|Cooking pot at Amber Fort in Jaipur|
There has been so much to report about since July 25th. Between moving and touring, I have been devoting my extra time to painting. What a great way to travel and experience the world this has been. I have encountered various types of people as I have worked in some amazing places. Not only have I been able to study certain views for 2 to 3 hours at a time, but many conversations have taken place between me and onlookers from all walks of life. Every time I have set-up in India, I have drawn crowds of up to 20-30 people at a time. It adds another element of pressure, and while a couple people have had to be told to keep their hands off the work, they all show interest and carry on conversations about it behind me. More on my art later, but some of my favorite pieces are the paintings I did in Blenheim New Zealand, Florence & Venice Italy, Prague Czech Republic, Istanbul Turkey, Jerusalem Israel, and after a few paintings in North India- I feel like I hit the mark two days ago in Thekkaddy. I look forward presenting this work in 2013. I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to work from life in these bewildering places, which brings me to what I really want to describe here..
Today is Thanksgiving. Shelley and I woke up this morning on a boathouse in Alleppey, India and had a wonderful breakfast consisting of omelets, toast and lemon jam, coconut, ginger and cardamom seeds crepes, fresh pineapple and coffee. We are thankful for this unique way to spend Thanksgiving, and are especially thankful to now safely be in Cochin ready to make our next move. (I say safely due to road conditions. This topic requires it’s own post). Before I offer more things we are thankful for in India, I am going to take the opportunity to bring my post contribution up to speed by going all the way back to California and list some special things for which I am thankful. Here are a small percentage of the many things I am now thankful for:
Enjoying the majestic coast from San Fran to LA with brother and sis-n-law Paul and Meredith; An intimate and glamorous (with a touch of glam rock = Motely Crue theme) wedding in the Malibu Hills- congratulations to Jessie and Lizzie!; The continuation of fabulous hosts as our friends Charley and Vicky pampered us at the W Hollywood before and after our trek through New Zealand; In and Out Burger; Cupcake ATMs.
Not thankful for: Motion sickness of windy roads; Thinking about Great White sharks while SUPing in Santa Barbara, LA traffic.
The Maori coast (NE North Island); No earthquakes while traversing the exterior of the Sky Tower in Auckland; A new sports hero- All Blacks captain Richie McCaw (wish many professional athletes in the States would model their behavior off this guy- on and off the field/court); Baby New Zealand Lambs; The closest living relative to the dinosaurs and defying all odds- the Tuatara; Nick and Pauline Seminutin and their family!!; Well-planned round-abouts; Marlborough Savingon Blancs; A bungy cord that works; Meeting some of the resilient people of ChristChurch; top notch beer; some of the most awe-inspiring views (this after covering much of the American and Canadian West).
Not thankful for: the stoats and rats that are driving the kiwi and tuatara towards extinction; having to leave NZ.
Fiji alone- it’s beautiful; island hopping on a seadoo with my woman clinging to my ribcage; the Australian tourists there; Cloudbreak (I hope to improve my surfing abilities and ride some waves there some day); the giant bats; just being in the South Pacific; If I had to turn 40- I’d just assumed doing it somewhere like Fiji.
Not thankful for: can't think of anything.
LA to New Orleans (drive):
Beautiful Arizona sunset; Santa Fe, NM- one of my personal favorites; getting to see family, friends and Lola in Dallas; Dinner in Baton Rouge with The Pesses; the Stillwagon wedding festivities in a place I cherish- New Orleans. Congratulations to Claudia and Brad- it was a fantastic event!
Not thankful for: driving across west Texas; jetlag.
Seeing for the first time much of the art and architecture I have been teaching about for years; Leon Battista Alberti and a plethora of great minds and master craftsmen from one of the most innovative and inventive times and places in history; Spending a day in Florence with my parents; new fashion attempts; the football skills of Antonio di Natale (Calcio Udinese); Tutti! Tutti! Prego! And verbal passion and hand gestures in general.
Not thankful for: annoying trinket sales people at all the sites; cigarette smoke; late trains.
More top notch beer; More amazing architecture; A great ruler (King Karol/Charles) and his dedication to education and astronomy; Goulash and other dishes where I could mop-up the gravy like Uncle Argyle in Braveheart; Great Sparta Prague fans and their hilarious attempt at the Mexican wave; Jewish childrens’ art from the Terezin Ghetto (personal favorite); the rejection of communism; healthy snow fall on our final day in Prague; Dvorak and his compositions.
