Monday, 26 January 2009

Indie Republiek dag

Vandag vier Indie haar 60ste Republiek dag en ook in ons huis is daar groot afwagting. Vrydag, na skool, het Inge al vir my gese dat Maandag oggend hoef sy nie skool toe te gaan nie, maar ons moet 9.00 TV kyk, want dan gaan daar 'n groot parade wees in Delhi. Vanoggend vroeg het sy haar wekker gestel vir 9.00 om seker te maak niemand in die huis mis die parade nie. Wel, die kindertjies sit nou voor die TV en kyk hoe Delhi reg maak vir die parade, wat eers 9.30 begin. Ek vermoed hulle gaan nie te lank sit nie, maar het tog gedink ek kan gou die tyd gebruik om te blog.

Japie, ouder gewoonte, is vanoggend op die vakansiedag werk toe en ek moet regmaak vir ons trek Woensdag. Regmaak beteken ek gaan al die kaste deur en by my het ek 2 bokse - een vir weggee en een vir weggooi. Wat oorbly in die kaste word Woensdag ingepak en oorgedra na ons nuwe plek. Die trek is baie minder emosioneel as laas jaar die tyd, ons trek net na die gebou langsaan, so ek probeer so veel as moontlik wegmaak. Die keer hoef ek niks te hou vir 'miskien gaan ons dit nodig kry' nie. Tog skrikwekkend om te sien hoe baie ons opgaar, al trek ons elke ander jaar. Niks het oorgebly van Japie se droom om lig deur die lewe te gaan en om altyd te kan trek deur net al sy besittings agter op 'n bakkie te laai nie.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Kluikie en Rose se afsterwe

Kinders moet troeteldiere he, of so glo die pa van die huis. Ek skop vas, tot Engeland vriende se kat kleintjies kry en een van hulle, 'n pragtige gestreepte enetjie, ook my hart steel. Einde Julie 2007 het Toffee haar intrek by ons geneem. Dadelik was dit Inge se kat. Hulle het saam gespeel, geslaap en sy is trots aan al die maatjies gewys. Toffee het 'n naamplaatjie gekry, 'n mikrochip, baie inspuitings, speelgoed en net die beste kos. Twee maande later begin die woorde Indie, werk en Japie egter gereeld in dieselfde sin op duik. My eerste reaksie was, ons het dan nou net 'n kat gekry, ons trek nie Indie toe nie. Japie was egter vasbeslote, sy werk maak my sag met 'n vyfster paar dae in Chennai om te "look and see" en voor ek weer nugter kon dink, was die kontrak geteken. Hoe nou gemaak met Toffee? Ek begin uitvind van pet passports, kwarentyn, meer inspuitings en katte lewens in Chennai. Dieselfde pa wat glo kinders moet troeteldiere he, glo toe egter ook dat dit goed is vir kinders om van jongs af te leer afskeid neem en dat dit nie vir ons gaan werk om 'n kat vir 2 jaar Indie toe te bring en dan weer terug na Engeland nie. Die pa begin praat van Toffee vir 'n laaste rit veearts toe neem, maar gelukkig is daar een van sy werkskollegas wie se skoonma 'n kat soek. In Toffee se eerste 6 maande het sy selde enige vrede gehad, maar nou bly sy soos 'n koningin in 'n huis sonder kinders. Inge was natuurlik baie hartseer oor Toffee en het in die begin dae in Indie baie getreur oor Toffee. Gereeld as Indie te veel geraak het of as sy verlang het, het sy die woorde ''ek mis Toffee'' gebruik om haar gevoelens op te som. Met elke nuwe maatjie wat sy hier gemaak het, het die gemis na Toffee gelukkig minder geraak.

So ruk terug begin die pa egter weer met - die kinders moet 'n troeteldier he. Ek se nee, nie voor ons weet ons bly in een huis vir die volgende 5 jaar nie. Hy besluit dan is 'n vissie net die ding en kommandeer Bennie om 'n plastiek visbak saam te bring as hy kom kuier (hier kry mens net glas en die pa se dis nie kinderbestand nie). Terwyl die mans in Rajasthan toer, het ek 'n week van "'wanneer kan ons dan 'n vissie kry ?" en Saterdagoggend, op soek na iets om die kinders mee besig te hou, besluit ek dis tyd. Kotti bel sy vriend en neem ons na Chennai se beste akwarium winkel, ons kies 2 goudvissies, Rose (met die oranje rugvin) en Kluikie (met 'n witte). Saterdagaand gee ons hulle net 'n bietjie kos, want die internet se meeste goudvisse gaan dood van ooreet. Jean gooi 'n paar toys in die bak vir die visse, tog oorleef hulle die eerste nag. Wel, ook net, want Maandag deur die dag het Rose gegaan en vanoggend was dit Kluikie wat op die sy le. Die kinders is egter nie veel gepla nie, ek wou nog begrafnis hou, tot Inge se nee wat, gooi sommer in die drom.

