CHRISTMAS – new country, new town!

That’s A Wrap

         (INAUGURATION Day 2017)

Tempting though an escape from the Trump years may be, time to get back and get to work — amazing to see friends and family marching the day after the election– and to be with family and friends. Videos and FaceTime are not all no substitute! 

Such a temple!

Vaikunta Ekadasi , the greatest festival of  the Ranganatharswamy Temple  year,  is about to begin in this Hindu temple, so today, police and people were swarming, traffic was redirected, and the hawkers were having a great time. Devotees – men, women, ancient and fairly young – were brilliant , the whole place just  glorious chaos.

The temple is enclosed by 7 concentric walls, and according to Lonely Planet it has 21 gopurams (those pink and blue towers), 39 pavillions, 50 shrines, including  the Hall of 1000 Pillars (though I read somewhere that the number is actually 994). As a non-Hindu, I  could get up to the 2nd outer courtyard, but as always, not inside the gold-topped sanctum sanctorum. 

See these chappals (photo, below)?  I set mine there (black Crocs, left of the pink ones), paid the ancient woman the 10 rupees she required, then walked barefoot across the road to enter the temple. There, I saw a stall offering chappals storage. FREE. I know it was just 14 cents, & I know it was perfect weather – high 80’s(Minnesota people notice this sort of thing) – but it probably took a good 5 minutes for me to let go of the injustice. It was probably a good 5 minutes before I saw the malnourished, hunched-over woman, probably my age, leaning against the temple wall and holding out sticks of sandalwood incense for people like me  to buy.                                   REALLY, Mary Ellen?

Good day. Feeling very ready, now, for the ashram.


Athens’ Exarcheia: “An empty wall is a lonely wall/An empty wall is a sad wall.”

                  Rainy day, unforgiving marble stairs, so I trod carefully, the better to see it all. 


The Great Chiang Mai Get-Together


It’s part of why I came back in February — I’d heard about the flowers, didn’t imagine it was a festival to rival the you-know-which-state’s State Fair.

I left from here with the kids … 



Lots to see and to do,  as the students set up their booth- full of purses, backpacks, key chains ( which some village people make for the kids to sell)…& food.       

  No more photos of the kids, who finally packed it in at 10pm, but speaking of food–

En route to a booth



   Light batter, rolled sausage(hot dog)



 Hard-boiled eggs-on-a-stick




 …and on and on it went.  


Beyond food, jewelry, clothes…

 Jackets selling fast, as the Mercury dipped below 80 in the a.m.  

Finally- I left at 7:30, it started at 9(-ish) – The Flower Parade. 

Some  random photo videos here —


  Yes, that is his brow being wiped – by 10, it was getting warm.


   Replica of The Three PrincesMonument…

LIVE replica–

Many,many more flowered floats, but IMHO —BEST IN SHOW….  

PS So, perhaps it’s  not like the Minnesota State  Fair at all  — have I been away so long, that it just felt like it for awhile? Probably. 

Or as one MN friend who knows this place well has put it, “You’re becoming allergic to Mai Pen Rai…”  Someday, I’ll explain, or try to. For now, experiencing it (Mai Pen Tai) as I am, it is enough to say I’m finding life here boulversant/amazing. 



7 Gopurams: Trichy’s Sri Ranganathaswamy

This  temple complex is more like a small city, with its 49 separate shrines and 7 gopurams: the last one,  added about 30 years ago, at 73m. is one of Asia’s tallest temple towers.

I wandered through streets of shops selling the area’s famous kitchen ironware, and clay incense-holders  and ghee-lamps,  as well as  geegaws of all sorts.  It wasn’t too hot yet, so I took my time, milling along  with women in red saris (a wedding? temple visit?), men in dhotis long and short, motorbikes, auto-and a few bike-rickshaws. 


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Leaving, I looked back and my eyes and camera lens landed on this man – sadhu? shopkeeper?


In Tamil Nadu, 4 Days and Nights of Pongal + A Child’s Way

 Overnight, elaborate  RONGOLIS, drawn with brilliant colored powder, appeared  in front of village houses and shops: the  great  Harvest and Thanksgiving feast of Pongal, Day 2. 
  At the ashram cowshed: Pongal altar, and Shantivanam ‘s young prior, with the pujari on the left.  


After this  chanting and blessing with fire – aarti (arathi/arathi/aarti) – of the Pongal Rice…  

  …Sister Mercy, Ananda ashram’s St Francis, performed the ritual Pongal Rice feeding. 
And afterwards,we humans enjoyed the sweet rice. Amma- Sister Mary Louise – shared hers with 6.5-yr-old Abishish.

Earlier, he had been the attentive attendant bell-ringer as his dad and the pujari  blessed the cows.  

When he’d had enough, Abishish became full-on 6.5 years old again.

Towards sunset, I heard him ask for Amma’s blessing.

And so it goes!   


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