Tag Archives: design & decoration

Kataluwa Purwarama Temple: one of the finest temples in the southern Sri Lanka

Dodanduwa and Dalawella were perfect beach destinations to recover from jetlag and wind down, but after a few days we wanted to see more of Sri Lanka. As we had decided to completely skip the Cultural Triangle, it was all the more important for us to visit those few religious sites that exist along the southern coast and Kataluwa Purwarama Temple was one of them.IMG_4463.JPGWe had a bit of hard time finding the temple as our driver had never been there before. Upon arrival only silence greeted us. All the doors were closed and apart from some school children and birds, nobody was around. Eventually our driver found a monk  who he lives in a house (monastery) below, located sort of behind the pagoda. He kindly opened the door for us (pay attention to his massive golden key featured in the photo!) and we entered a very beautiful, peaceful shrine full of Kandyan-style murals dating from the 19th century. The monk spoke very good English and gave us a private tour. For a moment it was just the monk, his eighteen dogs, Buddha statues, some Hindu gods (Vishnu, Kataragama, etc) and us. A beautiful, spiritual moment, indeed a refreshing break from the beach life.

In addition to Buddhist tales, the paintings depict the 19th life and even Queen Victoria can be found in the wall paintings. Guide books (Routard, Lonely Planet and Rough Guide) and Internet do not seem to agree on the history of this temple that some say dates from the 13th century, so I am not going to go into this. All I can say is that the temple is definitely worth a visit! And while you are in the area, stop by at Ahangama to see the stilt fishermen.

PS Naturally there is no entrance fee but donations are appreciated. We left 500 Sri Lankan rupees for the monk and he seemed very pleased.

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Previous Sri Lanka trip posts (in the order of appearance):

Planning Sri Lanka: Itinerary

Sea Shine Guesthouse in Dodanduwa: spotless seafront rooms that come with a smile and delicious food

Dalawella Beach: Picture perfect and safe for swimming

Sri Gemunu Beach Resort: stunning location with friendly service

 

Christmas preparations: cards

Phew, over fifty Christmas cards on their way to friends and family mainly in Finland, France, the US and India.

As I was searching our closets for cards and envelopes (I keep a stock) I stumbled upon these cards that I had bought in Calcutta during our last trip to India. I was going to choose some to be sent away but fascinated by their beauty, I then changed my mind. What exquisite tiny pieces of art they are! I want to keep them! I photographed them and took time to admire the handicraft while wondering who had made them and what the stories behind are. I felt that these cards are like carpets: their ornaments tell a story; a story the person who made them wants to tell. Happiness, sorrow, hope, dreams –what else?

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Flowers and the person behind the flowers. 

Maybe after all I will frame and hang them on the baby room’s wall.

I am not quite sure which one I prefer. Maybe the holy, lime-green hand of hamsa. What about you?

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Aren’t these cards absolutely splendid? Only in incredible India!

Note: Cards made and sold by Calcutta Rescue (www.calcuttarescue.org). If you are in Calcutta, do not miss them at the Fairlawn Hotel every Thursday between 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm. They take orders too!

 

New year, new adventure

Some of you have wondered about my unusually long silence and I don’t blame you. I am embarrassed too when I look at my last publishing dates but thankful at the same time for those who have been loyal to my blog, contacted me privately to ask about my life, or simply taken time to comment old posts.

For almost six months now I have been suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), more known today as the Kate Middleton condition, and life has been about daily nausea and vomiting. Yes, I am pregnant and contrary to many common presumptions, I am definitely not having the time of my life. My husband thinks I look like a prima donna from the Paris Opera but I wonder if he ever went to see an opera. In reality, I look and feel like this tree.

tree under snow

To say the least, it has been very tough to handle the daily life. Instead of cooking (something I love), I now throw some frozen industrial food into the oven. All sorts of smells trigger the nausea so without rare exceptions (like Christmas), I haven’t been able to visit our favorite food market in Bastille (Sunday Market). In addition, I have developed some very strange eating habits that have come in phases: two weeks of mashed potatoes from morning until evening, industrial soups for another two weeks’ period, then bagels, then something else. Lots of potatoes and wheat –ingredients easy to throw up!

