goingplaceslivinglife

Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


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Ready…..Get Set……Share

Later this week the nation shares a holiday that Abraham Lincoln set aside as a national day of celebration. Take a moment and read his Proclamation. The timing of it is significant.

Washington, D.C.                            

October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

Amazing, even in the midst of a war that had torn the country apart, this beleaguered leader was able to express how much we had to appreciate.  So, I ask you, how do YOU celebrate Thanksgiving?  Many people plan a feast, gorge, and then watch football, with no apparent moment of thought to any of the blessings they have experienced, even in the midst of turmoil.gratitude-rainbowspiral1

Several years ago our Thanksgiving table was full. We always make sure to invite others to join our family to add to the celebration. As I tend to do, I asked the people to take a moment to speak of what they felt had happened to them during the year that was noteworthy of appreciation. It was sad for me to hear several adults say “this meal”. Perhaps they were just saying thank you for the fellowship, as it was unlikely that they had not eaten all year. More likely, they were ducking the thought process. As for the child present, she had no idea how to develop the thoughts. This lack I place on the parent, for not teaching values and ethics. Without appreciation for achievements, how do we learn to make the effort in the first place?appreciation-is-wonderful-thing-voltaire

Why is this so difficult? For those of us who daily take a moment either in prayer or meditation, this lack of connection with the Universe is a startling absence.

Start thinking now…you have a few days. Think of the entire year, not just the plate in front of you. Remember the hard times, yes. Remember the passage through them. Recognize the stresses do not go away, but recognize the ease that comes at times.thanksgiving2

To me, this exercise is not limited to Thanksgiving but is one of the easiest days to express it openly. Tell us what you gained this year.


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Happy New Year

Ah….you think I’m a bit early. Others are counting down the shopping days left before Christmas (I know YOU don’t get thinking  about it until December 20) and here I am saying Happy New Year. What gives?

Well, it’s one of those religious things. This evening started the Jewish year  5775. Rosh Hashana translates to “head of the year” and it begins the ten days of awe. This is a solemn and serious time.  It is a chance for introspection and self analysis. It is the time to think through the events and choices of the past year, to think through the results of your decisions….or lack of them.

It is also the time to get right, not only with the Lord, but with the people in your life. You know, the ones you hurt either by doing or saying something that was unwise or chosen for dumb reasons, and the ones you hurt by NOT saying something wise or not doing something helpful.introspection-9682

It is, essentially, time for confession. A time for penitence. Only then can you have absolution.  Or not. See, in the practice of the Jewish faith ACTS are more important than words.  Especially empty words read because they are in a prayer book but read without your heart involved.

I used to tease my nonJewish friends I would share a secret with them, and I’ll do that right now with you.  It is traditional to think that on this day God opens the Book of Life. In this monster book are pages and pages and pages, one for each person now or ever living.  On YOUR page are written all your hopes and dreams, all your deeds (good and bad) and God’s plan for you.book of life

These next ten days, until Yom Kippur ends with the first star on the night of October 4, each of us can petition God to inscribe in the Book a good plan for the coming year. But you have to earn it. These ten days gives you time to put some thought into who you have been and who you want to be. To think about about your relationships with people, both dear and near, and the ones you pass everyday in your life without knowing their names. To honor that there is a Higher Power, something much bigger than you.

tashlikTomorrow afternoon there is  traditionally an action called Tashlik.  It is the ritualistic and symbolic action of casting off sins.  Traditionally done at a moving body of water, bread is ripped into small pieces, each symbolizing a sin or problem in the past year. The bread is then thrown on to the waters to flow out to the sea or, more realistically, to be eaten by the fish and ducks.   I was not brought up very religious so I can not tell you the prayers and what they mean. I can just tell you that if you think through this past year, and go through it slowly, truly thinking of the things you know did not work well and what your role was in causing that to turn out that way, you will be well on your way to a better year next year.

L’shanah Tova…..and may you be inscribed for a good year!

 


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America’s Shameful Legacy

Imagine you have been travelling overseas for a while and you wander into a local supermarket in Europe. As you shop for your dinner you encounter the foreign food aisle in addition to Asian or Latino foods, there is a section for American foods! This is what you see.american-food

How sad. This is our gift to other cultures. That and

Mc Donalds restaurant in Parisand KFC in China

There may be some Americans who thing this is great…they can eat the food they are used to when they travel to Paris or Beijing. Personally, I enjoy eating authentic French or Chinese food and when I travel I want to eat food prepared well and native to that culture.  I sure wish the people in those countries would not be thinking that processed food and fast food is what we eat……but maybe it is for most people. What a shameful thing we are teaching others about us.


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Faces of India

Take a look at the people of India……their faces, their pride…their lives.