Ja, die pa sal natuurlik se die kinders het met Toffee geleer van afskeid neem.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Happy Pongal

Pongal is 'n oesfees wat deur alle Tamils gevier word. Anders as Diwali gaan dit nie met 'n groot klomp geraas gepaard nie, maar dis 'n vrolike familie fees, met baie kleurvolle rituele wat oor 4 dae strek.

Die eerste dag word alle ou klere in die huis bymekaar gemaak en aan die brand gesteek. Die 2e dag word Pongal gemaak. Basies is dit rys, melk en jaggery (klonte geel suiker) wat in 'n klei pot buite op 'n vuur gekook word, tot dit oorkook en almal skree dan Pongal ! Blykbaar is die oorkook baie belangrik, want dit simboliseer oorvloed vir die volgende jaar. Elkeen eet 'n bietjie van die Pongal en die res word buite neergesit vir die diere en natuur. Amudha het gister by die huis vir ons ook Pongal gemaak. Ons albei is Christene so het besluit die oorkook op die stoof gaan net morsig wees, so dit was net sodat ek en die kinders kon proe. Haar resep - rooster 1/2 koppie geel dahl/lensies en 1 koppie rys, gooi 2 koppies water by, laat kook, gooi dan baie ghee/clarified butter by, intussen braai cashew neute en rosyntjies in ghee en gooi by rys - Pongal ! Soet rys, nogals interessant, amper 'n fudge smaak.

Dag 3 word die koeie vereer, omdat hulle gehelp het met die oes. Die koeie word versier met blomme en klokkies en hul horings word geverf. Die laaste dag van Pongal is net 'n groot gekuier oor en weer.

Die mooiste deel van Pongal vir my is al die rangolis. Rongolis is patrone wat voor huise met gekleurde rysmeel gemaak word. Tydens Pongal staan die vrouens blykbaar al 4am op, om die rangolis te maak voor die gode begin wandel. Dit verseker dan dat die gode sien hier bly 'n goeie, flukse vrou, wat geseen moet word. Vandag was 'n vakansie dag en ek en die kinders het vroeg oggend in ons buurt gaan stap om al die kunswerke te bewonder.

Ongelukkig kon ek geen mooi foto's neem nie (het 'n paar met selfoon probeer neem, maar kon dit nog nie afgelaai kry nie). My kamera is by Japie wat tans in Rajasthan rond karjakker saam met sy pa, Bennie en Grant. Hulle is nou halfpad met hul Delhi-Agra-Ranthambore National Park-Jaipur-Pushkar-Udapuir-Jodphur toer. Behalwe vir die feit dat hulle weer geen tiere gesien het nie, 'n paar Delhi-bellies, 'n nors bestuurder, baie vroee oggende, elke nag in 'n ander bed, klink dit of hulle Indie nog geniet en besig is om 'n hele paar aande se stories en fotos bymekaar te maak.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Kerala

We had such a good time on the Kerala houseboat in August that I really wanted to take my parents there as well. From Jaipur we had a very, very, very long day's travel all the way to Cochin. Around 8 in the evening we all arrived tired and grumpy at a dark and dodgy looking guest house in the Jewish part of Cochin. However, everything looked better in daylight, we had a great breakfast and the dark street turned into one with a great buzz and lots of lovely antique shops. The next 24 hours we spend on the houseboat. Again it was a wonderfully relaxing experience. An interesting thing we saw this time was farmers on boats gathering their hundreds of ducks. Asking what they do with the ducks, the answer was - sell them for Christmas.















