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Brimich in Malaysia, Singapore, and India

Brian and Michelle are travelling in Malaysia, Singapore, and India. Read about their crazy adventures here.

Diary Entries

Tuesday, 08 August 2006

Location: Tacoma, WA, USA

hey everyone!

last post, i reckon.

The Hindu newspaper in India interviewed Michelle and me and published an article! To see it go to http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/thscrip/prin...

Brian

Wednesday, 02 August 2006

Location: Tacoma, USA

Brian's photos are finally online! Out of 1400(!) photos taken on the trip, I selected just under 300 to put online and print. I also put online about 20 photos taken by Kris. Most are pictures of Bharatanjali that I didn't get to take myself. So thank you to Kris for his photography skills and sending me copies of the pictures!

You can view them at http://www1.snapfish.com/thumbnailshare/AlbumID...

You have to create an account with snapfish to see them, but it's easy and free. You can also view Michelle's photos at http://www1.snapfish.com/thumbnailshare/AlbumID...

This should be our last post on this travel blog, so thank you for reading! We hope to see some of you in person to show pictures (and some videos).

Brian

Wednesday, 26 July 2006

Location: Tacoma, WA, USA

Apparently, PlanetRanger only allows 12 photos per photo page! It would be tedious to make twenty separate pages. We added just 12 pictures here anyway, and you can find them on the left of the page, under "photos." However, there are over two hundred more at my Snapfish album! The website makes you register in order to see them, I apologize, but it's free and simple. To go there, visit this web address:

http://www1.snapfish.com/share/p=66826115389929...

Of course, if you have contact with me, I can bring the physical photo albums next time I see you; just let me know! The printed pictures came in the mail today, and I am excited to share them.

Brian, however, took something like 1,400 pictures and is still going through them. I whittled my 700 or so to over 200; we'll see how Brian fares and I'm sure he'll post when they're ready to share.

A day doesn't pass in which we don't think about our experiences in Malaysia and India and how they've changed us. There is so much that pictures can't capture, but we hope they'll convey at least some of the sights and feelings.

Monday, 24 July 2006

Location: Tacoma, WA, USA

Still working on photos! Sorry! hopefully they'll be up in a couple of weeks.

Kris and Girija, we miss you!

Wednesday, 12 July 2006

Location: Tacoma, WA, USA

well, we are back, and settling in. We're in the process of moving into a new house, so things are a little crazy. But we started working on our photos and should post them here within the week. So stay tuned!

Saturday, 08 July 2006

Location: Tacoma, WA, USA

(Brian)

Friday night, the 30th, we went to a unique feature of our hotel: the city's only spaceship bar. Yes, the bar is designed like the inside of a spaceship, with light panels and that sort of thing everywhere. They have drinks like "star flash" and "moon wrecker" which are actually good. It was an interesting experience as the entire rest of the bar was only Indian men. Raunchy American rap music was playing.

Saturday, we did more shopping and found more gifts for friends and family.

That evening we went to a concert! We looked in the paper and found a local concert, part of a 3-day festival at a nearby school. It was a few miles away, but the auto rickshaw driver got us there fine.

The concert featured Gayathri Girish, a Carnatic (South Indian) classical vocalist. As is typical, she was accompanied by violin, mridangam (barrel drum), and tamboura (drone instrument). The concert was very excellent, and all the musicians were very skilled.

It was an interesting experience. We're used to sometimes being the only white people at Indian concerts in Seattle, but this was more intense because we were out at this small school on the outskirts of Madurai. People seemed to appreciate us coming, though. We were excited to see a real Indian concert in India, but were afraid that it would be a traditional concert and last all night long into the early morning. But fortunately, it was only a couple hours long. I would like to attend an all night concert sometime, but maybe I could prepare by getting lots of sleep the day before.

I noticed that most of the attendees, and musicians, had lighter skin than most people in the area, and I wonder if there's a connection between this and their probably higher class status. After the concert we went up and met the musicians, and some other people talked to us as well.

I enjoyed the concert and I look forward to coming back in December someday for the Chennai music festival.

