Life in travel

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday's flight

Next up: the Caribbean city of SANTA MARTA with my Peruvian colleague Renato Sandoval. 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thursday

This evening read in tiny Municipio del Carmen de Viboral. Le centre culturel était charmant ainsi que le publique. Քաղաքը երկու հարիւր հիսուն տարիէ ի վեր գոյութիւն ունի։ A couple of women said they were moved to tears when hearing my work. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wednesday

This morning read at Theatre Ateneo with Nathalie Handal (Palestine), Indran Amirthanayagam (Sri Lanka, E.U.) and Gémino Abad (Phillipines). We had schoolchildren and "ladies who lunch" with a few tourists thrown in. I got very good feedback here too.

A blue haired young woman approached me and said, "I loved hearing your Arabic".... I was sorry to disappoint her that I was reading in Armenian!



Then had a wonderful lunch with my Spanish reader, Lina.We ate a traditional meal and it took me hours to digest it but it was delicious.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Municipio de Caldas, Casa de la Cultura

Rafael Patiño Góez (Colombia), Lola Koundakjian (Armenia), Obediah Michael Smith (Bahamas), Nathalie Handal (Palestine).

Tuesday

In the morning, I was interviewed for Tele Medellín. Very curious to know when/if it will be broadcast.


A couple of videoclips have appeared in the festival's website.
http://www.festivaldepoesiademedellin.org/pub.php/es/Intro/index.htm


The website evolves at all times, so catch it if you can, if not Youtube has the XXth festival's videos long term. Luis Eduardo Rendón was kind enough to give me the DVD anthologizing past festivals. 


This evening's reading was at the Casa Culturale of Municipio de Caldas, with Rafael Patiño Góez (Colombia), myself, Obediah Michael Smith (Bahamas), Nathalie Handal (Palestine).

Monday, July 12, 2010

Monday - day off

I've read every day since my arrival but today was a time off for many of us. Verónika Zondek (Chile) and Carlos Villagra Marsal (Paraguay) and I went around the city, discovered the metro and its teleferic system. 
I did a little window shopping for local goods but only bought two nice t-shirts. I am planning to get some things later on though.


Tomorrow: planning to go to the Museum of Modern Art of Medellín, in the morning, as I have a reading in the PM.

Medellín


Medellín
Originally uploaded by
Lola Koundakjian
Colombia, still struggling. Anti-gun protest in Medellín, today.

Medellín, the metro


Medellín, the metro
Originally uploaded by Lola Koundakjian
Verónika Zondek (Chile) and Carlos Villagra Marsal (Paraguay)

Medellín, the metro


Medellín, the metro
Originally uploaded by Lola Koundakjian
Poet Carlos Villagra Marsal (Paraguay) and myself.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Honda Y Cruz


Honda Y Cruz
Originally uploaded by Lola Koundakjian
Three of us read our work at a settlement on the outskirts of Medallín. With me in the picture are several of the local poets who read at the 'open mike' session afterwards.

Parque de los Deseos


Parque de los Deseos


Parque de los Deseos


IMG_3241.JPG
Originally uploaded by Lola Koundakjian

Saturday

July 10, 2010


After breakfast, we all got passes to go to the municipal museum. The 3rd floor was dedicated to Botero's work. I really like the modern wing, and the special exhibit.


I was asking Luis Andres Rendon about the 7pm reading, because I wanted to hear the poets in that program and got asked to substitute for the author from Bangladesh who couldn't make his trip. So I had an hour to find a replacement for Lina who was sick. My reader Beatriz and I practiced and I went up to change. 


7:00 p.m. Park de los Deseos. Cl. 71 # 52-30. Asian Poets .
Ak Welsapar (Turkmenistan), Gemino H. Abad (Philippines), Hala Mohammad (Syria), Lola Koundakjian (Armenia), Imtiaz Dharker (India).


The event went very well. It was very well attended despite the rain. 

Friday, July 09, 2010

Friday


July 10, 2010


Today met with my reader, Lina after breakfast and then worked on a translation for a new poem. 

Je suis allée faire un tour dans la ville et a pris des photos de plusieurs sculptures de Botero. 

Այս գիշեր 7-ին պիտի կարդամ գրադարանի մը մէջ։


7:00 p.m. Biblioteca Pública Bernardo Arango Macías del Municipio de La Estrella. Carrera 60 # 82 Sur-45. Héctor Fagot (Colombia), Lola Koundakjian (Armenia), Esteban Moore (Argentina), Udo Kawasser (Austria).


