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Discover Australia ~ What You Need to See and Do, Once You Get There..

August 22, 2019

Discover Australia ~ What You Need to See and Do, Once You Get There..



#1. What Should You Take on Holiday 


It does not matter whether it is cold winter or warm summer. Australia remains one of the hot spots for those looking for a relaxing vacation. While there may be several holiday destinations to select from, there are many factors that will make you choose Australia. Chief among them is the fact that it is the destination that offers more to those having a group or family holiday. 

It is also important to be aware that some of the holiday destinations with big names in the tourism industry may turn out to be disasters. It is not enough to just Google and find a holiday spot that fits your budget. Check factors such as the crime rating; in other words, how safe the place is. Of course, your choice depends on what you are looking for. If you are thinking of a family holiday, then you do not need party spots. Still, Australia will offer you just what you need. 

What you pack therefore depends on what you want to experience. The mountaineering or the sea sailing will definitely have a variance in terms of what you need to pack. In this article, we have assembled a few tips to help you pack just what you need so that you never regret your choice. This will also save you the inconvenience of trying to buy essentials which could have been cheaper at home. This does not in any way mean that you would not find quality supplies in Australia. It is just a tip. 

Tip no. 1: Do an online search on what you need while on holiday in Australia – in this way you will not only know what you need but also follow comments outlining the challenges or opportunities that others have faced while in Australia. 

Tip no. 2: Do your own checklist – this should not be a last minute thing. Instead it should be done at least one week before the date of your departure. The earlier you do this the better. This saves you time, effort and money. 

Tip no. 3: Confirm you have everything packed by performing a checklist checking – this means that before you zip your suitcase, you need to be sure that all you listed is on board. A spouse or kids or a travel agent could also help you double check. In general, you should take all essentials, depending on the type of Australia holiday you will be having. 

#2. What is the Outback 

Australia is one of the most urbanized countries in the world having a large number of cities. Its population is concentrated in these cities. Most of the population is in the western and eastern coast and the greeneries. The red and dry desert areas of the interior are very little populated. This is the reason why travelers and tourists coming to Australia remain confined to these cities and places with tourist attractions. There are breathtaking natural views and adventure activities in Australia that lure tourists and they do not get to explore the real Australia. It is normal for anyone to think of Melbourne, Sydney Harbor and the Opera House and countless places with tourist attractions such as the Great Barrier Reef, even though there is so much more to Australia than these glamorous cities. Probably not many know about the Outback as they never get to visit it. 

The Outback is a remote area in Australia inhabited by rural farmers and sometimes Australian aborigines. Even those who may have heard of the word think of it as a place that is sort of secluded and desolate. However, the truth is far from this. These are places that are full of natural beauty and the vast landscape gives one a chance to see the real Australia. It is totally different from all the cities and in a sense, far more intriguing. 

There are several ways to get to see the Outback. People who wish to see the pristine and unpolluted areas can do it by taking an aerial view sitting in an aircraft or by getting to the Outback by car and staying there to see it up close. These are the areas that comprise nearly 2.5 million square miles and are, for all practical reasons are devoid of human population. 

This area in Australia is referred to as the Outback. There is no particular geographical location that can be termed as the Outback. In fact, there are countless such places and all of them are commonly referred to as Outback. The deep inland that Australians rarely venture into and which is natural and attractive in its own way provides an opportunity to tourists to explore and see what this untouched beautiful landscape has to offer them. 

Contrary to what most of the westerners think about the Outback, it is a place that has all the facilities and amenities that one would expect in a major metropolitan city. It is not a jungle and you can expect to find decent accommodation, food and breathtaking natural scenery. Of the countless Outback attractions, Uluru and Alice Springs are considered to be the most popular ones. They lie in the middle of the Australian continent. Of course it is a long drive from any capital city of Australia, so you can easily reach the place by air as there is an airport in the Outback. But because this place is known to many westerners, you would find lots of tourists even here. Given this, the real feeling of an Outback is missing in some places. 

Coober Pedy and Stuart Highway are some other remote places that are less popular but no less beautiful and intriguing. Coober Pedy is also known as an Opal mining town, since there are many opal mines in and around the city. There is a vast stretch of land that continues for infinity surprising many tourists. It is surprising, but much of Coober Pedy is actually below the ground and as such it is ideal to visit in the summers as it remains cool. There are many attractions such as hotels and pools that are also underground. You also get to experience shopping at underground shops. 

Stuart Highway, on the other hand, is a long road with amenities and services on either side of the road. It is ideal for a perfect long ride if you are in a romantic mood with your partner. One Outback attraction that is remote is called the Outback of the Outback. It is Kimberley and lies in the north western corner of the Australian continent. It offers great relaxation for those who have come to hate the hustle and bustle of big cities and want to enjoy nothing else but tranquility. 

#3. What is Kakadu 

With a name as weird as that, Kakadu is a national park in the Northern Territory which is located about 200 km southeast of the city of Darwin. With an area of nearly 7,500 square miles, Kakadu is a treasure house of Australian natural wonders and aborigine art and culture. It has become one of the hottest tourist destinations in the country that every tourist wants to visit. Despite the fact that nearly 200,000 tourists come to this amazing natural park each year, Kakadu has retained its freshness and botanical features that are enough to mesmerize anyone. There is so much to see in Kakadu that it has become notorious for overloading the senses of the tourists. 

There is a great variety of wildlife in Kakadu. When near any of the several lakes, billabongs and rivers, it is likely that you might see 2 species of crocodiles that are native to Australia. If you are in the park early in the morning, it is common to see wallabies and kangaroos. It is not just the variety of animals but also the flora that will surprise you with its variety. There are over 1,700 plant species found in Kakadu and everywhere you go you will find exotic colored flowers and trees that you will not encounter anywhere else. For those inclined towards art and culture, Kakadu is nothing less than a paradise. All over the park, you will find interesting displays of aborigine art in the form of rock paintings. These paintings are about hunting, religious figures and customs of the aborigines that have lived here for so many centuries. Kakadu has great biological diversity with savanna woodlands, forest rivers, floodplains, majestic landforms, mangroves, billabongs and mudflats. 

You will witness an extraordinary diversity of wildlife also with more than 280 species of birds, 60 species of native animals, more than 50 kinds of fish and 75 species of reptiles. These are enough to make you feel as if you are in a different kind of world. 

Kakadu National Park is so huge, so it might seem intimidating to cover it on your own. It is prudent to take a guided tour on a 4W ride so as to see everything that is interesting. At the same time, you can learn all about its unique features and stories associated with each of the sites. Aborigines work as guides here and will tell you about their customs and traditions and their long association with this huge land that they consider their own. 

If you are on a guided tour, you will be shown archeological evidence that proves Kakadu National Park has been home to aboriginal tribes for more than 50,000 years. There is so much of rock art and paintings that it looks like a real home of the aboriginal tribes. These rock carvings show the customs and traditions of the aborigines and the natural conditions that existed thousands of years ago. It is best if you get a chance to visit the park during the rainy season as then you can witness the bio diversity of the park in its full flow. It is during the rainy season that the real beauty of the park is seen, however, not all areas will be accessible in the rainy season. 

If you are fascinated by what you can expect to see in this huge national park, you can either choose to camp there for a few days or have an accommodation just outside the park. There are some decent cottages and hotels that are full of all amenities. The park has been declared as a world heritage site by UNESCO. The Australian government is making efforts to protect the bio diversity of the park. Kakadu National Park is home to some endangered species of birds and reptiles that have to be protected. 

The park is huge and a tourist cannot hope to cover the entire area of nearly 20,000 square kilometers on his own. It is better to use the services of a guide to get a chance to see all the important sites of the park in the short time frame that you will have. You will also be much safer from crocodiles. It is better to use a 4Xw to go around the park easily. Just remember to wear appropriate clothing and take plenty of water to drink as well. 

#4. What are Farm Stays 

If you are a frequent traveler, you may have seen all the tourist attractions in Australia. The hustle and bustle of the metropolitan areas, the magnificence of the structures, the super malls and all the adventure activities like skydiving, hot air ballooning are things you will probably have enjoyed. But have you experienced real life which is full of surprises? Do you want to experience something that is unlike what you have witnessed so far? Yes, I am talking about getting back to our roots and visiting a farm. These farms are the places that are not full of tourists all year round and where you can enjoy a stay that takes you close to the idyllic and serene atmosphere that is a characteristic for farm life in the country side. 

If you have a family of small kids who love animals, they will simply love the experience. You will find them overjoyed when they take part in the daily chores at a farm such as milking cows, collecting eggs, feeding hay, exploring the property on a tractor and watching dogs at work. The farms are private properties where hosts provide all the assistance to guests like you by taking you around the property. 

 Depending upon the location of the farm, you can engage in many other adventurous activities such as scuba diving, forest walks and even trekking in the mountains. How about cuddling a cute koala? Become a child once again as you learn how to throw a boomerang or the art of tattooing your own body from the local artists. Your kids (you included) will be amazed to see sheep shearing and learn where all the wool for their sweaters comes from. Have barbeques and dance around the campfire. In short, you can hope to enjoy life to the fullest when you choose to stay at farms in Australia. 