From the houseboat we drove through the lush Kerala country side, up a mountain and past many tea and rubber tree plantations to south India's most popular wildlife sanctuary - Periyar. Beautiful scenery, but with 2 car sick children, the 3 hours drive felt a bit long. My ever faithful travel guide claim that Periyar is home to bison, sambar, wild boar, langur, over 1000 elephants and 46 tigers. Well, I knew our changes of seeing a tiger were very small, but we ended up seeing nothing !!! Well, 2 wild boars and something looking like a water buffalo (of which there are plenty in Chennai's streets). Needless to say Periyar didn't impress me at all. Kumily, the town next to the reserve, wasn't much better either - very overcrowded with tourist and lots of Kashmiri shops. Still, we have done a spice tour in Kumily which was very interesting, but afterwards I was trick into buying lots of spices, most of which I still haven't used!! That day JP and my dad had an endless discussion of how all tourists (except them) always get the unexplained urge to buy something, just to never use it again.

After Periyar it was back to our state, Tamil Nadu. We drove to Madurai (this time only one child got car sick) where we stopped at the Sri Meenakshi temple and flower market after which we got our flight back to Chennai. Southern India is famous for its temples of which this one with its 12 towers is one of the finest. Unfortunately, they were busy painting the towers and all were covered so we will have to go again. The flower market was beautiful. Marigolds, jasmine, roses and lotus flowers are sold at all temples and along the streets for offerings or for the women to put in their hair. At this market the flowers are sold in bulk and distributed all over south India.





























Well, this is the end of our tour. We've had an amazing time, great photos, many memories and just a few souvenirs.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Golden Triangle - The End.

Jaipur - Rajasthan

The last leg of our Golden Triangle trip took us to Jaipur the capital of Rajasthan. Driving from Agra to Jaipur, the scenery changed to more arid and camels started replacing cows as working animals.
















In Jaipur we stayed in a lovely heritage hotel - Umaid Bhawan. The rooms were decorated very colourful, over the top Rajasthan style, including flowers painted on the ceilings. The best were the restaurant with great Tandoori chicken. In general the food in the north is really good. Not as spicy as in the south, with delicious breads and lots of non-veg options on the menus. Our favourite must be Kashmiri rice. At the moment I am trying out recipes and will post the perfect one later !!



Jaipur is also known as the pink city, because of its many pink coloured buildings in the old city. We thought that was because of the colour sandstone used to build these buildings. However, it's just pink paint. Apparently when the Prince of Wales came to visit Jaipur in 1853, the whole city was painted pink to welcome him.


The highlight was Amber Fort just outside Jaipur. The experience starts when you drive through the big city walls. At the base of the hill, elephants await you for a ride on them to the fort on top of the hill. Inside, the fort has beautiful winter and summer palaces, with a striking room of mirrors. Again the fort feature in Jodhaa Akbar, with Akbar coming to get his Hindu princes on the back of his elephant. Yes, just a story, but one can see and experience the splendour.























In Jaipur itself we went to the City Palace, but after Amber Fort we didn't think much of it. The only interesting bit we saw was the Maharaja/King himself (or so our tour guide told us). Part of the Palace is still his residence. The Maharaja is an old gentleman in a wheelchair and Inge refused to believe that he is actually a King.

On our second morning in Jaipur we went to a small village, Samode where we walked through its quiet streets. If you have a few extra pounds, Samode Palace, is the place to spend a night. We just had lunch there and visited the amazing hall of mirrors.















For our last afternoon in Jaipur, I went shopping in the bazaars with JP and my mum. I thought myself an experienced shopper in India, but this place was too much. Madam, come inside, just have a look, looking is free, where are you from, I have beautiful dress, shoes, fabric, carpet, what do you think, buy something nice for your friends, it's very cheap, how much do you want to pay, times ten. Between this you need to dodge cycles, rickshaws, poo and chicken butchers. After that, I am now an emporium convert (Emporiums are big shops with large variety of Indian craft goods (carpets, wood, dolls, paintings etc), more expensive than the bazaars, but less hassle). The only words my mum had after this experience was - I need a shower.



One of the sad things we saw on our tour was the impact of the Mumbai attacks on tourists. Travel guides warn you about long queues for the elephant rides at Amber fort, but when we were there, elephants were waiting for tourists.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Golden Triangle continued.....

Agra - home of the Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal. It is the most beautiful building in the world. It is everything you've heard, all the cliches. It is overwhelming and words cannot do it justice. We visited it in the morning (next time I would go as early as possible) and at sunset we went to the Katcpura village and viewed it from opposite the river, with the Taj reflecting in the river. Magic and free !

















