From Delhi with Love…

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Whilst we were at Mandrem we meet a lovely family who live in Delhi. Mum, dad and the three children were enjoying the simplicity of Elsewhere and one of the ways in which this showed itself was the ingenuity of the children in making games out of the things they found around them.

A piece of paper painted with black and white squares for the board and bottle tops for the pieces became Hugo’s draughts set. One evening we watched dad play endless games of pick-up sticks using toothpicks with young Anna. But Clara took this to a whole new level when she started painting the tips of the sticks with her watercolours (she was a great little artist as well!) and devising a scoring system.

All of the children were interested in what we were doing with the children from the village and how different it was in the village compared to their big school in Delhi. Just before we left one day for Our Lady of Rosary School, Clara came up to us with a set of pick-up sticks that she had made for the children to play with. So when it was break time I showed Jacinta and some of the children how to play. They caught on quickly and loved it. So thank you Clara for your help and the fun you brought to Mandrem!

pickupsticks
 

Mandrem – Where worlds collide…

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On Monday last we visited the school for the first time this trip when it reopened after Holi. We took with us two friends we had made whilst staying here. Kate is a 3rd grade teacher in Manhattan and her husband, Mark, works on Wall Street. Kate was very interested to see how different the system was here to the school where she teaches in the US.

We arrive and introductions are made with Jacinta the headmistress, all the staff and kids. After walking around and showing off some of the children’s schoolwork and the artwork on the walls, we get down to the serious business of carrom and table tennis.

Kate sits at the carrom table with three of the boys and they try to teach her the finer points of the game. Oh… and how they kids wanted her to score and they overlooked the missed hits and other beginners mistakes, but to no avail – Kate didn’t break her duck. So Mark took over and Kate and I like to think it was beginners luck, not that he was inherently better than Kate at carrom. He managed to score in his first game! However both of them had sore fingers for more than a couple of days since and are still recovering!

carrom

Next came table tennis and we have discovered that Jacinta plays a mean game. She put all all of us to shame!

After the fun, Kate and Jacinta discussed a little of the difference in the ways of teaching in a small Indian village school to that of teaching in a school in the centre of Manhattan. Very interesting and much was learnt by all sides. I’m sure Kate will stay in touch!

tabletennis
 

Mangoes to Maharanis…

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Today is Friday and this means market day in Mapusa. Mapusa is the largest of the towns in North Goa and all the farmers from around and about come to sell their crops alongside all the usual tourist clobber.

We have been offered enough bedspreads to cover all the beds in all the hotels in Goa. However today was about food and we spent most of the morning in the vegetable, fruit and spice parts of the market. Although the cashew nuts have had a bad crop this year, other fruit is in abundance. Pawpaw, watermelon, breadfruit and, of course, coconuts are piled high in front of a colourful assortment of farmers, dealers and smallholders. All the fruits are for sale alongside the vegetables that we have at home – onions, potatoes, carrots and cauliflower – plus all the more Indian things like okra and cilantro. Lentils, chickpeas and rice are all sold by the sack and I don’t mean small sacks – goods are measured out on over-sized sets of balance scales.

So now that we are armed with a good collection of photographs we have enlisted Elsie from Elsewhere’s aid with the collating of some of the home cooked recipes. Everybody is now helping us to pass on to you some of the ways in which Goans prepare some of the fantastic home cooked fare that we have eaten!

Well, that was Friday and it is now onto Saturday. As many of you who read this blog know, one of our upcoming projects is to assemble an art exhibition. Well, our plans are underway and the children will soon be painting pictures of their life – but more of that later.

As part of the project we have been searching out some special exhibits. We were lucky enough to have an introduction extended to us to visit the palace in Sawarwadi, just north of us in Maharastra state, The Rajmata (Queen Mother) oversees a project to keep the old arts and skills alive (most of the ‘local’ crafts you find in Goa actually come from Rajasthan).

I had the classic ‘Bridget Jones’ moment of “Note to self: remember to wear clean knickers, shine shoes and clean teeth twice – just to be sure”. Also how does one address a Maharani – your highness; mam; hello, how do you do? Arrgh, I have never had his problem before!

So we arrive after an hours drive up the new highway (the last time we attempted this it was a long detour, a memorable ferry crossing and the ability to dine out on the story for years after!), After a few false starts we found the Palace and drove through the front gates to be met by a member of her staff who introduced us to Mrs Bhonsle (yes, big sigh of relief, just Mrs and she shook hands, no curtseying, bobbing or bowing required!).

We were shown around the fascinating Palace and then through to the artisans who were painting away in the old throne room. One of the near-lost skills is the handpainting of traditional playing cards. It takes a team about a week to paint a set of Indian playing cards and there are many more to a pack, and a different number for different games. You can also have round ones as well as the usual rectangular ones. So we now have a set to exhibit in London at our exhibition – a set of 96 Mughal kings, in fact, for the game of Changkanchan, or ‘Harp and Gold’ – in a beautiful handmade laquered box that is amother rescued art of Sawantwadi.

The Rajmata is also an artist in her own right and we saw her depictions of horses and butterflies next to the paintings of Carl d’Silva the renowned bird artist (and, stop-press, he has now offered to help us by donating a couple of paintings!!!). We now have a set of signed coasters with her beautiful hand-painted butterflies to exhibit alongside the cards.

Satwasheeladevi Bhonsle, Rajmata, Sawantwadi Sansthan

Then after taking a refreshing cold drink with the Rajmata, (talking about her family, the future of education in India and generally putting the world to rights) we took our leave and made our way back to ‘normality’ at Elsewhere.

As usual India throws up lots of extremes – where else can you buy mangoes one minute and find yourself taking tea with a Maharani the next? That is wonderful India!

 

The Goan Office reopens…

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We have come back to our second home in Goa. After a very quick flight it seemed we made it in no time to our first haven of tranquility at Vivenda Goa, where once again we were made most welcome by Charlotte and Simon and their team. Toby the basset hound naturally also put in a welcome appearance too. Our first job on arrival (even before the first gin & tonic!) was to make sure all the easter eggs had made it, and yes they had – despite sitting on the tarmac for 30 minutes waiting to be put on the luggage belt, and then the journey to Vivenda in the boot of the Taxi.

We have started our quest for the recipes for the book. Charlotte sent us to meet an amazing couple, Reuben and Selia, who have restored a beautiful old mansion and its gardens, Palácio do Deão, as their family home and serve the most amazing lunches to people who want to visit to experience the best of Goa’s heritage. Selia very kindly has started the book off with a recipe for prawn caldine. So If you are even vaguely interested in architecture, gardens and food in Goa, they can be found at www.palaciododeao.com.

Helen at Palaacio do Deao

We have now left Vivenda Goa with the final piece of fantastic news that Simon and Charlotte have very kindly agreed to sponsor the musical instruments for the school’s music department. This got our trip off to a truly great start.

Now we have arrived at Elsewhere and what a welcome! The bridge was decorated with palm arches and we were greeted with flower garlands, and everybody mobbed us…, so the office is now open again!

And the easter eggs have made it safely into the fridge again… The kids are currently on a few days holiday for Holi (have you seen the amount of powdered paint thrown over all and sundry!) so the eggs will be taken up to the school in the next couple of days and we will see all our friends there again.