Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas....

to everybody!
I wish you a wonderful time with your loved ones, shared moments of love and serenity!
 This post is about smiling faces I encountered while traveling through India, smiles that conveyed that pure
innocent energy that only a smile of a child can carry...may that energy be transfered to you and may you all
cherish the time with family and friends....

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

To see how our clothes are made....

...filled me with humility and respect for all the employees in similar weaving factories all over India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Cambodia and so forth...I usually check my clothes for their origin, however, it only used to bring up some vague picture of women working in dark and dusty factory halls for a few pennies. Having been there, breathing the dusty air, blinking in the dark, looking at the huge stacks of yarn, witnessing the process of separating the yarn piles, coiling the yarn according to color, rolling it on mandrels and, eventually, weaving a shirt fabric with it was mind-opening. As this weaving factory was open to foreigners and the owner happily explained the whole production process to us and was proud to present his business, I don´t want to know how the big commercial weaving factories for all our bargain clothing look is an impressive and laborious process...and once more, as so often while traveling, I learned to appreciate something I used to consider as banal...


Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Divine

The Divine - so pure, so natural, so ubiquitous. Wandering through the alleys of a temple, surrounded by thousands of Hindus, you get soaked up in the flow of spirituality, looking in awe at the fantasyland-like decor of the place, the majestic archictecture and the bright colors. Beautiful paintings of mythology scenes, women in brightly colored saris, sandelwood powder and spice powder for blessings and offerings, the temple elephant, pilgrims in their black mundus and wooden chains around their necks, families, old people, young people, children, Hindus, Christians and Muslims, everyone coming together in those dark stone alleys, occasionally enlighted by some candles.
The incense fills your head, you feel weary, bemused by all the different scents, all the colors, all that spirituality and you feel like you just peeked into a totally different world that is still a stranger to you.
India - the divine....

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tea County

A winding bus ride took me up to the tea plantations of Kerala. Steep hills and endless slopes glowing in a shiny green, with dots of color where women were picking the fresh green tea leaves. What a laborious job this must be....on the steep hills, feet covered in mud and threatended by leeches, women bend over the tea plants all day, harvesting separately the fine lush green tea leaves on top of the plant, slowly loading their bag on the back with today´s crop. In Kerala, in line with the communist leadership, tea pickers are paid in rice to a certain amount, only if they exceed a certain daily crop, they are paid this difference in actual money. Additionally, they are guaranteed free medical services and health insurance, as well their children have free access to public schools.
Tea plays a preponderant role in this region as it is almost the only income source in the area.

Having seen the the laborious process of harvesting and processing the tea we are used to drink so readily, I came to learn to appreciate every single cup of it....

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Green, greener, Kerala !

Kerala - God´s own country, Coconut garden and Garden Eden, as it is often and adequately called, wins one over with its tropical lushness.
Green is the defining color of Kerala - either in the backwaters lined with palm trees, the rice paddies, the slopes covered in thick tropical cloud forest calles shola, the dark green tea plantations or the beautiful flower garden of Kerala´s wealthy citizens.
Kerala at the Malabar coast of Southern India is the richest state in India, still profiting from the wealth the Portuguese and Dutch spice traders once brought to this place. In the cities of Kochi and Trivandrum, one still finds proof of the once flourishing spice trade the Europeans established after Vasco da Gamas landing in 1498. Thanks to enthusiastic missionary work of the Catholic church and almost constant Communist leadership of the state, Kerala enjoys the highest literacy rates and lowest poverty index of any Indian region.
Cardamon and pepper plantations are still covering the slopes of the Western Ghats, along with various other spices such as kurkuma and ginger. Those spices are also widely used in Ayurvedic medicine, an ancient tradition that survived time here and has its revival as an alternative medical treatment.

While travelling through Kerala, one indulges in the million shades of green, every once in a while topped with spots of color.