31 December 2013

India Love . . . 3, 2, 1: Cowboy Up!

The last Monday of my trip found me in a new place in Delhi. I went over to meet friends for lunch in an arts complex called Triveni. I was meeting my friend Mustafa and one of his friends from business school. Mustafa is a friend of mine from Singapore--we met in the Underground Cooking Club MeetUp. We ended up going through several galleries before sitting down at a cafe for tea and paratha. I wasn't expecting to see any galleries, so I was really excited to be seeing the work. One of the galleries was focused on the history of film in India. It was really interesting to see the different styles of dress throughout all of the posters displayed. And they had several film strips in light boxes, which gave me another idea for the dance pose project. The second show we saw was a painting and drawing show. I really enjoyed the drawings that were on display. The whole Triveni complex was buzzing with creative energy. There was a ceramic shop and an outdoor theatre space. And there were four or five floors devoted to classes, workshops, and practice space. While we were there I heard people dancing, drumming, and--somewhere off in the distance--a flute. After our lunch, Mustafa decided that we should go to Rodeo. Of course, I heard the word rodeo and was like, What? Where are we going? We hopped in the cab and headed over, and when we got there I couldn't believe it. All of the waiters were dressed like cowboys--or as close to cowboys as they perhaps thought--and the barstools were Western saddles. It was the most hilarious place on the planet that I have ever been to . . . EVER. There were cowboy posters and random Western sayings on the wall, sheriff badges and rainbow colored Mexican fabrics. On one wall--across from where we were sitting--in giant letters it read, Warning: Coyotes, Rattlers, and Texans. (Damn straight, I thought.) They were having some sort of taco lunch buffet, but we all agreed that there didn't seem to be very many people eating. And the tacos looked vaguely like Indian food. So it was questionable Tex-Mex at best. But we were there for the drinks and the drink menu was quite enjoyable, both in drink names and combinations of liquors. I had a shot called "Cowgirl's Prayer" that I chased with a KingFisher beer. My shot was a combination of Creme de menthe, grenandine, and Tequila. It still makes me cringe a little bit just thinking about it. But it was beautiful! It was red, green, and yellow: perfect stripes of liquor! I kept thinking that it was too bad that it was 2pm in the afternoon because this place would be just OTT at night when it was really crowded. And they were playing like early 2000's music. When we sat down--no joke--they were playing Backstreet Boys. Mustafa said that they used to get there every Saturday at 3pm and stay until the wee hours of the night. I was in heaven, and quite honestly felt a little bit closer to home . . . Go, go Rodeo! The train ride home ended up being magical, too. I was in the Women Only cabin, just standing there because it's always so crowded that there is never anywhere to sit, and all of the women around me started singing. Thankfully I had my phone out because I immediately started recording them. It went on and on until they got off of the train. And it was a call-and-response type singing: with an older lady calling out and the women all around her answering. It was completely fascinating, and I still have no idea what they were saying. I've attached my sound clip below. It was then that I thought, Wow! This Women Only thing is fantastic! How fun! Everyone was smiling and singing! What a fabulous--and unexpected--way to travel home! 

29 December 2013

India Love . . . Third Weekend, Over And Out!

Oh this weekend: why do I have to go back to Singapore in 4.5 days? I love this place!

Monkeys were on the prowl at breakfast, which was very exciting. There was lots of yelling and rock throwing by the staff at Sanskriti. But the monkeys just sort of crossed their arms as if to say: what? It was hilarious.

I found myself in Old Delhi again on Saturday afternoon, hanging out with my new friend Himanshu. Old Delhi is so crazy and amazing!! We walked all over the place and he told me about all sorts of things: architecture, food, history. It was truly the best way to see this part of the city. Himanshu is a curator and festival organizer. I'm so excited to have met him! He knows all sorts of secrets to the old city and we found ourselves in the most unique and odd places, tucked away amidst the hustle and bustle. It was so much fun!