Not thankful for: jerk driver who took us to the airport, cigarette smoke.
Carole and Martin (baby Tomas); Republic Day; rooftop views; Turkish bath; my shave at the barber; the underground Roman cistern; interior of the Blue Mosque; obtaining Shelley’s “travel” wedding band from the Egyptian Spice Market; hearing the call to worship for the first time.
Not thankful for: trains outside our room.
Buses that worked; haggling at the market in Jaffa; exercise equipment on the beach; that I happened to hear my bag unzip as I was walking outside the Muslim Quarter in Jerusalem; attending mass; learning more about Armenia; the Armenian and Yemenite restaurants; the tunnel we took through the City of David; the friendly people we met on both sides; being at such significant places; the sensation of floating in the Dead Sea; the condition of Masada.
Not thankful for: the prick who unzipped my bag outside the Muslim Quarter, the tension in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Walking from Israel to Jordan; the cool shopkeepers in Aqaba; being able to take a taxi from Aqaba to Petra and from Petra to Amman (@ 300 miles total); Petra exceeding my expectations; Bedouin kids who made us laugh so hard; the very intuitive and complimentary driver to the airport.
Not thankful for: our driver and his wife smoking all the way from Petra to Amman; the kids being made to hock items to tourists.
The idiot who finally ended his argument with the stewardess and took his seat when the plane was ready to take off; business class upgrade after missing our connection in Doha; finding our contact in Delhi airport; power nap; the sights in Delhi; the people who waved to us and wanted their pictures taken with us (with our cameras- not theirs); the food that did not destroy me right off the bat; monkeys, elephants, kingfishers, more giant bats and cobras; Diwali in Jaipur!!; Taj Mahal; Vikram – our driver who took extra good care of us everywhere we went, another new hero; No accidents along our drives (the roads and highways are a mess); South India with the food and cleaner air.
This place is very stressful, so I’ll just add that I am also quite thankful for logic, rationale, and plain old common sense. Oh- and hygiene and my personal space!!!
Not thankful for: the constant power outages.
If I were to come back to India, I know that I could handle about a week in and around Delhi, and probably 2 months in the South. Perhaps someday we can give The Himalayas and the eastern part of the country a shot.. But, many of the people we have met are compassionate and kind beyond necessary. While staying in Jaipur, I was painting and Shelley was writing inside the atrium one night when the hotel manager’s wife asked Shelley if she would be willing to let her dress Shelley up in one of her sarees. Just being asked was an honor. After watching this woman happily put her elaborate outfit on Shelley, I realized it was an honor for both women. This was one of the many moments we have experienced after being strained to the max, due to the circumstances this country has to offer, where we were astounded by the amazement of human nature. This was actually the best of those moments and we (Shelley) will treasure it forever. They wanted us to return to celebrate our 1st year anniversary..
Finally, this is what I am mostly thankful for- my wife.. We have joked that this has been an extended honeymoon. Not really- it’s not a vacation. There is work involved. We can’t have expectations that things are going to be perfect. There are good things and bad things that come in quick succession (especially in India and Israel). We have been living out of backpacks and I have to give Shelley credit beyond just delivering interesting and informative posts. Finding reliable wifi is a rarity in itself, but only having a handful of outfits, being sick from Milan through Rome, having men (and women) staring at you all the time, and dealing with the exhausting travel conditions is not exactly always smooth. She has really proved her toughness and composure and I am proud of her. I will maybe post on here one more time, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to say this while I can.
We just returned from having dinner at our hotel where an Indian singer, with synthesizer, was performing the likes of Kenny Rogers, The Eagles, and Neil Diamond. Not my favorites, but during our “Thanksgiving” meal, it was somewhat appropriate. Dinner consisted of Kingfisher Blue, Murgh Tikka Masala, Plain Naan, and Curd. That was our Thanksgiving dinner, and while we really miss our family and friends, it was a good turkey day meal (without the turkey- it was chicken and it was very hot/spicy).
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!! From me and my wonderful wife!
P.S.- Hello to our new friend Ole Martin Christiansen from Norway. We enjoyed having dinner with you and hope to stay in touch. Best of luck with your new adventure!