Regarding music, in Madurai, it's ubiquitous. In the morning, at noon, and in the evening, we always hear the muzzin call the faithful to prayer from the mosque towers (actually, every hotel we've stayed at, in every city, we've always heard one nearby), there is film music coming from shops and cars, devotional music playing from the temple speakers, and there are lots of music shops.

The big thing we did in Madurai was visit the Sri Meenakshi temple, which is one of the most well-known temples in India. (Pictures coming in less than a week!) Sri Meenakshi is a goddess (meen=fish, aksham=eyes, so fish-eyed goddess), who is married to Lord Sundareswarar, an incarnation of the god Shiva. We found a guide to take us around, and though non-Hindus are allowed to the innermost shrine, we were able to go right outside the doorway and still saw the shrine up close. And we were still able to past a point that non-Hindus aren't usually allowed.

A brahmin (priest) performed a puja (worship ceremony) to the shrine for us, which was a powerful experience for me. The temple is very large, with 12 towers, some up to 150 feet in height, and has two main shrines, with several smaller shrines throughout the complex. There is a large pond where people sometimes get married, and part of the complex is a museum within the 1000 pillared hall. The Sri Meenakshi temple was built in the 1600s, though the history of the area dates back over 2000 years. The architecture of the temple is amazing. The towers are covered with hand-carved figures and deities, very ornate and colourful. And we got blessed by an elephant! I feel fortunately to be able to see the temple and hope to see more temples and sacred sites when we come back to India.

Visit this website to read more about the history, architecture, and stories of Sri Meenakshi: http://www.madurai.com/meena.htm

After the temple, we went to the Gandhi museum, which is a history of the Indian indepedence movement. The history begins with the first European landing in India by Vasco de Gama in 1500, which happened to be in Kerala. It goes through early native resistance and battles against the Portegeuse, Dutch, and British, up to the date India's constitution was signed and she became indepedent from the British at midnight, August 15, 1947. Included in this broad history were the contributions of Gandhi, his followers, and the power of nonviolence in the independence struggle. The museum features sandals (chappals) Gandhi wore, a pair of his glasses, and even the blood-stained loincloth he wore when he was assasinated.

Europeans have been in India for 500 years, and it's weird being in the museum which chronicles that history, being of European descent, as an indirect link to colonialism. Throughout the trip, I've thought a lot about the privilege that allows me to travel here... seeing the poverty, the poor people begging for food, and knowing that living in America I (at least indirectly) contribute to their suffering.

What would Gandhi think today about globalisation, and the role that euro-american tourists play with tourism, appropriating the spiritual traditions and cultures of India. What would he think about the control that euro-american corporations still exercise of India and how they inflict poverty and suffering on the poor people. How does tourism affect India's people, and what role do I play in all of it. Am I even right in expecting that I be allowed to travel in India? And what, if anything, can I do to help the people here, as well as all people around the world? I guess the best thing I can do is to deconstruct the euro-american empire from the inside.

It was interesting to see Madurai. I really loved Kerala, but I'm glad to see another part of India, because Kerala is different from the rest, and each state is unique. I feel that Madurai is more like the India I was expecting. One thing I've always heard about India is that it's a place of extreme opposites and contradictions. For instance, there is extreme wealth alongside exstreme poverty; ancient patriarchal traditions and horrendous crimes against women while women are venerated and Indians look to many powerful goddesses (who sometimes are more powerful than the gods); strong smells of curry alongside pungent open sewer odours; ancient devotional music playing from temples next to modern, electronic-influenced, westernised film music, etc. I've found this to be true, especially in Madurai.

But I enjoyed Madurai. It was hard to see the poverty, but it hardened my resolve to continue helping poor and hungry people in America, and to try live more simply and reduce the negative impact my lifestyle may have on the rest of the world. Madurai has ancient cultural history, beautiful temples, traditional music and dance, tons of vegetarian food. It's a beautiful place and I'm thankful to have seen it. And I'm thankful to Girija and Kris (and the others at Dove Holidays, our travel agent) for helping us visit.

But I was glad to return to Kerala. We took the night bus back to Kochi.

