Travel with SUTRA in 2013

AFFORDABLE  &  EXOTIC  INDIA

The infinite beauty and variety of India is on our itinerary this coming winter…join Kim Hammer, seasoned world traveler and art enthusiast!

Immerse yourself in the culture & the natural world with an emphasis on developing an appreciation for the diverse spirituality of India and its expression in art and architecture.

The Best Exotic Marigolds...

January 25 – February 12   “Ancient India

Tour Old Delhi before going to Orissa in the east (visit Konark Temple, Puri on the ocean and heritage artisan villages near Bubeneshwar).  Visit the oldest living city of Varanasi with a dawn boat ride on the Ganges, and on to the Erotic Temples of Khajurahao.  18 days.  Guide Fee* due November 15:  $500   Group limited to 6 travelers.

The Erotic Temples of Khajuraho at dawn

February 8 – March 4   “Out and About in Rajasthan”

Visit South Delhi and a contemporary design studio before heading to Surajkund Craft Mela and the Keoladeo Bird Sanctuary near Bharatpur.  An overnight camel safari and the 3-day Desert Festival in Jaislamir highlight the trip, but you will also visit Jaipur, Udaipur, Ajmer and Pushkar, experiencing the stunning and unique western Thar Desert region of India.   24 days.  Guide Fee*  due November 30:  $650  Group limited to 6.

Varanasi at Dawn: A Boat Tour on the Ganges

*SUTRA coordinates itinerary, makes hotel and in-country transportation reservations,, and provides a safe container to experience this amazing country (and her food….).  You pay a “guide fee” for Kim’s role as an “escort”.  Your international air fares, food and entrance/guide fees are paid individually, and your hotels and major “land” transport is paid in a single payment to our travel agent once you arrive.

Contacr me for more information ~ including the expected cost of this trip and necessary documents to enter India.

Kim Hammer       “SUTRA  loves INDIA !”   608.792.7641      * sutraglobalbydesign@gmail.com

Come to your Senses

I have now come to expect ubiquitous tears as I depart from each country I visit, and not entirely due to the pain of separation. For me, cleansing tears are always linked with deep gratitude and the experience of receiving utter goodness, from the people, from the culture, from stepping into non-ordinary reality.

I was able to indulge my senses in Bali, perhaps more fully than is possible in the west, though I do give my full effort as a foodie and a practitioner of healing arts!

I savored exquisite Balinese rice and spiced fish roasted within a banana leaf, while gazing upon a emerald rice paddy alive with ducks. Following a luxurious spa massage, I soaked in a pool among floating frangipani and felt the steady, slow release of a former life.

Just the day before, I had gazed up at the Balinese penjors festooning the sky during the festival of Galugan. During our month of March, each family makes this bamboo & palm leaf flag to honor the gods.

Stitched together with tiny bamboo pins, a 3-dimensional palm-leaf “chandelier” hangs from the graceful arch of newly harvested bamboo. These line the roadways, one after another, as living archways, resplendent with the blessings of the gods that protect the Indonesian people from unhappy spirits. They join the community together: a physical task becomes a shared ritual imbued with collective consciousness and healing. On this day, I felt so completely full.

Now, 3 years later, I find solace in rewriting this tale, but also bringing to light another story of wholeness and healing vis a vis our senses. A friend recently purchased a singing bowl, for use at the clinic where she works. A singing bowl is a spiritual tool, with roots in Tibetan Buddhism, where they are used as auditory markers. At the toning of the bowl, attention is easily brought to the present moment. The toning can be a kind of *call to attention*: Leave behind your “monkey mind”, pause, and take a deeper breath. The staff is being introduced to the concept of “mindfulness” through the daily toning of this bowl, but also to the power of shared ritual.

Recently, a staff member at this clinic experienced a death in her family. Her immediate coworkers gathered and toned the singing bowl while holding hands for a moment of silence. They honored not only the mother who had passed, but also the grief process of their co-worker. Again, the power of shared ritual is felt. In Bali, the penjors, created mindfully and collectively; here, the toning of the singing bowl: “sound medicine”, simple and powerful.

Three Tips to Traveling Quite Well!

Traveling is not a one-size-fits-all Balinese sarong, so designing your next trip can help you spend those hard-earned dollars in a way to maximize your pleasure!

KNOW WHY YOU GO:

I have appreciated both trekking in Nepal and lounging on a cruise ship along Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. I have stayed in 5-star Bangkok hotels and hiked the Inca trail to Machu Picchu. I have traveled by local bus and limousine; I have camped in a field of grapes, and celebrated my 50th birthday aboard a floating bed and breakfast. I go because, by and large, I want to experience and appreciate local culture & the natural world. I want to step out of my routine. Sometimes I simply want to wander the streets of a bazaar.

