My Burma memories in photos


I am re-posting from Eclectic Global Nomad

I was wandering around the National Gallery of Art the other day and stumbled across the exhibit “Captain Linnaeus Tripe: Photographer of India and Burma, 1852-1860.” Since I was born in Burma was immediately interested. I walked right in without reading any of the preamble and just started looking around. Many of the photographs were from Amarapura, the capital from 1842 to 1859 under King Tharrawaddy which is now part of Mandalay.

After the Anglo-Burmese war of 1852, the British annexed a part of Burma. This was the second of three wars. The third war in 1885 resulted in the British taking over the entire country. In 1855 Lord Dalhausie, the governor general of India, went on a political visit to Burma.

'The East Gopuram of the Great Pagoda' 1858, Linnaeus Tripe

– See more at:

Sari for Baby


Several years ago my niece married into a Bengali family.  She had a traditional Hindu wedding ceremony in the USA.  This of course, could not have taken place without her family, including her sister with blue hair and Freitag bag.

She and her new husband and all the parents left for India a few months after her wedding and spent a month meeting all the relatives in India.  She even had another ceremony over there.


She embraced her new family and their traditions.  She was curious to learn all about them and incorporate their beliefs and rituals into her life.

Annaprashan is the Hindu ceremony celebrating a baby’s first solid food.  It is also known as the Rice Eating Ceremony as baby’s first food is usually rice.  The ceremony takes place when the baby is about 6 months.  For girls it takes place in odd months – the 5th or 7th, while for boys it is even months the 6th or 8th.

The child is very dressed up reminiscent of a bride or groom.  It is not only about the food but also serves as an introduction to society.  Friends and relatives are invited to join in the celebration.  A game is usually played after the ceremony where certain symbolic items are laid out in front of the child.  Books symbolize learning; jewels symbolize wealth, a pen symbolizes wisdom, clay symbolizes property, and food symbolizing a love for food.  The first item the child reaches for indicates their future.

Baby with her uncle at Rice Eating Ceremony

Baby with her uncle at Rice Eating Ceremony













My niece rented a hall for her baby’s Annaprashan.  They invited all their friends and relatives. She wanted to wear traditional clothing and she wanted her baby to also wear a beautiful sari.  Living in the middle of the USA, it was difficult for her to find a sari for her baby so she made one herself.

That got her thinking.  If she had so much trouble finding something beautiful for her child to wear to the ceremony, other people might have the same problem.  There is a large Indian community in this country.  Wouldn’t there be a market for baby saris?


My great niece








Well, she is about to find out.  She just launched her Sari Baby website.  My great niece is the very cute model for these beautiful silk saris.

Check it out!


The Family










Flying home from my winter wonderland visit with the family I thought about a conversation my mother had with one of my nieces as they were saying good-bye.

Mother:  We really do have an odd family

Niece:  Should we take offense at that?

Mother:  Well, no, you are all very interesting.

Niece:  Interesting?  Now I know we are being insulted.

Mother:  But interesting is good.  I can’t think of anything worse than a bunch of boring people.

Niece:  Well, we certainly are not boring.

Mother:  No, none of you are boring!


It was all in good fun but it made me think of what makes up my non-boring family.  There were sixteen of us.  We are scattered across 5 states.

The patriarch grew up on a farm in Iowa and ended up spending over forty years as an expat.  He  met many Heads of State and he had been to 90 countries by the time he was 90.  The matriarch, kept up with him all the way also starting out in a small town in Iowa.  My brothers and I are third culture kids who grew up all over the world.

I married Nicholas, a Russian American whose parents were refugees after World War II.  Nicholas’ father never learned to speak English so Nicholas was his translator from a young age.  Nicholas used to tell me that coming home from school every day he felt like he was crossing a border into another country.  Most of his family still live in Russia.  Our son spent the first six years of his life in Russia and has traveled to many places around Europe.