PS: Our group pictures are on the front page of El Colombiano newspaper! 

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Festival kick-off

This morning, there was a photo opportunity and press conference at the hotel. I had great opportunities to chat with Mohammed Bennis (Morocco), Caroline Bird (UK), Patricia Jabbeh Wesley (Liberia), Koumanthio Zeinabou Diallo (Guinea). These last two ladies, I translated for them back and forth between English and French during lunch.


In the afternoon, all the poets boarded two busses which took us to the open air amphitheater. Thousands of people attended to hear us; they were a most enthusiastic audience. The event lasted FOUR hours and it rained, but nothing deterred these poetry lovers.


After the opening ceremonies we headed back to the hotel for a late dinner and a party. There was latin jazz and much dancing. 

Opening Ceremonies


Opening Ceremonies
Originally uploaded by Lola Koundakjian
Mohammed Bennis at the International Poetry festival of Medellín

Opening Ceremonies


Opening Ceremonies
Originally uploaded by Lola Koundakjian
Nathalie Handal (Palestine) at the International Poetry festival of Medellín

Opening ceremonies


Opening ceremonies
Originally uploaded by Lola Koundakjian
Yevgeny Yevnushenko (Russia) during his performance reading

Opening Ceremonies


Opening Ceremonies
Originally uploaded by Lola Koundakjian
Lola with Moroccan poet Mohammed Bennis, just before the start of the evening's program

Opening ceremonies


Opening ceremonies
Originally uploaded by Lola Koundakjian
Readers arriving at the International Poetry Festival of Medellín.

Opening ceremonies


Opening ceremonies
Originally uploaded by Lola Koundakjian

Press Conference at the Gran Hotel


Wednesday, July 07, 2010

1st impressions of the International Poetry Festival and Medellín

First of all: I am so happy that it's cooler here, after a week of 36C in NYC.


The flights were without any issues. As you may be aware, in this part of the world, it's sunset at 7pm so we landed in the dark, with an overview of the valley where Medellín is situated. 
It's a large city, population is 2.4 million. 


The airport reception was very well organized and warm, same at the hotel. I was handed a package and a late dinner was waiting for us.


Everything is pretty much Spanish but I was able to understand how to open the hotel room (wand action) and set my mini-vault, so I am ahead. We have several young translators with us all the time. There is a woman assigned to reading my work in Spanish throughout the festival and I can't wait to meet her tomorrow. There will be a press meeting in the morning, then the festival kicks off.


Citibank, Hooters are here [!] otherwise it's reminiscent of my last trip in the region, and Barcelona, with palm trees, beautiful weather, tropical flowers and fruits, warm people and very friendly atmosphere. The hotel has all the amenities, including free Wifi. The Botero museum is nearby.


My welcome package had a poster, a t-shirt, festival brochure with my readings highlighting my five appearances in Medellín, plus the closing ceremonies where I will read just one poem. There is also an additional side trip to another festival in a small town called Santa Marta which will involve a plane ride on the 16th to this northern part of the country.


When I arrived, one of the poets from Venezuela, Gustavo Pereira, was amongst the guests waiting for the van to get us to the hotel, and when I introduced myself he informed me that 30 years ago he had been invited to Yerevan by the Writer's Union. It's a small world!

Greeting by Festival members


IMG_3080.JPG
Originally uploaded by Lola Koundakjian

Greeting by Festival members


IMG_3079.JPG
Originally uploaded by Lola Koundakjian

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Invitation to Medellín, Colombia

About nine months ago, I received a correspondence from poet and director of the International Poetry Festival of Medellín, Colombia, Fernando Rendón. A month later I formally submitted my application and was accepted to participate in this prestigious festival. 


I am here thanks to a travel grant from AIWA and the fundraising by the Colombians who invited me. I am very humbled to be participating and representing Armenia and its Diaspora in this world class event.

Miami Airport


Miami Airport
Originally uploaded by
Lola Koundakjian
The flight announces also the weather report for Medellín. Very good news after the heat wave in New York City.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Last day in Calcutta

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The morning consisted of a visit to the Armenian College, founded in 1821 in Calcutta. Thackeray was born there in 1811.

A program in both Armenian and Bengali was presented by the schoolchildren who recited poems in both languages, danced Indian classical dances and performed an Armenian play by Gevorg Emin. I think they had the most fun with the fast paced Punjabi dance.

