Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Liam Music Video!

It needs very little explanation. Liam Kiran being carried around scenes in Kodai. He made YouTube. We had fun making it.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Cement Work

Cement figures centrally in life here. The road outside our gate that parallels the lovely endemic shola forest across from us is essentially a big, cement block that was laid down on the dirt road that preceded it. The first road crew that laid the road didn't make it wide enough, so subsequent road crews have been commissioned to widen the road by a meter on each side. This has been going on (or, more often, not been going on) since we arrived in Kodai last September. There have been three road crews so far. We're guessing the work will never be completed, which is not necessarily bad news for us--a narrow road makes for slower traffic, and the many electrical poles that abut the original road are not moved when extra meters of cement are added, meaning there are poles coming up out of the widened road, making the whole effort kind of pointless.

After the road widening outside our gate, we had a sharp cliff between the edge of the cement road platform and our dirt driveway, so we asked the fellow who gardens for us to lay a bit of cement driveway. It turns out that when fellows like this gardener who are operating on slim budgets have to do cement work, they mix in A LOT of sand and rocks, to save on the cement cost. I would say our ratio in this case was about 1:50. Needless to say, the mud pie driveway was a mess and did not resemble cement. So, I explained to him that we wanted this one to last through a simple rain shower, let alone a monsoon, and that I'd be happy to buy many bags of cement to make that work. He said, no problem, and set to work. I came out to find a driveway that looked like it was a healthy ratio of cement to sand, say 2:1. We were thrilled until we drove over it a few days later and discovered that he had simply put a thin layer of cement on top of the mud pie drive. Oh well. It looks like we have some masonry in our future.

Cement has also been critical for patching our old (built in 1845) house's walls, as they are red clay with a thin layer of cement, which inevitably cracks, leaving little holes that are perfect for baby fingers to pick at.

We've done some of our own cement work. We recently completed a mosaic of wonderfully pure, unadulterated cement and old tiles that were discarded on our road side, which we hammered into smaller pieces. The mosaic's in the shape of the most simple kolum we know. Kolums are designs done in rice powder on one's doorstep in the morning. They are a sort of visual prayer for the safety and the prosperity of the household. Even though this mosaic kolum is outside our bathroom door and is usually graced with our diaper pail on top of it, we really like it.

The finished product and Liam Kiran doing some tile work:

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


"The Preacher" has teeth. Well, about 1.5 teeth really. The first one is very small, and the second about half the size of the first. Teeny. Weensy. You can hardly see them even when you are looking at them too, because they are quasi-translucent and kind of look pink, like the rest of his gums.

He's 11 months now. One big month left to go to the big "1.0" Liam is now a crawling machine, eating everything his parents give him (and plenty that they do not), and standing up by holding on to almost anything. He's also extemporaneous. He "preaches" about all sorts of things. Birds, dogs, people, dirt, shoes, his own feet. Babbling, giggling and uttering all sorts of baby-sentences of the sort that leave you wanting to write them down, their so language like. So, we carry on all sorts of imaginary conversations.


"Oh really Liam?"

"Ah Da blreu"

"Well, I love you too."

"Dah! DEEEEE! uh-Dah!"

His favorite consonant is definitely "D."

* * * *

Elsewise, life is going well for us here in Tamil Nad. It's tourist season, which means serious traffic problems, and extra Police who come from the plains cities ostensibly to help, but seem more interested lounging by the lake, or frequenting the caf├ęs and craft shops. They re-route traffic during this time, which makes a simple drive from home to town and back a nightmare because we have to drive all the way around the lake, which is packed with tourist buses, and gawkers on foot. Then Katie (genius woman that she is) got us a "car pass" that allows us special local permission to cheerfully avoid all of this nonsense. What a difference.

Katie has completed a second draft of her young adult novel, too. And is gearing up for work on a second book project.

Tim just turned 31 and he and his research team have completed 265 surveys across 6 different villages, each of which took between 45 minutes and two hours. The collected data, that Tim is not analyzing because he is procrastinating by writing this post instead, probably have some interesting patterns and valuable insights about the relationship between cooperation and caste-based social differences.

At least Tim hopes that's what they have, because he's got a week to synthesize and prepare a presentation on the fascinating aspects of his work before we all leave for Japan in late May. Tim will present at the HBES (Human Behavior and Evolution Society) conference in Kyoto, and we'll visit friends from Spokane while we're there. Also, Sally Q will be joining us, which will be an absolute treat, and the first family member to have seen Liam since he was 3 months old. Liam will turn one on June 11th, too, when we are in Japan. It's a big month.

Since the last update, we've been doing all sorts of things. Like:


Research in villages like Manavanur, and


Spotting Guar (aka "Bison" for us Americans). But note - these "Bison" are much larger and more deadly than the silly furry little cows that live in the American west. It's hard to see here, but their horns are MASSIVE.

Playing some rousing ultimate. Sadly Katie was sick during the tournament.

Ultimate, being a gentlemens game, inevitably involves a technical dispute (or seventeen).

But, Hey! We assembled a team that beat Madras, Delhi, and two teams from Bangalore! I think that makes us 2008 India ultimate champions!

We've also been watching spring blossom in Shelton Cottage. What a treat.

And climbing up inside scaffoldings to see the insides of new temple construction. This is at about 30ft, the top of a new little Kali temple in downtown Poombarai.

So that's the update for now.

More photos should also be coming soon at: