Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Balch boys:1, 2 and 3

The boys outside Cochin airport, on our return for our final weekend in Kerala. On Saturday the six Balch boys will be together, Grandpa, original Bo plus Seth and Bo's new cousin, little Ru. We've really missed our families, so we're excited about a summer in England with grannies, and siblings and cousins and nephews.

Bo the jolly traveller

All smiles, as usual! Our boys really do come from a different place. They're both such easy and fun travelling companions though, and although having two tots 14 months apart, at ages 1 and 2 years, in India, wasn't always easy, they made it such a fun experience. Seth especially was so, so happy there. He didn't notice the things that drove me crazy (although last week he did stomp his feet and shout 'Stop!' at a group who were following him in the mall and trying to pinch his cheeks!) and the every day sights and activities were one big adventure. I'm sure Bo will miss all the attention too. All he's known, in Argentina and India, is people fussing over him.
For the next two months we're in Holland, England and Wales. I think small people adapt easily to new surroundings, let's hope so!

Seth the accomplished traveller and quiet observer

Seth taking in Bangalore airport, on our way back to Cochin. I think we were all quite relieved we didn't make the train, although I'm a little disappointed we missed out on that experience. Maybe Ollie and I will return when the boys leave home, and travel around India by train... It would certainly be fun for Sethie and Bo to return to India when they're students and go back and see the places they were under two.

Cochin from Coggeshall

I'm sitting in Coggeshall, the picturesque, serene village where Ollie grew up and looking at my previous blog posts and thinking that India was a pretty cool experience. Now I don't need to deal people hassling us all the time, the climate, the practicalities of having two tiny kids there, and I can just look at the photos, what an incredible place!

Back! to blog and Blighty

We didn't have internet for our last days in Fort Cochin, so I have some blogging to catch up with. We're back in England! Everything looks so perfectly manicured and cared for, and where are all the people, and tuk-tuks and goats? Seth keeps saying 'Ambassador - no. Tuk-tuk - no. Chapati - no. Apple Kids - no...
('no' is accompanied by him pouting his lips, squinting his eyes and shaking his head.). So we're here, adapting, and I'll catch up on blogging very soon.

Friday, 25 June 2010

No room on the train

Millions of people travel by train every day in India. Literally. But getting onto a train isn't actually that easy.
They're booked up months in advance. Just a small quota are left for tourist 'emergency' seats and these can only be booked three days before. They have to be booked online and the system opens at 8am, but you have to book by 8.01 otherwise they've all gone. Even if you make it this far it only gets you onto the Waiting List. If there is availability the booking will be changed to Confirmed, but this only happens three hours before. If you don't get on, you're stuffed. We didn't make it onto the list of Confirmed passengers. So we've just had to fork out for four flights to Cochin tomorrow morning. I'm a little bit relieved, although our bank account could have done without another hit. Ollie and Seth are heading to the train station now to reclaim our money. Every last rupee counts!

A question of colour

I often wonder if Indians are naturally perfectly colour coordinated. Or is it just coincidence that they paint their shop door turquoise, which perfectly complement their display of yellow mangoes. Or perhaps our sense of which colours go together comes from designers who found their inspiration in India?

Take this guy. Did he paint the wall and the scales that particular green because it looks so great with the aubergines, or they were just selling a tin of that colour cheap when we went to buy paint? I'll give him the credit, and it looked even better in person than it does on the in the photo.

Ordered veg

Not by Seth, but veggies laid out neatly at a market stall at Dejavara Market in Mysore. Baby aubergines, ladies fingers, white radishes, capsicum, green chillis, ginger, carrots and green beans.

Doorstep lunch & last days in India

Seth and Bo take the plates outside. Much more fun to eat with the staff than with Ma and Pa!

Yesterday we went for tea with Mrs Meera Menon, aunt of Ollie's school friend Danny. What a delightful lady! She was headteacher at Bangalore International School and was just back from staying with her friend Shashi Tharoor. I've read and enjoyed some of his work (he's written12 books), , and he's MP for Trivandrum, state capital of Kerala and campaigner for human rights. He also has a big following on Twitter. Meera has incredible skin, she looks so youthful, and a wonderful, warm smile. She and her daughter Sudha, laid out a big spread for tea and Seth literally stuffed his face with samosas, sandwiches, doughnuts, and squidgy chocolate cakes. Sudha is working on a really interesting project in Gujurat where women have set up community courts to deal with issues such as domestic violence, and a similar project here in Karnataka.

