Sunday, November 17, 2013

First Look at India--Leaving Kochi Airport

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Street Scene Enroute to Thrissur
View From Hotel Pooram Intenational 
Bride's Parent's Living Room--Dad on Rt.

Bride's Mom Adjusting Nancy' Saree

View of Temple Grounds From Hotel Window

Saturday, November 16, 2013

India--Another Adventure

It's been more than two years since the last post here. I always intended to do a wrap-up entry for the Afghanistan experience. And I never did. Life on life's terms. I had, in fact, expected to return to Kabul in January of 2012. That didn't happen either.

Instead, here I am in India! After an arduous 24 hour journey, Nancy, Dylan, Drew Berheim and I are in southwest India, Thrissur--in the state of Kerala. It may seem strange that after 36 hours on the ground here, we had our first meal at Domino's Pizza and visited the Catholic Basilica of St. Mary--but not to me. That's just how it goes. Of course there is the inevitable tech trouble. Blew out the power inverter 10 minutes into the first sleep. Had to do without the BiPap. And I'm still not able to access email…long frustrating story. Suffice to say, as we get nearer to the wedding--the purpose of the trip, all the bugs will get worked out.

We had delightful dinner in the hotel restaurant--seafood, mutton, vegetables and aromatic spices! A transformer acquired on a shopping foray should solve the electronics problem. Better rest ahead. And pictures, too. Hopefully in the next day or two I'll have some photos posted. Stay tuned! Have you ever seen an Indian wedding? 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Arts of Afghanistan and a Rainy Eid ul-Fitr

Rugs Show at the ACE House

My Favorite Prayer Rug

Gem Rough

More Rough Gems

Decorative Plaster Work

More Decorative Work

Carved Faux Pillar

Decorative Woodcarving

Rainy Kabul Street, Nearly Deserted

Shams Market, Closed for Eid (Best it's Ever Looked)

Farewell Afghanistan: Updates and Finales


Footbridge and Vendors on the Kabul River
Homes Crawling Up a Hillside

I rained on Kabul last week. Not common for September; "Mud Season", as some of the expats call it, begins in October. It was enough of a change to start me thinking about wrapping it up here. I'm sure it will take months if not years to absorb all I've seen, heard and learned in Afghanistan. Whatever preconceptions I might have had are all evaporated in the face of reality. As one who constitutionally, perennially looks upon a half-full glass--I must say it's been a wonderful experience. This will be the last post before I return to my "regular" life. I do intend to add a reflective piece sometime later. And as I've agreed to return to Kabul for a month in January, there will be more posts at a future time.

I admit to a certain frustration coloring my impressions of this country. While I've come to admire the kindness and hospitality of the people, there is a nagging downside. After generations of subsistence living as a "donor supported state", many of the young people have an ingrained sense of entitlement. Of course it could just be me getting old and crotchety. Yet it's not just young Afghans. I've observed this same troubling trend at home. And perhaps the coming generation can be forgiven to some degree, especially here. They find themselves in a country and a time of transition. They are caught between the old ways--the pull of family and tribal ties, and the growing appeal of the global environment and the digital world.

Al Sharia Mosque

At this point I can't assess the level of success (or failure) of my endeavors. I'll leave that to others and the march of time. I am optimistic enough to have spent 3 days of the Eid holiday preparing bid quotes for a proposed reprise next year.  For now, I'll leave you, faithful followers, with more photos--random images from the past two months.

It Wasn't All Work

Job Service, Kabul-style

Monday, August 22, 2011

Home Away From Home

Courtyard of the Front Houses

The Office
(laundry room door open on L.)

Saturn House
(my room, ground floor, L)

Mercury House Porch
(at back of photo)

Mea Culpa

I was wrong. I made an error. I must apologize for an unfair characterization of a U.S. jewelry supplier. I had said they dropped the ball on the electrical equipment we received for our shop. Last week I actually LOOKED at the handpiece motors--and right there on the back was a sticker that said the motor is wired for 230 volts. It was the plug that threw me, but no excuse; now having the proper configuration of connection to the power source, all the flexshafts are working fine. And indeed the bigger, more powerful step-down transformer has the buffer a real work-horse. All's well that ends well. Mea culpa!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Progress and Training In Chicken Street

I've been sick. Again. This is the second bout with "The Aztec Two-Step". I had a go-round with altitude sickness in between. My friend told me I would be. (She knows who she is.)  "Just forget about it. You're gonna get sick, everybody does. Flies go everywhere." So, it's taken several extra days to get this post up. Forgive me. However, in my delirium on Saturday, the TV fairies did charge the satellite card and make my borrowed set work! Ah, English. Thanks, Staff! Shout out to Alison!!!

What  will become my bench
(note the "hot-wired" A/C, now
properly wired and vented at left)

Early in the planning for this project it occurred to me to inquire in which era of history the craftsmen for the training would be working. Would it be Neolithic? Bronze Age? Iron Age?. How I would approach structuring the lessons would depend on the answer. I was assured that it would be Iron Age. But barely in the electrical age. The equipment I've come to rely on in my studio just doesn't work here. It's tough to teach modern techniques without modern tools. Part of the problem was breakdown of communication between the procurement people in-country and the U.S. supplier. Even though in the first talks I had I was persuaded by the company that they routinely ship abroad and knew the local systems requirements. They dropped the ball. Procurement didn't know to catch it. I'm screwed. All the stuff that needs plugged in came 110 volts. The power here is 220. I've tried several fixes to no avail. I know little more about electricity than AC/DC, 110v/220v and don't stick scissors in a wall outlet (I was three years old)! The handpieces blow fuses on the step-down transformers and run slowly with no umph. The buffer motor kicks off from an internal breaker after 7 minutes. ARRRGGGHHHHH!!!! I'm told there's a more powerful transformer (also more expensive) that will do the trick. We'll see...

The Professionals
Gem Cutters in front
Jewelers, back right
Mujeeb, Professional Jeweler
at work
Anyhow, the training continues at Shams Market. So many new, inexperienced trainees showed up that I've had to split the group in two. And the schedule has changed so many times I don't even know who will come on a given day. I just show up and deal. Have I mentioned how chaotic this country is to outsiders? The good news is that the professionals, for whom the project was intended, have crossed a cultural divide and "complained", they weren't getting what was advertised. They then followed up by asking specifically for what they want to learn. A breakthrough! I can do that. So, we are going to do some fancy gem setting, beyond bezels and prongs. The men have asked to be shown flat setting, channel setting and pave' techniques. While I make a mean bezel in a good number of forms, I've done little of the above. I believe the mark of a true professional is to be able to make adjustments on the fly. Anyone who knows me knows I don't respond well to sudden change (OK, change. Period.) This will be a "baptism by fire", and I am equal to the challenge.

The Torch
runs on propane-no regulator
(these guys do amazing work with it)

There is supposed to be a show of sorts at some American installation on Friday. Again, the details and the level of involvement by our trainees has changed daily. This is supposed to be a much needed opportunity to reach the desired market of military, contractor and ex-pat buyers. A report on this later...

Jim and our Translators
Rasoul and Fazel

I have, this week, extended my time into September. Ramazan is half over, time grows short and some trainees have asked for extended studio hours. I am ever-optimistic to get in all I can in terms of training shared. I WILL be home in time for Fall Parks and Rec.

So, enjoy the pics of the facility and some of the people involved.

Still to come: Success in the Training and Scenes of Kabul