And oh my: the food . . . I tasted the most amazing paratha in the tiniest little open air, corner restaurant I've ever been in (ever in my life). I'm not kidding you: this place was probably 12 feet by 8 feet. We were squished in with about 15 other patrons, pleasantly eating our paratha. Paratha is a flatbread, and they offered about 20 different varieties. We tried cheese, green chili, cashew, and two other flavors but the names are escaping me. After walking around for a bit, we ate two different kinds of sweets. One of the sweets I explained earlier in a previous post, and the other one was sort of like funnel cake, but not. It was a squeezed out circular swirl of fried dough thoroughly soaked in some sort of honey/sugar syrup. I wanted to take a bath in that liquid goodness! It was so sickeningly sweet!

After that, we went over to Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in all of India. We strolled through the entire space, which was enormous. It seemed to me like it would be a wonderfully contemplative space, and perhaps a great place for artists to come and do some on-site sketching. The variety of people milling about were remarkable. And every one of us, shoeless on a cold day.

After the mosque, we walked back over to the bazaar. And it was at that moment that I got a wild hair. We walked down this skinny little alleyway to a tiny shop where an old man was working on a ring. Funny thing is: he also pierces noses. And for 100 rupees (about 75 cents), he pierced mine. I sat down on this stubby little chair with about 5 big guys staring at me expressionless, and this old guy with what looked to me like a fish hook in his hand. He sanitized everything and then told me to sit still as he grabbed my chin and very quickly jabbed the hook in my nose. The worst part about the whole process was hearing the hook go through my skin. Gross. I'm pretty sure the exact words that came out of my mouth next were, "Mother of God!!" He then grabbed a set of pliers and twisted the ends of the silver in my nose and sent me on my way. Nothing is crazier than watching an old guy with pliers coming at your face . . . My left eye was tearing up and finally the big guys that were watching were smiling. I did it without even screaming! And Himanshu did such a great job documenting the whole thing! Hooray for new things!

After the nose piercing, I couldn't much think about anything else. But along we went to a giant wall. It once wrapped around this entire part of the city, but now only a portion of the wall exists. At 6pm, Himanshu and I said our goodbyes and I hopped on the train back to Sanskriti. Tonight would be my last dinner with my Vicki Australia.

Sunday started off with all of us saying goodbye to Vicki and her husband. The rest of the day ended up being a studio day for everyone. We all kind of puttered around working, stopping for tea or to have lunch together. I ended up cutting out more dance figures. But--more importantly--I wrote up several proposals for future gallery shows and residencies. And I also wrote up a review of the work I have accomplished with this residency. It reads something like this . . .

"My Sanskriti Foundation residency began on December 14th and ends on January 3rd. During this short 3 week time period, I have been successful in fusing my contemporary studio art practice with the colors, textures, and movements inspired by Delhi culture. Creative research in the form of documentary photographs and videos can be found on www.cakecrush.com where I wrote about my daily experiences in my India Love . . . 3, 2, 1 series. Investigations into movement, ritual, patterning, and celebrations continue on as I begin to explore myself within these themes. In my Dance Sketch video that I created in the first week of my residency, I combined traditional Indian dance poses with contemporary Western dance poses to choreograph a quick 4-minute stop animation with still photographs (to be watched on a loop). Using the isolated movements within this animation, I have begun drawing the poses onto patterned paper that mimics the textiles and tapestries found in Sanskriti's Textile Museum. These drawings are cut out and formed into a larger kaleidoscope piece. Poses are repeated to form the design, and then the finished kaleidoscope piece is animated through photographs. During the last week of my residency, I will be taking traditional Indian dance classes. The finished choreographed piece will be edited into the animated kaleidoscope sequence to create a unique video experience, combining real and imagined space and movement. Upon my return to Singapore, I will use the fabrics and trim that I have purchased in Delhi to finish a costume piece. This costume piece will be worn in a live dance performance that is a direct response to my time here in India. Additionally, smaller sculptural works of the isolated Indian and Western dance poses will be made out of clay into a series of works that I am calling Trophies, a response to the horse sculptures and terracotta deities found all over Sanskriti and throughout India. The final work from each of these investigations will be photographed and put into a catalog along with several of my blog posts. The finished publication will be sent to Sanskriti for reference."

Tonight I will be hanging out by a campfire with my new India-based artist friends. I'm excited for the conversation as holing up in the studio all day has made me feel a bit hermit-ish. More soon, peoples! 

