Sunday, February 28, 2010

▌♥ ▌ GO CANADA GO ▌♥ ▌

▌♥ ▌ GO CANADA GO ▌♥ ▌

I've been watching a lot of the Olympics over the past two weeks. We received a lot of bad press the first week due to the tragic death of the Georgian luger, opening ceremony glitches and the poor weather conditions.

Canada persevered. We won our first gold medal on Canadian soil. But then we won more and more. We watched Joannie Rochette skate and bring home a bronze medal after her mother died.

We put our heads down after losing to the USA in men’s hockey in the preliminary round. But we came back and held our heads high after taking on the Russians and beating them 7-3.

▌♥ ▌ GO CANADA GO ▌♥ ▌

We’ve won 25 medals so far – a record for Canada. We’ve won 13 GOLD medals so far, more than any other country in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics – and no one can reach us now.

After the Canada/Russia game it was clear – hockey really does define Canadians. Nothing brings us together like hockey does. Canadians across the world watched that game, cheering like it was 1972.

▌♥ ▌ GO CANADA GO ▌♥ ▌

It’s Canada vs USA in the gold medal hockey game tonight, 1:45am India time. Yes, I’ll be watching it live, along with every other true Canadian around the world.

My friends on Facebook keep me up-to-date with the medal count and laughing with their witty updates. I’ll leave you a little something my friend Anita posted:

"Our Father, who art in GM Place, hockey be thy name. Thy will be done, GOLD to be WON on ICE as well as IN THE STANDS. Give us this day, our hockey sticks, and forgive us our penalties, as we forgive those who crosscheck against us. Lead us not into elimination, but deliver us to victory, in the name of the fans, CANADA, and the HOLY PUCK. AMEN!"...Anita

And Lori’s quote after the Canadian women's hockey team won GOLD:

"Take off ya IOC hosers. Couple of beers and smokes is how we celebrate up here eh?"...Lori

Monday, February 22, 2010

Holi - Festival of Colors

Holi is the first Hindu festival of the year, celebrating the coming of spring. There are different legends attached to Holi, according to the region of India one lives in. Whatever Holi represents, it is a joyful festival.

Although the official Holi Festival isn’t until next week, our community celebrated “Playing with Colors” this weekend. I wasn’t sure what to expect and had no idea how many people would show up.

What a surprise to find so many, young and old, throwing paint and water on each other. Everyone giggled as they carefully painted each other’s faces, dumped dry paint over someone’s head or chased down the cleanest person and threw a bucket of water at them. Everyone was in good spirits.

It was so much fun and no one went away clean or dry! Most of the paint came off surprisingly well in the shower. The rest came off in the afternoon at the pool.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Olympic Opening Ceremonies

Final Torchbearer - they all have their torches lit still, tension mounts...
Arena floor opens and giants shards of ice rise up.
And the last four jointly light the flame.
Joint effort, interesting...
Would have rather it been Terry Fox's Mom - that would have been really inspirational.

Rick Hansen brings in the flame and passes it too,
Catrina la may doan
Steve Nash
Nancy Greene Raine
Wayne Gretzky

Oh no Terry Fox's Mother is carrying the flag and so is Bobby Orr (good call Craig) - not the torch...along with Ann Murry, Barbara Ann Scott, Donald Sutherland and others.
I'm guessing Gretzky now.
Wow the Olympic Hymn is being sung by someone with really, really big hair  (I hope it doesn't fall off) and a really big (opera) voice.

The Gov General opens the games, John Furlong gives a pretty good speech.
KD Lang sings Hallelujah - Michael's favorite performance.
We Are More - recited by Shane Koyzcan - goggle the poem for full transcript
The torch?

We Canadians are amazing dancers! A cross between punk rock, celtic kilt wearing, fiddle playing, Irish tap dancers. Now an acrobat is flying through the air through the wheat fields at Joni Mitchell sings. The use of color is fabulous.