Kerala was nice when we returned. It didn't rain much, and it was warm but with a breeze. We finished shopping for gifts, and took a ferry to Fort Kochi and Mattacherry for a self-guided tour. Kochi is divided into several islands (including Fort Kochi) and the mainland part, where we stayed the rest of the time (called Ernakulam). See a map here: http://www.yachtsindia.com/images/kochismall.jp...

Fort Kochi and Mattancherry have slightly different cultures from those on the mainland, and in addition have a long colonial history and presence of other cultures. The portugeuse and dutch lived here, the portegeuse setting up India's first european church in 1503. There is a european built, Indian themed palace, some old churches, and even a Jewish synagogue. Jews had actually been trading with Keralans for 2500-3000 years, and during the Jewish diaspora some settled in the area about 2000 years ago. The population was strong for a while, but is small now: I think only about 100 Jews remain in the area. The synagogue was built in the 1500s. Syran Christians have also been in the area longer than the europeans; about 2000 years ago.

Also on the island is a famous spice market. When Columbus "discovered" America, he was actually looking for Kerala pepper, so the spices here are well known. There were goats everywhere, which was Michelle's favourite part.

We took the ferry back and the next day we saw a retired farmer (thanks to Kris and Dove Holidays again). His family still has the farm, and they grow many things, some for the family and some for sale. They grow pepper, padi (rice), coconut, tapioca, betel nut, jackfruit, banana, rubber, chili, papaya, pineapple, tamarind, and have cows and goats (and a dog). Also a well for drinking water and a pond for irrigation. That was a neat experience to see a farm first hand.

The second to last night in India, we finally saw a Bollywood filim in the theatre. The film is Krrish, and is sort of sci-fi based and about a super hero. It was really good (even though it was in Hindi with no subtitles). The theatre is huge, and you can get popcorn for 10 american cents, or coffee, tea, samosas, etc. The audience is very rowdy and interactive with the film, which is great.

Then we said goodbye to India, and took the long flight (with layovers) home... about 34 hours total. We were sad to leave the friends the made, the friendly people, and the beautiful sights, but we are hopeful that we will come back again.

We got a little sick toward the end... I think since we're not used to Indian food everyday, we couldn't handle three weeks of curry and spicy food. The food was wonderful, but it's nice to come home to some lighter food like spaghetti and sandwiches. Again, it's sad to leave, but now we are glad to be back, because we missed our family and friends, and our cat, and other things here. We are thankful to our parents for helping us take this trip to Malaysia and Singapore, and very grateful to our friends Kris and Girija and the others we met and who helped Michelle with her research. We want to come back again in a couple years, to see our friends, and to see the progress that the Bharathanjali village is making. We wish everyone the best, and thanks for reading.

We will finally post pictures (we have almost 2000 between us---we'll select the best ones) within a week, and look forward to personally sharing photos and stories with many of you. If you have any comments or questions about our trip, feel free to email Brian at anarchoprimate@riseup.net or Michelle at mbrittan@riseup.net. Thanks again.

Namaskaram!


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Recent Messages

From jerry
got my new sitar. sounds so great and looks great to. Pt Chatterjee is here now to. lessons hav started again. saw Karunamayi again. She chanted mantras for Her progrm this time. new Indian resturant opening soon in downtown Bremerton.
Response: Great, all great news. Michelle and I definitely want to help organise a concert in Tacoma. Would Pt Chatterjee be interested in playing at University of Puget Sound? We can't promise anything yet, but we'll try to organise something. Maybe the musicians could do a master class about music and the instruments.
From Nicki
Hey guys, I did manage to get through your long reports because they were awesome and engaging, I like the writing you both do and I'm very proud and happy for you! I also can't wait to see you in two months!
Response: Nickers! Congrats on getting through our crazy entries. There's just so much we want to share, plus it'll be cool to sort of have it all recorded so we can look back on our trip later on. Actually we were thinking that when we all get back together at the end of August, Brian wants to cook a big Indian dinner (aloo gobi, dosais, chai, kheer, etc.) for the whole house and we can all share pictures and memories of what we each did while we were gone. Wouldn't that be awesome? Take care!
From Ronald Ripid
Hello Michelle & Brian,
This is your uncle Ronald reading your travelling diary. Your mum send me your email address. Must be interesting travelling to India.
I am in Northern Japan right now. Luckily its summer and not that cold.
Right now I am rather busy.
Anyway, take care and do keep in touch. Thanks and Bye.
Ronald.
Response: Hi Uncle Ronald! I was sad to have not been able to see you this last trip, but I hope you are enjoying yourself in Japan and are not working too hard. India is very interesting, in some ways quite different from Malaysia, which seems a bit more familiar since I've been there four times now. We will keep in touch, take care and give my regards to my auntie and cousins. We hope to see you on our next trip to Sarawak!

