Saturday 27 September 2014

World Tourism Day 27.Sept.2014

Today World Tourism Day (WTD) is celebrated all around the globe as every year on September 27 – for ‘global observance to highlight tourism‘s social, cultural and economic value‘. This year‘s theme is: 

What really means development? And what means it for the community? 
In a short video on the WTD website some native people from different continents tell their stories of responsible and sustainable tourism ( Natives of Australia, Africa, South-America provide in their homes and villages a simple place for visitors, who will be introduced in their nature‘s surroundings, culture and lifestyle. Of course, these people benefit of tourism as long as they maintain their responsible and sustainable philosophy – that will be a real development for their community. 

Tourists enjoying such authentic local impressions are not in need of five stars facilities. They have all these kind of so-called luxury at home where they come from. They want to experience something different of what they already know and being used to. I think this kind of tourism provides the most benefit for communities. 
Since years local tourism as home stays in India and Kerala is booming. But often home stays are built in a style locals don‘t and didn‘t live at all like. It seems to me as a westerner, the locals‘ dream of a western lifestyle is creating such artificial places to offer proudly to tourists. Why aren‘t they proud of their rich old culture? This question is very compex, since it leads to the far past, to answer and discuss would blast these thoughts about tourism. 

During my early travels to India and Kerala end of the 70ties and beginning of the 80ties I experienced the real home stays. Families were inviting foreigners to stay in their small hut or house, sometimes for free sometimes for a little amount. So that time foreigners got an authentic experience by sharing bathroom, toilet, food with their hosts. 
That time such foreigners were called travelers. Tourists were quite rare and of course not to be seen at that rural, original spots, which were not yet developed in a classical meaning: the places were not yet spoiled. 

Meanwhile time has changed a lot. More tourists visit India but less travelers are seen. But among all these tourists nowadays there are different categories. Many of such tourists looking for a holiday, pleasant, comfortable, relaxing, flavored with some sightseeing tours and cultural performances. They will book their stay in 3 to 5 stars hotels and resorts, which were increasing in Kerala during past years. 
In my opinion these kind of artificial places you can find all around the world without much differences. And these kind of touristic places may not really develop the community in the very best way. Luxury means a lot of waste, means trained stuff – mostly coming from far away, but not from the nearby village – means high energy usage, since all that luxury rooms are built with plenty of modern materials, often not fitting fot the tropical climate, equipped with air condition, TV, refrigerator, hairdryer … 

Since waste management at most of the places in Kerala is not existing, the waste is dumped in ponds, canals, landscapes, beaches. To get aware of such bad polluting habits a responsible, sustainable tourism would really help to develop the communities. 
Traveling around the world in my young days I have observed the misunderstandings of development especially in so-called poor or undeveloped countries, where people think AC, TV, Hotel transfers with waterplanes, loudspeakers and all kind of modern technical equipments mean development, but don‘t consider about polluting their natural places and disturbing others with noise. 

Many tourists visiting India and Kerala are in search for experiencing a local lifestyle, the culture and tradition. These include house construction in all traditional matter as materials too, food, bathroom, toilet, landscape … 
Tourists not want to see waste everywhere, they not want to hear permanent noise from loudspeakers. Actually they come for what India and Kerala was famous once, as I was lucky to see in 1977, when waste was completely organic, when loudspeakers were not existing, when traffic was less. 
India and Kerala is changing by copying all the negative things from the west. 
Therefore a responsible, sustainable tourism will be a big task, as communities themselves have to understand what means development. 

The Sylviander House is our idealistic dream of a Kerala atmosphere, which disappears more and more with the modern capitalistic present age. We wanted to create a place, where luxury is an idea of olden times in Kerala, which I loved so much, when I came here on my first travelings, and which I missed more and more while Kerala‘s seeking to reach modernity. 

Sylviander House is a recycled house as we collected windows, doors, bricks, roof tiles from demolished old Kerala houses in the nearby area of Alappuzha. We used all materials in a very economical way, local and tradtitional. All workers were from the neighborhood, and still up today, whenever we need help for cleaning, cooking, gardening, repairing, everybody comes from the village, even those treating our guests with the traditional Kerala massage. 