If you are really bored with the traditional vacations and the feel of tourist places does not excite you any more, farm stays are just right for you. You will listen to the sounds of water flowing in wild rivers and the singing of birds. You will feel part of Mother Nature once again. Getting back to the agrarian roots is an exhilarating experience that you and your family will never forget. 

When was the last time you woke up early in the morning and felt fresh air inside your lungs? Many people have chosen to live in the metropolitan areas and suburbs and have become so used to traveling around the cities, they do not even know what it is like to wake up and feel a breath of fresh air. Farm stays provide vivid experiences ranging from getting up close to different cattle reared at a cattle station to gaining an understanding of how the different kinds of foods we eat are grown and in what conditions. It is a great learning opportunity for your kids besides giving you an unforgettable and most pleasant vacation that is simple, rustic and endearing. 

It is not only about animals and how to care for them, as there is much more to do for enjoying your farm stay. Firstly, it frees you from the humdrum of daily life and keeps you away from all your worries, even though it is for a short time period. It is all about drawing pleasure from all the simple things in life that we take for granted. You may never have experienced the outdoors as you do in a farm stay. The farm stays in Australia are always family focused, relaxing and interactive. They let you have fun and show you what goes on in daily life in rural settings. 

Farm stays in Australia have become very popular in the last few years. The reason for this is the transformation of the farm houses into places where guests can arrive and have all the amenities that they require during their stay. This gives a chance to the farmers to make an extra income by entertaining guests on their property. At the same time, it provides a great escape for city dwellers allowing them to get back into the lap of nature and also to our agricultural roots. 

#5. Visiting Melbourne 

If you are planning a holiday, then you can opt for Melbourne as the perfect choice among all others. The best things about Melbourne are the hidden laneways, exotic bars and lounges, restaurants and off-beat boutiques. In this article you will find the places you must visit and things to do when you visit Melbourne during your holiday. 

1. Shop until you are tired 

Yes, you can now shop until you are tired during day and night. Bargain and obtain the item you want at the best price. Visit those beautifully decorated night shops which are exclusively opened to provide a different mood for shopping. You can find everything from fashion to furnishings. You can find all at a single place which is located at Bridge Road in Richmond. Considered as the haven for shoppers, Melbourne sure does provide you the opportunity to shop, eat and dance all night enjoying some fascinating dishes and famous wines. 

2. Bar and dance Relish those beautiful moments and sip a cocktail which is sure to energize your body. With different theme oriented pubs and bars in different areas of the city, you can now enjoy a whole night dancing or enjoy a cabaret in a retro pub. If you love to dance, then hitting the dance bars is the best option. Stay till dusk sipping cocktails and enjoying some of the funkiest music played. Everything is enjoyed behind those closed brass doors. 

3. Exotic Restaurants If you love gourmet food, then Melbourne is the right place for you to go to for your holiday. With different restaurants all over the city, you now have the choice to enjoy all those dishes which you have always wanted to try. Explore the Italian pizzas, have tea at a nineteenth century hotel or go for fusion cuisine at classy hotels like Nobu, Botanical and Becco. Melbourne is well known for its coffee. Do try different drinks to enjoy different flavors of coffee. 

Now that you have understood few important things that will excite you and provide you a refreshing holiday, plan ahead to make sure you have packed all the necessary things that you will need when you visit Melbourne. You can also enjoy some of the adventure sports which are sure to give you an energetic and adventure holiday. Contact your tour operator for further details regarding the packages that they sell. Advance booking is recommended. 

#6. Uluru and the Surrounding Area 

Central Australia is a region that has many natural wonders. There may be many popular tourist destinations in Australia, but the one that is most impressive and loved by tourists is Uluru in the Northern Territory. Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, is a single sandstone mass in the national park of Kata Tjuta, which has traditionally been the home of many aboriginal tribes. However, the region is open to tourists from all parts of the world who are mesmerized when they see the mighty Uluru in the middle of a huge, barren desert. 

Kata Tjuta National Park is famous for its one prominent feature, Uluru. The rock is considered sacred by the local tribes. The region is rich in indigenous culture sites. There are many rock caves, natural springs and rock pools in the desert. The region has been declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO because of its cultural and natural significance. 

Uluru is a large red rock mass made of sandstone. It is all natural and has survived all sorts of natural climatic changes. It is 348 meters in height and is famous for its natural color changes that take place because of changes in weather and different sunlight positions. Because of this amazing feature, thousands of tourists are drawn to the region to see it during sunset. It is a truly remarkable experience for those who have seen it. The experience becomes more spectacular during rainfall when the rock assumes a silvery appearance. 

The natural landscape is also very beautiful with a variety of flora and fauna found in the region. There are many ways to explore the region but the best is to take a local guide who is an aboriginal. These people consider themselves to be the traditional owners of the place and have lots of interesting facts to tell you about the region. You can learn a lot about the region and its mesmerizing rock formations from the perspective of the local people. 

Uluru tours are usually conducted during sunrise and sunset as sunlight gives amazing colors to Uluru. Some of these tours start from Alice Springs. Tourists get breakfast and dinner during a one day tour. There are also helicopter rides being conducted to give tourists an aerial view of the area which mesmerizes them. There are also camel ride tours and 4 Wheel Drive tours that cover the entire area. It depends upon your company to decide how you wish to explore Uluru and the surrounding areas. You can even attempt to climb Uluru, but remember to undertake it when the weather is not too hot as the rock can become even hotter. There are other rock formations in Kata Tjuta. One called Mount Olga is even taller than Uluru, being 467 meters high. King canyon is another attraction which is 400 km south west of Alice Springs. This region is full of natural wonders that are stunning. 

Local natives, who are Australian aborigines, have known about the existence of Uluru for the last 40,000 years. Carbon dating has suggested that the rock is millions of years old. The Anagu tribe considers the rock to be of great cultural significance and they still perform rituals around the rock at nights. These aborigines are now working as conservators of this huge rock, mostly by working as guides in the area. Indeed, one can learn a lot about not only Uluru, but also about the vast variety of flora and fauna that is in the region. 

There is a 9 km walking trail surrounding the rock which is full of opportunities to take pictures. If you have a digital camera, do not forget to carry it along as you will want to click hundreds of times as you see the color of the rock changing during sunset. You may want to make a video instead so that you do not miss to experience the full beauty of the color changes. It is better to book an accommodation near Uluru in order to be able to see the magnificent rock structure during different times in a day so as to see the wonderful changing of colors. 

There are also opportunities for swimming and exploring a nearby gorge where all kinds of flora can be found, but do not swim unless there are signs saying it is safe to do so, because there are crocodiles in the area. 

#7. The Great Barrier Reef 

Being the largest structure made by living organisms, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It is even visible from outer space. It is bigger than the Great Wall of China and has been declared as a Word Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is the world‘s largest coral reef with more than 2,900 reef systems and a huge number of marine animal and plant species. It stretches 3000 km along the coast of Australia and is bigger in size than the UK, Holland and Switzerland combined. It spreads across 347,800 square km. 

London Theatre and Theatre Breaks

August 22, 2019

London Theatre and Theatre Breaks




Introduction 

How do you make sure that yourtrip to London’s Theatreland is the best that you could hope for? 

London boasts a greater array of theatre than anywhere else in the world. From the world famous musicals in the West End to the public funded theatres of the Southbank and the Royal Opera House, via the pubs and clubs of the fringe theatre scene: offering everything from burlesque to Shakespeare – and sometimes burlesque Shakespeare! 

On any given night, thousands of actors are entertaining hundreds of thousands of visitors and residents, in hundreds of venues. Some are one-night stands, others have been going for ten, twenty, even sixty years! Whatever may come and go, for eight performances a week, fifty-two weeks a year, London’s theatres collectively play host to the greatest show on earth! 

Such a bewildering array of world-class events causes its own problems. At 7:15 every night, everyone wants to pay their bill at the restaurant, at 10:30 every night everyone wants a taxi, and at 10:30 on a Sunday morning everyone expects their breakfast! 

So how do you make sure that your trip to London’s Theatreland is the best that you could hope for?

London Theatres The West End is traditionally the heartland of London’s private sector theatres. This is where the big crowds flock to see the big musicals and plays: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s, Phantom of the Opera, Disney’s The Lion King, Schonberg and Boubil’s Les Miserables, ABBA’s Mamma Mia and Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap. 

LONDON THEATRE AND THEATRE BREAKS 

Most of the theatres are to be found between the Aldwych and Oxford Circus: an area that would take about 40 minutes to walk from one end to the other and takes in such famous landmarks as The Strand, Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Shaftesbury Avenue, Piccadilly Circus and Soho. In addition to this area theatres and concert halls are to be found in nearby Victoria and on the Southbank. Victoria is a few stops on the underground, the Southbank just a stroll across the Thames from Theatreland. 

Of course, theatres are to be found in every nook and cranny of London: fringe theatres, pub theatres, Off West End Theatres and theatresthat would otherwise be known as Regional theatres but are now to be found within what has become Greater London (Wimbledon and Richmond for example). However for the purposes of this book, I will concentrate on the West End as described above. 

Whilst many theatre-goers will have their favourite theatre, by far the most well known theatres are the London Palladium by Oxford Circus, the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and the Savoy just off the Strand. The two opera houses – the London Coliseum and the Royal Opera House – and the National Theatre on the Southbank are also worth a mention whilst the Palace on Cambridge Circus and the Theatre Royal Haymarket are arguably two of the most iconic.

