Nivi's Adventures

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Flora London Marathon

The London marathon was on the first weekend I was in London. I did NOT participate but part of the route was just down the road so Vasi and I checked it out for a while. It was a scorcher of a day and I believe it started quite late, at 10am. Well it seemed late considering my vast experience (I did the Auckland BMW half marathon once, which started at 6am). Anyway, I can't seem to find out how many participants there were, but in 2006 there were 48,000 so I guess prob the same number this year...

Something really cool about the London Marathon is that it's basically just a fundraising event, the biggest in the UK and arguably the biggest single fundraising event in the world (last year £41.5 million was raised!). This means that people are running for more than just getting a good time. One guy did it in 'slow motion' taking one step every 5 second. He 'raced' 10 hours a day and finished 1 week later. Crazy!

Go the purple ballerina!

The Carnival girls in Brazil have nothing on this guy! If you look closely you can see that not only has he large plumes on his head, he's also running with a feather boa!

And what about this guy? Can you imagine running for at least 2 hours (and more likely 3 or 4 hours) in a SpongeBob SquarePants costume? Sheesh!

Great atmosphere and crowd support and I must admit it started a little idea in my head about the possibility of doing a marathon myself one day... Hmmm we'll see but rest assured you'll hear about it if I ever do ;)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

back in london... again...

I have arrived back in London and after 2 weeks of a constant sauna in India, I am sooo grateful that although summer is fast approaching it's not entirely sweltering here... yet anyway...

I've got a few posts to make (doing my usual trick of backdating, sorry if it confuses) but I've got some technical issues at the moment (vista doesnt seem to recognise my camera!). I will definitely post as soon as I can though - I've got some great shots of the crazy as driving!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Incredible India

So this is my final post for my time in India - what an amazing country filled with such differences. In the past I've never really enjoyed my time in India until after I've gone back to NZ but I spose being older, wiser and generally more mellow meant that I managed to have a wonderful time even though it was busy, crowded and incredibly hot.

OK, let me rant a little bit about the insane heat we experienced. The absolute temperature wasn't really that bad, but the humidity was a killer! I was taking at least 2 showers a day and 3 whenever possible, just so I could try and stop myself overheating. A bit futile though- even first thing in the morning, by the time you finished drying yourself after your shower, you'd already be sweating! We were in India in April but May is the worst month, and pretty much unbearable according to the locals, so anyone who's considering going to India, stay away from the South in May!

The beauty of visiting different countries is that you notice some very different mannerisms in people. For instance in India, there's the lack of personal space and the seemly "involved discussions" on the roadside that never escalate. Considering how mental the driving is, I can't believe there's no road rage!

My favourite one however is the aforementioned sideways headshake. Indians do this thing where instead of nodding yes and shaking their heads no, they do a sideways shake which means maybe or ok, but not necessarily. (Try taking your left ear to your left shoulder and then your right ear to right shoulder, the face rotating about the nose. This is the movement, but it only goes about 15 or 20 degrees past vertical. Hopefully this will allow you to visualise it.) Anyway it's highly frustrating to decipher at first, join in my frustration by reading the reproduced conversation below:

Nivi - Do you have this sari in orange?
them - 'sideways shake'
Nivi - so is that a yes?
them - 'sideways shake'
N - arrrgggghhhhh!!!!!

Perhaps one of the scariest things I experienced in India, was catching myself doing the sideways headshake!!! Yikes!

All in all it was a great time in India and a good opportunity to speak Tamil. Although my (poor) "Sri Lankan" tamil was not always understood, it was cool that my perserverance with trying to improve my tamil over the past few years had some payoff. I also found my reading getting a lot better with all the signs and posters around to read.

The food was amazingly delicious, and oh so cheap, but I surprisingly managed to not overeat, probably because of the insane heat :) Unfortunately I didn't get any photos of it, but there was something really cool about sitting crosslegged on the floor, eating delicious food with my hands from a banana leaf (used instead of a plate). Mmmmmmm :D

And perhaps the best thing about India is the people. There is such stark poverty it's heart breaking and even if you're not poor, life is generally hard and lived in tough conditions. However the people just persevere and you're far more likely to get a smile than complaint. It's so very different to life in the West and I wonder if lessons could be learnt from that.

Well I'll cease the rambling now but check out some random pics below.
The Kaveri River. Yeah, excatly, no water in sight. Now do you believe me when I say it was really hot?

Shopping by night in Chennai. I love how it's still really busy even late at night, this was prob about 10pm.

The ubiquitous cellphone. My parents still struggle with cellphones- this lady would be older than my folks, and less well off but she´s obviously got it down pat!

See I was there! Snacking on a yummy treat: a slice of green mango dipped in a mixture of curry powder, salt and water.

The tartness of the mango alleviates the spice of the curry powder and its sooo refreshing. Mmmmmm my mouth is watering just thinking about it :)

The mighty jackfruit! I dont know how to describe the taste (apart from very good). Anyway try it if you ever get the chance!

The beautiful Indian sky with a church in the foreground. The number of Christians and Muslims in Trichy surprised me a bit. You can tell Christians because they don't wear pottus (red dots on the forehead) and Muslim women wear black robes over their saris.

Really liked this pic for some reason...

Yeah, look carefully, this guy is carrying a goat carcass on his lap.

Oh and what about this lady? At least it wasn't the driver though ;)

Beautiful sunset :)

Twilight, with Venus putting in an appearance

Beautiful sunrise :)

I hope you've enjoyed the India posts and do keep checking back as I have more funky places to come :)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Trichy to Chennai by road

OK time for a rant about the driving in India! The fact that drivers use their bells/horns CONSTANTLY (much like dolphins and bats use sonar) and the reduced amount of personal space in India extends to the roads, being on the roads is quite a hair-raising experience!

