With the big picture of India often so overwhelming, the tiny beauties are often overlooked.
Here are some of our most memorable moments while travelling in India!
On our last day in Kochi, we hired a car/driver to visit the historic area of town called Mattancherry. We visited “Jew Town”, the area of town that has the oldest synagogue in India. They didn’t allow photos, but here is a picture from the internet of the inside of they synagogue. The chandeliers were very unusual and the blue tiled floor was beautiful. While this area used to be the largest Jewish population in the country, the synagogue now only has 6 families attending. For some ceremonies, this synagogue must rely on Jewish tourists to have enough people to properly conduct the rituals.
We also visited the Dutch palace (to the right). It was half under renovation and not really worth seeing. Then we walked around Jew Town, with tons of shops (above). We got some fun treasures including a new Elephant tea cozy, a pashmina, and some gifts. We found a lovely European cafe (below) where we had Swiss Cake and some delicious drinks before continuing our shopping.
On the way back to the hotel, the driver suggested that we stop at the Folklore Museum. The building was pieced together with parts of old buildings. The whole museum is the private collection of one man. Very extensive!
Lots of statues and great masks for dance and theater performances!
The top floor was a beautiful auditorium for performances. Would have been great to see one here!
The first night at the conference, I wanted us to head into Fort Cochin to do a bit of sightseeing. I didn’t realize our hotel was so far away from everything! We hired a cab, which was a rather junky car. Air conditioning was an extra 100 rupees or $2). On the way, we saw a fantastic set of elephants along the way though, headed to a big temple celebration.
The elephants were beautiful, but unfortunately this temple celebration also included fireworks and cannons that lasted for an hour–at 10:00 at night and then again from 5-6 in the morning–TWO NIGHTS in a room. And the hotel sounded like it was being bombed each night!
When we go to Fort Cochin we had trouble finding our way. We had one of those annoying vacation moments when we’re hot, tired, we are lacking a map and we just are wandering aimlessly down yucky streets wondering what the fuss is about.We did come upon an old Catholic Basilica. As it was Saturday evening, they were holding mass in the local language. People were spilling out of of the back of the church listening to the homily when we arrived.
When then backtracked to the waters and finally found our way to the beautiful pathway that lines the seashore of Fort Cochin. The coast is lined with Chinese Fishing nets.
Fisherman lay out their catches along the walk. The adventurous buy the food and take it to one of the huts along the short and have them fry it up on the spot!
We were lucky to get there just in time for the sunset.
On the way back to the car, Carson wanted to do some climbing in a local park.
Then it was time to head back to the hotel for a fancy dinner on the back veranda.
It has been an amazing three weeks. Parasailing in Goa, spotting leopards in Nagarhole. And today we sailed in a houseboat along the backwaters of Kerala. We took a three hour journey. You can go for days, and that would have been wonderful if it were just Todd and me. Three hours was just right for the kiddos.
Absolutely beautiful scenery. The backwaters are canals made to provide water to the rice paddies that line both sides of the water.
We had a staff of three men to drive the boat and cook us a delicious lunch. We requested plain rice, fresh fruit and French fries for the kiddos. For the grownups, we had delicious Keralan food, including really delicious nutty brown rice, a curried cabbage that was out of this world, dal, curd (yogurt), spiced carrots and green beans, and seasoned seerfish.
The highlight of the meal was the large prawns that we selected ourselves. The boat made a stop at a fishery and we chose among the fresh catch of the morning.
Carson was fascinated by the crabs in one bucket.
We made one more stop to see a Catholic church that was over 400 years old. The inside was very ornate with beautiful colors (no photos allowed inside). A woman and a man were chanting inside the church in a way that sounded like Hindu chanting. The blend of Indian traditions and what we expected to see in a Catholic Church was fascinating.
We saw beautiful churches, houses, temples.
People fishing and women bathing, lots of clothes washing.
At this shop we also got some souvenirs for ourselves and others. Kaden got a little wooden Lakshmi for her room (her favorite Goddess). I found a silver and black elephant festooned pashmina. We also got some wooden Keralan bells for our house.
Other than those events, the main task of the trip was to kick up our feet and relax. And occasionally wave at kids along the banks and passing houseboats. Total bliss.
We arrived in Kochi (Cochin), Kerala for my Fulbright conference. All of the South and Central Asian Fulbrights were brought in to share our ongoing research and to network with one another. As the website says, “Sponsored by the United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Fulbright Program provides funding for students, scholars, teachers, and professionals to undertake graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and teaching in elementary and secondary schools.” I am a Fulbright-Nehru scholar, a special partnership between the U.S. and India that brough over 200 of us to India this year. A handful of us are senior scholars like me. I am here to do research. Others professors are here as lecturers. The bulk of the grantees are graduate students here doing dissertation research and young things just out of college here as English Teaching Assistants.
I learned during the opening remarks that Hillary Clinton had hoped to come to India on a Fulbright right after graduating from Wellesley College. They shut the program down with Indian that year due to political issues, so she went to Yale Law School Instead (where she met Bill, of course).
We stayed at Le Meridien, which is actually two hotels. To get to the main building, we have to take a ferry down the river. It is charming about two times and then a bit annoying when you are trying to get somewhere or you leave something back at the hotel room!
We saw lots of coracle fishing boats as we sailed to our room–especially early in the morning.
Kerala is hot. Like south Florida in the summer hot. Tons of humidity even in the evening. It makes us truly appreciate the mellow climate of Bangalore where there is hardly any humidity at all and the nights are cool and crisp. After the long bus ride from the airport, we all wanted nothing more than to jump into the pool and order a drink from the swim up bar. It is a strange pool, with multiple layers. The tiles on the pool were falling off, to the great delight of the kids. They really enjoyed collected the blue, red and white tiles as treasures throughout our stay.
The kids and Todd even enjoyed night swimming while I was at my sessions. Not a bad way to spend a few days!