Afterwards guests were able to visit the newly renovated parts of the school. Lunch was in the cafeteria followed by my farewells to everyone.

I caught a taxi to the domestic terminal. At the security desk, a female guard did a tafteesh while another one checked my boarding pass; the latter asked me “Are you Indian maam?” to which I answered “no, I’m Armenian” and seeing her blank stare added “I’m Western Asian”.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lectures in the new community center

During the course of the morning, the community center in Tangra was inaugurated with a series of lectures by scholars.

Opening remarks were by the community leader Mr. Soukias who spoke about the redevelopment of the Armenian-Indian community.

Following was the first lecture entitled “Armenian Church in India: Restoration and Renovation Programme” and was delivered in Armenian by Father Oshagan Gulgulian. He showed slides of pictures of pre and post renovation in various cities taken in 2005 and later.

Fr Gulgulian noted that these buildings are part of the Indian heritage as well as the Armenian one. A total of 8 churches exist in India, 5 of them in West Bengal. I approached Fr Gulgulian to ask him for a paper copy and he said he is close to publishing a book about the region’s churches.

After a community of 40,000 in India there is only 150 or so plus the students. The community is always hoping for visitors and that some of the students of the college stay after graduation.

The second speaker was Prof Richard Hovanissian of UCLA who spoke about the concept of Armenian communities of the diasporan and the homeland. His first visit to India was 50 years; he had noticed that there was a strong link between India, and other eastern diasporan communities and New Julfa (homeland).

Important personalities in Madras: Joseph Emin (check out his autobiography in English circa 1782) and Movses Baghramian, Shahamir Shahamirian (a tailor who established a printing press and published a book entitled Nor Dedrag vor gochi godorag and another book Nor Dedrag vor gochi nshavag) and Fr. Shmavon. Ideas that emerged from this group included some very avant-guarde ones, such as national education, separation of church and state, equality, an Armenian Parliament named DOUN, in a democratic constitutional Armenia.

While Madras was concerned with a future liberated Armenia, Calcutta believed more in permanency in India: two schools were built for women, plus the College; there were several newspapers. The community believed in individual liberation and then collected liberation of the Armenian people.

After the lecture, Prof Hovanissian graciously presented copies of all his books to the College’s wardens.

Dr. Omar Khalili of MIT’s Aga Khan program for Islamic architecture presented his paper Places of Piety and Eternal Rest: Armenian Churches and cemeteries in India. He spoke in detail about the architecture of the Armenian churches in India.

In his closing remarks, Mr. Soukias added that the community participates in many ways in Indian life. For example, after the tsunami a few years ago, and after the NGOs had left, Calcutta had 140 orphans and the Armenian community took care of them. They’ve also participated in the creation of a school in the slums, sponsored programs to help the disinfrenchised and a hostel that saves children from forced labor camps. The Armenian community has helped build the first trauma center in the region as well as a children’s HIV hospital in East India.

Tuesday afternoon, we visited the smaller St Gregory’s church where I found out they have a visiting doctor. I consulted him regarding my cold and got a prescription which cost me $3.00 to fill. I slept much better at night.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Calcutta: Celebration week begins

I am only doing part of this week's events.

Today I rested then did a little bit of shopping.

We arrived late in the afternoon at the Armenian Church in Tangra, an old tannery neighborhood, where a new community center was recently completed.

After the Hrashapar ceremony, with 200 visitors, some students from the Armenian College, a large group of Armenian clergymen from all over the world, and the Etchmiadzin choir singing, His Holiness did a mini ceremony for the centre, and thanked everyone.

We had dinner al fresco, buffet style, sitting around tables under a large tent.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Chennai: St Mary's Armenian Church

In the morning, we drove to St Mary’s (Sourp Asdvadzadzin) church in Chennai for the 300th anniversary reconsecration ceremony by His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II.

We had refreshments afterwards and got to chat with His Holiness in an informal gathering.

It was very moving to hear the church bells toll and us walk in for the church ceremony, to hear Krapar and Sharagans in India.

I took a brief tour of the grounds and paid homage to the tomb of Rev. Haroutiun Shmavonian, founder of Aztarar, the first Armenian periodical published in Madras, 1794.