So as you can imagine, the 450km / 6hour drive from Trichy to Chennai had us a bit worried. Most of the time the roads are just one lane each way, and as the lines painted on the road seem to be mere decoration, when it comes to overtaking it usually comes down to 'biggest gets right of way'. Seeing a bus or truck hurtling towards you, in your own lane, is pretty freaky!

Anyways below is a collection of some of the more amusing photos taken on the road...

A taste... Please note this is a single carriageway so the cars on the right are in the oncoming lane

One of the reason there is so much overtaking - the tractor on the left laden with sugar cane. Check out its front wheels!

Somewhere under there is a vehicle...


As if the incessant sound of horns wasn't enough, every vehicle on the road seems to invite you to join in.

This photo doesn't really capture how scary instances like this are. Just remember we were travelling at about 100km/hour!

Thursday, April 12, 2007


Finally, the post that shows you what we spent most of our days doing!

Poring over some wedding saris

Up close. This is the headpiece of the sari, the bit which hangs over the shoulder and therefore the most intricately decorated part of the sari.

An indication of the selection of different saris available. The glass cupboards behind the counter are full of saris - and this is just one side, of one floor, of one sari shop! As you can probably figure out, we had our work cut out for us!

A fair few saris in each of the cupboards too - some of which were gorgeous. The exchange rate was 30 rupees to 1NZD (or 80 rupees to 1GBP) so even the most expensive saris were definitely affordable. I think it's the only time I've been shopping with someone who said to the shop assistant "dont worry about the price, bring out your most expensive pieces"!

Checking out more saris. There are chairs/stools in front of the counters for people that are in it for the long haul. And once it seems like you'll be spending some money, you're offered a drink - often a soft drink or the Indian classic, sweet milky tea, yum!

Mirrors on the ceiling! This shop did this so that you can look at a sari from a distance to get a better idea of what it looks like from afar.

Saris need to be worn with a sari blouse - more expensive saris usually come with the blouse piece, but if you need to buy one, you try and match the blouse piece to the sari. You can usually get quite a good match - look at how many different shade of green there are!?!

Mum with her head in her hands - sometimes choice is a bad thing ;)

Most of the shops had airconditioning, but we had to walk between the shops, which was extremely, extremely hot!

This is in Chennai (Madras) at night. It's not as hot as in the day but it's still quite humid, and the crowds increase because at night you all the work crowd too!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Sari Party!

In Tamil/HIndu culture, when a girl comes of age, it's celebrated with what is often called a Sari Party. It's almost like a mini-wedding (without the groom of course) and it's the first time a girl wears a sari. My cousin Abi, had her sari party in India, as she used to live in India and it meant that all of my uncle's family could attend the function.

A kolam - a design drawn (by women) in rice flour on ground at threshold of a family home. This piece is a lot larger and more intricate than the usual daily kolam, and was done by Abi's grandmother on the morning of the sari party.

Another more colourful kolam done by Aghila acca (Abi's aunt). People in the photo: Rani acca, a guest, my uncle's mum, Aghila acca peeking out of the doorway, Abi and Vasi.
FYI Acca is the tamil word for older sister, but is also used as a term of respect when addressing a woman
of similar age, but who is older than you.

My Uncle, Abi and Aunty, at the function venue

Abi finding a funny moment whilst trying to obey all the instructions of the demanding photographer and videographer, and looking amazingly beautiful whilst doing so :)

It's all a bit scary though - one minute Abi was in primary school and now she's a high school student and turning into a beautiful young woman! I wonder if this gives me an insight as to what it's like being a parent? As a poster in my 6th Form English class read, it's like seeing caterpillars turn into butterflies ;)

Monday, April 09, 2007

Rock Fort Temple

Although this trip to India was primarily a shopping trip, we did make it a point to go to Rock Fort Temple. It is perched on the top of an 83m rocky outcrop and therefore one of the best things about the temple is the feeling of serenity you get from the top. The other side of the coin however, is that you have to get yourself up to the top - 437 stone-cut steps! Of course it's a temple so you need to remove your shoes as you enter - leaving your feet to sizzle as you climb up/down the steps that get heated up in the sun!

Rock Fort Temple from afar. The small bit on the right is a Ganesh temple and the larger block on the left with a small gold dome halfway along it is a Sivan temple.

Mum starting on the climb

The temple walls joining the rock under the blue blue sky

A view from the Siva temple - about halfway to the top.

Looking up at the ceiling. Can you see those blobs just to the left of the middle?

Yup, those are bats!

Some of the columns in the Sivan temple. The low lighting (ie blurriness) in the photo really doesn't do it justice, but they are quite tall pillars and very intricately carved considering they are made of granite.

The ornate and colourful ceiling. Again apologies for the blurriness.

Almost there!

The buildings (houses/shops) around the temple. Pretty densely populated eh?

That stretch of dirt in the middle bit is a river (the Cauvery River I think). Although you can tell it's almost peak summer as most of the river is actually river bed.

The walk back down. It was about midday so although pretty hot, not as hot as it is at about 2pm when the stones have had time to bake! (Sorry there are no photos of the temple itself but it's considered bad form to take photos inside.)

Elephants are considered sacred animals in Hinduism so after giving the elephant a banana (which he scoffs pretty quick) you receive a blessing from him - he pats your head with his trunk.

Elephants rock :)