Do you want to fly by zipline through the Amazonian rainforest? Or does heaven appear to you as the Manhattan skyline from a roof-top restaurant?     Escape, explore, engage, appreciate…these are among the many reasons people travel.

Ask yourself: what is the REAL reason for your travels, this time?

TRAVEL LIGHT:

In all ways, leave excess baggage home. There are rules of thumb in all travel guides: pack and then remove 1/3 of your clothing, as an example.

As important is to check your attitude at the end of your driveway. On a recent trip in Asia, due to new visa restrictions I was delayed in an Asian country I knew nothing about. Happily, I had the presence of mind to state: “We don’t know why this is happening, but there’s some greater purpose here. Let’s just let it unfold; likely we will find out later.” And though there were delays and financial repercussions, weeks later, in a long line, we met the man who would arguably create the most profound day in a full month of travel for our tour group of 12.

Travel involves regularly stepping into the unknown, so know that going into the experience. Leave the ugly and loud American home, and open your eyes to the possibility that the unexpected might simply be the universe offering you the perfect alternative to the tightly wound schedule you had planned.

BE KIND:

First of all, to yourself; secondly, to those whose paths you cross. The Dalai Lama says: “My religion is simple: my religion is kindness”. Give yourself a break to take in the sensory pleasure of your journey. What are the sounds, tastes and smells that will nurture your soul and your body during this time out of “your daily rut-tine”? It is both a necessary luxury, but also a luxurious necessity to break out your routine on a regular basis.

Sometimes a massage or a wonderful concert will cost no more than a typical tourist attraction. It might just be that closing your book while lounging on the beach will bring you into balance. How can you take care of yourself so well that you embody gratitude with each breath? Or indeed, that you touch your breath? What might be the greatest act of kindness you could bestow on another, whether a fellow traveler or the maid who cleans your room?

Being nurtured by the natural world is priceless in this wireless, yet very much plugged-in world. Remember… Take heed: if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten! Journey into and beyond your comfort zone!

Where would you go, to renew your spirit, to gaze upon a breath-taking sight, to share a once-in-a-lifetime journey with someone you love?

So, as you consider this next vacation, ask yourself the question that will make this journey come alive for you!

RECIPE: Thai Inspired Comfort Food

I am a localvore, omnivore and globalvore, both in lifestyle as well as food preferences. I am committed to local, organic AND global fair trade. From my coffee and chocolate to my zucchini and music, I live my values. And, with joy and gratitude  ♥

So, when it comes to food, comfort food, prepared with an ethnic edge, is often my choice. One year, though not an avid gardener, I surprised myself by growing all the ingredients needed for spring roll, save the rice wrapper and noodles: basil, nasturtiums, cilantro, cabbage, and spinach. Mint and wild leeks were growing wild, as they do in South West Wisconsin. I was in Foodie Paradise to discover that just outside my kitchen door were most of the ingredients for a fabulous light fare.

Nasturtium Spring Rolls…YUM!

The nasturtiums provided the brilliant color against the flavor orgasms of basil and cilantro! What better to dip these in, than a Thai-inspired peanut sauce? Childhood memories of peanut butter sandwiches, but with a kick! Credit goes to the Whole Foods Market Cookbook for these recipes:

Thai Peanut Sauce

(Makes 3 cups & keeps for 2 weeks in your refrigerator)
½ cup canola oil
¼ cup toasted sesame oil
1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
12 cloves finely minced garlic
1 2-inch piece of ginger, roughly chopped
111/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup water
3 T sugar
¼ cup catsup
½ cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
¼ cup tamari or soy sauce
2-3 T lime juice
1 t hot pepper sauce or ½ t ground-up red pepper flakes

Heat oils over medium heat, and add onions, garlic and ginger. Simmer 5 minutes, stirring often. Add remaining ingredients and simmer uncovered for another 5 minutes. Cool fully. Puree in a blender, or food processor fitted with a metal blade, until smooth.