Very cool effects with the northern lights, cracking ice, whales jumping, and giant totem poles become trees. Sara McLaughlin sings and ESPN fades to a commercial.

Craig says the final torchbearer will be Bobby Orr.
The audience is given drums and Prime Minister looks uncomfortable (as always) beating the drum.

Whoohoo, here comes Canada with Clara Hughes carrying the flag. The crowd goes crazy. They are wearing red, white and black - at least they are different. The politicians are waving and I feel sorry for whoever sits behind the First Nations chief with that crazy headdress.
Those dancers on the floor have been dancing and twirling this whole time especially the first nations people, they must be in good shape.
Here come Nelly Furtado and Brian Adams. Time to party.

I forgot, the Canadians will come at the end. Good thing cause ESPN went to commercial at the B's and came back to China. Have you noticed how many teams are wearing red and white? Ooh except Kazachstan (sp?) just came in wearing purple - they should rethink that for next time.
OK, a bit of a lull now so the big question is: who will be the final torchbearer? Michael says Betty Fox and I agree or Terry Fox and Betty Fox. Craig and Alanna say Gretzky.
What about that 4th mascot, that little marmot guy? How about Svend Robinson?

It's started. I liked the opening with the snowboarder and all the scenes from Vancouver and Whistler. The national anthem - I just want to know that the girl who was lip synching (not that she looked like it) was the actual girl that sang it. And what tune was she singing it too - the national anthem sung to the tune of "Oh Christmas Tree."
The ice statues are impressive and look their arms move.
Wow, here come the athletes already. Got to get ready, remember in Canada we spell Canada with a "C."

I was awake for most of the night. Was I too excited about the opening ceremonies - now fifteen minutes away? I did get the news about the death of the luge slider. Very sad way to start the games.
Just going to make some coffee (I'm going to need it) and then park myself on the couch for a few hours.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Shine Canada

It's time to shine Canada. The Olympics are in Vancouver: my home town. I won't be there and truth be told I'm not happy about that -  but I'll be watching. Friends and family are volunteering, and have seen the torch. The rings are lit up downtown and now it's all about to begin.

We were lucky two summers ago to see the USA short-track team practise at our local rink for five days. The Olympic mascots came and we had lots of opportunities to take photos.

Michael was in Vancouver last month and brought back some Olympic souvenirs. One big towel with Quatchi on it hangs in Craig's classroom, the other one in our living room. The kids are proudly wearing their Olympic t-shirts and pins.

We'll be up early Saturday morning (our time) to watch the opening ceremonies, and I'll be thrilled to see coverage of Vancouver. Here in India there has been no mention of the Olympics. People I've mentioned it to (expats) have no idea that it starts this week and many ask winter or summer? Ahhhhh.

I just read that there are three people on the Indian Olympic team - luge, alpine skier, and a cross country skier. The poor guys have no funding and didn't even have uniforms for the opening ceremonies. Some Canadian company heard about it and stepped in to make some for them.

It's truly a once in a lifetime opportunity - to watch the Olympics in person in your hometown. I have to pass on that one unfortunately, but like I said - I'll be watchin'.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Habitat for Humanity

Last Saturday the Overseas Women's Club organized a BUILD with Habitat for Humanity. HFH is an international organization that I’ve heard of many times, so I was thrilled to be able to volunteer for a day and help build houses with local Indian families. Michael wanted to join in and help and so did my brother Steve who is visiting for a couple weeks.

So we put on our work boots and work gloves and drove to north Bangalore. We weren’t really given an address, just the village. Our only indication that we were in the right place was when we saw a bunch of white women standing on the side of the road.

Twenty-eight women and family members came together to volunteer their time, strength and camaraderie. We were greeted by Nirmala and the Habitat team who explained the goals and ideals behind Habitat for Humanity, the work they do worldwide, and in India.