We don‘t need a TV or AC or marble floors, but have a internet connection, and thanks to the traditional construction of the building we enjoy a very low current bill. We avoid plastic and unneccessary waste, store glass pieces and energy saving lamps in a safe place. We buy fish and vegetable from local fischermen and local farmers, who started now with organic farming. Regularly we are giving children classes to the neighbor kids to make them aware about their surroundings nature and their daily pollution, also showing them the house and the garden, which they are happy to see. Hopefully this could inspire the villagers in a good way for their common future and make them understand what development really means … 

Even in our simple traditional bathrooms where one has to draw water from bassins to showering, our guests will get a real Kerala feeling of olden times – by the way, this saves water too. We catch rain water from our roof and can enjoy a very good drinking water without any chemicals. 
All these things, local material, locals to help, local style, traditional philosophy with holistic understanding are in my opinion development, which can be supported by a responsible and sustainable tourism for the community. 
I‘ve seen so many places in the world developing from small touristic spots to huge tourism attraction. What was the development for the local population? They couldn‘t afford the prices anymore and had to leave the place. The benefits went straight to the pockets of big hotels and restaurants. 

Meanwhile the pond with biotope and aside two almost extinguished trees in the Sylviander House garden became a rarely seen landscape of olden Kerala scenery, no gardener can create for a resort since it needs decades to grow in that natural way to result in such a beauty, I enjoy every morning again and again. And this small spot of untouched nature never bores me whenever I sit on the veranda to look at, watching the birds in the branches … 

Sunday 21 September 2014

Sunday 21.September 2014: Global Action Day & 7th Children Class

Today is Global Action Day! In all continents over the globe people come together to demonstrate how important is nature, environment, peace to safe Mother Earth for our common future. 

So we too invited for a special children class at our Sylviander House Art Museum to discuss the present situation in our village Chettikad and to find solutions to reducing waste in daily life. At this day,11 boys only came, no girls at all. They might have gone to the nearby church, 500 meter away, where at the same time a special program took place – we could hear the sound, since people here want to pray with loudspeakers only. 

As always, some kids came 1 hour before the class starts at 3 pm. They were sitting with Alexander at the morning tea veranda on the 1st floor, where they could have a look at his exhibition catalogues and talk about his paintings and art. And of course they liked to walk over the verandahs and overlook the garden with the pond and biotop. When everybody was there I called them into my writing room to sho them on my laptop the photographs of frozen water crystals, taken by the Japanese scientist Masaru Emoto, who explores water in a very special way ( He writes words with different emotional meaning as hate, evil or love, peace and many more on a waterbottles and examines after a day this water under the microscope, where significant differences are seen. He also exposes water to music nice and harmonious as classical or songs from the Beatles and also to loud and tough music as Heavy Metal. In other studies he applies a variety of photographs on the water bottles or he takes polluted water from rivers and lakes before and after buddhist prayers – I am sure without loudspeakers!  

 (because of © rights, this is a photograph I took of snow in front of my window in Munich, Germany)

The boys were impressed about the differences to be seen between the positive or the negtive information to water – wether with sound, written words, pictures or prayers. The positive all show beautiful crystals, the negative have scattered formations and no shape of crystal is to recognize. The crystals show water is alive! We talked about how much this means to our daily life – wether we say ugly or good words, wether we have negative or positive emotions to eachother since our body and the body of all other beings even of the planet Earth consists of 70 – 80 % of water. 

Afterwards we went down to the Museum and formed 3 groups, each of them got a 2 meter long paper. One group should draw the present situation in our village, which we discussed before to make them understand: Everybody goes to the market with empty hands, coming back with many plastic bags filled with fish, vegetables, rice and wheat … The other 2 groups should think about the consequenses of these habits for our environment and groundwater, then find solutions to change these habits and then draw how it could the look like: To go to the market with cotton bags or baskets, wastebins, recycling … 

For me, coming from Germany, it is hard to believe, that most of the places in Kerala – and India – have no waste management. That means in present modern days when people use a lot of plastic for packing and then after use just throw it behind the house or in the neighbor‘s garden or at the beach like in olden times, when packing material was organic made of leaves, used newspaper and schoolbooks. Once in a while people burn their waste. 

And there is no solution for energy saving lamps – as in Europe too, but there the shops have the duty to take it back after usage and store it at a save place. Where ever there is a pond or small canal, people use that spot for dumping their waste – even in the canals of Alappuza, which during heavy rainfalls will be blocked and then overflow – in some areas then the houses stand in the water and the people have to rush to park their car at a safer place.

We encouraged the children to discuss the subject among eachother and work as a group together, to communicate their ideas for improving the situation of pollution in their life in our village. 

To develop a group mind seemed to be something very new for them. Some were engaged and started to draw, some were just watching what their friends did. Again and again we supported them with tipps to work together for solving a problem. 
Finally each group had to explain their ideas and thoughts on the big drawing work and a short discussion followed. 

Then, since everybody insisted to dance I introduced them to a circle dance in sitting position and explained the importance to look at eachother for symmetry to becoming a group and getting the idea of being one. 