Michelle
From Caiti
So I opened my mailbox yesterday to find a lovely photograph of several human skulls gathered together in some variety of netting. Fortunately, I'm not at all uncomfortable with the fact that Michelle is descended from headhunters since it would likely never have had an impact upon any of my people anyway-- my head, at least, is so freakishly large that no one in their right mind would want to haul it around. You also raise an excellent point in that it is perhaps better not to be discriminating in who you choose to kill (Actually, I would have far less guilt in killing some of my law school classmates than I would in killing any non-human out there...).

Been reading the blog. Still jealous.

P.S. The nicest (soy) ice cream man in the world, who also happens to be a trained chef, has offered to cook a five course vegan meal for us and a few of our friends sometime this summer. I think, for this reason, that a Brichelle visit is in order.
Response: Caiti, we thought you'd appreciate the morbidity of it all. Actually I wonder if your skull might be especially desirable because of it's size, hmm. And yes, part of writing a blog is the satisfaction in arousing jealousy in our readers; we'd love to share the indigestion if we could! Your proposal for a five-course vegan meal is highly interesting to us, how does late July sound? Maybe the last weekend. That would be sweet. p.s. Chinese food here is AMAZING. It seems wrong, but it tastes so right...
From jerry
there's a coffeeshop here, (another oe of those) that is run by evngelical minister, that preaches there on sundays.he was telling me that he also runs an international agricultural business. i asked himif he grew oganically and he was quite puzzled by my question. i asked him what did he grow and he said goats and boars!!! am i missing something here???? i guess its like when i tellpeople im vegetarian and they say "so you eat fish and chiken?"!!!!!! i say, "nt until they grow on trees!"
Response: yeah, it's weird how the industry uses the term "grow" for chickens and other animals. I think it's intentional.
From Alysa
WTF I've been back for a week dudes! I'm going to Eastern Washington this weekend and I wanted to eat at that one place you guys go to after CHCI! <33 Yay India!
Response: I can't believe your cross-country road trip is already over! Sounds like it was fun though. Trust me, though, the post-CHCI place is nothing special! Both times we've gone were by accident. I think they maybe have a couple tofu dishes, better to go to Happy Dragon in Tacoma. Mmm, crispy eggplant in spicy szechuan sauce, we should go sometime!
From justina(brian's mum
Hi Michelle,Hi Brian,mum gave me the address and I've thougth I better say hello and see how did you getting on in India.Iam so pleased to meet you both when we were in Sarawak.I Treated you two like my own children.By the way Brian, I told Steven about you and your brother has the names,he was laughing,and asked me how old is your brother.It would be very funny,if they are the same age.Is your mum my age? Im 47 and david is 55.Steven is coming home this Sunday for summer holiday,and then he will go to Greece for his holiday.He said,he missed out all the fun we had in Sarawak.Any way,how is Michelle's leg? I hope she recovered,poor Michelle.I wish you both a pleasant trip in India and all the best in future.
Response: Hi, Tina, it's great to hear from you! I was really happy to meet a long-time friend of my Mom's. Actually I remember looking through photo albums when I was younger and seeing pictures of her life in Sarawak, and now I wonder if any of them were you and David. There's one I remember of a British man, maybe when Brian and I get back to the States my Mom and I can dig out the albums and look at them. I think your Steven is probably a lot younger than Brian's brother, who must be turning 40 this year. It's too bad we didn't get to meet your other son, maybe we will get to see you all again if you visit America or if we eventually find our way to England. My leg is a lot better, thanks for asking! Would you believe we saw even more caves here in India? Saw some prehistoric carvings that are thought to be over 3000 years old. Well take care and thanks for reading!