Lunch was at the Taj hotel. It was a lovely affair and then some of us did some shopping while others rested. We have a flight tonight into Calcutta where the Armenian program continues. Unfortunately I will not be able to attend everything as I have to fly home.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Madras/Chennai

After pickup at the train station, I got to the hotel around noon and rested. At dinner time I met up with the Armenian group which had arrived via Calcutta.

This was mostly a day of rest and getting to know each other. I caught up on sleep.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Kochin: City Tour

Today being Friday, the Dutch palace and the Synagogue were closed. I saw the Dutch cemetary (1724), Fort Cochin (where the giant Chinese nets are located), the Santa Cruz Bazilica (originally built 1506) with pastel colored murals from the renovations in the early 20th c, and St Francis church built 1503, where Vasco de Gama was buried in 1524 for 14 years or so before his remains were returned to Lisbon. I've seen the newer grave but it was before I did my travel blog :-)

At lunch I had a simple grilled fish with a ton of garlic, and some garlic naan.

In the afternoon, we went to visit the Hill palace, where the last Raj of Kochin used to live prior to unification. His forefather had received a golden crown from Vasco de Gama 5 centuries ago. Another impressive object was the thrown which is in silver. There are portraits of the rajes, while the rest of the artefacts are from the archaeological society which currently runs the buildings. Most interesting for me were the early stone carvings showing Malayalam script's early versions and several manuscripts of important books such as the ramayana and the Mahabarata, ayurveda treaties.

After a bit of shopping to get some spices, I had dinner and went to the train station for a 12 hour (overnight) ride to Chennai (Madras).

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Kerala: Backwaters

This morning I was picked up at 9 am to go to the Backwaters. We drove to Veikom, in the district of Kottayam to board our houseboat, or kettuvallam.

We were four passengers, two punters and our guide.

We went first into the Muvattupula river, in the backwaters where fresh water and the Arabian sea meet, then continued into man made canals and then into Vembanad Lake, the second largest in India.

This year’s two monsoons in Kerala were unusual; there was not enough rain and the coconut trees show it. Nevertheless, it’s a lush area with lots of trees, water lilies, wild pineapples, mimosa plants and water hyacinths. We also saw various birds including kingfisher and cormorans.

Amongst the edible plants we saw in one of the islands were green pepper corns on their vines, jack fruits, various bananas and tamarinds, papaya, nutmeg, cocoa, turmeric, “drumstick” and bethel fruit.

We stopped in a village to watch the making of ropes from the coconut fibers. Our guide explained how toddi, an alcoholic beverage, is made from coconut juice, that there are 100 uses coconut, the trees, leaves and so forth and that they’re harvested every two months. We saw how oyster shells are collected then dried to harvest calcium from them.

We took a lunch break in one of the islands, where we ate a copious keralan meal on a banana leaf.

After lunch we continued on to the lake, where we saw fishermen catching their prey by hand, and keeping them in their dhotis (men’s ankle length skirt).

Our six hour excursion in the backwaters was very relaxing. The area is quite pristine, but is suffering from more humans populating the area. There are conservation efforts there as well as the many preserves in the area.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Kerala: Arrival in Cochin

Yesterday afternoon I checked out and then went to the internet café to upload some pictures. I had a good chat with my sister-in-law and then returned for 8pm pickup. After about an hour’s drive, Angelo and I got to the train station. I invited him to dinner because he wouldn’t accept my tip, so I bought us dinner and then gave him a tip anyway because he had driven me back and forth from the station for 3 hours.

At 10pm, Angelo left and I waited for my train in the Women's Waiting Room. The train was about 20 minutes late. The family waiting on the platform, husband wife and two young kids happened to be my berth neighbours. We were in the B2 compartment, which has three level berths. We managed to get a night’s sleep after tickets were checked.

In the morning, we had breakfast delivered as it is the custom here, and then at 11:30, we had lunch. The state of Kerala is very green and beautiful from what I could see in the train ride. Cochin has quite a different feel to it.

After a bit of rest, I am going to go to a concert tonight. Very much looking forward to it.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Goa visit to Northern Part

Thoughts on the road:

I need to make Sambar when I get back home. It's my favourite dish so far. The vindaloo in Goa is worth writing home about. Naan in Goa is 15 R, about 30 cents.

I need to cherish the memories of how I kept to myself yet people approached me on the Princesa de Goya and on the beach with the simple request of "One picture please", as if I were a VIP.

I need to remember how parents cherish their kids, especially the father-daughter connections, which I witnessed again and again.