Behind the pillars, billboards and neon signs the theatres range from small 500 seater playhouses up to arenas with a capacity of over 2000. Facilities also vary enormously from venue to venue, but at each you can expect the same basic list of amenities. Each will have a foyer, with a box office for walk up business and for ticket collections on the night.

Beyond the foyer the public seating areas are split into several sections – Orchestra Stalls on the lower level, the Royal or Dress Circle the next step up and then beyond that many theatres boast Grand Circles, Upper Circles and Balconies. Seating in these areas (“up in the gods”) is traditionally the cheapest seating.

Each seating area will be manned by stewards selling programmes and sweets beforehand and ice creams in the interval. Some theatres go about this business in a very proactive way with stewards walking up and down the aisle selling their wares. Other theatres will have a discrete box or station from which a steward can be seen servicing the hungry and the curious.

A bar and toilets are generally available for each level of seating – although they may not actually be on that level!

Famously London theatre toilets are too few and far between – especially the ladies – so don’t get caught short. The barstoo can be quite small and often expensive. However they will take interval orders before the show and most will allow you back into the auditorium with your drink as long as you decant it into a plastic cup. For some thisrepresentsthe biggest leap forward for humanity since Tull’s invention of the seed drill, for others it is equal in bad manners to walking up to the actor in mid speech and slapping him or her in the face!

But I digress Depending on the layout of the theatre one of these areas will have access for wheelchair users. Some theatres have seats that can be removed by prior arrangement, in others the wheelchair user will have to transfer to a fixed seat. Most theatres have facilities for those who are hard of hearing – an infrared system or hearing aid loop. Guide dogs are also catered for by prior arrangement. It does have to be said that access is not great in most London theatres, but remember these are old protected buildings and in many cases the owners have already done all that they can. What they lack in structure they do try to make up for in service, so if you have a potential problem, do ask beforehand.


London Shows 


Most theatres in London’s West End will only host one production at a time, although family shows and one-off specials often come in for daytime and Sunday performances. A new show will traditionally open with a three to nine month initial booking period and then extend depending on ticket sales and contracts. So whilst a small number come and go, the successful ones can stay around for a long time. 

At the beginning of 2012, over a quarter of shows on in the West End had been in London for longer than five years and another quarter for more than one year. So only half of all London’s theatres were available to host new shows and half of those were either hosting shows that expected to last for some time or were earmarked to host long running shows in the near future! Whilst this state of affairs was not great for regular London theatre-goer this did help the irregular West End theatre-goer as they were able to plan their theatre-going often years ahead! However 2012 was a watershed. Many old shows closed and othersthat were expected to run and run, just ran out! So since then London has had a rather fresh feel to its West End shows!

Outside of the West End however, variety is very definitely the spice of life. The main repertory companies: National Theatre, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and Regent’s Park Open Air (and I suppose you could include the Royal Opera House) keep audiences on their toes with a constantly changing programme, whilst the fringe theatre scene in London, with its short runs and one night stands, is as healthy as it is anywhere.

Performances normally take place in the eveningsfrom Monday to Saturday with one matinee (afternoon performance) during the week and another on the Saturday. However, following the New York trend, a few shows have stopped performing on a Monday and replaced it with a Sunday matinee.

Musicals

When most people think of a West End show they think of the musical: The lavish production values, the music, the stars, the orchestra, the song and dance numbers. These are the flagships of London’s Theatreland. Some celebrated their world premieres here; others came from Broadway or from successful regional tours. 

The names behind the musical are as famous as the shows themselves: Andrew Lloyd Webber, Stephen Sondheim, Schonberg and Boubil, George and Ira Gershwin, Elton John, Walt Disney, Queen, Franki Valli and Abba. The long runners include Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables, which have both recently celebrated 25th anniversarieswhilst Disney’s The Lion King and Mamma Mia! have both been playing to London audiences for 15 years. See the Show listing later in the book for the full run-down.

Plays and Comedies 


Depending on the season, plays in London can be as rare as hen’s teeth or as plentiful as the taxicabs. In the last few yearsthe balance has been very good, with some good long runners and some excellent limited-run gems. Benefiting from the fashion forstars of the Silver Screen to come over and “Do” a stage play, a trend helped by the arrival of Hollywood actor, Kevin Spacey as Artistic Director at the Old Vic, London has seen some unforgettable visiting productions. This in turn has prompted homegrown producers and actors to up their game. 

Recent successes include One Man, Two Govnors, Warhorse and Jerusalem. Some of the older shows are as famous as their musical counterparts, none less so than Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap: this year it celebrates its 60th birthday. Other long running productions include 39 Steps at the Criterion Theatre and The Woman in Black at the Fortune Theatre. 

Opera


The Royal Opera House and the London Coliseum make sure that Londoners get their fair share of earth-shatteringly great music sung by many of the worlds best singers. But do check: these opera houses are also home to the Royal Ballet and English National Ballet. 

RIDING THE FLYING HORSE

August 22, 2019

RIDING THE FLYING HORSE 



THE COLOR RED I was born on a puranmasi or full moon day in the month of march.The month of march is dedicated to the fiery roman god Mars,who hails the coming of spring with his hammer by sending thunder storms. According to the Hindu calender ,the festival ― HOLI‖ falls on a full moon in the month of march . In India this festival marks the end of winter ,the air loses its nip The mists fade and the sky is beautifully blue again. As a sanskrit poet says ,the days that lay curled up , now stretch their limbs bit by bit . It is a time for all fun lovers , it‘s an invitation to friend and strangers alike to enjoy themselves. Red or gulal is the base color,but the pinks ,blues and yellow are great hits.On this day,young and old play with colors ,squirting it on each other ,rubbing it on their faces ,amidst much laughter and protest. 

Faces take on the look of a multicolored canvas ,clothes look as though dyed in a dozen colors. Added to this air of gaiety ,a constant stream of jokes ,pranks , donkey rides and Moorkha Sammelans: a gathering where a group of poets read out their funnypoems and satire in front of an audience.Many stories are told tongue in cheek ,jokes are cracked at the expence of the audience. 

 I was born amidst such color and gaiety .I often attribute the artistic streak in me to the colors that surround the hour of my birth According to the pundits or hindu scribes, it is a very auspicious day ,the gods smile on the child born on this da y. My name ― JYOTSNA‖ ( pronounced - Jo-t‘-s-na) a sanskrit word meaning full moon or bathed with moonlight ,proved to be a happy coincidence .The name was given by maternal grand-mother Mrs E.P .Richards simply because she thought it was a beautiful name. 

My father‘s name is Austin Lal ,Mr Lal is as common in India as Mr Green or Brown in england.The word ― lal‖ in hindi means red or the base color gulal . It is by rather strange co-incidence that my name Jyotsna-full moon, Lal-red or gulal, agree to my hour of birth. 

Red is the color of blood which flows down from the cross , the precious blood of our saviour Jesus Christ , O‘ precious is the Flow ,That makes us white as snow.

the blood of Jesus cancels out our sin debt and assigns us a new creation identity—the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 5:21). This act of bloodshed will be celebrated throughout all eternity. The song of heaven is the song of the Lamb (Rev. 5:11-13). He will emerge as the conquering King and prevailing Lion of Judah (Rev. 5:5). Jesus eternally wears the victor‘s crown. 

I will begin my diary is with this story . My great grand father Reverend George Martin Richards was a colleaque Reverend Parker an American stationed in north India. Together they use to preach the gospel in the villages Sometimes on horseback ,cycles later go by jeeps ,pitching their tent in the fields near the villages One night they saw a man hiding in the shadows of the tent 

―Come out or we will shoot you ― Rev Richards warned A tall ,handsome young man came out of the darknes and fell at their feet ,begging for protection ―Who are you?‖asked Rev Parker . 

―I‘m Phul Singh the Daciot I want to become a Christian and surrender my life.

Please convert me ― ‗If you are telling lies ! you‘ll be sentenced to death ,as there is a ransom on your head ― warned Rev Parker 

― No ! I‘m telling the truth , I have heard the gospel I want to change my life‖ Both the missionaries took the dacoit with them Rev Parker helped to get him pardoned from the British Government . Phul Singh [phulwa] became the shadow of Rev Parker ,staying in his house cooking for him in Etah . His son was Rev Chote Phul Singh a pastor of Mcgraw Memorial Church where my parents got married later his grandson Rev R.P .Singh followed in his footsteps. 

Rev Robert Alter another american presybterian missionary whose mission field was Fatehgarh and Etah was a colleague of my grandparents . later he became the headmaster of Woodstock school ,Mussoorie now Uttrakhand, his son is the writer Stephen Alter who has mentioned about Etah in his book ‗All the way to Heaven‘. The famous bollywood actor Tom Alter is the son of the elder Rev Alter also american presybterian missionary who lives In Landour near Mussoorie.

In the year 1964 My parents got married while grandmother Mrs Beaumont Richards was the medical nurse in Christian boys Agriculture college Etah,North India of course my Grandfather was working as a Teacher and warden there . he was lovingly called Papaji the house father while my granny was ‗mamaji‘ ,she was a rather enterprising lady and kept poultry in the backyard. 

