On the weekends I usually get up before the rest of the family and walk down to the beach to beach-comb, get some fresh air and steps in and to clear my head. Beach walks here are not always the most pleasant. Many people do not have plumbing or toilets so the beaches tend to have many piles of human waste and invariably I need to alter my pace to avoid men defecating like the beach is their litter box. I’ve seen plenty of dead animals on the short stretch of beach I usually walk. Rats, a kitten, dogs, even a pig and a mongoose after last year’s floods. But the large number of sea turtles that I see this time of the year is most depressing.
Every winter, sea turtles return to the beaches of Chennai to lay eggs. Every year while on my walks I see many dead sea turtles. I assumed that they were dying from feral dogs attacking them but a man I met on the beach said that it is from fishermen ignoring bans on certain gear during the nesting season. That makes more sense because the turtles are usually not torn up like they would be if dogs were eating on them.
This year I counted six dead turtles along about two kilometers of beach. A week later most of the carcasses were washed away by high tides. Maybe most of my gruesome sightings for a while will involve the discarded puffer fish and lost dolls.
The major project we hired a carpenter to do for us was to make four bookshelves. We love books. We also love games and Pepper loves puzzles. Our collection of all three had really outgrown the single bookcase and two cabinets that we have from the school and the landlord. So we decided to order our own.
I knew I wanted them to not be too large individually. I wanted some versatility — stackable is what I guess I was looking for. So I designed two components. The bottom one has three compartments. The bottom is 16 inches tall and the next two are 12 inches tall. Yesterday the carpenter finished those two units so we moved them inside and loaded them up with our games and puzzles.
We’ll probably be able to move some things around after the top two pieces are done. The bottom two shelves on them are 12 inches tall and the top two are almost ten inches tall. In total the four pieces will be eight feet wide and just under eight feet tall.
One of the many things that Pepper has been wanting is a larger shoe rack for next to our front door. Our first year in India we bought a metal one that is less than 3 feet tall, about two feet wide and has five wire shelves. It has been full of shoes and had piles of shoes around it just about since we bought it.
Last week I hired a carpenter to make us our own shoe rack and this one is over three feet tall, exactly 4 feet wide and had five shelves plus the top surface. Made out of hardwood plywood with teak facing here it is loaded with our shoes and some helmets.
The cushion on top is for the cats. They love watching out the window. The shelves are all 6 inches apart except the bottom which is 8. They are also 12 inches deep whereas the old one we were using was just 10.
It cost around $100 to have made. Probably a little pricey. But we knew we didn’t want doors on it because, well, we’re honest about how likely we would be to use it then. I do like the look of this one but it is considerably shorter and costs three times as much as we spent.
This is a long weekend because of the Tamil festival of Pongal — the winter harvest festival. Friday morning (Boghi) people burned their old and unwanted items which creates quite a heavy amount of smoke throughout the area. On our drive in to the school we could see the smoldering remains of the fires people lit early in the morning.
Considering that the air in Chennai is generally very good we’re fine with dealing with a half day of bad air pollution.
For our winter break we went to Kiev, Ukraine then Helsinki, Finland up to Rovanievi, Finland and then Tallinn, Estonia. This is a video about our time in Rovanievi in Lapland — right at the Arctic Circle.
We found our place using Booking.com because we found that Airbnb places were pretty much booked up.
Here is their list with places in bold that I have been to along with links to my relevant blog posts for sites I have been to the exact place on the list. I start out pretty strong on their list and then fizzle out!
School starts back up tomorrow after our three week winter break. So on Saturday I set out to try and have a really great day knowing Sunday would have a lot of things going on that I had to do instead of wanted to do. Sunday wasn’t all bad though…
Watered my plants and did some repotting and pruning
Went on a walk and did some beach combing and came back with two handfulls of treasures
Ate pancakes, sausages and muffins that Pepper cooked.
Got cash! (See: India demonetization.)
Picked up totes (actually Indian milk crates) to use to sort Lego. (For a future project.) Spent more than an hour with the boys scrubbing them clean. Then went about filling them with Lego.
Worked on a video from our summer travels.
Went to a friend’s for dinner and drinks and to catch up on their travel during the break.
Went on a walk and beach combed again. Saw one dead sea turtle. This time brought home two small grocery bags of treasures including a dolphin skull. Yes, a dolphin skull. (Perhaps a porpoise?) I’m sure that it will excite our biology teacher as much as it did me!
Cooked potatoes, bacon and eggs for brunch.
The family got haircuts.
Went to Amadora for ice cream.
Wrote up a project on Instructables and entered it in an appropriate contest.
Ryan McFarland's travel, thoughts, projects and more.