27 December 2013

India Love . . . 3, 2, 1: Creative Play!

Today was a studio day. As exciting as the beginning of my week was, I really needed to stay in the studio and work on some projects. And while I didn't get to the movie making part of this work, I did start putting together the format for what the little films will be. And really I'm creating a backdrop for a much larger film project that I am hoping to create over the summer months in Baltimore. The day started out with me cutting the shapes of my dance poses out of patterned paper that I felt looked very similar to the textiles found in the museums here at Sanskriti. The cutting actually took me through the morning and up until noon. In fact, I am still doing some cutting. Goodness! At noon, the 4 India-based artists gave presentations to their mentors and the people supporting their stay at Sanskriti. I sat in on the presentations and was absolutely floored by their varied and technical skills. One of the young women showed these beautiful drawings that she made by burning paper with incense. I really loved how the light interacted with these pieces (see in the video above). Each one of these young artists was extremely prolific, showing between 50 and 80 works a piece. (It was on a projector, so it was mainly the clicking through of images. But wow!) At 130pm, we broke for lunch. After lunch I went back to my studio and continued on with my work. My goal is to use the dance poses to create various kaleidoscope-type animations to be used as a backdrop for a dance video that I will be working on at a later date. Essentially I will be dancing in front of the animated kaleidoscope: you get me? So once I am able to complete the kaleidoscope (you can see part of it above), I will move around the different parts while taking images and create a little stop-motion animation. The second part of my project involves working on the trophy mock-ups. A little bit of that will be done tomorrow morning and also on Sunday, as it was so cold today that I could not bare to even work with the wet clay (which is outside). But I did end up drawing up sketches for the pieces. I also did a fair amount of research, looking for a classical Indian dance instructor here in Delhi. I'm hoping to hear back from someone tomorrow. To continued success!

26 December 2013

India Love . . . 3, 2, 1: Hauz Khas for Boxing Day!

Well it's official. Living in hot Singapore has turned me into a massive cold weather wimp. And I may have once again gotten a bit of a head cold. (I can not confirm nor deny this.) So today was a bit slow. I was in the studio working all morning and then went off to Hauz Khas with Vicki. We had a beautiful meal at Amour, celebrating Boxing Day. The food was arranged so artfully on the plates. I had a lamb and provolone burger--having not had any meat since the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. It was wonderful. And you can see what Vicki had above: isn't it gorgeous? For dessert, I ordered ice cream. But when they brought it out . . . It looked like this. The ice cream was shaped in a triangle with a bit of a pie crust. And it was covered in toffee and orange drizzle. But that's not all: it was served with mascarpone and almonds! It was absolutely amazing. And probably the reason I am being punished with the aforementioned head cold. We ate outside on a rooftop overlooking a giant park. I felt like I was in New York or something. After lunch, we walked around and peeked in all of the cool shops that Hauz Khas has to offer. It was really fun! I left Vicki there and came back to the compound. And then I did something absolutely crazy: I rested. I physically laid down for more than an hour. When I woke up, it was dinner time. And here we are! Tomorrow I will be making more dance videos and creating mock-ups of the trophies. Hilarious post--I mean progress report--forthcoming!

India Love . . . 3, 2, 1: Christmas Day Festivus!

