Gaddi Songs at Ghoomakad

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On our last night in Rakkar, we hung out on the balcony at Ghoomakad with friends and made music. 

When we'd trekked up the mountain a few weeks previously, Foja hummed and whistled a tune that was an earworm. I was really glad that it was played that night with the lyrics explained, too. It's a Gaddi herder's folksong about the difficultly of long distance relationship in the Himalayas. Essentially, "You're from the next ridge, this love is over." 

I got two videos of the song. Shot in the dark around the big slate table lit by a single bulb you can barely see Foja at all, but Christian is visible playing guitar in one and melodica in the other. I wish I'd filmed some of the other songs from that night, but this one was the one I really wanted to remember. The camera pans around, the audio quality is poor but it captured the tune and the moment. 




There's a page of Gaddi folk music with lots of songs in case you want to hear other local tribal tunes.

Stagaki 2015

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If I'm going to "do it all now" I need to stop faffing around on Facebook & social media. I'm reinstating my Stagaki art project from 2013. The next 50 times I want to share something on Facebook, I'll write it on a postcard instead and mail it to someone.

You send me your mailing address and I'll send you a postcard. Simple as that. 

Do It All Now

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At the moment, I am full of ideas for my life. Business ventures. Partnerships. Renewal of old projects. Some of them are already in motion, others are just getting underway. Some are short term, others are long term. Many of them depend on one thing or another that is out of my control. 

It's a lot all at once, even though it won't all happen at exactly the same time. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed about what's happening in the next six months and beyond. I tried to put everything in a diary, but it didn't show me that I'd covered all the topics. I made a list of all the projects and plans but that wasn't quite enough. So then I made a sort-of Gannt chart.

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It showed me the projects and something important. Don't wait. Do it all now. I could put some of my ideas on hold until one project is finished, or until life is in a stable configuration, or until the next milestone is reached, or choose the reason...that is stupid

If I don't start on these things now - on a limited scale or jumping right in - when I get an open slot to implement them, it's going to be too late. I won't have built the right connections or discovered setbacks or been able to get any experience. So instead of a month-long event ten months from now, why not do a week trial in six weeks? Why not start gathering information or making connections or whatever the first step is?

Unfortunately, this is pretty much the complete opposite of Tod's view. He likes to finish one things before he begins another. Steady wins his race. And he cringes at plans, so trying to get dates or schedules or a time commitment is futile or leads to arguments. So I move ahead without him and if he wants to play along later, great. I'll be ready for him. 

Because I am going to do all the things. Now.

Jaljeera, Cumin Lemonade

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While teaching a school program on a hot day in India, the kids and I were served a drink I'd never tasted before. It's a sweet, salty, and spicy lemonade called jaljeera. I'm in love; this is the best thing for a hot day, whether it's a Tokyo heatwave or a dusty playground.

There are many variations on jaljeera, but all include sugar, salt, lemon, and cumin. I have two recipes for it; one quick and basic; the other more flavorful. Vary proportions to suit your own taste;  prefer mine not too sweet and the recipes reflect that. Other flavours you can add to jaljeera include tamarind, amchar (dried mango powder), cardamom, and even a sprinkle of chat masala to garnish. 

Quick Jaljeera
serves 1

1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
250 ml water

Squeeze the lemon into a glass, stir in cumin powder, salt and sugar. Add water. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Spicy Green Jaljeera
serves 4-6

1 lemon, juiced
2 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp whole black pepper 
2 tsp salt
4 tsp sugar
1/2 cup mint leaves
1/4 cup cilantro (optional)

Lightly toast the cumin and fennel seeds. Grind together all the seasonings until a paste forms. Add in the lemon juice. This mixture can be saved in the fridge. To make the drink, stir together 1 Tbsp of the seasoning in 1 cup of water and adjust as desired.

Learnings: 10 Weeks in India

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"Learnings" is something Rob & Tod & I do every year after camp. We make notes about what worked and what didn't. So here are some learnings that I can refer to for next time I go on a long journey.

  • t-shirts are universally acceptable but they take forever to dry
  • four pairs of underwear is plenty; three bras better than two
  • clothes and personal stuff will all fit into a 34L backpack with room to spare
  • pack as little clothing as possible; more will find its way to you
  • juggling balls are easy to make on the go with rice and balloons
  • give away your toys as generously as possible
  • bring the ukulele, somehow
  • teach everywhere - hoop classes are popular
  • a show costume or accessories will get used
  • an ear spoon is more practical to carry than a bunch of q-tips
  • ditto for bringing a comb instead of a brush
  • separate the wet and the dry toiletries
  • menstrual cup works pretty well in India but bring tampons, too
  • we consumed ~4 bars of soap and three small tubes of toothpaste in 10 weeks
  • salt in India is not iodised, so no need to bring salt for neti
  • coconut oil is good for everything and 50 ml lasted the whole trip this time
  • bring something to ease itchy mossie bites, neither tea tree nor turmeric work
  • Macbook Pro is big and heavy; invest in a travel friendly computer next time
  • a Kindle is probably a wise addition
  • consider a smart phone - everyone relies on them and it puts us at a disadvantage
  • yes to A4 notebook and a couple of Sharpies
  • don't forget scissors
  • repeat-ties tame backpack straps for airline transport
  • stretchy cover for the backpack helped to contain the hoops and instruments for transport
  • headlamps are useful for power cuts as well as camping
  • chappals (flipflops) are indispensable footwear
  • a reusable water bottle is smart
  • u-shaped neck pillows are daggy but practical
  • ziplock bags are treasures

Curried Mushroom Toast

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Back from India, Tod is perfecting his fusion Indian recipes. Here is this morning's brunch - a creamy curried mushroom sauce over toast. We've made this before, but this time Tod's included some of the more esoteric Indian spices. The result is a rich, full-bodied flavour. If you don't have these spices and seasonings at home, you can pare the recipe to turmeric, garlic & ginger which is simple and tasty on its own.

