Hello! I'm Renee Garland. I've been traveling to Asia for the last 13 years in order to escape snowy Maine winters, hoping to live sunny adventures. My company began 11 years ago with $250 worth of chopsticks. I started selling them at craft fairs and festivals all over coastal Maine. Unfortunately, many people didn't know much about chopsticks! (or Asia for that matter.) Nonetheless, I trudged through the festival scene for several years expanding my inventory to clothing, accessories, gifts, and art. The mission has always been the same; to work with individuals, women's coops, and small home-based businesses to help support and encourage small enterprises. I opened my first store in Portland, in 2006 called "Waterlily." It's filled with Waterlily brand handmade gifts produced both from my travels abroad, and by local artists. I still go on buying adventures, 'cause that's what it's all about. . .

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Himalayas /His Holiness-

Up in the Himalayas, McLoeod Ganj, where the Tibetan people have re-established themselves.
It is India, but it feels more Tibetan. We have just spent more than a month in India, and it is so nice to get a break from the chaos, and just dissolve up in the mountains. The energy is so different here, peaceful! I wouldn't imagine it to be India. We are so fortunate to be here at this time!

While Jake and I were in the Thar desert, our camel comrades informed us that His Holiness the Dalai Lama will be giving his yearly teachings in the beg. of March. (which was exactly when we were planning to go up to Dharamsala) Wow! Great timing!
-and we would probably meet them (our camel safari friends) up there too. So, this was really exciting, and seemed meant to be.
I finished up with my work of buying for a few weeks in Jodhpur, and Jaipur, and we headed up to Himichal Pradesh. . .
here we are,
His Holiness is here now, and giving his teachings, but we missed the first week, and went yesterday, our first day here. It was incredible to see him in person! I started to cry. . .
we tuned our radio onto the english translation, and sat on a pillow, on the concrete, and listened to every word-

Today was no teaching because it marks the anniversary of the Chinese occupation.
The day that we arrived the weather was fantastic!. Now it is shit! It has been raining all the time, and damp, and freezing, and we didn't bring any clothes to prepare for this. We were just coming from Thailand, and the Thar desert!
So, it's freezing, and we are lucky to have a hotel that supplies a small heater!
Must buy an umbrella.
Anyway, there were many activities planned for today,(a march, music, and so forth,) but because of the rain, we sadly didn't attend.

(It sounds like a cop-out, but understand- when we have only summer clothes, and no rain gear, and it is freezing rain, and the only solace is the tiny heater in your room, you go out to eat for example, and everything gets soaked-we spent hours just drying out and trying to get warm. So the rally, didn't seem feasible)

So instead, we woke late, stayed in bed, and had a lazy freezing cold day. It took all of my energy just to stay warm!We stayed in the hotel most of the day, only leaving for meals, internet, and a walk to the temple, but it was over, sadly, just when we got there.
So, I purchased a pair of longjohns, and wool socks, after all others were soaked!
Even all of the shops to buy an umbrella were closed on this day too!
For dinner, we decided to go to a recommended place- Pema Thang, and as we walked in, I recognized a friend from home! So, we sat with Ben, and his friend, and had a fantastic meal together, and sat astounded by about this place that would bring us all together.
I can't wait for tomorrow, for H.H's teachings, we will surely wake early, and get a seat near him, and out of the rain.
The scenery is so breathtaking here. The mountains are quite misty, but stand tall and offer great beauty from every vantage point.
Prayer flags hang off roof-tops, and between buildings, and trees- so many styles of colorful flags. They contrast the grey peaks above, and the dark green pines.

The air is so fresh, it hardly holds all of the smells of India, that we never get used to. . . far different from the desert where we have just come from.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Camel farts and so on. . .

Ahh, the Thar desert, that forbidden wasteland that separates Pakistan and India, an unchanging world so far from the modern madness we call civilization. The camel safari through this enchanting land was a singular experience, something so unique and memorable. We rode in the back of a Jeep 30 Km west from Jaisalmer to the Maharajah's burial grounds, a centuries old cemetery for the Rajastani royalty, arriving at this solemn sight early in the morning. These ornately carved sandstone monuments are surrounded by massive, 200ft high white windmills that spin quietly, providing electricity for the nearby army base, while creating a beautiful contrast to the ancient memorials. After a brief visit there, we traveled deeper into the desert, stopping at a village where the natives were not exactly friendly. The undisciplined children, upon realizing that I refused to part with my hard earned rupees, began to hurl large rocks at me, and based upon their ferocity and accuracy, I would say they have had plenty of practice in this sport! Thankfully the adults stopped them from being homocidially thorough, and I am still here to relay this story to you, dear reader. So we escaped into the Jeep and pushed further into the desert. We were escorted far into the desert where a team of camel drivers waited with our fantastically retro camels equipped with food, saddles, smelly blankets, flies, and attitude. My camel had a sixth sense about me, as every time I wasn't paying attention to him, he would ram his head into me. And it's true what they say about those horrific camel farts. Anyways, after a pleasant two hour ride we dismounted in the shade of a huge tree for a lunch of dhal and chapati. We relaxed in the shade and chatted with our three fellow camel jockeys while our guides made everything from scratch. As we ate lunch dozens of goats slowly made their way through our encampment and nibbled on scrub brush and our donated banana peels. After a wonderful and leisurely lunch we trotted onward into the setting sun, approaching that dreaded country of mystery-Pakistan! Jake's father John adopted the camel command "Heh!" and applied it masterfully to his rebel camel, and they were last seen somewhere on the outskirts of Karachi. My camel continued the head butting. Slowly the desert changed from a boring scrubby scene reminiscent of Arizona to a sea of sand dunes. The ripples on the dunes were perfect and untouched, and they were so absolutely Zen. We parked our high performance vehicles for the night and walked through the dunes, and at one peak we all congregated to watch a spectacular sunset. That night the guides made us another fantastic meal, always watching for an empty plate to fill up again, and the conversation was joyful and pleasant. When bedtime came around our guides Tucked Us Into Bed! Talk about going above and beyond, these guys were great! I slept between Jake and his dad, covered by blankets reeking of camel pee, and it was so beautiful being there under the stars, After a surprisingly good night's sleep, we rode back to meet our driver and marvel at what solid outdoors men we are, having spent a whole night in the desert and all.