Spring & Summer Rolls

1 7oz. rice stick or bean thread noodles
4 cups thinly sliced napa cabbage
2 cups thinly sliced spinach
¼ basil or thai basil
3T chopped cilantro
¼ cup chopped mint
2 scallions, sliced thinly and diagonally,
or wild leeks (aka ramps)
1 ½ cups edible flowers, (such as violets or nasturtiums),
stems removed
18 spring roll wrappers

Bring 2 qts water to a boil, add noodles, cook for 3 minutes, stirring often. Drain well, rinse under cold water and drain again.
In a large bowl combine all the ingredients except the flowers and stir well.
To assemble the rolls, fill a pan with very hot water. Immerse the wrapper until it is soft and pliable, about 30 seconds.
Lay the wrapper out flat on a smooth surface. Dap with a paper towel gently to remove excess moisture. Lay 2-3 flowers across the middle, add ½ cup greens and ¼ cup noodles on top of the flowers. Roll the edge closest to you over the top and gently pull back to lock in the ingredients. Fold the sides over, as if an envelope, and then roll up tightly. Place seam side down in a sealable container and cover with a lettuce leaf or damp paper towel. Roll all the rolls in this way.
Spring/Summer rolls will keep for 2 days if covered with a damp towel in a tightly sealed container. Serve with the creamy peanut sauce! Enjoy this fresh salad treat!
3 rolls have 320 calories, and with just 15 “fat calories”, make a welcome addition to most any diet! Go sparingly on the peanut sauce if needed. Bon Appetit!

This is India!

I sit amidst my fairly traded goods and recall stories of connecting with artisans…close at hand are the journals and fabric lanterns from the artisan named Dev.

I do not know Dev’s last name.  There was no name on his shop.   This is but one of the curious facts of working in India—formalities exist, but according to their own plan.   I purchased his embossed leather-bound journals, but also embroidered fabric journals and camel leather bracelets.  Additionally, a passer-by with fabric lanterns was hailed and 20 pieces were purchased from him.  While I am sure some part of this transaction aided Dev, I have no idea their arrangement!

Dev and his Dyed Embossed Leather Journal Covers..on the rooftop!
This is India, after all.

Up close and personal....

But , alas,the story!   Situated in the south of the Rajasthan, the City of Lakes belies its name.  Though there are several lakes within its boundaries, Udaipur’s temperature averages well over 80 degrees during the winter months.   Rajasthan is primarily desert, and thus has a population
of camels that rivals that of the human inhabitants.  Hence, there are as many camel leather shops as there are catholic churches in Milwaukee…everywhere, on every block, so it is easy to overlook them.

Somehow Dev caught our attention, though I am quite surprised.  His shop, if you can call it that, is a sliver of space, up 4 steep steps, and barely wide enough for this big-boned gal to slide in.  There is nothing that labels this a “legitimate retail store”:   no hours of operation, no means to weigh packages and, again since this is India, a fraction of the goods possible are visible.

Dev is a mostly savvy , but slightly anxious 19-year old, with a younger brother who is less than eager to obey his elder.  After looking at the meager shop, he trotted us off to his “factory workshop”, which was only slightly larger and cleaner than a cow stanchion, and there he demonstrated
the art of dyeing and stamping leather.   A simple process, yet performed sitting cross-legged on a cement floor hunched over a block of wood, the task would be unbearable for most stiff-hipped Americans.

 

This is India: On concrete floors, cross-legged, creating...

The leather pieces are dampened with a cloth saturated with dye, and then pounded with a wooden mallet against a metal stamp, in order to impress the image into the leather.  Dev has created stunning leather-bound journals embedded with a fine polished semi-precious stone.  These journal covers are left to dry in the dry desert sun on the fourth-story rooftop, accessible by uneven concrete steps, and with a rickety single rebar hand rail.

Dev & his Guruji - Udaipur, Rajasthan

Someone truly afraid of heights would have declined the invitation to trek up, but would have missed the view over Udaipur, arguably among the most romantic cities in India.

So, we haggled a bit over prices, and we chose a few of the leather journals, as I was not convinced of their salability.   I was unsure whether he could procure what I requested, whether he could or would create my journals, and whether the package would arrive on my doorstep in the United States.  I now know this was more about me than Dev and his journals.

After all,this is India.  And anything is possible:  no problem!  Another color you wish, Madame?   No problem!  50 pieces:  no problem!  Shipping to the United States?  For 2 rupees, a neighboring shop will weigh the package and Fed Ex is everywhere!

So indeed, without Dev’s last name or shop name, the package arrived exactly as requested.  I was quite surprised to get the package at all, but here it was!

So look for more camel leather goods during a SUTRA home sale this winter, as I will contact Dev by email, and it will be me needing the encouragement to enter the 21st century:  this will be my first attempt to wire transfer money anywhere!  And this young entrepreneur in a nameless shop will be giving me instructions.

Why travel?