Today's morning tour took us to the vicinity of yet another Portuguese heritage, the 17th century Fort Agua lighthouse, the jail nearby and the boat trip we took to see the grey dolphins (for an additional 200 R). We were able to see several sightings, but alas, I think I managed only one decent picture of a tail.

This was followed by a couple of stops at beaches which were overcrowded and so I stayed a little behind. I roamed around instead and bought a book by Naupal.

FYI: My fellow travellers and guide were all Indians; the guide was kind enough to translate for me where we were and what time to get back to the bus, always with a smile.

After the return to the hotel, I quickly took a shower to freshen up and packed. I checked out of my room, and then had lunch. I have several hours to kill before my 10pm train. I will arrive in Cochin tomorrow at about 2pm.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Goa

November 3, 2008

I had a lunch of Prawn curry, my first non-veg meal. At 2 pm we had a tour of Old Goa, , Miramar Beach and a one hour boat cruise.
Our first stop was the Mangueshi Temple, where I witnessed several blessings and heard beautiful chanting. Out of respect, I didn’t take pictures.

Our next stop was in Old Goa, the Basilica of Bom Jesus, a 16th c church, one of the Unesco World Heritage sites. The body of Saint Francis Xavier, the founder of the Jesuits, lies here. There is an interesting legend about the body.
I took a few pictures outside and inside the basilica and the Professed House next door with its cloister. We only had 20 minutes in this site. We spent lots of time in transit and some in traffic.

At about 5pm, we were at the beach of Miramar, where I had enough time to walk straight to the water and dip my feet in the Arabian Sea. Something wonderful happened there; several young couples approached me to have their picture taken with me.

At six we boarded the Princes de Goa boat for a tour of the Mandovi River. Barely off the jetty, the DJ invited the young kids to dance; the entertainment included Goan folk dancing and more disco dancing. I tried to concentrate on the river view. The boat had some snacks and drinks. So after the tour, I headed out to dinner and enjoyed a chicken vindaloo.

After dinner I bought a couple of bags; one for me, and another for a gift.

Goa: En route and arrival

I woke up after a very long and satisfying sleep at 7am on the dot, and having had only a snack for dinner, was ravenous. After a copious breakfast of rice and vegetables (I’ve been veg and alcohol free ever since landing) and lots of coffee I packed and was ready for pickup at 9:15 am.

In this high end Comfort inn, the elevator man picks you up to the tune of Fur Elise which plays when you pushed the button to call the elevator. He wears a red uniform and always asks how you’ve slept.

My trip to Goa was supposed to start at the historic Victoria Terminal (VCT) but due to the change of schedule I departed instead at 11:40am from the crazy Lokmanya Tilak, The station was a complete madhouse, and the police were beating people with long sticks whenever something foul was happening (or maybe not). I sat for 45 minutes before departure in my second class AC but didn’t climb up to my berth. It didn’t have a window and I was taking the train to see the country after all.

Once the train started rolling, it was interesting to see people tending to their little plots near the tracks. They plant herbs and vegetables it seems wherever they can.

There are so many shanty towns around and inside Mumbai. Children and adults sleeping, eating and bathing on the street corners of a city which has officially 15 million residents.

The elderly gentlemen L. Watts sat across from me for a while. He’s a railway employee on his way home to the South, with a day and a half in the train. He helped me order my lunch. We ate on our lap, rice with lime pickle, bean curry, sambar and curd (which I didn’t drink). He talked at length about his mixed heritage, his daughter’s wedding and his grandchild, his love of Country music, and visited me a few minutes here and there during the 12 hour train ride.

Others who came and went included a young woman and her daughter, then a man and his toddler. The relationships were beautiful to watch. I took some pictures during the ride. I find the kids to be generally well mannered and very happy. The adults are generally very polite.

After lunchtime, the train car got very quiet and people drew their curtains to have a snooze. It looked like a scene from “Some like it Hot”. It was quiet except for the sellers walking by with their calls, “Tea-tea”, “Coffee-Coffee”, or “pakora-pakora-primri-primri”.

The express to Goa stopped every once in a while for 10 minutes or so at either a station or to wait for track changes.

Halfway to Goa, my cellphone receives an automated text message “Welcome to Goa and Maharashtra”. My T-Mobile GSM phone is working fine now that I know which codes to dial. No one at the hotel could advise me of the codes. But when we stopped for the tire change in the slums, the Vodaphone/cigarette seller told me to dial 00 for outside and one 0 then the local number for India.

