india :: day 8, weekend sightseeing

On our second weekend in India, we spent some time traveling and playing tourist. While it was a frantic, whirlwind weekend trying to fit everything in, we saw some remarkable sights. First we visited some of the temples in the town of Kanchipuram, which is considered to be one of the seven holiest cities to the Hindus. I loved the colorful shops outside the temples...

And inside the temple.

Blessed by an elephant!

Young couples wanting a family tie these little wooden cribs to the sacred tree in the temple, hoping they will be blessed with a baby.

Kailasanatha Temple...

After the temples, we drove on to Pondicherry, a former French colony.

We visited a silk shop on the way from Pondicherry to Mamallapuram. So beautiful watching them work the looms...

This was all in one day. Exhausting. Day two to come...

india :: our indian cooking lesson

One afternoon a few volunteers spent some time with our cook, and she showed us how to make a couple of our favorite dishes - a peanut coconut curry sauce, and curried cauliflower. Can't wait to try these at home, but I must admit I'm loving the break from spicy foods! The peanut curry dish...

Start with unroasted peanuts, skins on. Roast the peanuts until they start to turn dark brown.

When the peanuts have cooled, remove the skins by rubbing them in your hand and shaking off the loose skins. She said we could just start with no skins and skip this step.

Add these ingredients to the peanuts in the blender: chopped coconut, cilantro, 3 chili peppers (also roasted until they start to turn dark brown, more if you want it spicier), curry leaves, dried tamarind fruit, enough water to make saucy.

Of course, no measurements on any of these, they just go by taste/experience...

Saute mustard seeds & fresh curry leaves in oil (they used sunflower oil) for 1 minute, add peanut sauce from blender. Add salt & water to taste. Delish!

And the curried cauliflower dish...

Parboil the cauliflower.

Chop coconut meat to small pieces. Peel garlic & ginger. Add water.

Add fennel seeds.

Add cloves.

Add cinnamon. They used cinnamon curls, right from the stick. So aromatic.

Chop 3 tomatoes.

Blend all ingredients except cauliflower, adding water as needed.

Saute onions, mustard seeds and curry leaves.

Add blended ingredients.

Add 2 huge spoons of curry powder.

Add 1 small spoon turmeric and salt to taste. Add small amount of tamarind juice (soak tamarind fruit in water).

Simmer all ingredients including cauliflower until soft.

And... I'm a complete dork. I didn't get a photo of the completed dish.

total. complete. dork.

india :: days six and seven

By day six I had started settling into a routine, and the teaching got easier. The 4 year olds stayed in their seats, enjoyed their lessons and started working their way into my hearts. The 5 year olds loved doing shape and color flash cards, and we quickly fell into a rhythm for class: conversation, flash card games, and drawing. Yes, it's true that kids all over the world love a good set of crayons and coloring sheets.

In the streets of Chennai, dogs run wild, along with cows, chickens and the occasional goat. Most of them are very thin, and spend their time either sleeping or rummaging through the trash scattered over the streets, looking for scraps. Kristen befriended one little puppy near our guesthouse and dubbed him "Flipper" - he had a gash on one of his little paws, and flipped it when he walked. Daily walks to pet Flipper and his momma became giggle-inducing bright spots in our afternoons.


And more from the streets of Chennai, both day and night.

Chennai India letter box woman balancing load on head

Chennai India shopping at night

The road construction in our neighborhood...

Everywhere we went, we were met with stares, giggles, and shouts of "Hello! What's your name? How are you?" Many times we were asked if we would pose for a photo with them. These two schoolboys here asked me for my autograph... just random kids on the street, feeling giddy about the color of my skin. Such warm, friendly people here in India.

india :: day four and five

We lost our internet connection 4 days into our trip, so I wasn't able to post photos from India. I am home safely now, have hugged, kissed and snuggled my kids (ok, maybe over-snuggled) and am so happy to be home. I have so many photos to share with you all now... I had written this post while there, but never posted, so I'll start here... Monday was our first day in the schools. We spent the day getting acquainted with the children, and taught our first lessons. I have been assigned to the lower kindergarten and upper kindergarten classes, so I am teaching primarily 4 and 5 year olds, with a sprinkling of 2 and 3 year olds in the lower K class. The first day teaching was pure mayhem. The teacher turned the classroom over to me and then left me to my defenses. Like any typical 4 year old American classroom given a free pass with a substitute teacher, the orderly children quickly devolved into a state of pure chaos. Climbing on the tables, yelling, biting each other, not listening... it was clear that I had no authority in the classroom. The next day the teacher scolded the kids for their misbehavior, made them say sorry, stayed in the classroom with me, and we had a productive day of learning letters, numbers and singing songs. Tuesday the kids started creeping into my heart.

A few days ago we had purchased some material to be made into a salwar kameez, and Monday we took it to a tailor to be made. We all had our measurements taken, and chose necklines and pant styles from pattern books. It was clear that I was one of the tallest clients they had ever had, because there was some concern about having enough fabric to make the pants long enough. I pick up the outfits tonight, I'm so excited to see how they turned out!

My students at Grace School...

Two teachers at the school...

Our trip to the tailor...

The streets of Chennai...

Our Global Volunteers host's little son, Roshan, "making soup" in the kitchen.

Banana peppers from our backyard. Delicious fried.