Tod's Curried Mushroom Toast
serves 2

1 Tbsp dried kasoori methi (fenugreek leaf)*
3 curry leaves, dried or fresh
1-2 Tbsp butter or ghee
1/2 tsp black mustard seed
1/4 tsp cumin seed
pinch hing
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 tsp ginger, minced
20-30 button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup cream
1 tsp turmeric
salt and pepper to taste

Soak kasoori methi and dried curry leaves in hot water. Melt butter or ghee in skillet over high heat. Drop in cumin seeds, black mustard seed, and hing. When the seeds pop, put in the garlic and ginger.Reduce heat. Add the mushrooms and after they start to brown a little, sprinkle in some of the soaking water to help steam them. As they cook down, add turmeric, methi and curry leaf. When the mushrooms are cooked, pour in cream until you like the consistency of the sauce. Finish with salt and cracked black pepper. Serve over toast or use as a filling in a sandwich toaster.

* If you don't have fenugreek leaf, use a pinch or two of fenugreek seeds along with the cumin and mustard seed.

Home in Bangalore

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I am enjoying life in Bangalore. We've been here for three weeks. The traffic is dreadful and the mosquitoes plague me, but this city is full of people I love. Having friends somewhere makes the visit rich and wonderful.

We're staying with Shreyas and Arun. I'm not sure how to appreciate them properly. They are terrific guys who tolerate - even encourage - our experiments in their kitchen and my DIY projects. Their place is always called Home with the capital H obvious from the way it's said. We are Home. It is good.

People in the neighborhood are getting used to us. The guys at the vegetable cart down the road help me find the nicest beetroots. The guards in the apartment building wave hello as we return from our shopping. The other night I held a puppy at the supermarket while its owner was checking out. Shreyas's housekeeper asked Tod where I was when I was off at HasGeek one morning. Today I finally spotted the rodents that live in the garden and eat the compost and scraps.

We'll leave Bangalore tomorrow. This might be the first time in a long time I haven't been ready to return to Tokyo after a long journey. I will truly miss Home.

At Fifth Elephant

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Circus at Fifth Elephant. Photos by Saifi

This is more of a Spin Matsuri post than one for Mediatinker, but in the interest of keeping my travel journal full, I can tell you about the personal side of attending a tech conference as a circus person. That's what I call myself these days, when people ask. "I'm a circus person" or sometimes "I'm a circus performer" even though I don't perform all that much. And then I launch into an elevator pitch about social circus.

Anyway, I was asked to perform at the event, but that morphed into me leading some Stretching for Geeks sessions in between talks and doing two circus playshops. I made juggling balls and brought hoops and scarves and it was great fun. In fact, there are eight new jugglers in the world now. I'm really proud of the guys who came and played and practiced until they got it.

Having run and organised plenty of events myself, it was interesting to see how it is done here, by my friends at HasGeek. There were about 1000 people in total, with a two track, two day program and vendor booths, too. There was lots of networking time and space for everyone. They had an epic lunch setup with interactive buffet elements like a freezing cylinder that made kulfi, salad bar, tons of veg and non-veg buffet options and live cooking. I ended up with the lunch boxes both days (since I was circusing during lunch time) which were also tasty.

In addition to circusing, I spent both mornings greeting the attendees outside the venue and directing them to registration. That meant people knew my face and came to me with questions and problems. Even though I was a last minute addition to the team nobody knew that! So lots of times I had answers and sometimes I didn't. I also got up in front of the 800 seat auditorium to make announcements and moderated and impromptu flashtalk session when one speaker had to cancel. I had a lot of interesting conversations with attendees and staff, received many compliments about my ability to keep the enthusiasm going, got a couple of job offers, and made some possibly useful connections for my social circus activities.

All in all, The Fifth Elephant was a great event, even for a circus person. Zoupi enjoyed it, too.

Chair Repair

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While staying at Shreyas' place, I made six beautifully hand-crafted but torn cane chairs useable again with painted plywood seats. They aren't fancy, but you won't fall through them.

I measured the chairs and went to Workbench Projects to use their tools. We carried a sheet of plywood through Bangalore traffic from the nearby supplier - that was fun. Actually, everything at Workbench was fun. It's bright large and neatly organised! The staff are great and we all juggled together. If you need to make stuff in Bangalore, you should go there. They have hand and power tools, 3D printers, and a co-working space, too.

Back home, I painted the cut plywood with a creamy colored enamel and let it dry for many hours between coats. Then, uncertain how best to attached the seats to the frames I'd pulled all the can from, I opted to simply sit them there. Glue will ruin the chair for future reworking and the holes from the caning make nails and screws impractical.

Hooray for DIY

Mysore Weekend

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Not content to merely be the best host in Bangalore, Shreyas drove us out to Mysore to see this historic town and meet his good friends.

We stopped at Somanathapura to see a beautifully carved 750 year old temple. We ate well and Tod had an especially memorable paper dosa. We went to an art museum that houses a collection of instruments and games on the top floor, and enjoyed the paintings, sculpture and artefacts even when the power cut out. We saw the palace lit up at night. I made a new hooper friend in Avani. And we grownups talked about education and plans and all sorts of good stuff. 

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