Saturday, February 19, 2011

10 days now

Since I first logged onto the internet years ago, this is the first time I have gone one whole week without tapping into the Net.

In fact, I haven't even touched a computer for 7 days.

This is simply unbelievable, for me at least. I am progressing well on my no-internet therapy. And you know what? I don't think I have missed much.

Nor was I missed, I think. In this world now, everything happens so fast, so many things changing that everyone seems insignificant in reflection. Perhaps only one or two persons would really notice your absence!

My classes are progressing excellently. My teachers are pros and friendly. They think that I am picking up quickly and so they pressed me quite hard, forcing me to listen to their fast speech. People here speak a zillion languages, and when I try to pick up words on the street, I really couldn't tell if it was because I sucked at listening Tamil or just because they were speaking in Telugu, Hindi, Malayalam etc.

I have made quite many friends here at Dakshin Chitra where I am staying and at the Institute of Asian Studies where I am studying. Even at Kovalam, where I change buses every weekday, I have made friends...those few guys that helped me out with directions the first time I got into Kovalam, well now they see me every weekday and we chat briefly if time allows.

Every meal at DakshinChitra is something to look forward to, as I will be chatting with Ajith (the waiter) and Ratamani (the chef). They told me their stories, their aspirations, their struggles. I taught them Mandarin and even some French (what I can remember of course, and very imperfect).

Every weekday is also exciting, as I will be learning new words and classes are really very friendly. I buy my cookies (lunch) from the grocery store on my way walking into IAS, and the storekeeper was always eager to give me Tamil practice :). Naagu and Rani (who I find very pretty!) who takes care of the guesthouses also talk to me in Tamil whenever they catch me hahaha.

Today I read some poems from classical Tamil texts, translation of course. Simply breathtaking. Their love poems are really so...good!

During my free time here, I read my Song Ci and English poems that I brought with me. In IAS, during breaks, I hungrily read up on Tamil literature and Hinduism.

This Tuesday I have taken a day's holiday from IAS. Why? Because I will be bringing Ratamani and the Sanjay gang (see pic below) out for bowling and maybe cinema at Mayajaal, the entertainment center just minutes away from DakshinChitra. Looking forward to it!

Apna keyal rakhana (take care in Hindi).

Everyone gets so close during such times :)

Fort Museum at St.George Fort, Chennai. I once promised a friend that I would take dancing pictures of myself for this friend wherever I travel. Well, I hope a picture of my dog in place of me would suffice. If this friend is reading this, know that I miss you and I wish you all the best.
Lady making flower garlands in bus. After stealing snaps of her, I told her I was taking pics of her and she sportingly said ok and smiled at my camera. Of course with her looking at me I got nervous and the subsequent pics weren't as good as this one. I spent at least 5 minutes trying to figure out how she tied the knots but I failed.

from left: Pramod, Jogi, Sanjay. These guys are handicraft vendors in D.Chitra selling works from their villages. All the vendors at D.C. are my friends, but I am particularly close to these guys. They are all from Orissa and speak no Tamil, so I pick up some Ordio (spelling?) from them. They invited me to join them for a fruit juice session at Kanathur, just minutes away from D.C.. That was my virgin roadside stall meal experience in India, and luckily I had no stomaches. The fruit juice selection was broad and juice was good. After that I even joined them for their grocery shopping, including a visit to the chicken slaughterhouse haha. Oh yeah, these guys excitedly bought me Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate...haha...macam small boys je.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

first five days in Chennai

Just to let you guys know that I am doing great in Chennai.

Let me try to summarize my five day experience in a few lines:

1. People here are very friendly, though they may be in poverty condition.
2. Traffic is unbelievable. KL/Melaka/Penang driving is heavenly compared to here, though I have yet to experience major jams here. Cows, goats, people, bikes, motorbikes, cars, rickshaws, buses, trucks all fight for space on the narrowest roads.
3. Weather's very dry and sunny. Doesn't feel hot though it should be. Extremely dusty.
4. My Tamil is progressing nicely. Even picking up Hindi and Malayalam from my friends here.
5. Visited my first temple in Chennai today. Their devotion is quite touching.
6. Still haven't tried food from roadside stalls yet...scared of diarrhea!
7. I haven't seen so many pretty girls in a city since I left Montreal. Going back to KL would be a major downgrade in this department HAHAHAHAHA.