One summer night around 10 o‘clock there was some commotion in the henhouse ,the hens were cackling with a peculiar note of fear, nervousness and panic .My granny hurried to the henhouse and opened the door something was sitting right near the and bit on her left hand .She went in the bedroom and told my grandfather ,he said it must be a rat ,put some tincture iodine on it.Suddenly she lost balance and fell down .My grandpa panicked and rushed out to the hostel where senior boys sitting in the study. Immediately the boys rushed to the house, some of them ran to the principal Mr Watford‘s house ,a group of boys ran to search the backyard and the hen house One of my uncles father‘s cousin was among the students studing at that hour .He recounts the moment they opened the door , saw a huge cobra sitting with its hood spread out ,waiting and hissing loudly. 

A cornered cobra is as dangerous as a caged tiger lunging out at them ,it did not slink away but attacking them . The boys initially got scared and climbed on the wall to avoid it. Then some plucky ones clubbed it to death with their hockey sticks. [The cobra was preserved and kept in the biology lab I saw the Cobra when I had gone for christmas vacation] 

Meanwhile my granny was rushed to the hospital with a tourniquet arm and she was lucky as serum was available She survived and lived to an august of age of 90 years, died on 14 Nov 2001, 36 years later.  

The locomotive has the history of the industrial revolution We regularly traveled by train ,it has an unusual charm the choo choo !chug chug! and smoke spewing out of the chimney of the engine and sing song of the wheels on railtracks ‗one penny two penny ,one penny two penny‘, the railways came with the british who created the railway network in India so that they could rule India better and transport the troops ,goods from port to inland.We were going to Fatehgarh ,my uncle was the locomotive engine driver . The six hour journey by passenger train was always boring stopping at every station ,slowing puffing through the green fields and mango grooves .The villages with women in their colorful saries the train had stopped at one the small station ,a express train was passing since there was only one track they had stopped the passenger train. Inspite of being a girl I have always been nosy .I wanted to peek in the locomotive engine ,my uncle allowed me to get in the engine . to see the boiler where the coal was put in by the trowel . I was looking at the various nobs and sticks .suddenly the guard got the signal of line clear the signal was up and the my uncle engine driver had started the engine, since the steps are very high and the engine was parked outside the platform so there was no time to jump out of engine and run to my compartment .I would say it was my luck that day I got a ride in the engine my uncle began stoking the fire and the engine moved forward. I enjoyed sitting on the wooden box inside watched the villages slipping past .my uncle asked me to pull a string wonders of wonders it was the whistle.I blew the whistle many times. It was great fun and something I will never ever forget The next station came and the train stopped I got down and went to sit in my seat in the compartment. We often traveled to Etah by train by changing at Tundla junction.taking the loopline. I spent all my Christmas holidays with grandparents in Etah , their use to be a garden swing inside the compound , I use to ride the bicycle and go visiting all the faculty members of college . Those days people use to go deer hunting as sport there use to be many kinds of deer [black buck] and antelopes [ blue bull] ravaging the crops and had to be eliminated by the farmers. 

In the land of Lycia , Chimera was a fire-breathing animal with a lion's head, a goat's body,and a tail in the form of a snake; hence any apparent hybrid of two or more creatures. The Chimera was killed by the hero Bellerophon on the winged horse Pegasus. Bellerophon a victim of slander who was sent against the monstrous chimera, which he killed with the help of his winged horse Pegasus. After further trials, he ended his life as a beggar. 

When I read this Greek story as child I went to my Daddy and asked for the winged horse. My daddy said ―Your education is your dowry , my daughter and your career Pegasus the winged horse which will take you places.‘‘ He had taken me to the Indian Institute of Technology airfield which had a flying club . He had shown me the small two sitter planes and gliders called them the modern flying horse, I would watch them from our terrace and wished I could fly around . 

One winter day a MIG landed on the IIT airfield , may be it had visited the aeronautical department ,it was my holiday and I was reading on the terrace , it took off and did several somersaults ,dives and then flew off in the distant sky. 

Another incident , I was only 3 years when my parents came to work in the industrial town of Cawnpore they were newly and with little experience of life in a city with a toddler they faced many hardships one of them the difficulty in finding a suitable place to live It was almost like a miracle when they heard through some one about a gentleman by the name of Mr Yogi who wished to sublet his flat,they went to see it and liked it The flat was on the first floor of a three storied building ,the rent and other formalities were duly completed They shifted into the flat. 

My parents became busy with their daily routine they went to work early in the morning ,leave me at the kindergarden and come back late in the afternoon.Evenings were usually spent out and night would bring sweet slumber to the tired little family Every morning the kitchen articles would be found strewn on the floor but were unnoticed by the unsuspecting occupants,who thought it to be the mischief of rats. My parents found living in the flat according to their liking The neighbourhood was good and Mr Yogi rarely stayed home at night and would also spent his spare time away from the flat.

One Saturday afternoon ,our next door neighbour Mrs Yusuf dropped in for a chat mom offered her tea, as they sat talking over their teacups Mrs Yusuf expressed her surprise that my parents had rented this flat . Mr yogi‘s wife had committed suicide in the room we had rented A discord had arisen between thehusband and his wife The wife had poured kerosene oil over herself and put a match to it .She had wanted to prove that her husband had tried to kill her but she died in process .The incident had occurred some 6 months ago , now the flat was haunted by the spirite of the dead woman. 

Both my parents declared that they did not believe in ghosts or haunted houses [it was the only sensible way out when you are new in town and apartments are difficult to find]Now that the story was out ,the forces of evil became stronger .The nights were often filled with sounds of footsteps , things falling and newspaper being torn. Yet they were not frightened ,they would simply getup and switch on the lights believing such forces fear light and would able to sleep peacefully the whole night. 

They were always surprised to see in the morning that things that were breakable never thrown down ,only articles like teacosy ,saucepan and coverlets were strewn on the floor ,and the newspaper would be torn in equal strips. 

Soon they became used to the whole affair ,but family suffered on account of the unclean presence ,one of the three would always be sick . 

One day they happened to talk about it to their church pastor ,he was surprised to hear about this and promised to pray for them The week he dropped in at our flat to pray and held a small prayer meeting where all present prayed to clean our home of the evil presence .And from that day onwards ,never again the ghost of Mrs Yogi came to disturb us .Ofcourse she continued to prowl in Mr Yogi‘s portion of the flat. My mother tells me that her restless soul was in the apartment but it seemed an invisible wall of fire had been built around our rooms Earlier the poor ghost nevered harmed us or damaged anything After some time Mr Yogi decided to marry again And my father started looking for another flat. 

We were still living in the flat when Mr Yogi got married Hindu marriages take place in the night only the men go in the bridgegrooms marriage party ,my father accompanied Mr Yogi My mother was alone in the flat she recalls the sounds of boxes being thrown around ,crockery being broken , banging on the walls could be distinctly heard from Mr Yogi's side. The racket got worse around 1a.m the time coincided with the marriage ceremony. Soon after the wedding we moved to another flat.

MY SUNDAY SCHOOL TEACHER 


 My sunday school teacher Mrs Esther Fiol ,wife of .Rev Frank Fiol american presybterian missionary to Kanpur I was very regular to Sunday school she loved me as I was only seven years old and fluent in English always chatting comfortably with her. The Fiols spent their entire life in India ,Woodstock school Mussorie,Faith academy in Delhi and bible seminary in Dehradun were under their administration. 

In the 1970-80 era , My parents were both teachers ,we were poor but well respected.In the Indian society teachers are highly respected as they considered role model for the society , the torch bearers and fountain of knowledge. I‘m the only child which is highly unusual for hindu and muslim both give more importance to sons ,daughters are generally a burden because they have to be married off and a dowry has to be arranged for them. Hindu parents give birth as many as six daughters in their hope of a son who will give them moksha[salvation] after their death because he will set fire to their funeral byre. Inspite of that my parents have only one child ―me‘,they were my first and best teachers.I was fluent in English as they use to talk to me only in English and they would bring English storybooks from their school libraries for me to read, as time progressed I became a bookworm ,almost setting the house on fire one day since I was so engrossed in reading a storybook. Hindu mythology always confused me , my class three hindi teacher Mrs Maya Ariel wife of Pastor Ariel read out my hindi essay , I written on the bonfire of Holi festival, Holika the demoness sat with baby God Krishna in her lap . It was Prahlad another god, so many Gods so much confusion. 

Early in life , I became aware of the meaning of rich and poor , I was studing in St Mary‘s convent a expensive private school where only the rich people sent their children. The teachers often played favourite whereas Aunty Esther Fiol loved me for my talents. 

At an early age , my parents discovered my drawng and painting talent. I won the first prize in an art competition , but my principal Sister Eugenia did not announce it in the morning assembly as the common practice , she simply said she forgot. Realizing I‘m a girl child but I decided I will step forward and do what is best for my family.I decided to become the bread earner and support my parents in their old age like a son , I honour and salute my parents who are simple teachers.

Aunty Esther Fiol died at the grand age of hundred in USA, I had a proud moment when I spoke about my relationship with her during her memorial service in August 2013 in the presence of her son Dr David Fiol. 

Another incident which I can never forget , my roll number was 10 when I was in senior school [class XII], every morning ,one of my classfellows would write ten with chalk on my desk ,sometimes there would be a sticker of numer of ten.I was nicknamed ‗Dus numberi‖ means number ten in hindi alias naughty fellow. I was an avid reader of Horoscopes based on numerology. The sum of ten is 1+0=1 . I was actually number one and in my heart I had decided to become number one. 

I learnt to ride a bicycle when I was only ten years old ,along with the little boys of my neighbourhood. I was regular tomboy , clmbing trees and walls ,hanging on the monkey ladder. 

One thing I‘m mortally afraid of is drivng a two wheeler even though I drive my car in the fast lane. As a teenager somehow driving a scooter never appealed to me. In the ninties ,India had yet to see the economic boom , cars were still a rare commodity. Whenever someone would suggest that I should learn to drive Dad‘s scooter I would loftly proclaim that I will drive a four wheeler nothing less . I never missed the sarcastic smiles and looks, which goaded me on to become a high achiever.

As a child I use to see a peacock sitting on a tree outside my window.It is not an uncommon sight , they were as numerous ,as the trees here on the campus.Yet when I saw one , I paused in what ever I was doing whether rushing to catch a bus or simply taking a walk .The rich display of colours in its plumage brought out the artist in me .I always gazed asounded at the handiwork of god the mighty and awesome artist .The combination of colours , how they complement each other .The gorgeous blues and greens on the male peacock‘s back seem to be determined to out do each-other in their brilliant hues .The peacock has the elegant neck of a swan , on th top of its head is a tiara giving it an regal air.It is undoubtly the prince of the indian fields and forest glades . On the campus , it still roams like a proud lord in his domains. John Ruskin wrote ,Remember that the most beautiful things in the are most useless ; Peacocks and Lilies for example .If it were not for flowers and birds, the world would have been a deary place and hungry one too.From the flowers come fruits and seeds .Birds play a play an important role in this process of pollination .Well everyone is entitled to his opinion even John Ruskin ,but in response to his words ,I would quote another writer Edward Gibbon who says ,Beauty is an outward gift seldom despised ,except by those to whom it has been refused .On the other side of our flat was a groove of sheesham trees , a favourite haunt of several male peacocks and their peahens .The male peacock has a brilliant plumage and its call is both raucous and sweet while the peahens colours are drab and its voice makes one often wonder how can a sound so ugly come out of so slender a throat . A male peacock in dance looks like a blooming daisy ,with its tail opening out like a circular fan around it,when the peacock shakes its tail the swinshing sound to me like tiny bells .A dancing peacock is a common sight on a summer evening yet he always gets a second glance maybe that makes him vain .Many a times ,two males can be seen dancing opposite one another .Haughty competitors for the appulause. A full grown peacock frequently danced on our terrace ,he was quite happy to dance alone.A peacock doe not need the presence of a peahen to incite him to dance .I saw some young males not yet full grown about the sight of a large rooster following the suit of their senior.This promted me to think ,that like all accomplished dancers peacocks also needed to practice their steps in private .They stopped dancing ,when I went on the terrace and waited for me to move off before they started practicing again. For me it was a common sight on summer evenings. The male peacock who has inspired me to write about its beauty would fly down from the tree to sit on the terace of the our flat. Its plummage glinting in the setting,the greens and mauves catching the rays more vividly .The blue feathers of the neck have taken a darker hue unlike when seen in full Sunlight. The peacock was beautiful as well as friendly ,he gracefully pecked at the bread crumbs ,biscuits and Cake left overs offered by me. He waited for me each evening on the terrace on the way to his night Perch the sheesham groove .I think ,I would love to paint a peacock‘s plummage in its varying shades and colours ,the brilliance of blues and greens.Where can I find a peacock patient enough to poise for its portrait . Incidently the peacock is Indian national bird.All those who are voracious readers have always aspired to follow and imitate their favourite authors ,sometime in their lives have also nutured secret ambitions to become writers .I guess it is a important part of growing up to pen ones thoughts ; with it comes the realization that what cannot be put on paper and what cannot be read and shared with others is often worthless and immature . On a visit down the memory lane ,when one turns the leaves of tattered diaries ,reads faded ,old scrilblings ,often pave the path to healthy and mature thinking. Yet the longing of seeing ones‘s name in print never lessens with age . My joy knew no bounds when I saw my published research papers ,These were papers were based on the work I done for my Ph.D thesis.Creativity is god‘s gift to man and places him apart from other living creatures . It is a way of praising the master in encouraging the creative instinct in the younger generation.I went to youth camp held in Stanley Jones Ashram in the pictureque Sathtal of Kumaon foothills of Himalayas.

I enjoyed immensely ,working and reading ,hiking and exploring the surrounding hills sometimes getting involved in group activities like collecting wood for campfire . We had a few competitions too I won a prize for for best essay topic was ‗Hoping against Hope‘ 

Sheila was inside what used to be the public library before war ,now it was another bomb shattered building in town,She was in the part where the roof had fallen in shifting the damp newspaper files. Her name was Sheila but he called her Sheeba his queen, she worked as a mannequin in a fashion store . She was among the many in the crowd, who had kissed love goodbye and watched him get into the army truck and drive away in a cloud of dust. 

War spread over the seven seas ,coloring their waters red ,filling the skies with aircrat and bullets Newspapers were full of war talk ,so terrifying Soon news of severe defeats began to come ,the lists of those killed in action began to trickle in ,his name was not in them lt was a small consolation ,filling the heart with apprehension War took a new turn , newspaper were now full of victorious battle and crushing defeats.On the enemy forces .And then suddenly they won the war .The streets were filled with rejoicing people . 

War heroes began coming home The war office began publishing lists of those missing in action. His names was not among them either She wrote repeatedly to the war ministry,but they could not trace him. 

Today ,she sat searching the lists of men killed or lost in action in the old newspapers ,reading accounts of the war . Frantically looking for his name .He was nowhere .He was lost !just lost ! 

The light had lessened ,she got up and flexed the muscles of her neck and the back ,quietly collected her things and walked out of the door Dusk was falling she walked down the street towards the railway station ,joined the crowd on the platform ,to wait for the troops train coming from the border. She will be brave and wait for him like the ancient queen Sheba Surrounded by deserts ,ancient Egypt was the world's first nation state.

When I was Ph.D student [ 1990] , I knew that a window was a square hole in a room ...an application was something written on a paper...a mouse was an animal ...the keyboard was a piano....File was a important office folder ...hard drive was a uncomfortable road trip...cut was done with a knife and paste was done with glue...web was a spider's home...virus was flu....apple and blackberry were just fruits.Then I took a Computer Diploma course and discovered that a mouse was not a mouse. Let me tell you an anecdote. 

The Windows operating system arrived had just arrived . 

Bill Gates : Namaskar! you must have heard of Windows. 
Student : Oh yes! most Govt. offices we have the single window clearance concept. 
Bill Gates : Have you installed Windows at home? 
Student : I have removed all windows due to increased burgalaries in our house. 
Bill Gates(Confused): Then what is the system you operate on ? 
Student : OPERATION ? Yes, I had a Hernia operation last month. 
Bill Gates(Sweating) : Hope the internet is being used a lot in India. 
Student: Oh Yes! Due to increased mosquito problems many people are sleeping under the net. 
Bill Gates: By the year 2002 India should export computer chips. 
Student : We are already exporting Uncle Chips [ potato chips]. 
Bill Gates :(Feeling very Uneasy): Do you regularly use LapTops? 
Student: My brother‘s child sleeps on the top of my lap. 
Bill Gates(Sweating Heavily): The Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh knows a lot about RAM and ROM. Student : RUM? Prohibition is being lifted and it will be shortly available in A.P. 
Bill Gates(Feeling Dizzy): I would like to take your leave before my system crashes. 
Student: I have exhausted all my leave. 
Bill Gates: I have no energy left, let us go out and have a bite. Student: BITE? I believe in non-violence. I will not bite. 
Bill Gates: (System Crashes and Found Missing). "Windows is restarting.Please wait."

THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA 


To Jyotsna , A Poem On Your Birthday , As , Your name brings to mind A beauteous sight The tranquil radiance Of a moon-lit night So , Your sweet nature Will fill and surround Bringing happiness and joy In the lives of all around Written By Dr. Swapan Dutta ,Professor in Deptt of Nuclear Physics Indian.Institute of.Technology . Delhi ,India 11 March 1995 The first journey on the the flying horse is unforgettable . My dear daddy was no longer with me, Mummy agreed to accompany me on this trip. 

Many friends advised us not to go to China ,but I was invited to present to two research papers in the 4 th PBAST Pacific Basin conference on Adsorption Science and Technology in Tianjin. I went to faculty members of IIT Kanpur for advice. A lady professor had been to China ,she advised us to carry rice and cook in the microwave Another Leather exporter , said he carried packets of biryani with him and warmed it in the microwave.We decided to carry dry things biscuits and chips . Chinese cuisine will not suit our stomachs. 

We were booked on AirIndia Boeing from Delhi to Tianjin China was a enigma to me . I was going to Peyang university in Tianjin to present research papers in 4 th PBAST Pacific Basin conference on Adsorption Science and Technology. I had read most of the novels of Pearl .S. Buck and seen the movie ‗The last emperor ― so I had expected to see small women in trailing robes ,with bound feet Men smoking opium pipes wearing round caps and headgears .Pearl was the daughter of Southern Presbyterian missionaries to China . Pearl Buck's former residence at Nanjing University is now the Sai Zhenzhu Memorial House along the West Wall of the university's north campus. 

