I have painted on many surfaces over the years: clay, canvas, wood, buildings, streets, sidewalks, fabric, faces. None of this prepared me for painting on elephants. This is definitely something I never even dreamed of doing. I had mixed feelings going into it. I always awed at the beauty of the photographs of painted elephants in magazines and online, but was worried about what all that meant for the elephants. Weren’t they meant to be in the wild? Would these elephants be treated well?
I read all about Elefun before we went. It had good reviews and people had good things to say about how they treated the elephants. Our amazing trip planner, Gouthami, checked in with some of her local connections who also had good things to say about Elefun. Elefun is an elephant village dedicated to creating a safe and natural environment in order to conserve elephants. In Indian culture, elephants are revered, loved, respected and protected.
My first impression was that the elephants were MASSIVE. Being an animal nerd I knew that Indian elephants are one of the smaller varieties, these were anything but small. They introduced us to the elephants, had us pet their trunks. Showed us how to feed them bananas. They ate entire bunches of bananas at once, in what seemed like one giant bite. continue reading →
Ginger (or adrak in Hindi) is grown on farms throughout India. On our trip, we came upon a ginger farm and stopped to take a look. The landscape was very vibrant and green – the leafy green stalks of the ginger are reed-like and can reach up to three feet tall. We saw the farmers harvesting ginger rhizomes (the underground root part of the plant) and piling them up. It was amazing how much was harvested!
As we end one year and make our way into another, we’re taking this chance to look back and explore the places our collections have taken us. Tea has made it to over many different countries, met hundreds of caring people, learned how to sing and dance and say hello in countless languages. Most importantly, we’ve gathered all the inspiration along our way to share with you. Here’s a look at some places we’ve gone over the past few years. continue reading →
Diwali [dih-vah-lee] is the Hindu festival of lights and one of their most important holidays. It celebrates the return of lord Rama from exile and the victory of good over evil. When Rama returned, they welcomed him by lighting “diyas” (lamps and candles). To celebrate, families have feasts, eat sweets, play games, give gifts and light fireworks.
Did you know that Trick-or-Treating is a customary Halloween tradition that began in the late 1940s? The act of going door to door receiving food existed in Great Britain and Ireland where it was known as “souling”. Children (and often the poor) would sing and say prayers for the dead and in return receive cakes.
We thought we’d use this holiday as an opportunity to introduce to you a few sweet German treats. Perhaps you’ll be able to expand your selection of candy for the big day!
We’d heard that the Jiuqian Music & Arts Center was just 15 minutes from our Shanghai hotel. But the Chinese-speaking driver just kept driving and driving… An hour passed and we were officially very, very far from the urban, international city of skyrises.
The driver slowed down, checked his map, then pointed out at a field, and looked at me with a very puzzled look. “I’m beginning to think this is a wild goose chase.” Adam, my 7 year old son asked, “What’s a wild goose chase?” I assured myself that this would be a story to tell for years to come. But I also couldn’t stop thinking about how much my family needed a bathroom after a long day out and about in Shanghai. We turned around, nearly giving up but then we saw the address posted on a small gate into a set of four industrial buildings. I’m pretty sure the driver was disappointed we weren’t headed back to Shanghai, & that he was stuck with us out in the middle of nowhere.
A deep dive into five of our favorite big cat graphic’s from past destinations…
Destination: Japan Fall/Winter 2009
Tiger Mask is a Japanese manga (comic) series written by Ikki Kajiwara and illustrated by Naoki Tsuji. First released in print in 1968, Tiger Mask was later adapted into an anime series in 1969. After 105 episodes, the series ended in 1971. In both the manga and anime, Tiger Mask was a feared wrestler in America who was ruthless in the ring. However, he became a face (“good guy”) after returning to Japan when a young boy told him he wanted to be a villain like Tiger Mask when he grew up. The little boy lived in an orphanage… the same one that Tiger Mask grew up in during his childhood. Frightened that the boy would idolize a villain, Tiger was inspired to be a heroic wrestler.
We go there – we explore and dig deep into other cultures. We know you go there too. This new series will feature stories from world travelers; they’ve taken their first flight over seas with little ones, they’ve traveled back to their native country to introduce their children to grandparents, they’ve packed up only their necessities and traveled to developing countries. Here, you will find their stories and learn about how they’re going there too.
Kicking off this series, we have Jill Amery of UrbanMommies.com sharing her trip to Liberia. It wasn’t necessarily an easy one, but you’ll see that it was a trip that’s changed her life forever. Thank you Jill for sharing your story with us on Studio T!
I had the privilege of traveling to Liberia in February as a parent ambassador for Right To Play, an organization that helps children learn crucial life lessons through sport and games. The experience affected me deeply and I can still smell the heavy West African air. The kids who touched my ‘soft hair’ and reached for my hand are now part of my history. They grace screensavers and watch me from silver frames. The polish of the silver juxtaposed with what I witnessed is disconcerting and constantly reminds me to not take my blessings for granted.
The adults and teenagers I met in Liberia had experienced terrible things in their lifetimes with a war that ended very recently. Some had lost parents and raised themselves. Most had a loved one who experienced sexual assault. And every adult associated with Right To Play worked tirelessly to restore hope for the next generation. Every day the same volunteers (many had no employment themselves but chose to devote their days to teaching children through Right To Play activities) emerged into an empty space and performed magic. It was like a slow motion film. The waiting children would all turn, smile and organize themselves into a ‘great big circle’ so they could begin. The rhythms of their responses to the leader of the game formed a percussive music. The empty, litter-filled space had become vibrant and full of life.
When I think about the diversity in cultures brought to mainstream culture by Tea Collection, I smile. Each outfit I see my kids wear reminds me that we are all connected in this small world. The women of Liberia donned incredible colors and patterns. Their bright eyes and huge smiles pierced through the grey sand and cracked concrete. Standing in front of corrugated metal shacks with red, yellow and purple wraps, these women provided what mothers always do – hope and comfort. Dressing my boys in similar colors and styles gives a nod to these women; A sign of respect and awe. And these women deserved nothing less.
One sign on the side of the road has haunted me since my return. This one advertisement was a definition of ‘Mother’: a person who ‘makes something out of nothing’. That is exactly what I witnessed. These women generated a meager income buying bleach in bulk and selling it in small bags, buying a case of water packets and a block of ice and hoping for extreme heat so they may sell a few individual bags of water to quench thirst in their community.
Hope resonated everywhere – through the games, the smiles, the handmade toys and the tiny children playing hide and seek with this North American girl who seemed so different. I was brought back to the basics of life: drink fresh water, keep your clothes and environment clean to prevent disease, help your neighbor. A young boy bathed meticulously in a large bucket by the side of the road. A woman carrying a huge bundle on her head picked over potato leaves in a market to find the best choices for her family. It was all about hope.
As a mother, I can make a promise. I will never stop visiting other cultures and allowing them to penetrate my own motherhood. I will share the songs and bright fabrics with my children. I will try to not take my life for granted. And more than anything, I will remember that hope is all one needs.