I was reading quite a bit during the train ride, but once in a while would take a peek outside to see the lonely palm tree, or the groves, the women and men tending to their crop in perfectly square patches of cultivated land.

At 8:30pm, our dinner was delivered and it was light sambar (soupy lentils with cubed veggies) with four pieces of fresh chapatti for 27 rupees (which is less than a $1).

I disposed of my trash in the tiny bin on the far side of the car (if you can call it a trash bin). The railway engineer came to say hello and I told him I enjoyed my dinner. He assured me I would dine very well in Goa and must try the prawn curry. So maybe in Goa I will release myself of the “veg” and alcohol free diet?

The train was a few minutes late, and there was an hour’s drive into Candolim a small town near the Arabian Sea. My package includes breakfast and two half day tours here. My room is very colonial looking with some amenities (TV but no TP). There was a small bottle of local Porto (this is a former Portuguese region after all).

I had breakfast and went to search for an internet café.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Mumbai City Tour

Saturday, November 1, 2008

This morning I got up from a sleepless night – I had rested but not slept. The crows got me up at 7am and I had a small breakfast. I was hungry but had no appetite, which is a weird thing to say.

I went back to bed to rest, and was woken up by the reception. Mr. Sunil, my guide had arrived. We went straight to the Gate of India, which was built to commemorate the visit of George V and Queen Mary in 1911, and caught the one hour fairy to Elephanta Island. This visit was highly recommended by friends of mine so I did it. I believe it was worth it. We spent an hour on the island visiting the caves, rested briefly with refreshments, then another hour to get back across the bay.

A quick visit of the old and new Taj hotel, and we were off to lunch. We had talis. I tried gujarati first but found it too sweet so I switched to Maharashtra. The tali was all you can eat, with pakoras and several types of fresh baked breads with molten ghee poured on top. I ate very well, but not wanting to burst I didn’t finish everything. My guide devoured all in site with double the rice.

After lunch we went to the Jehangir art gallery. Then around Marine Drive and up to Malabar Hill and the Jain temple there. Our visit in that part of town also included the Hanging Gardens and the Kamala Nehru Park (a children’s playground and botanical garden).

A flat tire after visiting the washers at Dhobi Ghat gave us a 20 minute delay but I was able to do a quikh dash thru the Mani Bhavan, Gandhi’s residence/museum.

Tomorrow morning I will go to the old Victoria Terminus, built in 1887, and added to the UNESCO World Heritage list a few years back. It is the busiest train station in Asia, and it’s where I will take my train for Goa.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Mumbai arrival

The flight was great. I was very comfortable flying economy with Continental’s direct flight Newark to Mumbai.

I arrived safe and sound with an hour’s flight delay due to head winds.

The suitcase arrived intact. I went thru customs and found an exchange booth where I exchanged $100 (48.7 exchange rate). The Thomas Cook outside in the main hall had the same rates.

It was 30 C and almost 10pm local time.

Within 15 minutes of exiting from customs area, contacted the TNI contact person who was apologetic that a greeter should have been there. Two hours after my landing, standing in the Meet and Greet area, a young clerk finally arrives with my name on a sign, no English, and no package in hand. He drives me to the Bombay Heritage Comfort Inn, a modern clean place that would make my interior design friends jealous.

I took a shower and went to bed, hoping I can reach my representative early in the morning. They have my hotel vouchers and train/plane tickets.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Itinerary in India 2008

31st Oct - ARRIVE IN MUMBAI

1st Nov - Mumbai city tour

2nd – Train to Goa arriving late afternoon

3rd - City tour and day at leisure on the beach

4th – Overnight train to Cochin departing in the evening

5th – Arriving Cochin (Kerala) at 10:00am – city tour

6th – Cochin Alleppo city tour

7th – Kumarkom city tour and train to Chennai/Madras at 19:30 hrs

8th – Arrive Chennai 06:05 hrs and transfer to hotel where other Armenians are staying

9th - Attend reconsecration ceremony, visit sites with group and depart for Kolkata

10th – Attend Hrashapar service at Holy Nazareth Church and evening events

11th - Holy Trinity Armenian Church of Tangra
Built in 1867, the church was renovated by the Armenian Church Committee of the Armenian Holy Church of Nazareth in Kolkata and was re-consecrated by His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians on February 28, 2007
Opening ceremony of the newly constructed Tangra Community
Welcome ceremony of the 300th anniversary celebration
Guests will return to Kolkata via St. Gregory’s so that they can see that church as well

12th – Take flight to Mumbai to connect to International flight back to the US

13th - Land at Newark International in the morning.