Habitat for Humanity International is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to eliminate poverty housing. Habitat India commenced in 1983 and has built and repaired more than 29,000 homes. Habitat is not a hand-out, but a hand-up program. Low income families must repay a no-profit loan to Habitat and “contribute own sweat equity (shramadhana) towards unskilled labour.”

Volunteers are an important part of the Habitat campaign. Volunteers from all walks of life are encouraged to contribute to these BUILD projects and advocate for “an India where every citizen has a right to decent and simple housing.”

Nirmala asked us to form four groups and each group set off to work on a different home. Actually, she singled out the guys and told them to form the “digging” group. There may have been a little good-hearted grumbling (something about sexism) but they set off to their worksite with picks and shovels in hand.

Each of the four homes were at different stages and everyone worked hard digging, hauling dirt or cement, or laying bricks. The home owners worked alongside of us and it was rewarding to work with each other and see the progress over the day.

During our lunch break Nirmala had some words of wisdom. She acknowledged that each of us could easily have paid a local 200Rp to do the work that we did. But she assured us that our time was as valuable to the community as our labour was. It showed the community that we valued them as people and cared enough to come and help. Not only that but each of us will share our experience with others and create awareness.

The teams bonded with each other, interacted with the homeowners and the curious local children. Everyone was eager to help out and it was hard to say goodbye. At the end of the day, we were all enriched by the experience organized by Habitat for Humanity and the Overseas Women’s Group.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Rajasthan: Udaipur

We arrived in Udaipur in the evening and stayed at the Trident Hotel. The Trident is owned by the Oberoi. It is nice but not as upscale as the Oberoi. There are lush grounds to walk about, and a nice, but cold pool and you can walk a little ways down around the corner to Lake Pichola for nice views of the Palace.

The only drawback was that we were kind of tired from all the travelling and happy to be in a decent hotel and so we spent the whole next day relaxing at the hotel.

Which only left one day to tour around Udaipur. We went to a modern art shop which was a nice change. We toured the Palace and had a nice lunch on the terrace overlooking the lake. Walked around Udaipur a bit and watched the sunset from the ghats.

Our time in Udaipur was short and I don't think we got the most out of it. It does have a different feel with the lake and the hills - it is pretty.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Rajasthan: Roadtrip to Ranakpur

We said goodbye to the guys at Pleasant Haveli in Jaisalmer. I have to admit they are really pleasant. They didn't charge us for any of the snacks that we ordered including beer and pop. In fact one day I asked for a coke and they didn't have one, only pepsi. So I said "no thanks." Next thing I know one of the guys hops on his motorbike and drives to the fort and picks me up one - now that's service. And when we left they gave each of us flowers.

Back to the train station at 5:00pm and we were shocked to see the train already there. And not only that but they were cleaning it. Don't worry though, it took them so long to clean it that we still left 45 minutes late. Oh, and don't worry - the resident mice still made the trip with us. Tip #1: don't leave luggage unzipped on the floor. Tip #2: if you take your shoes off for the train ride check them for unwanted visitors before you put them on again.

We took the train to Jodhpur and back to Heritage Kuchaman Haveli just for an overnight. First thing in the morning we took a prearranged taxi to Ranakpur and then onto Udaipur.

The roads are quite good, with the usual near head-on collisions. Trucks carry ridiculous loads, motorbikes carry too many people and trucks and buses fly by with people hanging out the doors and windows and packed on top. Sheep are herded across and cows stand in the middle. Vehicles don't slow down - they just whip around them - and the cows don't flinch.

It took three hours to drive to Ranakpur, the site of the Jain temple. The temple is well worth visiting. It is entirely made of marble with over 1400 columns holding it up. There are statues and carvings and every bit of the temple is carved to tell a story.

The marble keeps it nice and cool inside and people sit and enjoy the calm beauty, and try to take in the history and incredible detail in every part of the temple.

The temple is surrounded by hills and is three hours on either side of Jodhpur and Udaipur so it could be a day trip from either place but we carried on to our final destination: Udaipur. Now I sound like we were on the Amazing Race...our final destination...