At 8am on Christmas morning I loaded all of my things back into the car and set off for Delhi with my driver, Surinder. Before heading out of town, we made our way to the monkey temple. Galtaji is in Khania-Balaji, and is a Hindu pilgrimage site where people can come and bathe in holy water. This was the absolute best way to leave Jaipur! I've never seen so many monkeys in all of my life . . . At one point, I was on the hilltop surrounded by pigs, goats, cows, monkeys, and dogs: all at the same time. I spent about 2 hours there. Then it was time to get back in the car again. About 3 hours in, I decided that I wasn't so happy about spending Christmas Day in a car. However it warmed my heart to know that perhaps back in the States, other people were also piling into random forms of transportation to go and visit with loved ones. I kept checking my phone to see if anyone had woken up at my dad's house where my nephews were. My sister and I remember waking up around 4am on Christmas Day, so I was sort of hoping that they would do the same. Alas, they slept in a bit longer. When we finally got back to Delhi, my residency neighbor handed me a tiny little stocking. I was so happy to have something fun and festive to hang up in my space! I ended up Skyping with my dad around 630pm my time. Everyone was just getting up at the house and the boys were excited because Santa had come to visit. But halfway through our Skype, there was a knock on my door. A man was calling us to dinner early. I figured it was because the chef needed to be home early, but it was for a Christmas celebration! They had invited all of us (all 5 of us) to the dining hall for drinks and treats. And they put up the most magical little Christmas tree, complete with snow on the branches. After dinner, they presented us with a green cake. Following dinner, we all went to Vicki's studio and shared our art work with each other. The night ended with drinks and dancing in the studio. Christmas Day Sanskriti-style rules: so much fun!

24 December 2013

India Love . . . 3, 2, 1: A Very Merry Jaipur!

I want everyone to know how difficult it is for me to post these India Love/3, 2, 1 posts. It's not emotional or anything, I just take a billion pictures a day. Anyone who has ever gone anywhere with me knows this (and I do mean anywhere: the grocery store, out to eat, etc.). So being able to choose only 3 images to post is an absolute nightmare! Today's post is camel-heavy. It's Christmas Eve for goodness sake! It kind of goes with the season, you know? The camel images that I have posted are not of the camel that I had the absolute pleasure of riding, this was a camel that was just hanging out by the side of the road eating some grain while his owner ate some lunch. And when I walked up to him, he started making the most hilarious faces at me. I couldn't quite contain myself. Camels are such humorous creatures! Anyhow . . . My day started with an elephant ride up to the Amber Fort. This fort is outside of Jaipur about 20 minutes, and up a hill. It was beautiful at the top and sort of reminded of St. Mark's Square in Venice--the arrangement of the buildings and how people gathered. Located in the same town is a very small museum called Anokhi. It is a hand printing museum. A friend in Singapore told me that I must go to it, so I did. When I walked in, no one was there. Pigeons were flying around inside everywhere. But I paid my entrance fee and began to poke around. And I have to say: aside from the camels, it was my most favorite place that I have been to! Perhaps even during my whole India experience thus far. It is a gorgeous little museum! On the first floor was the history of block printing and how it relates to the town, and the gift shop. On the second floor was a contemporary printing show with work by Rebecca Layton. It was really wonderful to see the contemporary next to the historical, and how they relate. And as I wound myself up the little staircase to the third floor, I found myself in a tiny gallery with arches and mirrors and 5 glass boxes encasing dress forms wearing layers of beautifully printed sarees and wraps and shirts and headscarves. (The room made me feel like I was in JT's Mirrors video, you know towards the end.) Just off of that gallery was a small space showing the process of dying and printing on a vest. They had a different vest displayed for each stage of the process, so there were 11 vests: each a little different than the one before. On the 4th floor of the museum--the roof--there was a man sitting in a corner carving wooden printing blocks. I sat there and watched him for probably 30 minutes. I made a series of videos, of which one is posted above. After watching him, I walked into the teaching lab where another man was printing. It looked like a typical printing studio: ink stains, some things covered in plastic, newspaper everywhere. He let me print with him for a little while. He was doing some tests prints on muslin, so that's what I got to help out with. I ended up buying some of the books they had for sale in the gift shop because I was just so fascinated by the whole museum. You can't tell from their website, but it's actually behind the town and down an alley. I'm so glad we found it! As we drove away and down the hill, I noticed some camels hanging out by the side of the road. So we turned the car around so I could get out and take some pictures. As I was taking pictures, my driver was talking to the camel's owners. And one of them offered to give me a ride. So that's how I came to find Raya. Raya's owner walked me down to the water and then back again to the street. It was maybe a 10 minute ride, but totally worth it. He even trotted me at one point, which made giggle. After my camel ride, I went over to the City Palace. But it was really just another fort-like thing. So I wasn't really that invested in looking at it. I was more interested in the traffic--cows, elephants, oxen, cars, bikes, scooters, tour buses--that was happening outside. But my driver wasn't interested in parking and letting me walk around. So I went back to my beautiful little inn and rested for a bit. I found a dinner spot just around the corner where I could watch traditional Indian dance and see a Rajasthanian puppet show. The dancing was funny and a bit awkward because I think the daughter (in the video above) was just learning the ropes. She seemed really shy and unsure of what was happening. But when her mother started dancing, it was absolutely tantalizing! She was amazing! And she danced with a stack of large clay pots on her head. Spinning and spinning and spinning! I had a fabulous Christmas Eve . . . Let's see what Christmas Day brings! Happy holidays!