14th - Back to work :-(

Friday, September 26, 2008

Armenians in India

Armenians in India: From the Earliest Times to the Present Day : Work of Original Research
By Mesrovb Jacob Seth
Published by Asian Educational Services, 1992

Post Script --
I visited Mr Seth's grave at the Armenian Cemetery adjacent to Saint Gregory Church in Calcutta on November 11, 2008 = LK

New trip planned

I will be going to India next month. I've arranged for vacation for 10 business days and booked my flight to Mumbai.

Today, I received my first short for Hepatitis B immunization. There are three shots in total to be taken within a six month period. I will also need to take malaria pills once again.

In the past decade, The Lonely Planet guide to India has grown by another 200 pages totalling about 1200 pages.

The World Heritage list for India is quite long. I will have to plan my visits around these:

Agra Fort (1983)
Ajanta Caves (1983)
Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi (1989)
Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park (2004)
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus) (2004) [This is in Mumbai] (VISITED)
Churches and Convents of Goa (1986) (VISITED)
Elephanta Caves (1987) [Near Mumbai] (VISITED)
Ellora Caves (1983)
Fatehpur Sikri (1986)
Great Living Chola Temples (1987, 2004) 1
Group of Monuments at Hampi (1986)
Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram (1984)
Group of Monuments at Pattadakal (1987)
Humayun's Tomb, Delhi (1993)
Kaziranga National Park (1985)
Keoladeo National Park (1985)
Khajuraho Group of Monuments (1986)
Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya (2002)
Manas Wildlife Sanctuary (1985)
Mountain Railways of India (1999, 2005,2008)
Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks (1988, 2005)
Qutb Minar and its Monuments, Delhi (1993)
Red Fort Complex (2007)
Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka (2003)
Sun Temple, Konârak (1984)
Sundarbans National Park (1987)
Taj Mahal (1983)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Top Ten Travel experiences to think about

1. Sip Arabic coffee somewhere in the Middle-East
2. Drive the autobahn (fairly quickly.)
3. Learn to scuba and dive the Great Barrier Reef
4. Walk on a Glacier in Alaska
5. Rent a villa in Tuscany and learn the art of Italian cuisine
6. Hike the Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu
7. Indulge in a fresh crêpe from a stand in Paris
8. Watch the sun set in Santorini from the deck of a tall ship
9. Kiss the Blarney Stone and get LUCKY
10. Visit Hiroshima and ask forginess from Humanity

Friday, November 30, 2007

Day 9 - Caracas


This morning, we went to my sister-in-law's painting class. Artist Gertie Páez Pate has a beautiful home and garden, where several students setup their stretched canvas and paint brushes and worked until past lunchtime.

The outside world was lost to us. For nearly three hours, I worked on a drawing of heliconias. Gertie was kind enough to present her book to me as a gift.

After lunch we did some shopping. I am cooking a farewell meal tonight.

Paula's painting "classroom"


at Gertie's
Originally uploaded by Lola Koundakjian

at Gertie's, for a painting lesson


at Gertie's
Originally uploaded by Lola Koundakjian

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Days 7 & 8: Road trip to Coro and back

On Wednesday early morning, my sister-in-law and I drove to the historic city of CORO in the state of Falcón. This was about 5 hours each way. We stayed in a hostel in the middle of the Zona Colonial and went to grab a quick sandwich before starting our walk around.

Coro was established in the 16th century and was the first capital of Venezuela. Walking around you get a sense of what has been lost due to human neglect or natural disasters.

The center of the city has two churches and a cathedral in close proximity. Several of the old homes have been turned into museums. Unfortunately the museum of ceramics was closed for renovations.

We finished most of the tour in the evening, got some dinner and then returned to rest. In the morning, we completed our tour and started the drive back. We stopped to look at some sculptures sold by artists along the highway.

The state of Falcón has many natural beauties including mountain ranges, palm tree groves and cacti. The fauna made the road trip very interesting.

We returned to cool and breezy Caracas in time for dinner and a much needed rest.

