catching up…

Following is a backlog of entries, as I haven’t had much chance to get online and post. Hopefully my posts will be less few and far between as I get settled. Enjoy!

September 18 2012

I have arrived in style!

After a 39 hour commute (which, thankfully, included a 15
hour layover near NYC and a much overdue visit with food blogger extraordinaire
and old friend Elizabeth Stark of brooklynsupper.com & babble.com), I finally
touched ground in Mumbai last night. I was seamlessly conveyed to a lovely 4
star hotel and given the treatment I always hoped a traveling mosaic artist
would get: deluxe room, gourmet Indian dinner, hot bath and a luxuriant sleep
between expensive sheets on a king sized bed. Breakfast did not disappoint
either. After a cappuccino, croissant and fruit, I opted for a second (more
Indian) round of dosa, paratha, and sabudana. The song “I’m gonna maaaake it
after aaaalllllll!” kept popping into my head, and I set off refreshed and
ready to take on the world.

this is what 4 star grilled paneer looks like

I had a love affair with this king my first night.

Which is a good thing, considering the job at hand: create a
mosaic mural using the workforce of dozens, if not hundreds, of Indian and
international students. My job is to make sure it looks good and goes smoothly.
Luckily, the support system I have here at the school is outstanding. Well
funded, expertly staffed, with the highest priority placed on student and staff
participation, I keep pinching myself to make sure it is not all a dream. I
wonder if I’ll ever see another situation like this one again. I’ve been
informed that this is going to be a media event and that prominent contemporary
Indian artists will be invited to see and participate. Teachers and parents are
interested in the process as well. The project has grown three times larger
than the original proposal and the time frame has been shortened, but somehow,
that is not stopping us.

Is this all really happening? (pinch!)

And let me tell you about my new digs. Seriously, I would be
happy in a mud hut. (I am happy in a mud hut every time I visit my beloved Ghana!)
I would be just fine with a simple, basic apartment or even a room in someone
else’s house. The fact that I get my OWN apartment on the twenty first floor of
a classy skyrise, with hot running water, a yoga space, air conditioning, fans,
two bathrooms, washer and fully equipped kitchen, swimming pool and gym
facilities is an unreal bonus. (pinch!) My bed is firm and comfortable, my
ginormous flat screen television (and the microwave oven) remain unplugged. If
I want cable and wifi, I only have to say. (yes to wifi, no to cable, please).
And I get to take a rickshaw to work each day. I am a five minute walk from a
tasty, simple vegetarian restaurant. (pinch!)

the view from my flat of the tennis courts and swimming pool

coffee and a view

my kitchen

my new sleeping partner. I miss my man.

I have a yoga room!

And it’s festival season, apparently. The Ganesh festival is
under way and I am honored to visit the house of my colleague for lunch and
festivities tomorrow. There will be eating and puja tomorrow. Then, either in 1
½ days, 7 days or 21 days (different strokes for different folks), the Ganesh
statues will be conveyed to the ocean, submerged and left there. I will tell
you more about this once I see it for myself but according to the people I’ve
been talking to, the party is about to get started. Last time we came to India
we arrived just in time for Holi, this time it’s the elephant god’s turn.
Needless to say, I’m excited!

That’s all for now. I’m so happy. I wish Ryan were here
with me. And my furry child Nana Mensah. But I’m not complaining! I’m living my dream and it feels
good.

September 19, 2012

I had the day off today. The whole country is celebrating
Ganpati, a holy day for the elephant god Ganesh.

offerings for the elephant god

transporting the idol

celebrating with neighbors

revelers

I was invited to the home of my colleague and fellow art
teacher, Ulka A. A remarkable woman who comes from a family of artists, we sat
on the floor of her in-law’s house and made modak (sp), which are a sweet
dumpling with a rice flour pastry. Filled with sweet coconut flavored with
cardamom, saffron and jaggery, these dumplings resemble flowers and have a
pointy top, which I have been told is a favorite shape of Ganesh. I was
honored to witness the family Arati and Puja (worship ceremony) and to
participate in my own small way. Surrounded by welcoming, friendly people, I
never would have guessed that I was in the midst of national award winning
photographers and painters that have gallery shows in Luxembourg,
Singapore and Dubai,
and art in museums across the world. But I was. After the Puja I ate until I
was sure I was pregnant with a food baby. The food coma that ensued lasted for
hours and now I am up at an unreasonable hour typing away on my computer.

the lovely Ulka: artist, mother, teacher, wife, friend

Before I went to Ulka’s family house, I attended the aarti
at my apartment complex. Women, children and men waited at the entrance with
offering dishes of sweets, spices, rice, flowers and candles. The statue of
Ganesh arrived in an open backed van following a procession of drummers and
dancers. We followed the procession and the statue, dancing and rejoicing to a
covered stilt pavilion to await the blessing. There is much joy in the air these
days, I guess. I have been told that I am just in time for what is called
“festival season”. Lucky me!

arati for Ganesh

Offerings to Ganesh. All his favorite foods. We got to eat them too, and they were deelicious

new friends and family

making modak for Ganesh

he likes his treats in a pointy teardrop shape.

Tomorrow I go shopping for tiles for the mosaic. I suppose I
should figure out my amounts!

September 21, 2012

Yesterday we got a ton of work done. Not only were most of
the materials ordered, but the entire design got projected and traced by the 8th
graders by the end of the day. This is good news! It means that we will be able
to start working in earnest on Monday.

the site of the mosaic: 26′ by 11′

projecting the image. look at those little ones!

already having a blast.

I had to ask the skirt wearers to step down in the name of decency

just a few of our colors.

This is one of the most amazing jobs and support systems I’ve
ever had. Everyone is so accommodating and excited about the project and I feel
very, very lucky. Kids are jazzed, admin is jazzed and teachers and artists are
lining up to be a part of the project. Considering how little time we have to do
such a huge installation, this is good news!

This is the current design for our mural.

Today involves me going to a few tile and glass shops to
snatch up the last few materials we think we need. I’ll be going with the
building project manager and a driver to a number of vendors to do this. We
were going to go yesterday, but between Ganpati and the bund (read: holy
festival day in which idols of Ganesh are immersed into pools, tanks or the
ocean, and a national strike), shopping was out of the question. Today, it
seems there is a lull in these activities and therefore ideal for shopping.
Hopefully the monsoon rains won’t be a problem!

More soon…

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Ryan Allmandinger says:

    Wow, you have been busy. And considering the size of that wall, you won't stop being busy. Very Exciting!

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