Jacky Chang is a popular hollywood star his movie Shanghai noon is an all time favourite, I had seen many action movies based in HongKong , one of my favourites was the ‗Hidden Dragon and the Crouching Tiger‘I was eager to see the China portrayed in these movies. I was pleasantly surprised when I reached China. 

Shanghai is a renowned international metropolis situated on the Yangtze river As usual AirIndia flight was late in Delhi , we started our journey on the wrong foot . We reached Shanghai pudong airport late and the next flight by Air China was in the morning , some miscalculation on the part of our agent We had to catch this connecting flight from the Hongqiao domestic airport. One interesting feature was that all the airport officials were young boys and girls in early twenties.  

I was impressed to see modern China,the beautiful well planned city of Shanghai There were two pretty girls at the taxi counter who spoke accented English and booked a huge land cruiser for two. Skyline comprised of the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Bund a dam on the Hwanpu river on the way to Hongqiao airport. 

Since it was already past 10 o‘clock in the night ,the girls asked for lift . I agreed since I thought it would be safer , the driver dropped the girls at their hostel and reached us at the domestic airport which was deserted .China follows the rule no airtraffic in the night. Shanghai ,Bejing ,Tianjin The western attire and fashionable women was visible everywhere . Mao Zedong would inspire Chinese fashion with his own variant of the Zhongshan suit, which would be known to the west as Mao suit. Meanwhile, Sun Yat-sen's widow, Soong Ching-ling, popularised the cheongsam or qipao which is long sleeveless shirt with a mandarin collar as the standard female dress these clothes are tailormade so expensive poor people where a samfu which ia a top and trousers . Students prefer tea shirts and jeans. At the same time, old practices such as footbinding, which had been viewed as backwards and unmodern by both the Chinese as well as Westerners, is forbidden. Something we Indians have to learn that clothes should be for comfort not a social bondage. We sat in the passengers lounge the entire night ,one Malaysian student was there with us. He chatted with me , another fan of Indian food and bollywood actors. 

The satan was doing his best in breaking my spirite .After a boring and stressful night ,at the security checkpoint , our hand luggage was opened ,inside everything was covered in white powder , the lady who was checking our baggage ,mistook took it for some kind of drug. I was stumped and looked at my mummy and asked what it was she shook her head . I was asked to taste it , well it was salt , the packet had burst open due to air pressure .One thing I noticed the lady looked more relieved than the two of us . 

We boarded the Airchina flight it was a small aircraft each row consisted of only five seats we were seated with a Malaysia businessman and had just returned from Mumbai when airhostess served Chinese noodles with boiled pork ,we didnot eat it.He grinned and began extolling the virtues of Indian cusine ,naturally we were laughing but feeling very hungry for home cooking.

Three hour later the flight landed with light rain at Tianjin , I went to the help desk for directions , the young people there spoke broken english but arranged a taxi for me, they were accepting yuan only. Our taxi driver was very kind , he took quickly to the university gate. 

The university gate we were stopped by the security guard , he just said , No in Chinese to everything .I had asked my fellow passengers to write in chinese that have to attend conference and to stay in the guesthouse showed him that chinese note actually since I was a foreigner so everything was negative.
I was stumped then I began asking the students walking in and out of the gate for help , some just smiled since they did not know english suddenly two pretty girls popped up actually angels in disquise ,one of them carried a bright pink mobile phone . she called up the coordinator who was luckily at his residence. She gave the handset to me I informed him about my arrival. He instructed the gateman to allow my taxi to enter. Well the second satanic attack had just been overcome. 

Tianjin university has a huge sprawling campus, as you enter there is a huge fountain facing the gate near it a large statute of girl reading a book which at banks of a huge artificial lake with a pagoda style pavilion , right opposite to the statute is the Vice Chancellor‘s office on an elevated platform which you can enter on climbing a series of stairs.At the door are two huge porcelain vases about 9 ft with chinese motifs and design the architecture is Chinese pagoda style. 

We reached the guest house finaly , the coordinator Dr Zhou Li welcomed us .the room had two separate beds with a large television a refrigerator and microwave ,doorkey was digital. 

I was not aware that China was so ahead in technology , Japanese electronic items are exported more around the world.I became a stauch fan after spending fifteen days in Tianjin. 
  

LIVING IN ITALY

August 22, 2019

LIVING IN ITALY



November 2008 When we bought our home nine months ago it was ready to move into. And now? 

We are shipwrecked in the kitchen of the downstairs apartment. A single sheet of plastic between the hall and the sitting room is the only thing that protects us from the heavy dust of the building site. All day, we are assaulted by the sound of workmen shouting, drilling and hammering. A couple of hours ago the electricity cut out and it’s starting to get chilly in here. Every evening we escape upstairs via the dusty, grimy staircase, where we try to find solace by watching TV in our future living room. The living room is also separated by a sheet of plastic from the kitchen, the bedroom and the office. There are gaping holes in the walls in all of these three rooms, made weeks ago in preparation for the doors and a new window. Now they are serving as tunnels bringing in the draught and the cold. Exhausted and numbed from the endless turmoil surrounding us, we are staring out into space in silence. We are hardly aware of what’s on the screen. 

WHAT HAVE WE LET OURSELVES IN FOR? 

Non ci sono problemi 


With my right foot still on the pavement, the estate agent’s car was already pulling away. My reaction was fast: I pulled both legs inside and slammed the car door, averting an accident. The estate agent obviously had no time to waste! We were going to look at two properties in the Oltrepò Pavese, the area lying south of the river Po, which traverses Northern Italy. I sat in the front and the estate agent prattled on in hundred-mile-an-hour Italian. I only understood bits of what he was saying, partly because I was too disconcerted by the traffic which we were navigating with Italian flair. 

For the last few weeks, we had lived in the quiet, historical, university town of Pavia. In the next 6 months, I was going to continue with my MA in Medieval Culture, and my husband, Nico would enjoy his well-earned sabbatical. He was going to hoover, do the shopping and cook, whilst I could immerse myself in times gone by. But there was this secret, unspoken wish that didn’t leave us alone: could we...., what if we..., imagine if...? And already, just a couple of weeks into our stay in Pavia, we started looking at properties, with the intention of permanently settling down and setting up a B&B! Soon after our arrival in Pavia, we discovered the wine region of Oltrepò Pavese, an area about half an hour’s drive to the south of Pavia. It was love at first sight. What beautiful countryside! And this is how our secret wish began to take shape: to find our own idyllic home on the top of a hill with panoramic views! In one of the free leaflets from the numerous estate agencies (agenzie immobiliari), our excited eyes spotted the perfect house that ticked all our boxes. We were now on our way to this house, with an estate agent whose main talents seemed to be smooth talking and rally driving. 

Once we got out of Pavia, the roads became quieter and I was able to follow Olita’s - as he was called - Italian a bit better. He was busy showing off his property know-how and reassuring us about the top quality of the houses we were about to see. If there was anything not to our liking, it could be easily sorted, without any additional costs, he said. He had already made an agreement with the owners. “Non ci sono problemi!” he exclaimed with much enthusiasm. If we didn’t like the colour of the house, it could be painted over, before completion, in any colour at all, even violet, maintained Olita. “Non ci sono problemi!” And the garden that had become a jungle from months (probably years?) of neglect would be completely cleared out, just for us. 

We took in the landscape in front of us: it was mainly flat, covered in rice fields (growing the famous Italian risotto), farmland and poplar plantations, as far as the eye could see. Along the country road, we were driving past settlements: an endless mish-mash of houses and farm buildings of all shapes and sizes. We raced through small villages with stores, restaurants and cafés. Olita was consistently indifferent to the numerous white traffic signs warning of upcoming speed cameras. Did his employer pay the fines? Or was it going to become a hidden charge on our bill? We were fully aware that we were going to have to pay Olita commission if we were to buy our house through him. We had done our homework in the Netherlands and were well-prepared for all the traps that a would-be house buyer could fall into when trying to buy a house in Italy. We were on high alert! Olita, unaware of my misgivings, drove on at full speed. Here and there along the side of the road, there were small shrines erected by friends and relatives of beloved maniacs, who

The Real Deal | 

15 had died in tragic road accidents. Olita didn’t seem to worry about suffering the same fate; he overtook slow drivers without mercy, regardless of whether the white line was broken or solid. Later on, having lived in the Oltrepò for several months, we discovered a santuario nearby; a memorial chapel for all the victims killed in road accidents in the area. The legendary recklessness of Italian drivers might have some foundation after all. Olita, for his part, did his utmost to conform to the stereotype. Occasionally, we met two cars side-by-side coming from the other direction, but luckily three cars in a row could easily be accommodated on this two-lane road. Non ci sono problemi. 

We reached Ponte della Becca, the one kilometre long iron bridge built in 1912 that spans the merging of the Po and the Ticino. The Oltrepò stretched on the other side, flat at first, but soon undulating with hills. There in the distance our dream house was waiting for us somewhere. We saw the first vineyards appearing here and there. On one of the hillsides we spotted a remarkable-looking castle and we inquired about it from our local regional expert, a.k.a. Olita. “Which castle is that?” we asked full of curiosity. He didn’t know. But “Non ci sono problemi,” he would investigate and let us know. Maybe our house was not going to be violet after all. 