I am aware that all this sounds very strange and hard to believe unless one has had personal experience with HG. I cannot even believe this myself. I am a rather practical and realistic person, and never had too many illusions about pregnancy, but I could have never imagined either that something supposedly so magic could make one so sick. It seems neither natural nor fair (but hey, life is not about fairness, right).

So, apart from eating difficulties, how else has HG affected my daily life? Well, I do nothing that I used to do, so it has changed everything. In the first months, when all this started, I stayed in bed all day long, closed my eyes and tried to sleep as much as possible as it was the only state when I didn’t feel nauseous. Unfortunately, as I realized, a human being cannot sleep 24 hours per day! I also stopped looking at Facebook and Internet because there were too many food photos (oysters that I usually love became the worst; only a thought and I would throw up). I stopped reading because it felt more challenging than climbing Mount Everest. I went to the movies once but brought along a bag to vomit in. Apart from a brief, odd phase of ramen soups (Sapporo: one of the best cheap ramen in Paris) and few other exceptions, I haven’t been to restaurants (and we usually go twice a week!). As I work independently, I haven’t been able to accept any contracts and clients. I had to cancel all the trips. When I finally started taking medicines (my husband took me to the emergency room after I had been vomiting nonstop for hours), I got a little bit better and we decided to go on holidays (Miami, here we come!), but the trip made my condition worse. On my birthday I was lying on the sunbed, turned my head toward the sand to vomit, and the vomit hit my shoes. Yes, you can laugh.  I may be able to laugh too one day. I hope.

I think it is fair to say that HG has eaten away my personality (and dignity, I feel), and I am afraid I will never be myself again.

So, this blog post. A long explanation to a long silence. I may or may not be back soon, and certainly hope that it will be sooner than later. One of the basic needs of a human being is to be creative and I miss that (amongst other things).

tulips in Paris

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What is Hyperemesis Gravidarum?

It is estimated that about 0.5-2% of pregnant women are touched by HG. Even the medical community is not very well aware of HG and what causes it, which makes things worse (support is rarely there). Most likely the doctor will dismiss the woman’s complaints by saying that nausea and vomiting are normal during the first trimester, and will disappear soon enough.

However, if the symptoms continue into the second (or worse, the third!) trimester, then it is important to act. There are some signs that tell the difference between the “normal” morning sickness and HG. For example, the latter makes one vomit a lot and systematically, and lose weight, and one will most likely need hospitalization and or medication in order to be able to continue living. As a basic rule, what helps to cope with the morning sickness doesn’t bring a lot of relief (if any) to someone suffering from HG. One can try acupuncture, ginger products, eating small snack and portions, homeopathy, etc, but most likely nothing will work. A great website to differentiate the morning sickness from HG is found here: http://www.helpher.org/blog/the-differences-between-morning-sickness-and-hyperemesis-gravidarum/

So, as cruel as it sounds like, to some extent HG accompanies the pregnancy during nine months, and the only cure is the birth.

In order to get help and support, I cannot over-emphasize the fact that one needs to understand that the morning sickness and HG have almost nothing to do with each other. Once you know what you have, things will probably get emotionally better. The doctor, family and friends should take your condition more seriously when you start introducing yourself as someone suffering from HG (do not forget to specify that HG is different from the morning sickness –this way you can hopefully avoid listening to annoying comments like “have you tried ginger ale?”).

I hope this post will help some other women suffering from HG, and should you have questions or need support, you can always contact me publicly or privately by my blog or by Pearlspotting Facebook page. Even if I may not be writing new posts, I do always respond to comments.