My brother moved to Australia after college and met and married a woman from New Zealand.  She also came from a cross cultural family with roots in England and Australia.  Their children carry dual passports – New Zealand and USA.  They visit their relatives half way around the world whenever they can.

My niece married a first generation American with Indian roots.  She is now immersed in the traditions and culture of an extended Indian family.  One tradition included a rice eating ceremony for their baby daughter.  For this ceremony they needed a baby sari.  Not just any sari but a beautiful, fancy sari.  They found it was difficult to find one the USA and so another sister-in-law of mine and my niece are starting a baby sari business.  They have an Indian woman lined up to make the saris and they are working on a website to market their goods.  You will be hearing more about this as things progress.

So we are a cross cultural conglomeration.  And we all get along beautifully.




Food Friday: Dahl Soup




















When I was little I lived in Burma and had an Indian nanny.  She was a Catholic and her name was Mary.  She spoiled me.  One of my favorite foods was dahl soup. I could eat it every day.  When the rest of the family was eating something I didn’t like, she make me dahl soup.  I have no idea what her recipe was but here is mine.












Dahl Soup

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, diced












Put a tablespoon of oil into a pot and add onion and garlic











Cut up half a potato, skinned and add to the pot (or you can use a carrot)













Once the onion is soft add

4 cups broth

1.5 cups dahl (lentils)

Add 1 tsp diced fresh ginger

2 tsp curry powder

1 tsp cumin


Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes












Allow to cool a bit and pour soup into a blender or use a hand blender until smooth

Return to the pot and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste

If it is too thick, add some water










Add some chicken if you like




TCK/Expat Film

I have updated my TCK/Expat page to include films as well as some additional books.  Check it out.

I recently watched The Road Home.  It is a short film – 24 minutes.  I watched it twice.  It is about a boy with Indian roots who has lived around the world.  His father sends him to boarding school in India and everybody thinks he is Indian but he only speaks English and says he is English.  So, confused about who he is, where he is from, not feeling Indian but looking Indian.  Sound familiar to anybody?

The director is currently working on expanding the film into a longer version with plot twists and adventure.  I think it might lose some of its intimate charm, but we will have to see.  In the meantime, have a look.  You can rent this film and watch it on-line here.

Another one that is currently airing at Film Festivals around the country is Shanghai Calling.  I have watched the trailer and it looks like a good comedy.  A man with Chinese roots who grew up in New York City finds himself sent to live in China for work.  He knows nothing about Chinese culture or language but people think he does because he looks Chinese.  I look forward to seeing it.  You can see the trailer here.

An Englishwoman in India

An Englishwoman in India

The Memoirs of Harriet Tytler


Edited by Anthony Sattin

Harriet wrote her memoirs when she was in her late 70’s.  She was a Victorian woman and represented her class and period well.

Her grandfather and uncle were prisoner’s of war in France under Napoleon.  Her grandmother and mother lived nearby for 15 years so the family could be together.   After the battle of Waterloo, they were released and returned to England.  That is where her mother met her father while he was on furlough from India.

Harriet was born in 1828 to a British military family in India.  At 11 years old, as was common practice at the time, she was shipped off to England with two younger siblings to continue her education.  When they landing in England their clothes were so outdated everybody laughed at them.  Her brother was immediately sent on to boarding school where two older brothers were waiting for him.  She and her sister lived with a family they had never met before for about a year, until her aunt came to collect them.  Her aunt was strict and cruel and Harriet hated every minute of her time there.

At seventeen she started her journey back to India to be reunited with her parents who she had not seen for 6 years.  She traveled by steamer and by land until she reached Aden just off the Red Sea.  The group traveling with her were friendly and she had a happy time.  At Aden she received a letter from her brother-in-law in India and feared her sister was sick.  It was worse, her father was dead.  When she finally reached Calcutta, there was nobody to meet her.  She saw her mother two weeks later only to discover that she was on her way back to England with the younger children.  Harriet was to stay with another aunt and uncle who was serving the in Punjab Campaign.

At 19, she met and married Robert Tytler, a Captain in the British Army who was also a widower with two children.

