Friday, December 27, 2019

Stash Alert

I was having a crafty urge yesterday, so I thought I would get out some of my beads from Ghana and make a new necklace, as I started poking around, I realized just what a stash I have.
I already send out a FABRIC WARNING about Ghana- beware their fabrics are soooooo desirable. African wax print, hand made Ghana batik, kente cloth, a guy in Accra with Mali Mudcloth….. Anyone would go crazy….as generally a non-shopper I can attest to that!

Well looking at my bead stash I think I officially need to issue a BEAD STASH ALERT too.
Haha 😊
Glass beads from recycled bottles, Painted glass beads from recycled glass, brass beads from old engine blocks from lost wax sculpting techniques – so lovely and desirable.

I am using some up now as necklaces, so I have a reason to “Help the local economy” and buy more next trip. I know my eyes will feast on them and make me hungry.
Ghana here we come- empty suitcases!! West AfricanWanderings Aug 15 to 29, 2020.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Almost a new year

Boy doesn't it go fast?

Old lady fast, as a kid it used to seem so slow.... oh well
you just need to enjoy every moment 😊

Self care these days is doing the tough stuff, not a nice almond croissant rather getting off my butt and walking, moving, eating sensible.... trying to maintain fitness and not get broader in the beam from lots of work and little activity.

Kind of tough.... on tour plenty of opportunity for activity but if I don't keep it up in between trips, tours can be an agony of sore legs running around all the day to see the sights and look after our guests.
So each morning I am up on the roof walking.... I talk to myself at the same time and think up lots of good stories to share.... by the time I run around like a blue arse fly getting ready, hit the office and start dealing with the day's work I forget all the good stories running through my head.

Tried speech to text app but it does not understand my accent or my mumbling and I get really weird printouts. I have no idea what they mean and I dictated them! Oh well.
Probably for the best, I am scared of falling off the roof in the dark of early morning.

I was thinking this morning of how great the internet and google is for a confirmed sticky beak.
Info is so easy to get your hands on.... yes you do need to look at the source but it is still at your finger tips.

When I was a kid my father never went home until the pub closed and so we spent a lot of time in the car waiting for him, for a blissful 6 months his favourite pub was opposite the town library and so I could go inside and look at books and read. I know at the age of 7 I discovered National Geographic and have loved its pictures and stories ever since.
Around that time my uncle Bruce and Aunt Jan had a huge wall map, we used to lie it on the floor and play eye-spy.... knew where all the countries were and their capital cities and always wanted to fall into the map and see the places.

When I was 15 I got a part time job, by 16 I had bought a set of Britannica on hire purchase.... weird or what? I enjoyed dipping in and being able to look up what ever popped into my head.

On our last trip I could not help thinking how easy things are now.
We hired a driver who along with Mrs Google made it so easy to find the places we wanted to see, once arrived we could jump out and let him worry about parking. I can tell you it saved a lot of arguments about directions and parking!!
Lokesh our driver, patient and good humored. Great Guy
In the old days when we started there was very little available on the internet as info and no google maps.
In fact, in India almost no usable maps at all. The ones I could find had very little relationship to what was actually happening on the ground and so we used to drive around and around asking people "do you know where this is?"
In India everyone says yes and gives you an answer.... does not matter if they have any idea what you are talking about at all.
So after every person we questioned we would then ask "Do you think he knows, really?"

Same googling about hotel locations, restaurant reviews makes it so much easier to narrow things down... you still need to check it out for yourself because it is not fool proof but it does make it easier. It is a good thing we like the research.

Wow this last year has been busy, in a good way but as ever, intense.
I keep thinking I have everything set up to get easier but then hiccups.

Office- we employed 2 great young women to help, one had an accident and had to leave, the other was told by her father she had to leave and take more tuition.... back to looking for office staff.
Really hard because we live in a little village, education is not great around here, our workshop staff we have been able to train up in running the production in the workshop, largely because I have made a system based on colours and codes.
Little reading needed , just a willingness to pick up the system.
Works so well, after years of struggle.

Office work though can't be trained up so easily, we need a lot more of an established education behind a candidate. English hopefully, able to use excel, word- a long list.
Drives me nuts trying to find staff.
MY big hope for the NEW YEAR is more staff. Office -yes please and in the workshop we have 4 new sewing machines looking for people to join us. Wedding season and busy tourist season makes it hard to attract people, we have mountains of work, just need more staff.