Golden cupolas of Kiev

After publishing photos from the eastern Ukraine I got to thinking about my one-year stay in Kiev. Today I went through my photos from the Ukrainian capital, taken between 2005 and 2006, and here are some of the best shots of the famous golden cupolas that dominate the street view.

Kiev, the birthplace of Russia, is full of old Orthodox churches. Many of them are as old as Kyivan Rus.

Kiev, the birthplace of Russia, is full of old Orthodox churches. Many of them are as old as Kievan Rus’, making them more than 1000 years old.

...usually when visiting an orthodox (or any!) church you should cover your knees and shoulders...

…usually when visiting an Orthodox (or any!) church you should cover your knees and shoulders…

Orthodox churches dominate the street view in Kiev.

Wherever you look,  Orthodox churches dominate the street view in Kiev.

Golden cupolas against blue skies.

Golden cupolas against blue skies.

More golden cupolas against the otherwise grey city of Kiev.

More golden cupolas against the otherwise grey city of Kiev.

They do love blue color! One would almost think it has some symbolic value for the Orthodox church!

They do love blue color! One would almost think it has some symbolic value for the Orthodox church!

When life gets too hectic outside, there is always a place for a candle inside.

When life gets too hectic outside, there is always a place for a candle inside.

Some previous photos from Ukraine:

Photos of eastern Ukraine: part 1
Photos of eastern Ukraine: part 2
The Privoz market in Odessa

and more to come! Meanwhile, come and say hello on Twitter (@Miia_Niskanen), Instagram (Pearlspotting) or Facebook (Pearlspotting).

Photos of eastern Ukraine: part 2

The introduction to this post can be found in the previous post, Photos of eastern Ukraine: part 1, where I explained that I used to work in Ukraine from 2005 to 2006 and that I visited the eastern part of Ukraine many times for work.

Eastern Ukraine is a region of incredible mineral resources and it is no wonder that it was once the heart of the Soviet Union’s industrial production. I could visit factories that employ more than 10,000 people, meaning an entire town. The physical scales were huge, but so were some personal egos, too. I got a feeling that the region was home to some extremely powerful men, who made or broke the lives of the rest. In describing the region’s relation to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, unity and co-operation were not the words I would choose.

This is the very same region that has been making headlines for too long now, the very same region that has been transformed into the latest battlefield of Europe.

Join me again to discover this region by photos I took during my visits:

Orthodox church in Donetsk.

Orthodox church in Donetsk.

"Metallurgical cinema": Soviet-time movie theater in Donetsk.

“Metallurgical cinema”: Soviet-time movie theater in Donetsk.

Donetsk, the city of metallurgical companies and mines.

Donetsk, the city of metallurgical companies and mines. Now a self-claimed People’s Republic…

I wonder what these women think of today's situation?

I wonder what these women think of today’s situation?

The main square of Donetsk has a big Lenin statue. What would he think of the current developments?

Lenin, standing on the main square of Donetsk just a few steps away from my hotel, became my object of observation.

Every other night I would go for a walk from my hotel and see demonstrations. Always supported by Lenin.

Every other night I would go for a walk from my hotel and see political demonstrations. Always supported by Lenin.

When this young man wore a shirt saying "For Ukraine without Yushchenko", little did he know that things would get much more serious....

When this young man wore a shirt saying “For Ukraine without Yushchenko”, little did he know that things would get much more serious than just getting rid of the President….

Any thoughts these photos brought to you?

Photos of eastern Ukraine: part 1

As you know, my blog is not about politics. However, these ongoing events in eastern Ukraine have stopped me many times, bringing some vivid memories from the times I visited that region for work. The region is very different from the rest of Ukraine: very industrial and very Soviet. Some say Russian. Polluted and grey. My visits took place after the Orange revolution and before the global economic meltdown, during the period of optimism. I met some wonderful and fascinating people, drank a fair share of vodka in meetings, and appreciated the chance to get to know the region. But I always felt that there was something very “wild east” over there.

Today I went through some old photos and I decided to publish some of them.

