Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to all!
From 2008 12 30

We have decided to stay in India.
This is our new mode of transportation.
From 2008 12 29

If you need to, you can squeeze a family on.
From Traffic, India

This is our new place under construction.
From 2008 12 29

Please send all correspondence to

M & B Farrell
333 Coconut Tree Lane
Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India 612345

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dec 25--Never Smile at a Crocodile

On a hot Indian Christmas Day, we did some sight-seeing.

First we went to Crocodile Bank, a large conservation and breeding site for crocodile species from all over the world. Since 1976 the Bank has bred over 5000 crocodiles and now holds over 2400 crocodilians of 14 different species. Many crocodiles are endangered due to habit loss, conflict with humans, and hunting.

Then we went to a site of ancient temples carved during the rule of the Pallavas. Some of them are carved from single large stones.

To celebrate Christmas, we had dinner with some family friends who are Syrian Christian: Nishanth and Archana, Helen and Balaji (Nishanth's parents), Andrew and George (Nishanth's cousins), and Aqueel and Bikram, friends of the family.

Dec 22--Road Trip Back to Guwahati on Crowded Roads

Photos from the road trip back to Guwahati.

From Workers on the Streets

Dec 20 and Dec 21 --Visit to Ishani's Aunt in Tezpur

On the evening of December 20th, we returned to Tezpur and stayed with Bhanti Pehi and her husband and son, Paul. Bhanti Pehi and her husband are both doctors and they work at the State Mental Hospital. They gave us a tour of the grounds and the library.

We stayed overnight with Bhanti Pehi's family, and then we visited the place where Ishani's father is currently stationed. He had to meet with his superior, so we spent the afternoon touring parks in Tezpur--Agnigarh Park (a place where couples meet) and Bishnu Rabha Memorial Park.

Ishani's dad ended up having to work most of the day, so we spent an extra night at Tezpur. That evening, we walked out onto the bed of the Brahmaputra River--which is dry during the winter and then we got some fish and made "burned fish."

We also met and were invited into the homes of two of the men who are drivers for Ishani's father. His main driver is a "man of steel" on the road. We loved meeting his wife, his egg-laying hen, and, later that day, one of his cows wandering the streets.

Monday, December 29, 2008

December 20--Retirement Home in Jorhat

On December 20th, we started the trip back to Jorhat. Ishani's father will be retiring in a year, and they have bought a piece of property where they are building a smaller house for their retirement. Ishani's father is planning to teach yoga and grow medicinal plants--he has his garden already started. While we were there, we saw some women laying out the warp threads for the traditional Assamese red and white towels (gamucha/gamosa). The women in the pictures are laying out enough length for 15 towels. They have a technique for transferring the warp threads to a loom, but we weren't able to observe that. These are used everywhere--for ceremonies, for gifts, for dishes, for headcloths, and for cleaning.

December 19--Tea, Temples & Talking

On the morning of December 19th, we visited a tea estate called Chenijan. The harvest has just ended, so we were not able to see the factory in operation. The workers were cleaning and doing maintenance on the machines. The proprietress, a relative of Ishani's, is also a music teacher and played sitar for us.

We travelled on to Shivsagar and visited some very old temples and ruins from the time of the Ahom dynasty: Vishnu Temple, Kareng Ghar (Talatal Ghar), and Rong Ghar. Rong Ghar is a pavilion where the kings would sit to watch games, dancing, etc. Ishani's dad was responsible for creating a beautiful garden and park around this site. His interest in and knowledge of the area is a perfect complement to his numerous personal & professional contacts (he reminds me of Butch, Mike's dad.) The ruins, the towns, the plants, animals, the development projects--he is a fount of information about all of them. Ishani's father has also been involved in many projects to decrease erosion and improve farming methods and to preserve the natural resources of Assam. It seems that he is well-respected in being able to balance preservation and the needs of the local people to make a living.

Shivsagar is where Ishani's mother spent her childhood and went to college, so we stopped to visit Ishani's maternal great uncle and his family. Mamoni's parents sent her to live with her uncle and aunt so that she would have the opportunity to go to school.
From Ishani's maternal great uncle and his family 2008 12 18

December 18--Elephant Safari

Early on the morning of December 18th, we went on an elephant safari in another part of Kaziranga National Park--the Kohora Range. These Indian Elephants (elephas maximus) have a wide range but are considered endangered due to poaching, habitat loss, and human conflict. The Asian Elephant is from two to four meters (7–12 feet) tall and weighs from 3,000–5,000 kilograms (6,500–11,000 pounds). These gentle creatures constantly ate while they worked, and they responded well to the handler's commands. The 46 year old female we rode picked up a deer antler on command and often had her baby and an adopted baby in tow. A once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Mid-morning we took a second jeep safari. Again, the park throughout its range is spectacular. We were amazed by the variety of wildlife and the frequent animal sightings.

We then travelled to Jorhat, Assam, to Manju Mahi's place (Ishani's aunt, her mom's younger sister), where we stayed overnight. Hospitality & kindness in person.