The trip you take will never be exactly as you had anticipated.  You
will find more friendly people, but in unexpected places.  You will be hungrier, and more satiated.  You will learn to trust yourself in ways unimagined, and learn the depth of your own will and heart.

Never again will you be the same.  Never again will you choose a new lipstick over a  bus ticket.  Never again will you be tempted by the shiny, but instead by what is holy and true.

You will not be stoic, but deep feeling will find its way into every crevice of relating, but mostly to the way you relate to yourself.   You will have found the deepest well of generosity within yourself, but also the will of honest strength.  When you feel you cannot go on, you will discover untapped reserves of something without a name, and with certainty you take the next step, and the one after that.

The way will be difficult, but it is a challenge for all the right reasons.  You will be learning the art of self-sufficiency infused with utter dependence on someone either half your age or education, or both.  There are small
brown-skinned men all over world, waiting to carry your baggage, and I do mean all of it, over steep mountain trails, that you may truly know their home.

From Macchu Pichu to the eastern Himalayan range, you will be humbled again and again, by selfless acts of love.  And without a shared verbal language or culture, your gratitude will be known.  You will have the ability to be grateful with your wallet, but moreover, your humility will be shown.

You will later discover the divine beauty within your own landscape, within your community of believers, within your abode.   You will find a million reasons why life is so precious, so utterly  beautiful, and joy will be your middle name.   You will discover that you must go again, and you will be utterly supported, in every way:  the time, place and c0-conspirator will
appear.  Without striving, without effort, without hesitation.

This is my travel story, the only one worth writing.
This is why I travel, and for whom.
This is why I choose, and will always choose, an airline ticket over a
dishwasher, a daypack over a Gucci bag, a new map over a tried-and-true routine.

The Taj Mahal

I am shamelessly addicted to the open road, and hope to die pursuing this one love (but not soon!).

Mother Earth Energy

The rain is coming down in sheets, we always say, and so much so, that the lone man living kitty-corner to my barn is standing in his open garage watching this unusual opening of the heavens.  On this day, he is not
alone, but another dude stands near him in the open space, staring wordlessly.

In  Bali, in February, the rain comes down almost daily like this, in torrents enough to fill the streets despite the government’s feeble attempt at rain ditches or channels along many roadways.  Ubud, the village made even more famous by the Love chapters of the book Eat Pray Love, experienced such a rainfall on one of my last days there.  I recall I had found a stone statue-type of shop I wanted to investigate.  Not typically found here in Ubud, but in the neighboring village of Batubalan, I was both delighted and intrigued.

It was here I found 2 basalt stone sinks, one smaller for a bathroom perhaps, and the other larger, both of which sold this year to not-yet-retired highly creative women with a vision for their new bathrooms.  One would go
into a “zenovated” home overlooking the Mississippi River, a small but becoming even more “open concept” home owned by a just-married couple in their late fifties. The other sink was purchased as “seed” for a hoped-for sale of an existing home, which then would beget the design and construction of a downsized home for the owners of an interior design firm in the area.  The sinks would be given good homes, appreciated
for their earthy yet modern lines.

The Find, however was a stone turtle, heavier than I can lift myself, even without this broken wrist.  It is a sea turtle, with a slight turn to the right, as if it has chosen a new course, south and east.  Carved of greenstone, the feet are clearly meant for swimming in the deep sea.  On its back is an unexpected element, a carved lotus flower enclosed in a diamond—an artistic addition elevating the creature to spiritual status, at least in my mind.

The turtleis the oldest symbol for Mother Earth, and the personification of goddess energy, according to Jamie Sams’ MedicineCards, a book I have owned well over 20 years.  Earth and water energies exist within this ancient creature, and she supports the creative path.  In my mind, she represents the most beautiful aspect of women’s bodies in middle age, the fullness of the waist, the drooping of the breasts, the slowing, yet steady groundedness of this age.

This stone turtle now awaits her good home.  I release her to the one woma nwho will place her with care into a flower garden, hopefully one with water features.  Perhaps it is no coincidence that the earth is being deeply nourished by the powerful water element, and I find myself entranced by the loveliness of this stone turtle today.

How SUTRA is a force for good in the world

Are you thinking of hosting a SUTRA global by design Home Sale?

Celebrate Incredible India with a SUTRA World Market in your home or office!

SUTRA global by design acts as a force of healing in the world via spreading beauty and abundance across cultures. SUTRA purchases directly & pays a fair price to Asian artisans and sells to the American buyer in a  “home sale” format (rather than a retail store). This conscious choice to keep our overhead low allows SUTRA to pay artisans fairly for high-quality products, lead travel tours to hand-select goods directly from each artisan or fair trade organization/coop, sell these goods at a reasonable price, and donate a portion of all profits to a worthwhile cause.