I suggest you take this blog post as a photo reportage and as an opportunity to look into the life of a region that has become a battlefield between the East and the West, and who knows what else. As an opportunity to time travel and revisit the period when Lenin was well alive and celebrated. As an opportunity to put a picture to the news you read every day.

Statues like this are not rare in eastern Ukraine.

Statues like this are not rare in eastern Ukraine.

During the winter months the region is cold and grey. This was once the heart of the Soviet Union's industrial production.

During the winter months the region is cold and grey. Once upon a time it was the heart of the Soviet Union’s industrial production.

Enormous factories often employed entire towns.  Something that still happens in China I guess?

Enormous factories often employed entire towns. Something that still happens in China I guess?

A ghost factory somewhere between Donetsk and Luhansk.

A ghost factory somewhere between Donetsk and Luhansk.

Can happiness exist when there is so little color?

Can happiness exist when there is so little color?

Soviet wall frescoes remind us of an other era.

Soviet wall frescoes remind us of an other era.

Any thoughts you would like to share?

 

A chapel of design

This summer I discovered something in Helsinki that I found absolutely fantastic and incredible: a very simplistic, curved-shaped chapel made of wood in the heart of the Finnish capital. Let me present you, the Kamppi Chapel of Silence! One of the world’s most stylish chapels:

Would you have guessed that this is a chapel?

Would you have guessed that this is a chapel?

The Chapel was completed in 2012, the year when Helsinki was World Design Capital 2012. This urban and spiritual project was designed by K2S Architects Ltd, who describe the project like this “This small wooden chapel introduces a place for silence and peace in the lively commercial centre of Helsinki. The chapel space is located in a sculptural wooden volume. The interior is warm and enclosed from the surrounding urban life. Indirect toplight enlightens the wooden chapel interior.”

My first impression was very powerful. I loved the outside design. Even if the Chapel somehow looks like nothing and could-be-anything at the same time, it is very elegant. It is one of a kind. I loved how the sun rays touched the wood (wood that was glazed with wax by using nanotechnology, says the brochure of the Chapel).

The wood used in the chapel has been glazed with wax. Nanotechnology was used in this method, but do not ask me in what way.

The wood used in the chapel has been glazed with wax. Nanotechnology was used in this method, but do not ask me in what way.

I was sort of nervous to walk in. Would the inside match the beauty of the outside?

Judging by these photos, I am sure you will agree with me that it did. It was at the same time imposing and down to earth. Quiet and present. Difficult to describe.

If you haven't found the type of church you feel comfortable in, try the Kamppi chapel in Helsinki, Finland.

If you haven’t yet found the type of church you feel comfortable in, try the Kamppi Chapel in Helsinki, Finland.

During the time of my visit there were numerous tourists from France, Russia and Japan, but I could also witness young children popping in, alone, on their way from the sports to home. In some ways I felt happy that a religious place managed to attract the younger generation. Even if they didn’t come in for spiritual reasons (but what do I know, maybe they did!), they came in, stayed quiet, looked around, observed, took photos and left. It seemed like they appreciated the place and the feeling in it, and to me this represents the most powerful “recognition of success” the architects could ever receive!

The Kamppi Chapel attracts many kinds of visitors: photographers, architects, tourists, but also curious locals.

The Kamppi Chapel attracts many kinds of visitors: photographers, architects, tourists, but also curious locals.

Even if you may have very little time in Helsinki, make sure you visit this chapel only 5 minutes away from the railway station by walking. It is open from Monday to Friday 7 a.m. – 8 p.m. and from Saturday to Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. To be found on Facebook here: Kampin kappeli.

For more information:

K2S Architects: http://www.k2s.fi/
ArchDaily article: and http://www.archdaily.com/252040/kamppi-chapel-k2s-architects/
..and lastly, a photograph of the Q&A I took in the Chapel:

This Q&A may answer your additional questions!

This Q&A may answer your additional questions!