Holi mubarak!

Color to the face

Best. Holiday Ever. No celebrating this year (Holi officially was Wednesday). Above shot comes from 2011, the last time I played holi, pakka pakka. Next year, however, I expect to be in full color beast mode with family.

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Jingle bells, ringing in my ear…

My christmas tota

There’s been no sign of snow around, and the weather has actually been unseasonably warm until this weekend. But per tradition, I have had a decorated Christmas tree in my apartment and holiday music on the stereo for weeks now.

I actually bought the seven-foot Frazier fir on Thanksgiving itself (the grocery store was open and I had no desire to go the next day and put up with Black Friday crowds). In keeping with my goal of not using cars, I Metro’d and walked to a Whole Foods, bought the tree, carried it back to the Metro stop, rode in an almost empty car with my tied tree and then marched the rest of the way home.

I of course left a breadcrumb trail of needles and broken fir branches along the way.

The tree is spartanly decked with ribbon, white lights, wall hangings with sayings of the Dalai Lama and some strings of Indian door hangings, including the papier-mâché parrots. I also strung some holly garland around a few lamps and tied a long red ribbon around a door (giving it the loose impression of a wrapped present.

The apartment smells like a combination of cinnamon scented pine cones, a lovely sage candle and that beautiful fir.

I’ve also hung the annual string of lights across the top of the blog.

I realize this season is too often a celebration of gluttony and satisfying material addiction. But perhaps we can cleave to peace and goodwill amongst all, instead. Happy holidays everyone.

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Zombie makeup, dead sea captain, abstract concept

W. M. TRADE, Captain

My costume this year was both esoteric and abstract. Keep in mind that I’m in an environmental policy program. But I’ll help parse out all the levels below.

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

Deck the halls

I’ve been listening to holiday music since Friday, 26 November. Per Jadhav tradition, that is the day when the Christmas season begins. That night, we decorated a perfect little live Charlie Brown-esque tree on my balcony, hung strings of lights and ornaments in my room, lit a tray of red and white candles and covered my lonely compact fluorescent bulb with a shimmering paper star.

I’ve been a little slower on the blog, but today I’ve hung a nice string of Christmas lights across the top of the page. They’ll probably stay there until February (which is about right for my speed at taking decorations down).

And with my school on holiday now, I’ve been planning a Christmas Eve/Day lineup of comfort food, sweets and movies to watch on this day of celebration.

Delhi shopping malls are doing their part, rolling out ostentatious decorations, blaring holiday music too loud for shoppers and generally embracing the less-than-enjoyable, let’s-spend-lots-of-money nature of secular Christmas in the states. Garish and all-too-commercial though it may be, the spectacle warms my heart with nostalgia.

Even the weather here in Delhi makes it feel like a proper winter, with temps in the low 40s Fahrenheit at night.

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Holi cow! Well, not really…

The streets will run with color

Holi is my favorite of the Indian holidays. Everyone celebrating gets good and messy and good and messy — throwing “color” (powdered paint or dyed water balloons or oily goo or normal paint or mud or ash) at each other. I’ve been in India twice for the festival, held in the spring to, among other things, herald the coming of the warm season.

This year, I rocked through Pune briefly to “play Holi” (read: get messy and take photos) with my cousin. We covered a lot of ground around the city, but it was a rather sleepy, subdued day. We got a late start, and Pune is a bit tame when it comes to Holi. (A recent bombing at a high-profile tourist hangout that also killed some local college students didn’t help the mood.)

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Sunset over Havelock

Right before a my first night dive

Right before my first night dive

The sun dips to the horizon at about 4:45 p.m. on New Year’s Day as we tie on to the buoy at one of Havelock’s popular dive sites, the Wall. A new friend, Beatrice (above), and I both log our first night dive.

Little can compare to the transition from day to night underwater, as the deep blue of the sea turns to murky navy and then almost black.

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A year-in-review

2009 kinda kicked ass

2009 kinda kicked ass

This past year pretty much rocked. And the New Year came in fine manner.  No kisses, but a bonfire amid the palm trees (above), new friends, lobster, a decent cigar (thanks, C!), champagne and even the Harry Connick, Jr., band playing Auld Lang Syne at midnight (never leave home without the iPod).

I meant to post this sooner, but here’s a little look back at my new life (as chronicled on this blog):

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I may be ‘stuck’ in southeast Asia

Anyone contemplating a visit in the next year should probably pay attention. There has been an official hiccup in visa rules, meaning I may need to leave the country for longer than planned this spring.

Essentially, after it was revealed that alleged terrorist conspirator David Headley had stayed in India long-term on a tourist visa, the Indian government has cracked down. Under previous rules, with the five-year tourist visa I currently hold, I could stay in the country for up to six months at a time and leave even for one day to “reset” my visa clock. Hence, my week booked in Thailand beginning March 31.

However, under the new rules, I have to leave for at least two months. This means that instead of returning to India from Thailand, and heading to Sikkim to teach English at a volunteer-supported school, I would be “stuck” in Thailand. And the Thai tourist visa is typically valid for 30 days, meaning I would need to move somewhere else.

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≤20 Seconds: Delhi’s wonderful chaos

This is the colorful, chaotic India that is old Delhi. It’s also the antithesis of my slow, island life of the last couple (and next couple) weeks.

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Disconnected and loving it

The blog has gone dark for a reason: I severed ties to modern telecommunications for more than a week. And it was glorious.

When I came to Havelock Island for some reporting, sun and surf in a tropical Valhalla, I completely lost touch. Hell, for several days, the Internet was literally a half-hour drive from my hotel.

And when I finally did stop at a cafe, I (re)learned the painfully slow (glacier-like) reality of dial-up Internet 500 kilometers from anywhere. We’re talking pre-1998 data speeds.

So while I have had many thrilling adventures involving new friends, good food, tan lines, a deadly banded sea krait and one near-fatal (overdramatic: could have been fatal if I had freaked-out and acted utterly stupid) hiccup, the retelling of those tales will have to wait a bit longer.

I should be back to a bit more civilization (sadly) in a few days, so perhaps there will be time to recount my shenanigans then.

Happy Holidays to all.

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