We sat down in a big circle doing some light movements with arms an upper part of the body, then moved forward to the middle keeping the sitting position, until our feet came together forming a small circle. We raised our hands and bowed until the fingers touch the toes … then move back to the big circle. 

Everybody was happy and clapping hands and smiled. 
It astonishes me always to see how less flexible these children‘s bodies are.

Before they left, I painted with water color a green heart on everybody‘s cheak as a symbol of that global action day and that we understood something. So when they go home and people will ask: »What is that?« They can tell something about …

Sunday 7 September 2014

Mama Bianca and her troubled kitten

Today for me was a real HAPPY ONAM! 
Why? Listen to the story … 

3 weeks back mama cat Bianca refused her 3 and half months old kitten Mia to come close to her to drink. Bianca was pregnant. 
When Mia was just one month old, this kitten was only bones and fur, same as Mama Bianca – both look really bad. We had been 2 months in Germany and it seemed, they didn‘t get enough to eat during our absence. By the way, Bianca is a wild cat. We know her for 3 years, while she comes into our garden to get the leftover food from us, and she listens to her name. Since recently I can softly touch her for a second, then she looks astonishingly at me. Of course, never in her life somebody had touched her in a friendly way. 

I really was worried, if they would survive. I‘ve never seen such a skinny kitten, the face so bony looked ugly – we gave it the nickname »Fledermoisel«, tiny bat! 
Also it was obvious, that both had worms. I searched for a homeo remedy and mixed it everyday among their food. Slowly they looked better and better. The swollen belly shrinked and legs became strong. 

And now, look at this pretty Mia! 
Even more after Bianca refused her kitten to come close to her, Mia became best friend with Simba-Meeyoo. They played together and even shared a bowl of rice with curd. Only his fish, Simba-Meeyoo doesn‘t allow to share. Mia got her own plate – how hungry this kitten is! 

Mia, although had spent already 3 months with us, but sleeping outside in the storing place, is still incredibly frightened and doesn‘t dare to come close to me. Sometimes I sit beside the plate with food and touch Mia while eating. Then Mia always runs away, but comes back hungrily. Once I could catch it and hold, but Mia was biting and scratching me, that I quickly gave up – bleeding! Mia is too frightened. I accepted its fear, but would have liked to hug and to cuddle it. 

One week back on the last day of August, when Bianca came as usual to get something to eat, we saw she must have given birth, but had no idea, where she hided her kitten. Next day Alexander came to me and said, 3 kitten were laying in the waste bin at the open air washing place verandah of one of the guest rooms. I rushed there. What tiny cuties. 

I took a big paperbox, in which we had put little Simba-Meeyoo once in his first days with us after his traumatic experience (see Cat Story »New life for Simba-Meeyoo«). Then I put the paperbag with the 3 kitten inside into this big box, which I placed in the niche under the basin. I covered the box partly and felt it was a safe and much better place for them. Bianca could comfortably lay there to feed them. 3 days they were happy there. 

In the night, when all windows downstairs were closed, Bianca – as she did last year – climbed up the coconut tree beside my writing room, jumped on the roof, walked on it to the other side of the house and jumped near her kitten‘s place down to the verandah.

But on the 4th day I saw her running around crying, even searching in the house and on the verandahs. I understood, something must have happened to her kitten. When I went there, the box was empty, blood spots around and ugly fleshy tiny parts near the basin. It was clear what had happened. Only hours later Bianca was sitting on top of the storing place in a big tin role: with 2 of her kitten. When she left for some time, I looked at it closer. One of the two kitten didn‘t move, which then next day was disappeared. And again next morning the remaining kitten also wasn‘t there anymore, while Bianca was walking around loudly crying, searching for her kitten. 

And she allowed Mia again to come close and even to drink. Mia must be now 4 months old – what a lucky cat! 

For us it was clear, that all of her 3 newborn kitten were dead, eaten by male cats or what ever. I assumed, probably the same thing must have happened to Mia‘s siblings, that‘s why this frighteness. 

Then today‘s Onam morning what a wonderful surprise: The one kitten was alive! Alexander saw Bianca coming from my stitching room next to kitchen, from where she can get out through the open window. I rushed to look into the big box under my stitching table, where already last year Bianca gave birth to 3 kitten, among them Simba-Meeyoo. And there was it, the brown-white spotted kitten – what a joy! 

I took some cotton cloth to make a cosy bed, cuddled it a bit, just had the eyes half open, then put it back. 
Strange to say, that this only one surviving kitten has been my favorite one from the first moment, and the only one of which I have taken photographs …

That was my Happy Onam gift today.