My Favorite Creative Experiences From 2013

1. Being back in graduate school: Yes, I am a glutton for punishment. I love school and being around other academics discussing art. I also tend to like my art getting it's ass kicked every once in a while. If you have never sat through an art critique in a college setting, do it. Listening to a large group of people--say 35 of them--pontificate on your artwork while you stand in front of them (between your artwork and them, like a protective mother) and attempt to defend everything is incredibly eye opening . . . And--dare I say--fun! Not to mention all of the book learning and paper writing that goes hand-in-hand with the experience. Three cheers for being back in school!

2. My residency in India at The Sanskriti Foundation: Another amazingly life-changing experience, and I'm still completely going through this! I have loved meeting everyone at Sanskriti and making new connections with all of the resident artists. Residencies create a special--different--kind of bond: you are brought together, make art furiously, and then you go on your separate ways. But there is always an amazing bond that exists. Thanks to social media, everyone can stay in contact for years to come. And perhaps one of these days, I will meet up with these artists at another residency or perhaps the same one. Just another fabulous example of art creating connection!

3. Oh my goodness, our first ever Stamford Community Mural: It's exciting to be part of the inaugural mural project that the students have begun working on in collaboration with Kallang Community Club . . . Each Thursday when my students go to the wall to paint, they discover a new friend or accept a new creative challenge. It's inspiring to watch.

The current feedback we have been receiving from parents about this project sounds something like this:

"I keep hearing such great things about this CCA . . . How can my child be involved with this project?"
"This is the one CCA that I facilitate where I go home and feel really energized!"
"I saw the images on Facebook the other day of the mural! What a fantastic project!"

4. Living with Wanalee: This might be my most inspiring life event ever. I am so lucky to be living in a part of the world that encourages travel. All of the trips I have been on in the past year have been incredible. But living with Wanalee for three days: that was the absolute best! Have you ever been around an elephant for a long period of time? They are the most gentle creatures on the planet . . . Make eye contact with an elephant and it will change your life--I guarantee it. She was patient and helpful, and she had a great sense of humor. I am scheduled to see her again over Chinese New Year. Hooray!

5. Trade School Singapore: Creative exchange! Decorating umbrellas and making new friends. Parade Arts never looked so good!

6. Soap-making with my second graders: Two weeks of bombastic artful energy disguised as play. The students had an absolute blast making their own soap and designing packaging that reflected their personal style.

7. Screen printing 101 with Stamford teachers: Very rarely do I get a chance to hang out with my teaching community creatively. The workshop that Sarah and I devised was successful on so many levels: it created a community of art makers among Stamford teachers, it showed teachers how they could use a creative technique in their classrooms to teach non arts-based classes, and it gave the teachers a space for play.

8. A for Arbite's CRAFT: A fingerweaving installation at one of Singapore's best kept secrets. Good food, great beer, and the celebration of craft. Sign me up again!

9. The first installment of Buoyant Echo in Kentucky: A collaborative project in the works with my good friend Corey D. Newton. It's a survey of my experience living in Singapore that combines performance, installation, sculpture, and music. The second installment of this project will take place in Singapore in August of 2014.

10. Writing about my friends and fellow art instructors: It's fun to peek into the lives of art teachers and see what makes them tick . . . Check out some of my fave art teachers: Camilla, Sarah, Adrienne, and Nicholas.

11. Stamford's gala artwork: It's always exciting to make things with my little people! Especially when it's for a great cause . . . So many hands went into the making and finishing of these three giant paintings!