The grind of the workshop I am ready to step away from- happy to do the client liaison, checking and set up of orders but so much else an office person could do.

One thing I have made headway with is the website. I got the front/ the side you see  up and looking fine and all working and now have the help of a friend of ours to do the behind the scenes tweaking.
Thank goodness!!

I can start the new year saying I have a Personal Trainer and he is giving me homework. Sounds impressive? all to do with website stuff. Haha
My consultant is Peter- he of the wicked sense of humour and good skills. So it feels a bit like laughing yoga interacting with him and great things are getting done. It is such a relief to connect up with someone who can take the big headache out of it for me and set me on the right track. He helped Praveen and I 10 or 11 years ago when we first started a website and FB page and I know this will go well. Yippee

In my new year I want to go places, meet more people and find more corners of our wonderful Earth to love.

Happy New Year to you, may you also have fun adventures.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Chikan Kari to Enlightenment 2

So many stories to look into, 

notes to self- everywhere
Many layers to Lucknow.
Nawab came in 1700's who was here before?
Smack dab in the middle of the Ganges Plain with incredibly rich farm lands, situated on trading roots for tax collection it was one desirable kingdom.
Then the British East India Company turned up,initially begging for a few trade concessions and then some more and more. Building their wealth and own army the became the ultimate bully, eventually divesting the Nawab of his kingdom completely because as they said, he could not look after it.

In the start they wanted his help for the upkeep of one fellow as an intermediary, along with his secretary.... years later the British had a whole community and all their servants they expected the Nawab to keep and an area of the city filled with beautiful homes, and their army to upkeep. The British made 'loans' from the Nawab and didn't repay.....
Once the Nawab was exiled to Kolkata one of his Begums ( Queens) stayed....
A long story- to cut it short,  disgruntlement with being suppressed boiled over and the British trying to wrongfully take over kingdoms from the Rani ( Queen ) of Jhansi and the Begum of Lucknow  started India's First War of Independence. Known to the British as the Uprising.
Read Shashi Tharoor 

An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India

William Dalrymple The Anarchy  for the full story, and interesting connections to today's corporate mindset.
both well written, riveting and shocking.

Why worry about what happened then?
For me because of the injustice and to understand the present psyche of India, to alert myself to how it might happen again.
India very wisely, upon Independence wrote into the constitution rules that made it very difficult for foreigners to take their lands again.
We all need to contemplate this, perhaps notice what corporations, media and governments do now to control.

Rani of Jhansi is a personal favourite of mine, she was a feisty character. When we arrived in Varanasi I found out she was born in the area of the Assi Ghat.... a little link I liked.

Varanasi/ Buddha/ Jains so many religions and movements converge on the spot of Ancient Kashi [Varanasi now was Benares to the British and Kashi in ancient Hindu texts.... you have heard of reincarnation?] 
Varanasi, India. Situated on the west bank of the Ganges, Varanasi - also known as Benares - is an important holy city for both Hindus and Buddhists. According to legend, it was founded by the Hindu deity Lord Shiva 5,000 years ago, though modern scholars believe it to be around 3,000 years old. which ever date it started one of the worlds oldest continuous cities. 
I was expecting it to be hectic... India can do hectic pretty well somedays, and was pleasantly surprised to find it easy. no one really in your face wanting to bless you or show you around.

Ask and you shall receive
sometimes much quicker than you expect! when I arrived home this interesting article turned up in a feed I follow with so much wonderful detail about the religious reforms and changes around the time The Buddha and others walked the Earth 

Ohh I do love a good story to discover, I can see many happy hours poking around, googling and reading.

Next week, though Praveen and I are on holidays. We are running away to an island in Thailand and disconnecting from work.
Weird concept but we are trying.
Put the out of office notice up on my email- got workshop staff all sorted. 

Running away !!! Yippee

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Chikan Kari to Enlightenment

Working on a new Tour is always fun....
there was so much we knew about and so much that was unexpected and delightful.
Over all the surprise finds along the way really exceeded expectation.

