Friday, December 24, 2010
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
Friday, December 17, 2010
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Been to Timbuktu? The Hindu Kush Valley? Kayaked down waterfalls? If you're looking for a place to visit that will shock others, try taking a tour to Chernobyl. Yup, visitors can now tour inside the 50 km exclusion zone around the site of the world's largest civilian nuclear accident. You can visit the power plant and ghost-town villages such as Pripyat eerily left as it was when it was abandoned in 1986.
As for me, I think I'll pass...
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Friday, December 10, 2010
Thursday, December 09, 2010
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Monday, December 06, 2010
In just a 24 hour period, parts of Tamil Nadu received nearly 7 inches (17 cm) of rain. In Chennai, it rained nearly nonstop (and quite heavy at times) from late Saturday morning through Monday night. Normals for the Oct-Dec Monsoon season are about 376 mm; during that time, it has rained over 562 mm (22 inches).
My neighborhood fared much better than others, with only large puddles or isolated flooded areas in the next morning. Flooded streets made things miserable for commuters who struggled to find taxis, since most did not show up for work and the few around were in high demand. Many refused to pick up people in areas known to have high water. Auto rickshaw drivers were also hesitant to go through high waters, and those that did charged exorbitant rates. Cycle rickhaws were in big demand in certain areas.Buses (again, far fewer available since many drivers didn't show up) operated at a snail's pace through the waters, making commutes time intensive. Downed trees and branches also added to the road challenges.
Sunday, December 05, 2010
See more of Melissa's artwork on Facebook
Saturday, December 04, 2010
See more of Melissa's art on Facebook
Friday, December 03, 2010
Wednesday, December 01, 2010
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Monday, November 29, 2010
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Now it is home no more. Prompted by a planned upgrade of the bridge, the Roma were evicted, with some given as little as 20 minutes to gather their meager possessions and leave. Some were given "alternate housing" of metal containers located outside of the city. For a population that makes its living from recycling what others throw out (as well as other small things such as washing windows of cars at stoplights or playing the accordion/violin on the streets or buses), this was a move that posted major hardships. And that was for the "lucky" ones that actually were given housing.
The over 12 million Roma (otherwise known as Gypsies) of Europe face similar hardships. In addition, they are the continued subject of discrimination throughout the area. Even people who wouldn't consider saying racist remarks about others feel perfectly comfortable saying derogatory generalized remarks about the Roma. For the 500 years that the Roma have been in Europe, they have always been on the outside of mainstream society, with many Roma not learning the local language, going to school, and typically living in separate, squalid communities. Like the Roma living under Gazella Bridge, many don't have the proper identity cards that would make them eligible for the country's medical care and other services. Due to the continued acceptance of discrimination and desire for countries to beautify or modernize, the Roma get pushed farther and farther out of society and what they call home.
Friday, November 26, 2010
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Out of the parking area, we drove a short distance on the road near the sea. The beach on that stretch was mostly grassy, but there still were some people enjoying the sea breeze. Prior to heading to the airport, we drove to the area of Colombo known as Cinnamon Gardens. Here, things were greener and much more spacious, with embassies, fancier stores, and wealthier homes dominating. After a short shopping trip to a handicrafts store, I proceeded to the airport earlier than planned so that my driver could return to Ella for an unexpected funeral. Now in the company of surfboard touting tourists, Chennai visitors, and Sri Lankans, I waited for my wee hour flight back to Chennai. Another successful trip.
Here is the kolam my former neighbor made in front of her apartment door. A much more serene scene than the firecrackers exploding in front of my apartment this year!
Saturday, November 20, 2010
The smaller third cave contained a yellow reclining Buddha and rows of seated and standing Buddha figures. The ceiling frescoes depicted seated Buddhas with arcs over them, the figures repeated over and over as if decorative in nature. The last cave had a central Buddha figure of a meditating Buddha and a small dagoba with large repaired cracks in it, a past victim of a break-in by thieves who thought it contained royal jewelry. Even though the frescoes here weren’t quite as impressive (or perhaps I was getting overwhelmed), I did enjoy the cacophony of contrasting geometric patterns, figurative paintings, and curvilinear blooming vines.
All total, there are 153 Buddha statues, three statues of Sri Lankan kings, and four Hindu gods. Murals of the cave cover 2,100 m2 (6,890ft2).
Friday, November 19, 2010
The second cave is the largest, measuring 52 m (nearly 500 ft) in length, 23 m (75 ft) in width, and 7 m (23 ft) at its highest point. Here, one can find statues of two kings, the main seated Buddha statue once covered in gold leaf, some Hindu gods, another large reclining Buddha, and many more smaller Buddhas. Near the center of the long cave were two vessels that collected dripping water from the ceiling, used in rituals. Some frescoes in this cave depicted Buddhism’s arrival in the country, as well as battles and good deeds done by the kings.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Climbing up a series of stairs and rock, I reached the top of the hill. Tucked slightly inward on the overhanging rock was the white colonial-looking arched façade of the cave temples. In front of the cave complex was a Bodhi tree with colorful flags streamed from its branches. A small pond spanning a portion of the cave’s length contained blooming lotuses, adding color to the otherwise neutral color of the scene. The exterior looked smaller than what I had anticipated, but once inside, things changed.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
A pleasant 12 km drive from Sigiriya or Kandy is the town of Dambulla. This junction town is known for its cave temples, whose history as a Buddhist place of worship dates back to perhaps the 1st century BC. The 30 m (98 ft) high Golden Temple, located at the base of the hill, commanded attention in all its kitchy glory. Built in 2000 with Japanese donations, entrance to the building was up a series of reddish stairs and into what looked like the tonsils of a lion-like creature. To one side, a large number of orange-clad monk sculptures were lined up like ducks, adding to the cheesiness of the place.