12. French cooking class: Finding friends through a random Meetup has been one of the most rewarding things on the planet. I never even used Meetup in the States, but thought it would be a good idea living in a new country. I was right! Underground Chefs has been a blast to be a part of! (Now if only our wayward leader Jes would come back from learning how to make amazing pastries in Tuscany so we could continue on already!!)

13. Being a part of Handmade Movement's Craft Fair in January: Hanging out with some super lovely ladies in the pouring rain whilst attempting to hang up buntings and bobbles was hilarious. By the end of the day, we were all freezing cold and exhausted. But man, the turnout was incredible! At that fair, I met some of my closest friends in Singapore. To continued hilarity and success!

Honorary mention: Panca Mahabhuta Retreat. How could I not include my experience in Bali at Thanksgiving? Just being there for those four short days left me feeling refreshed and focused. I can't imagine what will happen when I attend the 21 day event . . . Look out!

23 December 2013

India Love . . . 3, 2, 1: Taj Mahal.

It took about 4 hours to get from Delhi to Agra (where the Taj Mahal is located). And then another 5 hours to get from Agra to Jaipur (where I am now). I woke up at 4am and my driver picked me up at 615am. And I have to tell you something: I'm a bad tourist. While I love being in really crazy, loud places with lots of people or hanging out with large animals like Wanalee, I'm not so good with the whole being drug around to giant architectural masterpieces with guides. I know this sounds completely horrible and perhaps I even sound a bit spoiled. But sometimes I feel like the absolute best things to see are less exciting because there are billions of other people trying to see that very same thing. It's like with the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Because I love hanging around with people, I became more interested in the variety of people that were there to see it: how many of them took pictures of themselves "holding" up Pisa, or "pushing" it with one leg, whatever. I remember all of those people and the different stunts they were demonstrating more than I even remember what the Pisa actually looked like. The same can be said about the Taj Mahal. The most fun I had--being in the presence of this ginormous structure--was watching all of the people and how they would arrange their families in front of certain areas or take awkward selfies. And it became a competition between some families, with people cutting off other people's pictures. It was kinda weird, honestly. But I thoroughly enjoyed the story behind the building of the Taj . . . It was apparently created based on an architectural plan in a dream that the King's wife had. But she died before he even started building it. You know it was sort of fairy tale-ish, which is quite lovely. After seeing the Taj, we hopped back in the car to head for Jaipur. About halfway there, we stopped for lunch at a roadside motel. I was completely infatuated with this motel and had the manager walk me around so that I could take pictures. No one was staying at this place, but I thought it would make a hell of a movie set. They brought tables out to the front yard, so when I had my lunch it was sort of like I was having a picnic. And there was this man sort of walking around playing this violin-ish type instrument. I was completely obsessed with him, and asked to take his picture. After lunch, we hopped back in the car and my driver was getting a bit cranky because of the traffic . . . Oh India: you and your traffic. It was on and off the whole way to Jaipur. I know this probably sounds like the most negative post on the planet. (Car rides are draining, people: whoooowheee!) But tomorrow will be filled with lots and lots of exciting experiences! More soon!

22 December 2013

India Love . . . Second Weekend, Over And Out!

Most of Saturday was a studio day . . . I was really excited about the dance experimentation that I was doing and decided to focus my time studying the poses that I found most intriguing. I started thinking about dance and how much I like it, how celebratory it is, and how much I formally enjoy the isolated poses. So I started drawing the poses, one-by-one. And I started thinking about the beautiful Hindu gods and goddesses and lovely old textiles that I am surrounded by. The dance and movement that I have been studying does not have to actually culminate in a physical dance. In fact, I think it has potential to be much bigger than that. So when I return from Agra and Jaipur on Christmas Day, I am going to begin building a series of clay trophies. Each one with a different pose on the top of it. I'm not sure where this will lead, but I feel like there is some really good creative juice here. So I'm going to roll with it. Additionally--when playing with these shapes as I cut them out--I realized I could start laying out patterns with each movement. And I realized how similar they looked to textile patterns found in the museum here at Sanskriti. Especially the ones with stories embroidered on them . . . I haven't taken any pictures of my finished patterning yet. But it's forthcoming! Look for images later in the week! Yay!