Here is a bunch of photos in no particular sequence.... kind of like my mind as we start to weave the events into a trip to share with our participants
 There was a kingdom of Gandhara that existed through the region 2500 years ago..... and in the Museum at Lucknow some stunning sculptures. I never expected to meet Atlas in Lucknow.
 Wandering our friends village in Bihar, quite a few women are part of the Women's Self Help group she co-ordinates
 Barabar Caves were just a dot on the map and I thought lets squeeze them in. So glad... magical.
Carved from granite boulders 2500 years ago- yeh amazing but why the excitement....walk inside and walls still have a mirror shine and then our guide starts to chant....OOOHHHH Booyyyyy it was wonderful. our whole body vibrated....I was sure if I stayed there long enough I would be able to levitate.
Truly an extraordinary place :)
 Smell-o-vision needed, what a divinely scented business
 The old fort at Varansi was charming and their collection of stuff quite amazing
 Gorgeous Rumi Dwarja in Lucknow
 Weavers- he has spent ages getting all the threads in place... tweaking this and that before he weaves. I have no patience, just imagining his, blows my mind
 This one is at the start of 3 months weaving after the hallabalu of setting up the loom....
 Chikan Kari embroidery has the patterns stamped on, is stitched and then washed carefully to remove the print....
 The evening Aari or fire ceremony in Varanasi was peaceful and beautiful....
Wandering around the Sujani village, we poked into everyone's houses, visited the farms, the mango orchard, fish ponds and held some new babies....
Just a hint of what we found.... really pleased with what we found.
Now to work on lists and all the write ups and such and get the show on the road.

Friday, November 22, 2019

some days....

Ya know, some days you just want to cry.....

I have spent months getting our website all spruced up and looking nice, been working on improving behind the scenes STUFF.

been hitting a snag
a huge snag!!

I originally built our website back in the dim dark ages of about 2005 on Yahoo, using their tools. I learnt about meta tags and such stuff and worked hard on FB and blogger. And the website went well.
There were few textile tours running back then and we always came near to top on search rankings.

Well speed forward to late 2019 and Yahoo just does not do it anymore. It does not play nice with google and search engine rankings, the associated emails will not mesh with Microsoft Outlook.

I just worked with a designer and rebuilt the website using easy enough system and it looks good....

BUT what I did not know was the RIGHT QUESTION  to ask.

Making the website look pretty was not what I needed to do- yes it is important
but the real problem was YAHOO and so it is time to go.

BUT Yahoo will not give up my website files...... SO I have the huge task of rebuilding AGAIN on my new host Bluehost+WP.

I have initiated domain moving away from yahoo to Bluehost and Gosh do I hope it goes smoothly.
STRESSSSSSSSSSS on an unbelievable level.

We have spent the last few years growing up The Stitching Project and it is doing really well. We have created a lot of work for a lot of wonderful people, and we will always be here to help and participating but it is time to step away from the children and let them get on with all the day to day stuff themselves and have some time and space to follow our dreams.

It is now time for us to follow up on our adventures and enjoy our travels- together and with our guests.

SSSSSSOOOOO I have to get back to that horrible IT stuff and fix the back end of our website.

found this in my suggestions for travellers.

YES please that is us :)

Saturday, November 16, 2019

What to do? Feel bold!

This rather dramatic sky got to me this morning.
No filter and camera colour is not as scintillating as the actual view.... but I am sure you get the idea.

Actually I have had 4 days in bed this week with the worst bout of asthma EVER. Usually it is Spring pollen that gets me, but this time I think it was a chill from an unexpected thunderstorm and all the dust it blew up.

Still managed to jump off the side of Jodhpur Fort for my birthday but I did a lot of wheezing walking between jump points.
I organized it to stir Praveen up, I knew he would HAVE to do it if I said it was my birthday wish....
It is actually a great way to feel bold, I discovered.
You are completely strapped in, so even if you loose the plot, you won't fall out.
You are in a harness, they attach it to the line, 
the guy says sit down into it....
you fly feet first,
then when you are ready, you just lift your feet and slowly start to glide.
No having to throw yourself out of a plane or off a mountain.
Lift your feet and glide....
then deal with it speeding up and you are flying high in the sky.

A real Buzz!

It is good to feel BOLD, it spreads around in your life and helps you take on other challenges.

It was so lovely to visit Jodhpur simply as tourists, we visit regularly but in the guise of group leaders and so have a pre-planned agenda. 
We had time to check out new hotels, new development work in Jodhpur- the cleaned up Step Well Area is brilliant and we found a fabulous rooftop restaurant for dinner.

I guess that sounds a little CAS  work orientated.... but really it was us doing what we like to do EXPLORE and it was really satisfying to find a new side to an old friend.

