bus yellow, courtesy of a big bold Diane Townsend pastel. I like the PastelMat for boldness. I ordered more and am still awaiting it.

Rumi update: Ventured out into snow and 17 degrees F today to take Rumi to the kitty ophthalmologist. We now have a big new antiviral pill to try to get down his little gullet once a day.

With two cats in the house under the age of 1, you never know what you're going to wake up to...

And then, oh the innocent faces!...

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Monday, November 30, 2009

Redheaded model

A little experimenting with the PastelMat (from a few weeks ago). I at first did this sharper and clearer, but wasn't satisfied with it. So I took a tissue to the whole thing, intending to obliterate it, but I liked the out-of-focus soft look that resulted.

Squished and happy.

I'll be taking Rumi this week to an animal ophthalmologist (I hadn't known there was such a thing) to get an expert (and expensive) opinion on his continuing eye problems. (But don't worry, he's a ridiculously happy and thriving kitten in spite of it.)

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

The hotel


I'm really enjoying exploring this semi-abstract and abstract Morocco theme. I had to order some more blue Unisons, because I was using them up...and while I was waiting for them to arrive, I used up even more (different) blues, which I am now out of. Ah, well. If only that were the worst problem people have...!

Someone got to my glasses case... Who was it?

Ah, yes, it was the baby chupacabra.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Red door

Back home and still catching up on things like laundry and cleaning...but I don't have to work until Tuesday, so there's some time to paint again. I had decided at the last minute not to take any pastels or pastel pencils to Costa Rica, as it was only a week, but for India (nearly a month) I will definitely have to take something. It somehow feels like far more than a week that I haven't done any painting.

He who sleeps with folded ear...

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Costa Rica part 3

Writing this from our hotel room the night before our flight home. This week went really fast...

We had some quality viewing time of the nine or ten hummingbird species today. I love these little jeweled creatures. It's amazing to be able to stand just an arm's length from those buzzing wings. The mosquito bites were worth it. (Photo credits: The Husband.)

We went horseback riding yesterday for our first time ever. Wow! It was really cool...that is, after an hour or two had passed and I was no longer quite so terrified. The experience seemed to me like a cross between walking a dog and learning to drive a stick shift. I thought it was quite hilarious (and also terrifying) when, right off the bat, my horse "stalled" and wouldn't move. He (the horse) did this quite often for about the first half hour or so. Eventually we came to a sort of understanding. (This all amused our young guide greatly.) The horse's personality reminded me a bit of our old dog Jazz, who sometimes, during a leash walk, just suddenly plants himself solidly and refuses to move. What I didn't realize was that my whole body would seriously hurt today. Oh my god, where did all those (sore) muscles come from?!

Our last three nights were spent at the Ecolodge San Luis in Monteverde, a very interesting place to stay/project center which happens to be an extension station of the University of Georgia. Rustic but recommended.

We spent waaaay too many hours in the car this week. It takes such a long time to get from one place to another here, because the roads are narrow and few and sometimes in bad condition, and you tend to get stuck behind slow trucks constantly. Add to that the somewhat suicidal drivers, general lack of signage and streetlights, and fog and rain, and it can take hours to get from one city to another, even though they're quite close to one another as the crow (hummingbird) flies.

I'm not looking forward to the cold and snow back home in Colorado, but I am looking forward to having hair again (no, Sam, I will not post a photo of the Jewfro, nice try), and to seeing my fur babies.

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sketches and Costa Rica part 2

Today I did the Monteverde zipline and Tarzan swing. Wow--talk about an adrenaline surge! While I was flying through the air, er, I mean, fog and rain, The Husband was viewing (captive) frogs and snakes.

We got plenty wet again all day today, and are looking forward to getting rained on tomorrow too, while on horseback. My hair is one big hopeless Brillo pad.

A few things from the sketchbook from the past couple of weeks...and then a couple of photos of tonight's sunset (photo credit: The Husband).

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