At about 2:30pm, I decided to go into town with Australian Vicki. We went to a tiny little market called Nature Bazaar. I don't know why I never noticed this before, but at all of the train station platforms are signs that say Women Only. The first two carriages of the trains are reserved for only women. At first, I was really annoyed by this. But then I realized that the two Women Only carriages are generally emptier than the other carriages, so I grew to like it. Now I specifically go to those carriages. Ha!

We got off the train and made our way through the dust to Nature Bazaar. It was a funky little tiny craft-based market off the street just a bit. 

Along with food stalls, there were booths selling all sorts of things: scarves, hats, toys, fabric, clothing, and handbags. I bought a few things, but not too much. My favorite purchase was actually the chai tea that I ordered. It came in a tiny little wheel thrown cup that was unglazed. So you could sort of feel the terra cotta on your lips as you drank the chai. The combination really worked for me, especially since it was chilly outside. 

On Sunday, I went off by myself to meet up with Shikha again. This time, she was taking me to Dilli Haat. There I am, in the photo above, standing under the Women Only sign. 

La di da. La di da.

We got there around the same time, but seriously: finding another person in a city of 9 million people is almost impossible. But somehow we did it. This craft market was absolutely incredible! It was a colorful mixture of bed covers, clothing, scarves, shoes, and handbags. And the haggling! Oh my goodness. Shikha runs a hard bargain. At one point, she leaned over to me and told me to stop being so enthusiastic. I had to keep a straight face . . . 

At this market, I went a little crazy. I spent less than $200 USD, but here's what I got: 2 small leather bound books, three shirts, a blanket for my bed (I think the last time I bought an actual blanket for my bed was in 1992), a green mountain bag, 2 pairs of pants, and a shawl. My favorite purchase? One of my pairs of shoes look like elf shoes. That makes me the happiest little clam alive . . . 

I'm telling you: this place was amazing. The colors were rich and the people were friendly. The food was delicious and there were puppies! How could you not like a craft market where there were puppies?!! 

We stayed at the market until about 2pm. At that time, we went and picked up her soon-to-be daughter-in-law and headed to a wedding saree shop. Talk about being in heaven . . . 

I've never seen such detailed embroidery and stitching in all of my existence. And the colors! There were so many different choices, I don't know how someone could just pick one.

The store was really thin and long. Along one side of the store was a row of table/couch couplings. Each coupling had a salesman and a man with a measuring device. The salesman would show the sarees and pull out whatever color/pattern you wanted to see. Along the other side of the shop were several mirrors. This is where someone would dress you or wrap you up. And if you liked how you looked, you got measured and your measurements got sent off to the happy land of making. It was an incredibly interesting process to watch. The men who wrapped the sarees would quickly fold the saree in one hand while wrapping the woman with the other hand. The one hand with the folded part of the saree would unfold as the wrapping continued. I couldn't take my eyes off of anything that was happening. Floor to ceiling, on both walls of the shop, were shelves and shelves filled with sarees and fabrics. There were men employed just to fold sarees all day long. The salesmen would pull out all the sarees, and the folders would put them all back: again and again and again. And everyone was barefoot. No one had shoes on for as far as the eye could see . . . 

After the saree shop, I was dropped off at the train station and said my goodbyes to Shikha. The next time I would see her would be in Singapore, where her classroom is across the hallway from mine. We had so much fun hanging out together in Delhi! Can't wait until the wedding in April! What fun!

I got home and immediately Vicki and I walked down to the village and picked up some cheese in a tin and crackers. I love that little village in the evenings. It's buzzing with excitement. While she was in one of the stores, I stood outside next to a cow that was laying down on the ground. Eventually I couldn't help myself any longer, and just started petting her and rubbing her on her forehead. She liked it. We made eye contact, so I could tell. It was so funny: she just laid there while I rubbed her head. At one point, she even sort of closed her eyes and laid her head down on the ground while I was still rubbing her. I'm just amazed by these loose holy cows! Perhaps I can take one back to Singapore with me. 

Tomorrow I'm off to Agra and Jaipur! Taj Mahal, here I come!