What to do? Is where I started.... the asthma was scary. I have been on an intense course of Homeopathics and responded well and back on track again. I love the clinic I use, they are in Kolkata but can be contacted anytime via email and phone and respond quickly. I have a kit at home, all the remedies numbered and just need to follow instructions.
It is a God send, allopathic medication for asthma mucks me up a lot I have palpitations and weird reactions.... Finding this clinic a few years ago has changed my life.

Any way.... much better.

and onto what to do?
I have watched in horror all week as Australia burned... here in India poor farmers can't afford to plow crop stubble back into the fields so they burn it off and that along with winter conditions means the north of the country is shrouded in smoke and pollution. Our government can do many things to help big business but the poor farmer gets very little assistance at all. We have SOOOO many farmer suicides....
I can't fix that but here we can do our little bit....
As one little person.... 
-Plant more trees on my place
- our workshop and home are going solar
-we  gave out cloth bags to all our people and will continue the mantra SAY NO TO PLASTIC
- making cloth bags for vegetable shopping
 ..... come up with more ideas



Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Craft Tours

Had an interesting interaction yesterday.
Kevin Murray of Garland Magazine hosted an online discussion about the blossoming field of craft tours. "To meet the Makers in Distant Lands"

It was very interesting, more as a starting point rather than anything conclusive.
Kevin did suggest brainstorming a guideline or BEST PRACTICE for ethical interaction with markers- a guideline for craft tourism.

Sounds like a good idea.

Our last Rajasthan trip left me all nostalgic a few times...
we have been visiting some of these people for so many years now.
OK super nostalgic- that is Raja in the middle of the first tour group we took to his Papa's workshop, I'd met the family 2 years before on my first trip to India in 2003 and visited a few times since.
We met because I was asking questions of one of Yaqob's sons who was looking after their craft stall. He said you must meet my father and so I did.

Yaqob-ji has 4 sons, the older ones got jobs in banks and such, Raja was still at school and undecided and then just after this he decided he wanted to follow his father into the family work of Bandhani or tie and dye.
How proud Yaqob was.
When we visited this year, Yaqob was in Delhi with his wife Hambiba teaching at a Government College and young Raja had to look after our group.
Standing there watching him teach I felt so proud to see what a sincere man he has become, I wished Yaqob could have seen how carefully he covered everything his father shares with classes, how very sweet he is.
Raja was a high school kid when we first met his family. 
His Papa Yaqob-ji taught me and later my friend Anne and I much about their work. 10 day of tying tighter and smaller knots.... Anne was a model student I got a bit wimpy as my fingers started to bruise but spending each day in the workshop and time with the whole family was magic.

Later as an older teenager there was a little tut tutting, Raja had met a girl he was desperately in love with..... after some time a love match was allowed and here they are today a great team Raja and his Robina looking after the family business and lined up to take it into the future.

What a great experience we had with them.

This is craft or textile or cultural tourism at its best I think.

  • Long term relationship, 
  • together we have developed an experience to suit our guests, 
  • we are careful to compensate them for their time 
  • and our guests also often happily raid their stash of products, purchasing directly from the makers.

"Helping the local economy" is a catch phrase our guests seem to love to embrace.

  • They meet the maker,
  •  experience all the work going into the items- this is something we end up having many conversations about in our travels. Until you try yourself you don't appreciate the skill and time embedded in objects. MADE BY HAND is something in the fast first world we have little experience of understanding of these days.
  • this is FAIR TRADE and a great education to take home about why the whole fair trade movement is relevant. We have always had a mention of fair trade and its impact on our website and in our notes and our tour parameters from the start. IT DOES MAKE A  DIFFERENCE
  • a piece you have made yourself or seen being made will hopefully stay on your shelf longer, be appreciated more.... not just more fast fashion.
  • Connection to people in other places makes them real as people to the guest.... appreciation we are all the same- all want very similar things.... a fairer bite of the apple is a reasonable exception of everyone in our world.

Yesterday's talk the question of flying arose.
Googling it it says flying is about 2% of world emissions...something to think about for sure.
and in  some ways this all gets so complicated.
I work on the theory I am helping develop connections and understanding in the world and that is a good thing.
The first thing we give our guests is a cloth carry bag block printed with SAY NO TO PLASTICS.... 
little things build to big things is my hope.
I take DA's lead to heart.
Don't waste... appreciate
and try to foster that in our journeys.

I do hope yesterday's interaction was the start of a bigger conversation.
It is important to look at what you do and why.
it is positive for your life and the greater whole?
Can you make little changes that male positive impacts?