The Girl with the Ukelele

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone


The Girl with the Ukelele


When you sit down to learn stone carving from some of the world’s most practiced craftsmen, in Mamallupuram, Tamil Nadu, India, people are going to be curious.

A few days ago, we decided it would be fun to try this art form. All across town you can see men chiseling away and gorgeous finished products out front: Ganesh and Buddha predominate.

I initially thought this trip was going to be about opening my heart by way of spending time in ashrams, doing seva (work with no expectation of compensation) and meeting with spiritual gurus. I felt I needed this, the Hugging Mother’s hugs, to awaken to my own heart through meditation and slow, deliberate contemplation. Maybe this is still the case. But so far we’ve become fascinated by how much of a living art India is in almost all its aspects. The aliveness of the place, the colours. I have a piece of cloth I’ve been embroidering for over a year that I couldn’t bring myself to work on during our trip to India last year, and I’ve been at it daily here. And now stone carving.

We sat outside the shop with the two foreigner wranglers and stone polishers, and a few masters of the trade. We chiseled, hammered, watched in awe as the masters designed our pieces and images – of a Buddha and a hand – started coming to life. Many people passed by since we were on the main road of the tourist area, which Lonely Planet refers to as Backpackistan. Most looked at what we were doing, some with keen interest. Maybe 10 per cent came by to watch, and about half of those people smiled, exclaimed, or sat down to talk and watch. Just sitting there, we were attracting kindness, the attention of new people, and conversation.

One of the people to stop and sit down was a Japanese girl who just arrived in India the day before, for a four month trip culminating in Sri Lanka. She was quiet, curious and had a very strong presence about her. She left about an hour later, and returned in the evening. She probably had it in her mind to have dinner with us, but this was our last day with the carving, and we both started new, smaller pieces to practice, and couldn’t stop. Hesitating, she sat, worked on a tiny elephant one of the guys surprised her with, and took out a ukelele. Exclaiming, I asked her to play, and started working again.

Soon I could hear the softest, most melodic voice singing Aloha, making the Hawaiian tune sound like a folk song. The waves lapped audibly nearby.


A Fruit for Every Season.

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone


A Fruit for Every Season


There are a few fruit shake stands by the main food court area in Thongsala, the port town on Ko Phangan, one of Thailand’s favourite islands to do yoga. But there is unarguably the best stand. It’s not even because the service is better or for one of those ineffable reasons we are happy to leave alone as we enjoy what is prepared for us. The reason is clear: they offer, by far, the most fruit combinations (about 60). You order by number and the fruit are also depicted as animated images, so there the chances of language barrier complications happening are reduced to almost nothing. We had a few delicious shakes there without incident, but despite the friendliness of the girl and older man operating the stand, there have been two incidents that leave me wondering, not for the first time, what went wrong, and why. The first time was at night. Only an older Russian couple (I could source them after hearing them speak) was there with me, and they’d just arrived. I placed my order by pointing to the numbers listing the different shakes on the large menu. Then I started observing their fascination with the fruit shake phenomenon. They must have been new to Thailand. Through their gestures I understood that the husband was explaining to his wife that you can order any combination on the list, and started listing some of the fruit to her. She was intrigued but tentative, like the stand or she might set on fire if she moved closer. Eventually she honed in and said, Ah! She pointed directly to one combination that her husband explained to her (the fruits were depicted as somewhat hazy images): milk and tomato. I never noticed this combination before, and marveled at hour differently everyone’s brains work. Eventually they ordered (not the milk and tomato one). A couple of minutes later, the girl gave me my two shakes, but one was obviously not mine, because I ordered one with beet root, which turns shake a deep purple that mine clearly was not. I gave it back to her and told her the number I ordered in Thai. She repeated it back to me without any explanation. Finally she took the shake and started making a new one. Then, out of the corner of my eye I’m pretty sure I saw her give my wrong shake to the Russians, who didn’t know any better. If I’d known this would have happened, I would have taken the wrong shake so the newcomers to Thailand could enjoy the shake they ordered. The second incident: we ordered coconut/mint/passionrfruit, and got watermelon, which, strangely, isn’t one of the 60 fruit on the menu. Most importantly, I hope the Russian couple enjoys their stay on the island.