Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Monkeys Outside My Hotel Room In Udiapur

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

I was  in my room and saw movement out of the corner of my eye.  I hadn’t seen any monkeys the first day we were here.  I didn’t even know there were monkeys in Udaipur.  They eventually ran across the railing of my balcony.  I loved watching them.

Kolkata Diary. Jagdish Temple in Udiapur

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

I couldn’t get on line yesterday but had a full day walking through the streets of Udiapur.  Dahn and Hannah and I visited the Jagdish Temple, The City Palace and shopped.  I got some wonderful fabric and already have ideas (vague though they are) for quilts.

There was a ceremony going on at the Jagdish Temple, which is in the middle of the city.  That’s the singing you can hear in the video.  These are some of the carvings on the outside of the Temple.

Kolkata Diary. Arriving In Udiapur

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

Two planes and seven hours later, we arrived in Udiapur.  This is where I’ll spend the rest of my trip.

It was and still is an adjustment being here.  It’s a beautiful city surrounded by lakes and one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world.

Driving through the narrow market streets and arriving at our hotel,  was like being transported to another world.  It’s not just the clean air, green vegetation, warm breezes, natural and man-made beauty.   It’s the other end of what we were doing in Kolkata.

I left my room and headed towards the familiar voices.  Nadine, Kelly and Kiera were sitting on one of the many landings of the hotel which overlook the lake and mountains.   The hotel is  a labyrinth of stairs and doorways, hallways and balconies and rooftops.

I started to cry before I even got to them.  In the past I would have hidden in my room and cried alone.  But one of the important things I’ve learned on this trip is to really be myself.  Even when I’m feeling like I don’t belong, instead of withdrawing I speak my truth, no matter how mundane it may seem to me or  how vulnerable it makes me feel.

I need your help I said to them.  This is all so beautiful, even decadent, I said I need you to help me understand why we’re here.

Our days in Kolkata were so filled they gave little time for me to  absorb all that I was seeing and experiencing and feeling.  Even though I wrote about it everyday, which helped me be thoughtful and understand my feelings, I was still living in a haze of busyness.

And now it was over.  We weren’t going back to Kolkata, we weren’t visiting anymore organizations.  The itinerary in Udiapur is for us to do what we want, to rest and journal and enjoy ourselves.

How do I go from the intensity and emotion, the purpose and meaning, to this kind of luxury.

Nadine took  my hand.  This place isn’t  that nice she joked,  you should see some of the really expensive  hotels around here.

Then she and Kelly went on to explain the importance of this transition time.

Helping others is not about making ourselves suffer.  If all we did was go to Kolkata and not see the other parts of India, the beautiful and hopeful parts, most of us wouldn’t want to come back.

And just seeing the horrors of a country is not an accurate picture.  It would be like just going to the South Bronx and thinking that is what all of America is like, Nadine said.

I don’t want to be going back to the Untied States and believing Kolkata is India, not just a part of it.

They convinced me that this is an important time to embody all that I had experienced.  To try and make sense of it and incorporate it into my life.  It’s been a week of new intense and emotional experiences  and that needs to be balanced.

This all made sense to me.  And a part of me knew it was what they would say.  It’s why I went to them.

And I can see it’s true.  Since I got here I find myself crying for seemingly no reason. I know it’s cleansing, it’s my body,  my mind and heart processing the past week.

And I can see that what I need to do now is allow myself to relax.  To enjoy this other part of India and take care of myself. I want to come out of this experience enriched and whole, not broken.

Because I do know that I can’t help anyone,  if I can’t help myself.

Last night, Dahn, Hannah, Kiera and I went to a Taylor to have sari’s made. (It costs $23 to have a shirt and skirt made.  I got the fabric in the fair trade market in Bolpur for half that).    It’s a tradition of the group to spend the last night having a sari party.

The sun is just just coming up here and I’m not sure what I’ll do today yet.

Writing this has already helped me understand and feel better. I’m going to try to take this day as it comes.  To do what I feel like when I feel like.

I’ll be sure to take some pictures and  let you know what happens.

( After being shown to our rooms, I tried to get back to the front desk to get the wifi password and I got lost.   So I wandered around the maze of stairs and hallways and rooftops till I found my way.  The video ends abruptly because Jon called me just as I got to my door and the video shut off.  But I think it gives an idea of the wonder of the place.)


Kolkata Diary. Clotheslines In India

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

Every where I’m been so far in India (which really isn’t many places especially considering the size of the country)  there are clothes lines. No matter if it’s in a slum or a fancy apartment building, you’ll see clothes hanging on roof tops, along side the highway and from balcony’s.  Really anywhere there’s a surface to hang them from.

I have a nice collection of clothes line photos.  Here’s some of them…

Kolkata Diary. The Beautiful Blankets Made At House Of Hearts

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

Looking at the blankets made at House of Hearts.  I bought the green blanket along with some other things.

We went to the roof top of Soma’s house to look at the blankets and some of the other things that the women make at House of Hearts.

Kelly, who works with may Fair Trade markets, has a good idea of what people want and was able to help with the marketing in that way.

We sipped tea and ate fried potatoes while looking at all the beautiful creations.