The rest of the day we visited the Agra Fort and Baby Taj. Before starting our tour, I've read a lot about the Mughal Empire and watched a few Hindi movies (incl Jodhaa-Akbar) about that period. The Mughals ruled from the early 1500s to the mid 1800s and of the Emperors Akbar was The Great !! The best known must be Shah Jahan, grandson of Akbar and builder of the Taj Mahal. At the peak of their rein the Mughal Empire were vast, their palaces, forts, tombs splendid and they loved the finer things in life. A fascinating lot. The Agra Fort was built by Akbar and is impressive and although the story of the movie Jodhaa-Akbar is mainly fictional, it still gave me a very good idea of all the grandness of Agra fort. Agra fort is also where Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his son and later died (at least he did have a view of the Taj Mahal from his tower).








Agra itself is a dirty place, so after spending 2 nights there we were ready to move on to Jaipur. On the way we stopped at Fatephur Sikri, Akbar's capital for a few years. Again very impressive. In its days of splendour it was also home to Akbar's royal harem of about 5000 women ! Both Agra Fort and Fatephur Sikri are build of red sandstone and inside there are palaces and big open public areas. You have to imagine it all filled with carpets, paintings, big tent like roofs and doors, ladies in colourful saris, ponds filled with rose water and warriors on elephants. Things don't come that grand anymore. (Spot the Springbok jerseys - after the Mumbai attacks JP made sure no one will confuse him for American or British !!)





Tuesday, 6 January 2009

The Golden Triangle

It is about time that I blog about our holiday. We've seen so many things and of course I've taken hundreds of photos, my problem is how to keep it short ! I will try.....

Delhi
(Inge's question - Can you spot the difference between Delhi and Chennai ?)

Like most tourist coming to India, we started with the Golden Triangle (Delhi-Agra-Jaipur). We arrived early morning in Delhi and only did a bit of sightseeing after which we headed for Agra. To try and see Delhi in one morning is impossible, but still I had one of my most amazing Indian experiences that morning. From the airport we drove through New Delhi. New Delhi is impressive with its wide clean streets and big colonial buildings, but somehow you get the feeling, this is not the real Delhi. Next was Old Delhi - the real thing. We all (including Oupa, Ouma and the kids !!) got on 3 different cycle rickshaws which took us through one of the old markets. It was unreal, like driving through the most chaotic and colourful dream. Just brilliant. We started off outside the market and first had to negotiate through the very busy traffic (I could see my mum's face turning very pale) and then into the market with rickshaws, bicycles and people the only traffic. First we drove through the street with all the silver shops, next was the bridal street, then books and stationary. The bridal street was best - hundreds off little shops selling saris, fabric, bangles, bindis, and my favourite the sari borders (the little strings of fabric you put on the sleeves). I've tried to take photos, but it just don't do any justice to what we've seen and I was so overwhelmed that I didn't even think of asking the rickshaw cycler to stop, for me to take a decent photo or go into one of the shops. Inge asked afterwards if we can go back and buy something. Yes, hopefully we will !


















All was too much for Jean and he fell asleep (right).


Monday, 5 January 2009

Happy New Year !

Sjoe, die vakansie het eenvoudig verby gevlieg. Eintlik moet ek se die jaar het verby gevlieg. Dis moeilik om te glo ons is al amper 'n jaar in Indie. Wat my egter paniekerig maak is dat daar nog net 1 jaar oor is en dat Japie reeds begin besin oor waarheen dan. Die 10 dae wat ons getoer het, het my opnuut laat besef hoe ongelooflik baie hier te sien en ervaar is in Indie. 'n Jaar is nie genoeg om alles in te pas nie ! 2008 was 'n baie geseende jaar. Daar was verseker baie uitdagings, frustrasies en nuwe dinge, maar ek kan se dat ons tevrede kan terugkyk, het baie goeie herinneringe en stories, het goeie vriende gemaak en het baie om die Heer voor dankbaar te wees.

Wel, baie het gebeur vandat ek laas geskryf het. Ons het 'n fantastiese toer gehad (sal later meer skryf en foto's opsit), ons het lekker Kersfees gehou by die huis, my ouers is veilig terug in Stellenbosch, Jean is gepotty train (amper) en Inge en Jean is vanoggend terug by die skool. So ons het 'n 'normale' week wat voorle tot ons volgende kuiergaste, Japie se pa, Bennie en Grant, Vrydag hier aanland.