Best,
Michelle
From jerry
thanks bu dont bring back ghee. too heavy. i do need a steel ring (one size fit all!!) for saturn tho. i cant find one here at all. ++sitar will be here today Pt Chatterjee thinks. he coordinated the buildig of it. he says it is very nice and the custom made case is done to. Pt Chatterjee mailed it himself. he will have 6 more different live concert cd's for sale now. he said i learn Raga Bhairavi next.
Response: We weren't able to get a ring. We did find a couple for Saturn, but there were two options, for two different zodiac signs, and I didn't know which one you were. Also, they were silver, and I didn't know if you wanted steel for a special purpose.

You should try Travellers. They have a lot of great things, and they might have it. And they go back to India a few times a year so maybe they could pick it up for you next time.

It's on 501 E Pine in Capitol Hill. Go there!

I'd like to get those CDs soon.
From Dad & Barbara
I just finished reading both of your recent posts and I am somewhat overwhelmed by your experiences. This is an opportunity of a lifetime that you will remember and cherish. We look forward to seeing you in Vacaville on the 8th. Safe travels.
Response: Thank you for reading and for your help in getting here. It was definitely an experience of a lifetime, and it affected us in many ways.

Brian
From Alysa
DUDES URGENTTT!!!! What is the name of that place in Ellensburg with vegan food?!?!? I don't want to starve!
Response: ??? I thought you were in FLorida or California?

and I don't know any place with vegan food in
Ellensburg.

there's a Chinese restaurant with tofu dishes that we've been to. don't know the name. some typical chinese restaurant name.

good luck!

PS we are eating dosa pretty much EVERY DAY! although there are over 100 kinds of dosa in India, we've only had ONE KIND! the others are hard to find around here.
From jerry
hi, hope all is well. a friend just pruned his fig tree and i have enough wood now for agnihtr for maye a couple yrs!! my sitar guru arrives sunday and my new Hiren Roy willb here shortly as well. sitar concert wih Pt Debi Prasad Chatterjee and Vishal Nagar on tablas, in bremerton, sept 15, confirmed!! i may be moving on to my mother's property in a few months. we are considering converting 5 car garage into apt.
Response: yes, things are well here. that's great that you have wood. we met someone here who also does agnihotra. she said it's good for purifying the environment... and she works for the agriculture department as well. We were thinking of getting ghee here for you, since it would be cheaper. Anything special we need to ask for, or just plain ghee?

That is very wonderful news about the concert. I am excited to go. In Bremerton, too. We might be able to arrange for them to play at University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. Maybe I can look into it when we get back.

Good luck with moving. It will be easier for you to help out your mom being right there with her.
-Brian

From Dad
thanks for calling again this morning. getting sick on the water, gee maybe you should boil the bottled water :(.
Good luck in Kerala
Response: yeah, i don't know why i got sick. it's hard to avoid water altogether... they wash glasses with it if you get fresh juice. the water in restaurants I think is boiled. I've heard you can also get sick from drinks with dairy in them like chai.

Thanks!
From jezzica
you guys made it to india! so happy! i have not seen any moose yet. what gives? take care and be careful and boil your water! xo
Response: yes, we made it.

no moose? what? how about grizzly bears? if you see one, hug it for me.

yeah, seriously about the water. i've gotten sick twice on this whole trip (the second time is right now).
From Mel
The Sikh Society provided free food at the end of Saturday's Peace March. Free curry for 200! I think they got more cheers than any of the speaches or the musicians.
Response: dude, that's sweet. Sikhs are generally vegetarian, and some Sikh temples (gurdwaras) serve vegetarian lunches after services. But like all religions, people don't follow everything, so not all Sikhs are vegetarian.