Kolkata Diary. Testing The Potholder

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

Me an Soma

Here I am with Soma holding the hot pot of boiling water.  We were figuring out how much cotton batting to use and making sure the potholder works.  Which, as you can see, it does.

Soma has sewing materials tucked away in cabinets in her house.  First she brought out this roll of polyester batting that they use in some of the thicker blankets.   That wouldn’t work to insulate the potholders, so then she brought out  the cotton batting.  Which was just right.

The cotton batting used in the potholders.    Photo by Kelly Campbell

Kolkata Diary. Making Potholders at House Of Hearts

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

We sat in Soma’s livingroom with the women who work with her, and their families.  The children sat on the floor and told us their names.  They stayed home from school so they could be there.  The day had the feeling of a holiday about it.

Soma worked her way up at one of the jewelry making shops at an organization called  Her Future Coalition.  She started out by learning how to make jewelry and now she manages the shop.

But that wasn’t enough for Soma.  She wanted to help the women in her village earn a living.  Traditionally, they wouldn’t work outside the home, but Soma knew they needed the money to help support their families.

So she started House of Hearts.

She set up a room in her house with six sewing machines and some women from the neighborhood started making blankets.  Soma sold them from her house and through some of the organizations she’s connected too.

But, she told us, 2016 was a hard year.  The blankets (which are beautiful many with hand stitching.  I bought two of them along with a couple of fabric shopping bags and a hand bag) stopped selling.   Now they were experimenting with new products, but were still having a hard time marketing the things they were making.

As Soma told her story I knew that this was the place where the potholders could make a difference.   That I could show the women, who already knew how to sew, to make potholders and provide the market, through my website,to sell them.

I didn’t know the details of exactly how this would work, but Kelly, who organized the trip through her company The Village Experience, did.  Along with Dahn and Nadine, she does this kind of work all the time.

Dahn offered to make the initial investment in the potholders.  We would place an order for 100 potholders and pay for them.  Then, when the order was filled it would be shipped to me and I would sell the potholders on my website.  I will then donate the profits from the potholders to Heart House.

But first I had to show the women how to make the potholders.

Oddly enough, I wasn’t worried about the language barrier, though none of the women spoke English.   I started by doing a demonstration.  Looking through the pile of  material, which were mostly scarps from the blankets, I found two piece I liked and went to sew them together.

Until I realized the sewing machine had a treadle.  I moved over to let one of the women show me how to pump the machine with my feet, but instead she just started sewing.  We used hand signals to communicate, and there was a translator for the tough stuff.  But for the most part we communicated with the one  language we both spoke,  sewing. 

It didn’t take long for the top of the first potholder to be made.

Now we needed the batting.  And this is part of what makes me believe that this was meant to be.    I was wondering what we would use for insulation for the potholders.  I was  trusting that we could come up with something, when Soma said she had big rolls of cotton batting that she used for the blankets.  We’d have to test it out, but it seemed a little miracle to me.

Our work was interrupted by lunch, which turned out to be a feast, as it had for all visits to the different organizations throughout the week.  The table was filled with bowls of delicious homemade food.  I had a little of everything, and dessert too.

It was during lunch that someone told me that the women were making potholders while I ate.  I had to stay out of the work space, because they wanted to surprise me.

I was touched an amazed.  These women completely got it.  In such a short time they learned the process and created five beautiful and unique potholders.  And from what I could see it looked like they  were enjoying it.

The only part we still weren’t sure of was if the batting would work and how much of it to use.  So Soma boiled some water on the stove and I picked up the hot metal pot using one of the potholders.

It worked so well, I was able to carry the pot into the living room, have someone take a picture of me holding it then return it to the kitchen.

Because of the batting,  the potholders are thicker than the ones I make, but they’re even softer and as flexible.

As thrilled and grateful and just happy at the way this all worked out, I have to admit I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around it. Even though I held the potholders in my hand, and took a selfie with the women who made them,  it still doesn’t seem completely real.

Maybe I’ll have to wait for that first order of 100 potholders to come in the mail before it does.

Soma has big plans for Heart House.  Someone donated a piece of land to the organization, not far from her house.    Soma want to build a workshop and retail space on it.

There’s some resistance to the work Soma is doing.  She’s been threatened by  people who don’t like the idea of women working outside the home and earning money.  But Soma is determined.  She believes it’s up to her to help pave the way, so the next generation of girls can have a better life.

If I can, I’d like to help her make that happen.

The five potholder made at Heart House



At The Market in Bolpur

Monday, February 20th, 2017

Kolkata Diary. Do You Think You’re Not Sleeping

Monday, February 20th, 2017

Our shoes outside the doorway of Soma’s house

Do you think you’re not sleeping.

You keep waking up
from one dream to the next.


Kolkata Diary.Teaching The Women at “Heart House” to Make Potholders

Monday, February 20th, 2017

Me and Soma (third from right) and some of the women from Heart House who will be making more potholders.  Photo by Kelly Campbell.

I guess it was meant to be.  Today, I taught one of the women at Soma’s Heart House to make potholders, then she taught the other women.

It was a very special day and I want to write all about it, but I’m so tired now I just need to sleep.

Maybe I’ll wake up at 3am and write as I have been doing the past week.  But if I sleep through the night, I’ll get to it tomorrow.

For now, here’s some pictures…

photo by Kelly Campbell

The first  potholders