It soon became apparent why Olita was in such a hurry: he was lost and was zooming up and down the hills in search of familiar landmarks. Against all expectations, we managed to find our chosen house, which didn’t look as perfect as we at first had thought, not even if Olita would have it painted violet. On one side it leant against a slope, and the other side was blocked from view by an unsightly shed. The garden was no bigger than a postage stamp. What a shame. Luckily, on the advice of Olita’s Agenzia, we had also made an appointment to view another property that was on offer at a bargain price. This second house didn’t look appealing in the brochure: a faded grey concrete block without any character. But now that we were here...we might as well take a look. 

It took Olita a lot of cursing and muttering under his breath during the second stretch of our mystery tour, to finally bring us to the cheaper property. The frontage made no false promises. There were not enough colours in the rainbow to change that. But the inside! The house was made up of two apartments, each a hundred square metres. The downstairs apartment was completely modernised, had brand new flooring, central heating, a fitted kitchen, and there was a sitting room with sofas and a ready-to-go modern bathroom. The apartment was ready to move into as soon as gas and electricity were connected. We felt enthusiastic. 

After having seen the downstairs flat, Olita led us upstairs and opened the shutters of the bedroom overlooking the valley. An enchanting view of rolling hills and vineyards in the style of impressionist paintings unravelled before our eyes. In the distance, we recognised the characteristic but still enigmatic castle from earlier. And a bit further on, there was another castle. And over there another one. We were sold. Non ci sono problemi! For once we all agreed!

Via Moruzzi 


Our base in Pavia, which we were renting until we found a house to buy, was a flat owned by Giorgio and Franco. It was a lucky find. In the summer of 2007, we visited Pavia for a week to find an apartment for my six months study abroad and Nico’s sabbatical. At first, that week seemed as if it would end in total failure because all the suitable apartments we found on the Internet in the Netherlands fell by the wayside one by one. In one case, for example, we were allowed to view our chosen flat but later it transpired that it wasn’t quite clear whether the present tenants were really going to leave. Why didn’t the owner tell us this earlier, we wondered feeling annoyed. What was the point in looking at a flat that wasn’t (yet) available? Did the owner worry that he would disappoint us and let us carry on with the viewing? But now we were even more disappointed. Maybe this is the Italian way of doing things, we thought, quite put out by the way things were handled. 

We had nothing left but to hope that the last of the apartments we had selected was still available and that we would like it. Although our appointment for the viewing was later on, in the evening, we decided to have a quick look around the neighbourhood in daylight. We saw at the entrance, where the doorbells and tenants’ names were listed next to the apartment numbers, that the name plate next to our chosen apartment was empty. The flat was seemingly still free: that was at least a positive sign! We returned that evening, full of expectations, and rang the bell. But what on earth was that? We stood looking in disbelief at a name next to the number of our apartment! That could only. 

  

ONCE AROUND THE WORLD

August 22, 2019

ONCE AROUND THE WORLD 



Alone as a young woman through Africa

An inspiring travel guide with exciting adventure stories from six months of backpacking in Africa

I would like to thank everyone who has allowed me to realize the dream of this journey, and those
who have supported me.
I want to especially thank my parents.
I also want to thank my editor Andreas Wunderlich for the numerous tips and improvement
suggestions for this book.
Additionally, I want to thank everyone who have crossed my way on this journey and thereby have
helped make it so unforgettable.
I thank all the people in Africa that have been moving me so much with their unbelievable hospitality
and helpfulness, every single day of my journey, and who have willingly and selflessly shared with me the few they had.

Why travel? 


Why should one travel? That is indeed the first question that you will ask yourself. For most people, traveling means going on vacation – driving by car to Italy for a few days or going on an all-inclusive holiday to Turkey. That is quite the standard version of traveling for most.

But what I mean is a lot more than just a few days of recreation. I am writing about going on a longterm journey. Or you could call it a gap year.

Who has not dreamt about simply leaving everything behind and to escape the daily hamster wheel – as my dad used to call it? To never know, what the next day or even the next hour brings, not to have any liabilities, to be able to freely manage your time, and to experience new adventures every day – no more routine.

In the year 2013, I started on a somewhat different trip for the first time. No package holiday, no baggage, without booking anything upfront – I just went for it. Driven by curiosity for the big, wide world and by the desire for adventures. Together with a friend, I went to the Indonesian islands Bali and Lombok – only equipped with our backpacks.

We rented mopeds, which was a complete bargain thanks to the help of our couchsurfing host. On the other hand, they were in a corresponding state. To make the matter worse, we were still missing skill in driving mopeds. It did take only a few minutes, and we already had our first prang behind us. Not to mention the crazy road traffic in Indonesia.

In other words: It was a real adventure. What a feeling of freedom it was, when we drove along the fantastic coast roads of Lombok, only dressed in shorts and t-shirts and to enjoy the breathtaking place. All concerns and any stress seemed so infinitely far away. The first time in our life, we tried out couchsurfing and met the most lovely and craziest people. People that we otherwise would have never got to know. Daily, we had unforgettable experiences and met a lot of new people.

Amongst others, we got to know a girl from Germany. Together with her, we traveled a few days through the region. This young woman aroused my interest for traveling. She had already been a year on a journey around the world – solely on her own! For this courage, she received my whole admiration. Never could I have imagined this for myself.

But from that time on, a dream seemed to have awakened in me. This backpacking trip to Indonesia had given me the travel nerves. More and more I started to think about if I would indeed be able to go on a real journey around the world – on my own! Silently and secretly I started planning, how I could realize this dream.

There are so many reasons to travel. 


For one, there is the desire for adventures and the curiosity. One wants to see beyond the box. What else is on this big, wide world? How do people live in other countries? Are people elsewhere also happy or even happier? How are we different and what do we have in common with other people?

Traveling changes. 


You get more cosmopolitan and more self-confident. You learn that you are able to do the impossible in difficult situations, and that there are more good than bad people in this world. Before my journey, I always had the impression that the majority of people are evil and egoistic. But this journey has opened my eyes. More than once, I have been in hopeless situations and have been completely desperate. But always there has been a solution, or some person came that saw my problem and offered help. People shared completely selflessly the few they had with me. Also, I have learned to approach strangers, which had been a thing that has always been difficult for me, before. Partly, I have been really surprised of what I was able to do. When I told my circle of friends and relatives about my big plans, naturally, I initially got confronted with lack of understanding, or some believed I was joking. Especially the fact that I wanted to start in Africa was completely suspicious for them. Traveling alone as a young, blonde girl with a backpack across Africa – something like that seemed completely impossible. Some cannibals from pristine forest would surely devour me. Initially, I reacted somewhat insecure to such claims. But with time, they encouraged me even more. I wanted to prove them that it was indeed possible to travel Africa on my own as a young woman. And those wild tribes from pristine forest would not devour me. I wanted to leave my comfort zone, and to see how people live in simplest circumstances and still can be happy.

If you also …

- want to make more of your life,
- are not satisfied with the idea of two weeks of vacation per year,
- want to discover the big, wide world
– since you only live once,
- have a slumbering dream of Africa inside you,
- are dissatisfied of buying even more useless things or
- want to tell your grandchildren exciting stories when you are old

… then pack your backpack, and go on the adventure of your life. Simply DO it! Everything that you need is a tiny little spark of courage.

I do not know anyone who has ever regretted such a journey. It does not have to be a complete year or even more for the start. Dare to have big dreams and believe in yourself. Do not let yourself be dissuaded from your goals by the doubts or fears of other people. Especially not from those people, who have not been on a journey for that long or have never been where you want to go.

Naturally, there is always a long list of things that will divert us from our dreams. Some of them are for example: an apartment or a house, that needs to be paid off, monthly fixed costs, a partner or a family, a pet, a job … – the list could go on forever. Old habits die hard. It is our nature to be very critical about everything that is new. How many people are there, who do their job for their entire life, which does not even fulfill them; or who live in a partnership, in which they are unhappy? Mostly, the reason for this is their fear of change. Who knows, if a new job would make me really happier?

 A very nice proverb says: „Nothing ventured, nothing gained.“ If we never give in to change, we can never get better. Time has become a luxury good in our western civilization, and stress controls our everyday life. Is this what we want until the end of our life? Many do not even know that there are other options. It is our own decision what we make of our life. Just because the others live by the norm – school, job, family, pension – it does not mean we have to do the same. Especially you should not wait until you are old to enjoy your life. We never know, when it will be over.

But you also have to regard a few things, when you plan a journey of this kind. You have to: … be absolutely cosmopolitan and respect people, regardless of color, culture or religion. … inform upfront about the customs of a country and to respect them. … be without any prejudices. … be prepared for adventures that you surely will never forget again!

1.1 The difference between backpacking and package holidays 


As you might already have noticed, this book is about a particular style of traveling, namely backpacking. But what is the difference between backpacking and package holidays? For most of you, backpacking is certainly a term that you might have heard at least once.