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Street food vendor in Agra market

 

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Volunteer in Delhi Sikh Temple kitchen preparing food for 1100 people a day

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School girls leaving Ghandi shrine in Delhi

 

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Snake charmer in Amber Fort in Jaipur

 

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Little girl who started following us in Jaipur

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Craftsman in Agra inserting semi-precious stones into marble

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School boys, courtesy of Nancy Leung

 

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Sikhs at Temple in Delhi

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Doorman, courtesy of Nancy Leung

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Jaipur woman, courtesy of Nancy Leung

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Receiving the blessing, courtesy of Nancy Leung

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Guard at Unknown Soldier, India Gate, Delhi

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kids on a team, courtesy of Nancy Leung

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Shop by the road, courtesy of Nancy Leung

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Street food vendor, courtesy of Nancy Leung

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On a motorcycle, courtesy of Nancy Leung

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Climbing up, courtesy of Nancy Leung (I think this is the winner of the being ready at the right time prize!!)

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Wedding guests, courtesy of Nancy Leung

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Groom, courtesy of Nancy Leung

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Little girl, courtesy of Nancy Leung

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Sweeper, Amber Palace

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Roadside hangout, courtesy of Nancy Leung

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Philosophical discussion, Sikh Temple, Delhi

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Mother and son at wedding

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Nancy Leung and her husband Richard on an elephant at Amber Fort, Jaiput

With special thanks to Nancy Leung who was on the SmarTours trip with her husband Michael. Her superior camera and eye captured many of the shots here and as noted in other places in my blog.  After spending hours editing, she graciously shared them with all of us, to use as we would like.


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Amber Fort Wins Best Fort Prize

Ft Ti firing demoWhen I was quite young we stopped at Fort Ticonderoga in New York State on one of our family vacations. A colonial era fort, Ticonderoga stayed in my memory as one of my favorite places so much that I had my family stop there about five years ago.  Somehow, it had shrunk and my kids were not impressed.

Well, travelfans, do I have a fort for you!!! Imagine, if you will, the Amber Fort of Jaipur, high on a ridge overlooking the valley. Built in 1592 by Raja Man Singh, this palace has it all: amazing architectural details and wonderful stairways and corridors that beckon you on and on.DSCF6339

But first, let me set the tone.You should stop first by the lake and visit with the snake charmer. For a small fee you, too, can blow on the nasally sounding flute and keep a close eye on the cobra. snake Then climb aboard one of the wonderfully decorated elephants

source: Nancy Leung SmarTours

source: Nancy Leung SmarTours

and ride in leisure up up up the climbing roadway to the Sun Gate.

source: Nancy Leung SmarTours

source: Nancy Leung SmarTours

Try to ignore the vendor running alongside enticing you with an ever declining price for the elephant bedspread he is hawking. Tell him it is made poorly and you have no interest, tossing it back to him continuously as the elephant takes you higher and higher. Remember to ignore the vendor to take in the view of the gardensDSCF6359and the fortress wall climbing the opposite hillside.DSCF6351 When you enter the courtyard and he is losing hope, pay the man 10% of his originally stated price and tuck the blanket away, to be used later to sew custom made bags for people who want one that has an essence of this trip.

INdian elephant blanket And then look around the courtyard.

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source: Nancy Leung SmarTours

And start exploring.  So much to see. The stairs beckoning you upwards DSCF6378to the plaza.

DSCF6383The mosaicsDSCF6389 all over the place, in the wallsDSCF6380, in the ceilings….everywhere.

Remind yourself that this all was built in 1592, well over 400 years ago. Enjoy the colorsDSCF6407

and the carvings. Everywhere, more detailing.

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Every ceiling different. And the passageways….follow this one…then that one.

DSCF6402Ask someone who works there how to get back to the courtyard where Arvind asked everyone to meet in 20 minutes before moving to another section of the fort.

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Meet up with the group in time and maintain your good standing. And then go again. See another section…it is a huge place.

DSCF6385Peek out of windows to view other places inside the fortDSCF6398 and the surrounding countryside.DSCF6399DSCF6418

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then down another passageway

DSCF6414through another gate

source: Nancy Leung SmarTours

source: Nancy Leung SmarTours

and still more to see with huge cooking pots.

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and then out beyond the outer gate past more vendors and then a jeep ride back to the bus.

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Amber Fort……put it on your list of places to visit, but only if you like to explore.  You DO like to explore, don’t you!!

 


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Leadership Issues

He is running the treasury down, supporting a pet project, spending way too much money on that instead of running the government and taking care of the programs that will help the people.

Sound familiar?

Well, I think this proves it is a perennial issue with leaders because specifically, I am talking about the Emperor Akbar (1556-1605).   As for the Emperor, there was no room for discussion in that kind of government; what he decided was done, regardless of cost.  At least we have a voice, no matter how much it may seem to be muzzled at times.