SUTRA global by design links South Asian artisans directly with conscious Americans who want the choice to purchase fairly-traded, fine quality handicrafts. People want to buy proudly, so you doing a community service to host this event!

SUTRA offers 2 options for you: (a SUTRA Home Sale or a SUTRA Fundraiser):

1.   A SUTRA Home Sale provides a 5% donation to the cause of your choice after $300 in sales is made, plus a $50 “Hostess   Gift” certificate for products you choose that day and 20% off your purchases that day.

2. After a $300 minimum in sales is made, A SUTRA Fundraiser will donate 15% of the purchases to your chosen cause. You will receive 10% off your purchases that day.

To create a successful event, SUTRA will post a Facebook event, create and print 30-50 simple flyers and to create an email with photos for you to send to your friends and family.

I bring display units, educational materials about the artisans & SUTRA cultural tours, and a “door prize”. I will set up & take down the show and clean up in a timely fashion.

As a SUTRA Home Sale host, you are agreeing to:

1.  Together we will choose a focus for your sale: “South Asia’s Amazing Textiles”, “Exquisite Offerings” or Bazaar India (everything under $50), and whether you will have a Home Sale or a Fundraiser.

2. Set a date and time, address for the sale, and designate a cause for the SUTRA donation at least 30 days in advance. This cause can help to bring others who support that cause to this event, which is beneficial for the cause and for the SUTRA event.

3.  Promote the event by “sharing” the event on your Facebook page, emailing friends and family (SUTRA provides the text) and distribute the SUTRA poster by hand or mail to neighbors, family and businesses nearby. (Ideally, your invites to 50-60 willproduce 25 – 30 attendees). Consider co-workers, friends, neighbors, family, fellow supporters of your cause, and people you know more casually (through church, organizations, activities)

4. Before the sale, clear a space in your home, office or yard, free of most “personal effects” at eye level or below, that will accommodate 3-4 banquet tables and a few racks, as well as some wall hangings. For most homes, this would be your living room and dining room and the front entryway.

5. At the event, you can choose to provide simple refreshments, such as a beverage, but the focus is not on food. Your main role is to “meet and greet” those who come, introduce me and keep the focus on the products, artisans and sales.

SUTRA means “thread” in Sanskrit, as in the thread of connection, and exists to link the Global North with those in the Global South, as well as to link the West with the East. SUTRA also helps bring traditional Asian art forms to our contemporary world, and provides travel opportunities to Americans wanting to connect with South Asian people and culture. SUTRA is the thread of life!

To learn how you can host a SUTRA global by design in your community and about SUTRA Cultural Tours:

 CONTACT: Kim Hammer, SUTRA Owner and Tour Leader

608.792.7641

SUTRAglobalbydesign@gmail.com

Become my Facebook friend: Kim Hammer

Like: SUTRA global by design

twitter:  SUTRA fair trade

Humbled…

A spiritual teacher can come in the most unlikely of places.  Picture yourself in India, in the presence of a wise soul, listening to stories that resonate with some deeper truth, words that you receive with gratitude, lessons that come free of shame, guilt and harshness.   You might imagine yourself in an ashram, a yoga hall or in the dark corridors of Nizamuddin, the  Sufi quarter of old Delhi.  You might imagine sitting with spine erect and eyelids lowered, or that chanting is resonating in your heart chakras.

Nizamuddin Market

Instead,  you are in the back seat of the ubiquitous Indian vehicle, the mid-sized Maruti, zigging and zagging along the highway from Delhi to Agra, on your way to the Taj Mahal.   This teacher is in the front seat, a simple driver, married with 2 children, and much younger than his eyes would appear.

Prabhim Mehta wove his way through stories as easily as through India’s schizophrenic traffic, with frequent forays into the  themes of surrender, equanimity and acceptance.  We learned about life, loss, and balance in equal measure with laughter and wonder.  To our amazement, his driving never faltered and his tales never ceased.   We learned about his family, his customers, how he learned to drive, and the all-too-many journeys through Rajasthan.  We encouraged him to write a book, and he simply replied, “but who would read it?”  His humility was unparalleled.

By the third day, my heart was sufficiently opened so that tears copiously fell during my last minutes with him.  Like  any old and wise soul, he was direly concerned but urged me to dry my tears and move on.  All is well, and all was well, and I am glad to be alive, having been in the back seat of one Delhi driver, wise and kind.

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