Coro - Zona Colonial


Coro - Zona Colonial
Originally uploaded by Lola Koundakjian

Coro - Zona Colonial


Coro - Zona Colonial
Originally uploaded by Lola Koundakjian

Coro - Zona Colonial


Coro - Zona Colonial
Originally uploaded by Lola Koundakjian

driving back to Caracas from Coro


driving to Caracas
Originally uploaded by Lola Koundakjian
sculpture stands

Coro - Zona Colonial


Coro - Zona Colonial
Originally uploaded by Lola Koundakjian

driving back to Caracas from Coro


driving to Caracas
Originally uploaded by Lola Koundakjian

Palm grove, on the way to Coro


Palm grove
Originally uploaded by Lola Koundakjian

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Day 6 - Caracas

This morning we visited the Galeria de Arte Nacional, and the Museo de Bellas Artes, where I photographed quite a few portraits from the 19th century and some very recent paintings. I liked very much the works of Antionio Herrera Torro, Cristobal Rojas and Arturo Michelena.

Unfortunately the contemporary galleries were mostly closed and there was little to see. The museum shop was closed for a two hour lunch.

The weather was not nice enough to ride the teleferico, so we went up to El Hatillo, a lovely neighborhood where I did some serious souvenir shopping. Afterwards, we stopped by for groceries and some chocolate to take back home.

Caracas - El Hatillo


Caracas - El Hatillo
Originally uploaded by Lola Koundakjian
Masks

Caracas - El Hatillo


Caracas - El Hatillo
Originally uploaded by Lola Koundakjian

Caracas - El Hatillo


Caracas - El Hatillo
Originally uploaded by Lola Koundakjian

Caracas - Museo de Bellas Artes


Monday, November 26, 2007

Day 5 - Leaving Canaima

As expected, the moon was bright again on Sunday evening, and we had a lovely dinner of local fish and vegetables.

On Monday, we all slept late and regained some strength after the 12 hour expedition, and decided to turn down the two hour tour of more waterfalls.

After breakfast we walked around the village and checked out the souvenirs. I picked up a lovely handmade basket and a wooden box with a ceramic tile on top.

After a quick lunch, we checked out of our campsite, and were given departing gifts of a necklace each and a musical instrument. We arrived at the airport and boarded a six seater plane which took us to Puerto Ordaz (Ciudad Guyana) an hour and a half later. We encountered some rain for a short while in the air and some wind but the flight was otherwise comfortable.

At the Puerto Ordaz airport we met up with the same folks who had taken the flight with us to Canaima and got to know each other better as inclement weather delayed our flight to Caracas. Luckily traffic back to the city was a breeze.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Canaima


Canaima
Originally uploaded by Lola Koundakjian
Our 12 hour expedition started prior to dawn. We were in the boat when the sun broke through.

Day 4: Expedition to Salto Angel

I couldn´t sleep a wink because of the noise from the waterfalls. My face had small bite marks from some bugs. Yikes!

A nice caffe con leche and crackers, and we left the camp promptly at 5:00 am. After an hour´s boat ride, watching the sky change to dawn, we stopped for breakfast in a hut. We returned to the boat, and continued for another two hours through some rough waters.

We started hiking for 30 minutes through the savanna, then another hour uphill, to a spectacular view of Salto Angel or Angel´s Fall. It is the 70th anniversary of the discovery of these falls, which are ONE KILOMETER in drop. Jimmy Angel crashed his plane nearby in 1937 and ¨discovered¨ the falls.

After another 90 minutes or so, we were back to ground and had a delicious pit grilled lunch of chicken, rice and potatoes.

After a short rest, we thought we were in for the 3 hour ride back or so, but our boat stopped at a lovely spot called Poso de Felicidad, or Happinness Falls, where I had a swim. It was lovely, and the water temperature was just right.

During the final hour, we got soaked wet to the bone, as the boat hit some turbulences.

We made it back to the camp hoping to see the moon rise again over the lagoon.

Canaima


Canaima
Originally uploaded by Lola Koundakjian
Salto Angel - Ange's Fall

Salto Angel


IMG_0144.JPG
Originally uploaded by Lola Koundakjian
My brother and I at the tallest waterfalls in the world, celebrating the 70th anniversary of its discovery.

Canaima


Canaima
Originally uploaded by Lola Koundakjian
Our boat.

Canaima


Canaima
Originally uploaded by Lola Koundakjian
Our group, midway in the hiking, prior to the final leg of the climb.