In the evening Ol and I had our first date in months, just a drink at a place with views across the city. Ollie had had an interview beforehand with a guy who is getting married in December. He and his mum were really very very cool. His Mum was wearing a bright pink sari and had grey short, short hair which is very unusual (all India women have long hair), and so striking. She's a medical doctor and he's a PhD in Physics from Boston University and both are involved in all sorts of different and interesting projects. The house had a 70s feel and at the front was a garden lit up by fibreglass lamps in the shape of rocks, and there were huge plants everywhere. I would have been quite happy to stay there chatting all evening, but I'd made a big fuss about a date with Ol so off we went!

Today is our last day in Bangalore. I've just been out and found some embroidered fabric to replace the waistband on a dress I bought in Bombay two years ago and was ruined at the dry cleaners, and to buy some wedding presents (can't say more about them as the brides and grooms read this blog). Then it's Peekaboos this afternoon to wear out the boys, and off to the train station we go. We're almost there!

We take the 9.40pm train from Bangalore tonight, arriving in Ernakulam (Cochin) at 10am tomorrow. We've booked for three nights back at Delight Homestay on the Parade Ground before flying out very early on Tuesday morning.

Three days left!

Seth and Ted

Teddy is Seth's new best friend. He doesn't leave Seth, Seth doesn't leave him. Papa, Ammu, Macu, Hannah, Heather, Rene...they come and go, but he doesn't have to say goodbye to Ted. He puts him to bed, wakes him up, baths him, takes him for pee-pee, dresses him and sits him at the table to eat with us, and the rest of the time tucks him under his arm and takes him around with him.

I would love to have my very own Calvin and Hobbes, so this imaginary friend business is going to be encouraged!

The tired trampolist and Ted

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Return trip

More photos from Mysore to follow, but first I want to finish up the day trip. We were in a two-tier carriage on the way home, which was much more pleasant and less claustrophobic. Seth had been strapped in the Maclaren for most of the day so, to use up some energy, he and Ollie had a pillow fight on the top bunk. Ol then dangled Sethie by his arms from the top bunk while I tickled him and he collapsed in fits of giggles.

We're taking a train again on Friday, overnight to Cochin, and unfortunately we have in a fully-booked three-tier carriage so we'll be sharing the bunks with two others. Poor them, especially as Bo has taken to screaming his head off before going to sleep every night (we just connected today that he's been crying hysterically for two weeks, and a fortnight ago we changed him from formula to milk, so maybe the milk isn't going down well. Switched him back for now, so let's hope that's sorted it).


Devaraja Market: colours of health

Devaraja Market: blues, greens & yellow

Devaraja Market: rainbow dyes

Since I was small I have wanted to see these bright coloured dyes that Indian markets are famous for. We had two books at home that I used to sit and leaf through over and over again. One was a big A2 sort of size book called The World with a double page spread of photos from every country in the world. I used to look through it and imagine these exotic faraway places. The other was a smaller photo book called 'The Colours of India' with all sorts of photos of India grouped together under red, blue, green, orange, pink, purple, yellow, white. Maybe that's where my love of bright colours began. Both books had photos of these coloured dyes, but in all the markets I had been to I hadn't found them. Devaraja Market in Mysore always comes up in the photo credits so I really wanted to go before we left, in case I don't return to India. They were not a disappointment. The colours were amazing! So rich and intense, they couldn't be any stronger. Mixed with water they are used as paints, as one of the vendors demonstrated on my hand.

All the photos from Mysore are a mix of Ollie's and mine. Unfortunately it started raining just as we arrived at the market so we had to take pics quickly so our cameras didn't get soaked. There was such a great atmosphere at the market, bustling with friendly people, vendors working in family groups, shouting and bartering with customers. Photos are so limited in that respect. The smells, the interactions, the sounds, as well as the visual feast - this is the India I could fall in love with.

Mysore outtakes

Thinking about leaving India next week. I won't miss this:

But I will miss these (mukhwas, Indian mouth fresheners made from fennel and anise seeds, some plain some sugar coated):

I forgot to put a belt on Seth, so Ollie tied up his trousers with the tie from a bin liner. Here's our little street urchin, erm, climbing in the restaurant.

Biriyani break