Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Gibraltar's most famous resident.

It's the Barbary Macaque! During WWII, there was a hue and cry when the population of the macaque was reduced to only 7 individuals! Winston Churchill, ordered that more macaques be brought in from Africa IMMEDIATELY. You know why? Legend has it that if the barbary macaques disappear from the island, Gibraltar will no longer remain a British Territory and Spain will rightfully take over. Because as you can see below, Gibraltar is rightfully a Spanish region but the British came along and never left. So if the macaques go, so will the British! ha!
Well a trip to Gibraltar shouldn't be on your priority list. If you're not interested in seeing the replenished number of monkeys and buying cheap cigarettes and booze, you could give this a pass!

Monday, June 25, 2012

On the road..

Provins 2012: A medieval celebration

There is a small charming town called Provins. It's approximately 2 hours from Paris. 
 There are beautiful houses with cosy balcony overlooking little streams.
And there of pretty windows with pretty flowers, just how I like it.
There is also a medieval tower (?) called Caesar's Tower.
And knights and ladies taking five just below. 

So yes we went here today and travelled back in time! Boy was it fun! A two day medieval fest takes places here every year in June. We had to pay a 10€ entry fee (it would have been 4,50 euros had we come disguised as medieval age people) and there was a variety of stalls set up and playgrounds set up with games people played in medieval times, also makeshift guillotine stands, along with concerts and everything was done by people in disguise! Folklore had transformed itself into a mixed reality because it didn't seem strange to see Robin Hood texting or Merlin smoking a cigarette or the Witches buying hotdogs. All in a days work.
There were fun things to see and do at Provins. But the best of things was only heard. It's been so long since I heard live Celtic music and being an ardent fan, this was a real treat! I noticed that the French bagpipes are smaller than their Scottish counterparts and the form seemed different too. The sound was the same magical one, of the sea, of legends, of fairies, of dragons, of knights, of damsels, of passion.
 There were men playing mandolins.
 And this artist in her medieval atelier.
 with her beautiful paints all over.
 This man who taught calligraphy and signed your name on bookmarks.
A parade was organized in the town and the costumes were really impressive. I can't believe there are people who go through such an effort to sew these outdated sagasque clothes! It was a beautiful sight and kids just loved this. And I did too because they all seemed to step out of the fairy tales I read when I was a child.
There was the flag bearer.
 A damsel. I love all the colours in this photo. Makes such an interesting palette!
 This could be a knight or crusader. 
 A priestess? She looked so happy. 
A witch. Don't you just love this woman's makeup!
 The King leading his army.
Fancy pixie/jester shoes, which I wore in my childhood mental movies or the elves did when they came to visit.
A grandmom?
 Is that Robin Hood or a merry man?
 A Sultan's Sultana?
 More knights.
 A really tall mythical creature.
 I have no idea what this instrument is, but it made beautiful music!
 Pretty lady and plus points for the person carrying her!
 The leper's stare
 A woman grinch?
 Mythical creatures playing bagpipes..
 And there's Robin again with Marian
 Some happy people of the court.
 A courtier from Brittany. He's wearing the symbol of his homeland.
Ah, long trumpets to announce the arrival and the end of good and bad things. What an event! We left with refreshed memories of childhood stories read in books, of animations films that made us dream, it helped us understand that continuing traditions is a beautiful thing and of course legends will live forever.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Coconut oil cocoon

I have something to say. Which is a good thing because I haven't been saying much these days. I have 100 pages of research work due at the end of August, I'm presently unemployed with limited finances and I'm not sure if I'll have a job in September. 
So basically I'm still studying and about to enter quarter life crisis period (25 years old soon :'( ugh) Plus the internet has invaded my life. The picture below pretty much sums up my present existence, except replace Facebook with Pinterest (the site where you electronically hoard millions of things you will never have in real life). 

Well, I have done some creative things though, I wrote a poem and threw it away, started writing another one and gave up, I've made my own body scrubs and gave them away to my boss. That's turned into my new hobby. I've recently started making my various body scrubs and face packs, etc. I hate using chemical products and the ladies in my family always told me the cure to everything is in nature. I've been really lazy all my adult life, fancy products from brands like l'Occ*tane, Ol*y carried me away and now my skin is freaking out and hates me, so I've decided it's about time to take the zits by the horns and get rid of them, naturally. One of the main ingredients in all the scrubs I've made so far is coconut oil. Coconut is a big part of Indian households and well I didn't have any in my house. Shame on me. OK long story short, this is about what emotions were triggered off when I returned from VT Cash and Carry in Paris with my huge bag of Indian goodies. It's been several months since I last used coconut oil, if I guess correctly, it must have been when I was in India (ages ago). 
I opened up my lovely 100% pure coconut oil bottle and massaged some on my hands. A few seconds later, there was this faint but distinct smell. It was an old familiar scent, one that I hadn't encountered in ages. Then a dam of nostalgia burst open somewhere inside me and I felt sad. It was my grandmother I thought of first. Coconut oil and my grandmothers hands fused beautifully. I remembered how she would massage my little body from head to toe. The oil was warm and it felt good on my skin. The oil also had a more intrinsic effect. It would cocoon my entire being and my mind, for all the time the scent lasted, I had felt safe, wanted, like I belonged. The smell took me back to our verandah where we sat sipping hot ginger tea, accompanied by our many coconut trees. I can still remember which one was my favourite, the one which had the ant hills at its roots. The monsoon wrath would wash away the persistent ants, but they would return a week later to mine and their favourite coconut tree. A strong 'thud' on our roof, while we were asleep was no sign for alarm, it was just another gift from our dear coconut trees. We could collect our coconuts and save them preciously for the afternoon curry or to be shelled and sent off to the mill to make a transparent coveted liquid, which I today realize has so many benefits for the body and soul. They say there is a use for every part of the coconut tree. I remember how my aunt would repurpose the old palms by plaiting them into a temporary roof! I searched all over the web for people who practice this craft and sadly found there aren't too many left. I would love to learn how this is done and carry on this eco-friendly tradition!
pic courtesy A Shankar
Toddy tappers played a big part of my childhood. Every time we saw these daredevils at work, we would stop everything and watch amazed at their courage and might to scale these gigantic trees. The toddy would be used by my amazing aunts to create the delicious palm wine called Feni and some fantastic pancakes to have with that ginger tea. I have to learn how to make these delicious things. I just have to.
It's amazing how the sense of smell works. Here I was standing all alone in my parisian kitchen with a bottle of coconut oil that doubled up as hand moisturizer but yet I was so vividly connected to a whole world that had disappeared into the past. All of those things and people seemed to be around me. Sometimes I wish I could relive those moments again, with those graceful women from my past who taught me some of life's most important lessons. I rub some more of that beautiful coconut balm and for the shortest while invisible hands seem to soothe me. I'm lulled into believing everything will be okay.