Chennai Journal
Sunday, November 27, 2005
Odds and Ends
The rain in Chennai has continued and created flooding in a number of parts of the city. Usually the monsoon and heavy rains are over by this time, but it's been an unusual year for weather and rain everywhere it seems. The photo on the left was taken from the window of our Ford Endeavour---one of many such scenes around town. 145 people died yesterday when two different buses tried to navigate flooded bridges and were swept away. It is hard to think of the suffering and homelessness that the year's strange weather has created. Hope 2006 is more normal.

Thanksgiving was a bit strange for us. Too late, we noticed a flyer that had come in from the Taj Coromondel advertising a turkey dinner, which Marty and Dad would have enjoyed. Although there are a couple of places that have turkey on the menu, the goat- for- lamb substitution (lamb on the menu means goat) makes me think that real turkey is probably only imported for special occasions, such as the one at the Taj. We did go out for dinner but had salmon, although I'm sure plenty of people back home ate our share of Tom and the dressings.

The week before last I traveled up north to Chandigarh and Ludhiana for dealer and consumer events related to the launch of our new product here, the Fiesta. Chandigarh is about an hour north of Delhi by plane, and is the gateway to the Himalayas---the famous British hill station of Simla is located about 3 hours' drive from Chandigarh. I didn't take pictures because I was on an official visit and thought it might be a bit tacky---but do plan to return. Chandigarh is the capital of two Northern Indian states--Punjab and Haryana. The city was commissioned after Independence and was mainly designed by a Swiss architect, Le Courbusier. It is probably the most organized city I've seen here--traffic and buildings both very regulated. Ludhiana was a lot more sprawly and congested, and is also a larger city. But Chandigarh was really impressive---despite the lineup of American fast food places, McDonald's (where you can get a Maharaja burger), KFC, Domino's, Ruby Tuesday, and Pizza hut!

Saturday, November 19, 2005
More on Australia

While we were in Australia, we visited the Jewish center in Melbourne and took a tour of one of the local synagogues, which is right next door to the center (pictured here). As in India, the history of Jewish emigration is fascinating, and the center/museum is very well done. The first Jewish person known to have come to Australia was Esther Abrahams, a pregnant 16 year old from London who was on the so-called "First Fleet" of convicts to Sydney---Britain's response to prison overcrowding. Esther's crime was stealing 24 yards of black lace from a London dry goods store. Fortunately for her, she met a lieutenant on the ship who became her life's love and she bore him 7 other children. Other Jews also came on subsequent ships, primarily petty thieves---there were no murderers among the Jewish convicts. Another wave of emigration occurred in the 1850s when gold was discovered in Ballarat, Victoria and Jews joined thousands from Europe, California, and other parts of Australia in flocking to the goldfields --though turned to shopkeeping and trading, especially after the first rush. Like the U.S., Australia was also a refuge from pogroms in the late 1880's and Nazi Germany, and more recently from Russia. There has also a steady stream of emigres from Israel.

On our way back from Adelaide, we stopped at Ballarat, which was the site of the great gold rush mentioned above, occurring just a decade after gold was discovered in California. One highlight from this stop was the sound and light show staged nightly, called Blood on the Southern Cross, which depicts the story of miner protests of British oppression and a massacre that occurred when the British raided the Eureka stockade in 1854. Despite having no actors, it is extremely realistic and blood curdling.

The next day we took a tour of the mine under a Greenfield village- type reproduction of the 1850's gold rush town, called Sovereign Hill. You could experience first hand the conditions of the miners---from watching the tiny elevator that transported men up and down the mine shaft to a recreation of the dangerous blasting techniques used in the days before dynamite. The safest miners were the Cornish, who took care to reinforce the rock and used more conservative blasting techniques, but under any circumstances the work was dangerous and resulted in many lost lives.

On our last day in Ballarat we had a real treat--a complete rainbow, one of the few I can ever remember seeing. It occurred only for a few minutes after day long spring rain, but was beautiful while it lasted.

Sunday, November 13, 2005
Marty's Kangaroo Hat

Here is Marty, sporting his new kangaroo hat (which we hear he will have trouble getting back to the U.S., as the kangaroo is considered an "endangered species" there????)

What do you think? The kids practically disowned me a few years ago for standing by when he bought a similar one at Disney World.....

So....do you like the hat or should he donate it to the nearest street person? Please vote in the Comments section below.
Saturday, November 12, 2005
Land of Wine and Roses

Marty and I are back from Australia, where we had a wonderful, relaxing holiday. We had reservations only for the first two nights, and that was because Melbourne was jammed packed due to the annual "Melbourne Cup"--a horse race that has become a national holiday. The rest of the time we wandered the countryside taking our chances on hotels and B&Bs, and we weren't disappointed. This is the first of probably a couple of posts, as we were there for nearly two weeks and every day was busy, though in a very laidback and relaxed way.

One of the more interesting stops was near the beginning of our stay---at the National Museum of Wool, in Geelong just outside of Melbourne. The museum was very well done, depicting the history of sheep growing and wool gathering, as well as its creation into apparel and blankets in the country. Did you know that the phrases "by hook or by crook" and "on tenterhooks" come from this trade? A "crook" is a pen, and the phrase in the original sense means to corral the sheep by either penning them in or gathering them with a sheepshook, and we saw actual tenterhooks--where the wool is stretched to straighten the grain. There was also a video of a man shearing a sheep, in something under 40 seconds. Quite an operation.

Our travels took us to Adelaide and the Barossa Valley, which is the original wine country of Australia--in fact I first had Australian wine and cheese in Japan over 25 years ago, and both came from Adelaide. On the way to Adelaide, we travelled along the Great Ocean Road, with the famous "Twelve Apostles" (down to 11 with the collapse into the sea of one of them this summer). This is one of the most famous scenes from Australia, and it was a sunny morning when we stopped there, so both Marty and I got great pictures.

About an hour north of the end of the Great Ocean Road is the Coonawara Valley, the first of the wine areas we stopped at. You may know the Coonawara from Jacob's Creek, which is widely sold in the U.S., as well as from Penfold's, which has some vineyards there as well. However, the best wine we found came from the Barossa. We stumbled on a motel/restaurant/vineyard called Chateau Barossa that had fabulous views and, as an added bonus, over 25 acres of roses of all varieties. As it is springtime in Australia, virtually all of them were in bloom. Below you can see the view from our window---rows upon rows of grapevines in the background.

Both of us loved the visit to the Penfold's estate--just outside the city of Adelaide--with the original homestead of Dr. Penfold, the founder of Australia's most famous wine. We were able to take a tour of the old cellar, where French and American oak casks of Penfold's premium "Grange" wine (starts at about $200 per bottle) were waiting to be bottled in the fall of 2006. Like many of the wineries in the area, Penfold's offered not only a tasting counter but "cellar door wines" , which are sold only on the premises. From the various wineries we visited, we brought back our 2-liter allotment to India, and will enjoy sharing them with friends.

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