Fatehpur Sikri, the “City of Victory”, sits 35 kilometers from Agra on a low hill of the Vindhya mountain range. Before Akbar, the site of the future city had already been the site of an important battle won by Akbar’s grandfather.  In gratitude he named the area Shukri, which means “thanks”. In Akbar’s time the site was occupied by a small village of stonecutters and was the home of Shaikh Salim Chishti, a Muslim astrologer and Sufi Saint.DSCF6236

In 1568 Akbar visited the Shaikh to ask for the birth of an heir which was promised soon. Sure enough, Akbar’s wife gave birth to a boy on August 30, 1569. In gratitude, Akbar named the boy Salim after the astrologer, and, two years later decided to move the capital there.DSCF6220

As a strategic location protecting inland routes, Fatehpur Sikri was completed in 1573 but served as the seat of government for only ten years.

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The first planned cities of the Moghuls,  the throne room has an intricate carved red stone platform.  DSCF6227

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although only the palace and mosque sections of the expansive city remain, the architectural details throughout the complex are eye catching.

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The city has a series of rain water channels and large pools to capture any precipitation.DSCF6224DSCF6235 pool NancyHowever, it turned out there was not enough water available in the area to support the court and all the services it needed there. The Emperor was soon distracted by an invasion of Afghans to the north and the Mughal capital was moved to Delhi in 1586.

Excavations of the ancient city started in 1892 and it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. Today the buildings and grounds that are preserved are a small portion of the extensive city that existed in 1585.  


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What’s Your Karma?

Over the eons that man has been on the earth, there always has been some craving for making sense of the wonderment that is the earth,  all it offers, and our own role on it.  There are so, so many interpretations of a Higher Power, by whatever name. My own sense of questioning came early but it probably developed more in the time I have been married to Graham, attending church with him.  In listening to the Christian interpretation of God, in participating in numerous book and study groups, I can see there is more in common than different. What fools we mortals be, fighting over the “right” way.religious-symbols_2

Visiting India brought me a closer view of several Eastern religions than ever before (and also learn not to react to the immediate gut reaction to the swastika.) Since Karma is a huge part of both Hindusim and Buddishm, I will try to give you a very very cursory explanation. I brought home books on Buddhism and Hinduism that were recommended by two of the guides and am learning a lot.  I’ll describe our visit to a Hindu Temple in another post and how I recognized some symbols in common with Christianity and Judaism.

Identified as one of the world’s oldest religions, Hinduism was developing in India about the same time as we estimate Abraham was knocking over the idols and developing the concept of monotheism that later developed into Judaism and off-shot Christianity and Islam.  So, it is similar in that it predates written records and the beliefs have only been codified thousands of years after development of an ethical system.

The main concept of Hindusim is that our beliefs determine our thoughts and attitudes about life, which in turn direct our actions. By our actions, we create our destiny.  

It is reasonable to enjoy life and all it offers. There is clear evidence in the development of the Kama Sutra that Hindus have no sexual hangups, but recognize that sex is part of life. Arvind shared that in the early adult years it is encouraged to build a good life, providing well for your family.

This phase changes once the children are married and then it is time to prepare for the spiritual part of life. All the actions done up to this point and through the remainder of this lifetime will determine how the soul will be reborn in the next lifetime.

Hinduism is not the only religion that believes in rebirth of the soul.  Although some religions do not adhere to this simple outlook, most faiths ask us to believe that we are more than mortal flesh and blood. If you are religious, you believe profoundly that your soul connects you to God.  You also have some concept that the struggle of the soul, whether it is cast down and troubled or joyous and raised in triumph, is the life of spirit. And it seems to me that in Christianity, there is hope that if your life here has been troubled, that there is a spiritual reward awaiting you.

I’ve always casually considered karma to simply be payback, what goes around comes around. A person who does bad things will eventually have bad things happen to them.  In Hinduism karma is a Sanskrit word that means “deeds”.  Your deeds in this lifetime may not have a result in this lifetime, but it may accrue and not be until the next lifetime that your karma plays out. You may, if you are truly bad, come back as a lower lifeform, and have little chance of ever evolving into a higher lifeform in future lives.4743690099_karma_xlarge

The purpose of life in Hinduism is to minimize bad karma in order to enjoy better fortune in this life and achieve a better rebirth in the next. The ultimate spiritual goal is to achieve release (moksha) from the cycle of samsara altogether. It may take hundreds or thousands of rebirths to get rid of all of one’s accumulated karma and achieve moksha. The person who has become liberated (attained moksha) creates no more new karma during the present lifetime and is not reborn after death.

There is no proof for karma and this cycle of rebirth. There is also no proof against it. Same can be said for any religious belief, even yours. We tend to go on faith, all of us. Be find….work on YOUR karma.