This woman did not have an easy life.

On May 11, 1857, she was living in Delhi, eight months pregnant with two small children at home.  That was the day of the Great Sepoy Mutiny.  The “Sepoy” was the Indian soldier serving in the British Army.

Harriet writes:

“It is wonderful to think how unanimous they were, Hindus and Mohammedans, in the one object of exterminating the hateful Christian in India.  On this occasion the Mohammedans and Hindus were one, their bitter antagonism to each other, which had always been our safeguard so far, was for the time overcome.  The gullible Hindus, two to one in each regiment, firmly believed Prithee Rai’s raj would return and then they would be masters of India.  The wily Mohammedans, who were using these poor deluded men as a cat’s paw, encouraged the belief, knowing all along that they would soon find their mistake, for the Mohammedan meant to reign by the edge of his sword, which would also be used to proselytize the poor idol worshippers.”

However Philip Mason notes in the Introduction: “Harriet, of course, like everyone else, has heard of the cartridges (smeared with pork and beef fat) but does not seem to have known that the original offensive cartridges were withdrawn (therefore confirming that the rumor was true).  Like every other young wife in India at the time, she thinks that the Mutiny was a deep-laid plot, instigated by the sons of the king and spread by wicked Muslims who played on the fears of the simple gullible Hindus.”

Harriet ran for her life that day.  She, pregnant, with her two children, 2 and 4 years old, eventually loaded themselves onto an already overloaded carriage and rode hard out of town.  Her husband riding back and forth checking on other people.  The carriage broke to pieces.  They found another one, it also broke down.  They ended up walking to the next outpost where luckily there was no uprising.

Eventually the British took back Delhi.  Harriet bore 10 children, 8 of whom lived, and spent the rest of her life an expat in India.  She died in 1907 at the age of 79.


Photo credit:  Richard Collier

Dr Spock.. the other one…

Dorms at Kokai

Dorms at Kokai

Kodaikanal International School was established in 1901 as an American residential school for the children of missionaries.  It was in Tamil Nadu State at the southern tip of India.  Located high in the mountains, the weather could be very cool.  On a clear day you could see across to Celyon (Sri Lanka).  Lake Kodaikanal covered 60 acres and was good for boating while the surrounding areas were good hiking territory.

In 1957 my two brothers went there for boarding school.  By that time there were more than missionaries in the region.  My father was working in Burma establishing an agricultural school funded by the Ford Foundation.

My brothers traveled about 2,000 miles.  There was no flight from Kodai at that time so they took the bus to the train station, a train to Madras, a flight to Calcutta where they boarded another plane for Rangoon, and then went by either train or car to Pyinmana where we lived.  They were 9 and 11 years old.  There were several other children who went there from Pyinmana so they usually had people to travel with.

One year only one of my brothers showed up in Rangoon.  My other brother had the mumps and had to stay behind along with a friend of his who also had the mumps.  As soon as he was well enough to travel, his housemother took him to her home in Madras.  Once he was fully recovered he flew to Calcutta where some friends of the family met him and saw him off on the plane to Rangoon.

My mother was to meet him and take the train home but the train was cancelled that day and she and my other brother went by car.  This meant they had to stay the night in Rangoon.  They all finally made it home okay.  A few days later my other brother complained of a sore jaw.  Now he had the mumps!

Getting sick in Pyinmana could be a problem.  There was a good hospital and doctors in Rangoon but it was 250 miles away and was about a 10 hour trip by road.  There was a good Indian doctor in Toungoo which was about 75 miles away.  He could easily make it to us in a day but the problem was getting a hold of him.  There were 3 or 4 telephones in Pyinmana and we had access to one of them but it almost never worked.  There were times when we had to send somebody to ask him to come.

Otherwise my parents relied on Dr Spock’s book: The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care.   Also referred to as their medical bible.  When I moved to Russia many many years later, it was one of the books I took with me.

“Change is the essential process of all existence.”

–SPOCK, Star Trek: The Original Series, “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”