But that's way cool they did that and are into the local peace movement.

The best Indian restaurant in Washington that we've been to is in Renton, where I (Brian) grew up, and it's all vegetarian, and owned by Sikhs, so it's Punjabi cuisine. It's amazing.

Anyway.
From Alysa
Oh man Michelle I'm in VACAVILE!
Response: Lucky you! Say hi to cowtown for me.
From Dad
Hi Michelle, Hi Brian, We made it home. Great site you have. I'll check it all out once I get over the jet-lag. Hope you are in India when you read this.
Response: Thanks for the message, Dad. We're in India and will try to call soon. Hope your jet lag is over soon!
From jezzica
holy crap i miss you guys! did you see stalagmites in the caves?
Response: We miss you too! Not only did we see stalagmites, we saw stalactites. Oh yeah.

Michelle

p.s. Brian dropped his camera battery in a pile of bat guano.
From Mel
If an exotic location is going to be open to tourists, it's extreemly useful to have those sorts of resorts. It insulates the locals from american culture (which, when americans travel abroad, includes classism), prevents gentrification of their neighbourhoods, and injects cash into the economy. Seriously, you can afford $4 for a meal.
Response: I can see your points, but it was still a depressing experience for me personally, for various other reasons that I didn't get into, including inaccurate "cultural performances" that ended in propaganda-like nationalist anthems. We can talk about it later, my time on this computer is running out. I might make some kind of sociological post later about various things I've observed.
From Alysa
Dude. I'm in Florida, and I FEEL like I'm in the rainforest here!!! <3 OMG IT'S SO HOT HOW ARE YOU NOT DEAD??? What is the temperature over there? I'm not even sure here. it is HOT.
Response: Hope you're having fun, Alysa! I'm not really sure what the temperature here is, it's not often posted (like it is in Washington on every other church reader board), and when I do find out, it's in Celsius, which I admit I am too lazy to figure out. Haha. But yes. HOT.
From shebee McBride
i triple dog dare Both of you to:
walk down the side walk in hot pants & spaghetti strap tank tops, while hittin' a pipe. You must also spit every so often, have a dog unleashed with a bandana around its neck, and talk loudly in english to everybody while waving your arms and gesturing to your left palm with your right index finger.....GO!
Response: Shelby, it's bad enough I have to limp around speaking English with a camera around my neck. I'll only take your dare if you in turn wear tight khaki shorts, slather white sunblock on your nose, let the camp kids call you "Stinky" and blow on a whistle in lieu of using a human language to communicate. You know you want to. Or maybe you already are...
From Pat Cereghino
Great travelog...really enjoyed reading it...what a great experience for you....visiting Michelle's family is a special bonus....continue to have a wonderful trip......and keep posting....we're reading it....
Love, Aunt Pat
Response: Thanks Aunt Pat. The family aspect really is a bonus, I'm glad we're having more of a visiting experience than a purely tourist one. Take care!
From Rick Dalderis
Enjoyed reading about your trip.
Keep the reports coming.
Can you post some pictures?
Cheers,
Rick
Response: Thanks, and we'll try to post some pictures soon! Even harder than finding the resources and time is choosing which to post out of the hundreds we've already taken!

Michelle
From Julie
Brian and Michelle - Sounds like your're having a wonderful time. Michelle, I hope your ankle is better. Be sure to email pictures when you can.
Response: Thank you. We are having a great time. Michelle's ankle is almost all better, and we will rest for a few days when we get to India so she can be all recovered.

Hope everything is going well there :)
From Barbara
Hi Michelle and Brian,

Sounds like you are having a great trip. I'm enjoying reading about Maggie's relatives and Sarawak. Sounds like you are all taking advantage of this wonderful travel opportunity.

Can't wait to hear about Gunung Mulu National Park.
Response: We are having a good time! The park was beautiful and I think the forthcoming pictures will better show this than words. Thanks for reading and take care.
From Mel
pictures!
Response: Hopefully we'll get to post pictures soon... we usually don't get much time on computers, and sometimes they don't have the capability of transferring pictures. But there for sure will be some when we get back...?