The following is a list of the most important differences: 


- A backpacker is someone who travels the world only equipped with his or her backpack.
- Backpackers travel for a longer timeframe than a single week.
- Backpackers like to dive deep into the culture of a country and want to see more than only the pool from their hotel site. They want to get in touch with locals, try local food, etc.
- Backpackers mostly travel in a minimalistic way, meaning, they try to take as little baggage as possible with them and try to get through the days with a low budget. This also means they prefer longer bus rides over expensive flights. Some thrill seekers also travel by tramping. They mostly sleep in cheap hostels or use couchsurfing websites to find a stay at the home of locals. - Backpackers often travel alone.
- Backpackers organize their journey on their own and individually.
- Backpackers love adventures.

The life of a backpacker also can be very hard: 

- You sometimes sleep with fifteen other backpackers in a sleeping room, from which minimum one snores loudly, and five would urgently need a shower.
- You never know what the next day will bring, not even where you will sleep.
- You wait hours for a bus or for a car that stops for you and picks you up.
- You sometimes have to negotiate prices on the market for way too long.
- You will get weird or compassionate looks, when you are tormenting through the streets in the midday heat with your heavy backpack on your shoulders to find an accommodation.
- You will be squeezed in between people, living chicken, and dozens of goats, while almost not being able to move. For some, all of these points will probably sound really terrible, but exactly these experiences are, what will make your journey an unforgettable adventure.

Additionally, backpacking also has many advantages compared to package holidays:

It will give you an incredible feeling of freedom. You can do or stop doing (almost) anything you want to do, and you will not be trapped in some giant hotel complex, where you will be told that it anyway would be way too dangerous to go on the streets. You will experience new adventures every single day and will be miles away from your boring everyday life at home. You will have to deal with and overcome your own fears. It will make you more courageous. You will have a lot of time to reflect on yourself, by which you will grow as a human being and strengthen your character.

 1.2 Traveling alone? 


For most, traveling alone will be the worst imagination on a long journey. But exactly this idea impressed me from the beginning. It has been exactly this what fascinated me when thinking about the young woman that I had met some years ago in Indonesia: She traveled the world on her own.

Many associate the word “alone” with loneliness. But loneliness and being on your own is not the same. You can also feel alone when you have a partner. The majority of people does not even know what to do on their own or will feel helpless.

But in my opinion, it is very important to be able to get along on your own. After all we got on this world alone and will also leave it again alone. Also if we live in a happy relationship, one day it may come to a breakup or the partner dies before oneself.

For those people that have never learned to be on their own, in this point in time their complete world will break down. It is the same with good friends: The fewest will stay with us for our whole life. This is the reason, why you need to be able to be on your own. To feel good with yourself as a person. To be able to enjoy the time on your own and your own thoughts. To love yourself.

To travel on your own does not mean to travel unhappy. It is quite the reverse: You can enjoy your complete freedom. Every day you can do and stop doing what you want, and you do not need to take care of others. Especially on longer journeys, when you will be together for 24 hours a day, there will be small bickering or disagreements. Maybe one prefers to see cities and museums, but the other prefers to go into nature and on adventures. One wants to sleep comfortably, the other prefers to travel on a low budget and, so for example, to go camping or to sleep in hammocks. One likes to get up at 6 o’clock in the morning, the other wants to sleep until 11 o’clock.

There is an infinite amount of other examples. I do not want to claim that traveling with a friend, partner, or in a group, is always bad. You only have to think it through in advance. Everything that might cause disagreements should be talked through in advance, so for example the style of traveling or the budget.

 Anyway, the first big problem is to find another person that wants to join you on such a long journey. If you have found someone, you need to talk through every detail with him or her. The best would be to agree upfront on splitting up, anytime you want, so that each person goes their own way from that point, should traveling together not work out as expected. You see, it will almost certainly not be easy to find a companion for your journey. If so, it can really work out, and you may have an unforgettable time together. Indeed, it is really nice to be able to share great moments together. If you are on your own, you have the feeling that no one can understand all the things that you have experienced.

If you are courageous enough to start your journey on your own, or if you simply cannot find a companion for your journey, then: Congratulations! Ahead of you lies the best and most exciting time of your life. You will see that you are able to do things, you would have never dreamt of before.

Of course, this does not mean, you will be alone during your whole journey, just because you start on your own. It is quite the reverse. If you travel alone, it will be a lot easier to get in touch with other people – both with locals and with other backpackers.

For one, people will reach out for you a lot more often. No matter if you are sitting in the hostel or if you are standing on a zebra crossing – if you are alone, most often it will not take long before someone starts a conversation with you. You yourself will probably also approach a single person much easier than a group of people. When you get to know someone in a hostel, and you both have the same plans or preferences, it will be easy to join each other on the next part of your journey. This way the advantage of traveling with another person is that it will be more casual, since both sides know that the time with each other will be limited. If you notice that each other’s interests vary too much, you can simply split up again without any disputes.

Traveling on your own allows you to learn the language of the country much faster. For example, when you sit in the bus, most often it will not take long until a conversation with your seat neighbor starts. And believe me, most Africans are very chatty. Additionally, you learn about a lot of secret tips about each country.

My experiences with traveling on my own 


There has almost been not a single bus ride, on which I did not have a conversation with anyone. Africans are also a lot faster with making friendships than we in Austria. Most often, just after a few minutes, I was asked for my cell phone number. Since I bought a new SIM card in each country, I willingly gave out my number, anyway. To my astonishment, most of the people I met on a bus ride actually called me one day. Sometimes, just to ask how I was or to invite me to their home.

The absolute highlight for me was, when I met another person with white skin in the bus, since it was a very rare thing to meet other backpackers, especially in eastern Africa. I quickly made friendships.

I remember very well, how I got on an extremely jam-packed bus – with Alex, a young man from Germany – that would bring us to a small village of the Maasai near Lake Natron in Tanzania.

Since we wanted to see real Maasai and not just those who made a show for tourists, we asked around a little. Someone gave us the tip to go Lake Natron. We spent a few hours in this bus in the sweltering heat, pressed against each other and numerous locals – especially Maasai.

The street was not asphalted and partly led through raging rivers. I wondered how this bus was able to drive here. The speed varied between 5 km / h and 20 km / h. Besides us, living chicken and other belongings were transported.

The Maasai stared at us curiously. It was probably not commonplace that Muzungus (that is how Africans call people with white skin) got on a bus here. Also I never had the chance to see a Maasai at close range. Some of them were barefoot. Others wore sandals with soles made of old tires. They explained to us, those were supposed to be especially solid and durable. They were dressed in colorful cloths that they had wrapped around their slim bodies. Both men and women had very short hair. The women wore a lot of jewelry and earrings. The men all had a wooden rod with them. Some even carried a machete.

We passed numerous small Maasai villages. Additionally, we saw a small herd of zebras, which grazed only a few meters away, and ostriches, which ran over the dry meadows. Small children watched after their herds of cows and goats and waved very excited to our bus.

The heat became more and more unbearable. My clothes were already completely wet from my sweat. We were very glad when we finally arrived at the small Maasai village that had about 30 huts. Numerous people got off the bus.

Suddenly, Alex said: „Look over there, a Muzungu”. I did not trust my eyes. There indeed had been a blonde, tall, and young man with us on the bus. He also seemed to have discovered us. The young man instantly approached us and asked what the hell we were doing here. He had never assumed to meet other white people here. We thought the same. It proved to be, that the young man came from Lithuania, and his name was Danas. He loves to take photographs, especially far away from the wornout tourist paths.

We instantly decided to continue traveling together. This was the beginning of a very good friendship. After a few days in the Maasai village, our paths with Danas separated again. Three weeks later, I met him again on the island Zanzibar in Tanzania. Together, we celebrated Christmas and had a lot of wacky experiences. The absolute highlight was, when I later discovered, that Danas was in Cape Town, the capital of South Africa, at the same time as me. We instantly organized a meeting. The world of those who travel can be very small sometimes.

I had another very wonderful encounter in the Mpanga Forest, a rain forest in Uganda. I was couchsurfing in Mpigi, a small place not far away from the capital Kampala. My host Etienne had recommended me to go on a hike through this jungle. So I searched for a Boda-Boda (moped taxi) with a driver, who could bring me there.

At the entrance to the Mpanga Forest was a small wooden hut. It seemed as if one was supposed to pay an admission fee to get into the nature reserve. But there was not a single person, as far as I could see. No cashier, nor any other tourist. I was a little surprised, since I had not expected that this was such a lost place. This small rain forest was not entirely unknown. But this was even better, since as you know, I love untouched nature away from mass tourism.

At the beginning, the way was very wide. But with time, it got very narrow and there were numerous junctions. Etienne had recommended me to hike across the jungle, and after about an hour I would get out on the other side of the rain forest. In the meantime, the way did not seem as if anyone had gotten through here in the last days or weeks – it was really feral and accrued. Time after time, it rustled in the bushes, and in the crowns of the trees I could see giant bird species I had never seen before.

When I walked along a pool, there suddenly was a loud splash, and I saw something giant and dark appearing. In complete panic, I began running. What could this have been? A crocodile? Or an anaconda? I had been on the hike for almost two hours by now, and it did not seem as if there was an end in sight. But turning around and going the whole way back, did seem pointless to me. So I hoped to get to the other end of the forest soon.

From now on, I only moved on slowly and looked in all directions. A few minutes later, it rustled above me in the trees. I looked up and stopped like mesmerized. I wanted to scream loudly or start crying right away. An about 1.5 meters long snake in poisonous green looked into my eyes. It was at most two meters away from me. It must have been the green mamba

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