Took many pictures, but won't be uploading any until I return to Malaysia or I get faster connection.
take care all.

Happy Valentine's Day. I will try to make it somewhat fun here in Chennai.

Monday, February 7, 2011

bye bye for now, and a shitty hero.

I will be gone for the next few weeks and very unlikely to update this blog.

During my travels, I hope to avoid the internet and computers, and use the internet only sparingly to check emails in case there are urgent matters (these are so rare). If the internet connection is good, I will try to upload one or two pictures.

It was my birthday. Birthdays have ceased to be a big deal for me LONG TIME ago. Nevertheless I did give a call and when it ended, I realised that the person didn't wish me happy birthday. That was disappointing, maybe because I expected something. Guess I was foolish to start.

Unexpectedly, I will start my journey with a heavy heart. This may be a blessing in disguise, as the next few weeks can only become better, no?

And now for something completely different..........a caterpillar with a club at its end.

Eh, no it's not a club, is it?

It's a wet blob. Hahaha...a wet blob does not a club make.
I believe it's fecal matter (i.e., shit and pee) excreted by the caterpillar and used to defend itself or to camouflage as a piece of useless, awful bird poop.
When I expose the caterpillar to ants, our shitty hero pushed its glistening blob towards the incoming intruder and lo' and behold, the ants backed off.

I mean...look at our shitty hero! Even without that wet blob, he/she has yellow spines protruding from the sides. You wanna mess with our hero?
Guess not.

Do you know what leaves our caterpillar was feeding on with the other 15++ of his/her comrades? Our curry leaf plant in the garden. I couldn't find other herbivores on the said plant other than these caterpillars. I suspect that the caterpillar uses some of the nasty compounds in the curry leaves and secretes them into its fecal matter, and then use it as a wet club. Such strategies are no longer alien to ecologists. Some caterpillars use fecal matter as shield.

Once I get back, hopefully these guys are still around, then I can commence a proper study on them.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Drama !

Last week, I stumbled upon a spider web without a spider in it. I followed the thread of the web to a leaf wrapped up in silk. There within a silk chamber was the spider. I don't know the species or even the family, but I will pretend that it's an orb spider (and I am likely correct).

To entice it out of its chamber for a better picture, I needed........a sacrifice.

Sorry to say there were some ants nearby foraging on nectar, so I took one lucky fellow up and cast her into the web. I admit that I felt a tinge of remorse.
 Poor ant.

A few days later, I tried to check on the orb spider again. Let's call her Spidee for we all love naming spiders, no?

I found Spidee not in her chamber. Instead, I found another web nearby with traces of Spidee's activities.
Spidee's web claimed more lives.

Then I found Spidee...or what was part of her.
Spidee has grown into a new outfit, leaving behind her old, pale former outfit.
(technically, this meant that the spider has molted, breaking off its former exoskeleton and replacing it with a new one. Here was its former exoskeleton.)


Oh there she is! On a nearby branch.

Wait...that ain't right!

No~~!! Spidee has fallen to another spider, this one a jumping spider if I am not mistaken. When I arrived at the murder scene, Spidee was firmly clasped in the jumping spider's fangs and legs. Spidee might have given a struggle, as a small part of her legs has broken off.

How did Jumpie actually claim Spidee's life? Did Jumpie break into Spidee's silk chamber, or lured Spidee out by faking a prey caught on Spidee's web? Spidee was just as huge as Jumpie, so I find it hard to imagine Jumpie having an easy time if the attack wasn't facilitated by an ambush or toxin.
K, toxins are guaranteed.

Trying to get a better view, I tried to pester Jumpie into moving to a nice spot. Obviously offended, Jumpie released Spidee and jumped off!

So I managed to get close up pics of Spidee after she has passed on, but I was very sorry.
If Spidee was killed, the best thing was to at least have her eaten by Jumpie! Now her death was truly in vain.

Wasn't Spidee beautiful? She carried what looked like a "Tree of Life" on her back! or a "Rising Phoenix".

What was eating was then eaten.
Too bad I wasn't there to record the whole drama., only what was left of it.