Category Archives: waterways

Houseboatting on the backwaters of Kerala

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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.

   

       

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Fulbrighters unite in Kochi

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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!

Brindavan Gardens and rice paddies

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On our way to Mysore, we saw lots of beautiful rice paddies.

  

We  spent the night at Brindavan Gardens. The place was a summer palace for the last maharaja. IT was built in the 1930s after the dam was completed. The gardens are located about 45 minutes north of Mysore. There is a hotel in the actual former palace and that is where we stayed for the night.

The view from our balcony!

   

We had a spacious king sized bed and cot for all of us to fit and we had one of the biggest rooms in the place. I wonder if the prince ever slept there!

Most people go to the Brindavan Gardens at night time when all of the fountains are lit up.

We took a ferry to the other end of the gardens to see the musical fountains do some Bollywood dancing. The show was about 15 minutes long and reminded me of tacky Las Vegas scenes. But the huge crowd seemed to love it. Thousands of tourists came for the three song snow, but most left before the third song had barely began. Go figure. Back at the hotel, we set the kids up with a movie in the room and then enjoyed a drink on the second floor balcony bar overlooking the gardens.

   

In the morning, we had the gardens to ourselves and the few other hotel guests. Lovely!

       

In the morning we had breakfast on the back summer porch. I had a traditional masala dosa breakfast—spicy potatoes in a crepe with mint and tomato chutneys. But I like to mix in scrambled eggs! Plus a hot chai tea with milk and sugar please!

    

The kids played outdoor chess and practiced their putting skills on the little putting green. In typical India fashion when I requested the putters, two men came out to help us with our putting. One held the flag and another insisted on giving Carson some tips. He would have been happier without the advice, but that’s the way it goes here!

   

Bucket list items crossed off in Goa

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The kids got to do many things that were on their India bucket list during our Goa trip.  The first and the biggest was parasailing! Kaden was wanting to go parasailing from the moment she learned about Goa. I didn’t think that kids could go, but I was wrong. The parasailers in front of the Taj were three times the going rate at Baga Beach. But I am getting better at bargaining. And double the price was worth it to go up in the air far away from any other boats. It was a place of controlled chaos in Baga with jet skis, parasailers, and banana boats zig zagging around one another with few rules!

  

Yes, that is Kaden and I tethered together way up in the sky!  It was remarkably peaceful up there and not scary at all.  Coming back down they let our legs take one dip in the water and then we safely landed on the boat.

  

Here we are coming back in!

The kids also were wanting to get henna tattoes while in India and they got some great ones in Goa. In fact, 5 days later, they still look as dark as they did on the first day! And the kids got to let them dry as they chilled in the kids’ activity center and watched the Smurfs movie!

   

Kaden has always wanted her hair wrapped–especially since her friend Lauren returned from the Caribbean. She got her wish at the Taj in Goa. She is very pleased!

  

Kaden and I also got our toes painted with some fancy Indian sparkles! Mine had a little orange sparkly flower on the big toe and little orange dots on the other toes. Kaden had sparkles on the big toe.

   

Lastly, the kids got to taste coconut water right out of a coconut! A much better showing than the coconut attempt back at home last week!

   

As for me, I got a lovely massage at the spa, including a foot bath filled with rose petals and a detoxing lemon ginger drink when I was finished. Now that’s a vacation!

Baga Beach

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On our first full day, we headed out in cars to Baga Beach, one of the most famous beaches in the world and a very popular beach with the locals. On the way, Todd and Carson stopped to buy boogey boards. They found this man with a very decorated cow as Todd was bargaining with the shopkeeper.

  

 Carson was very pleased to find the boards!

We started our time at Baga Beach with some lunch at one of the biggest beach shacks and Ran’s favorite–Britto’s.   They had fabulous looking lobsters, tiger prawns, and more.

You can see in the photo below how the shacks line the beach. They had shacks along the beach back by our hotel as well. They set up chairs in front of the shacks and then as long as you buy some food/drinks, you can sit all day.

The kids had a blast riding the waves. They were the only people on this crowded beach riding boogie boards, but they didn’t seem to mind!

   

  

Goa!!

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To make the most of the time during which Todd, Kinjal and Janet were here at the same time, we planned a family trip to Goa–one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

To get to Goa, we had to take an hour long flight. I snapped this photo as we were entering the airport. All of these  folks for the most part are drivers or someone picking up someone. The photo definitely highlights the common dress here for drivers and for most working men of any strip–a white button down shirt and dark pants!

 

Carson and Daddy LOVED studying the airplanes together. Todd made use of his aerospace engineering degree describing to Carson how the planes take off and land, why the wings are shaped the way they are. They studied the diagrams in the magazine. They took careful notes outside the window. I on the other hand took a nap. I was up until the wee hours getting everyone packed for this adventure!

here is a photo of our entourage all tanned in the front lobby. We stayed at the Taj Holiday Village–a gorgeous resort right on the Arabian Sea. My parents have been to this resort twice before, and Derek the guest manager  has become a good friend. We had some fun extra touches as a result like a delicious chocolate cake on arrival. Also when Kinjal got sick during the trip (the Dehli Belly strikes the first one of us!), Derek arranged a doctor to arrive quickly and the hotel staff even brought a get well basket to their room. The house call plus all medications came to just $20!

   

Here is a photo of our cottages. Janet and Kinj had one right behind our two.

This view is perhaps one of Ran’s favorite places on the world–a table at the edge of the deck at the main restaurant. Ran would spend most of the day here chatting with waiters and sipping coffee

  

  

The kids loved this room the best–the Jungle Jam, which catered to the younger crowd. As in, the served PB and J, french fries, smoothies and fried shrimp all day long! Plus the kiddos could play their favorite game of Carroum while waiting for their food! We even needed to get a “to-go” order for the shuttle ride back to the airport on the last day!

The kids had fun poolside, and especially with Daddy. Here, being the techie family that we are, the three of them were all playing a game together by connecting all of the devices using Bluetooh. I don’t really understand it, but they LOVE doing it.

  

While some fancy hotels give you towels that look like swans, here they give you a towel that looks like Ganesh! How can you tell it’s just not an ordinary elephant? The special placing of the little dots of flowers.

The kids loved scrambling among the tide pools on these rocks. Carson loved finding the crabs and Kaden liked to stick her fingers into the sea anenomes and feel them close.

  

The beach was just down the  stair case and it was a beauty. Very flat, which made for good running for me in the morning. Although I did get chased by a dog. That was scary! The dog came running right at me barking. I froze and panicked for a minute, then I channeled my inner Papa Joe, turned and faced the dog and growled in a loud deep voice, “Get out of here!” And to my surprise, the dog turned on its heels and ran away quickly. I then noticed that all of the Indians out in the early morning were carrying sticks. So I quickly found one and ran with a stick the rest of the time!

Headin’ to Sankey Tank

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After the kids came home from school, we headed out on an outing. Todd had been home all day while I was out doing fieldwork and we needed to give him a taste of India! First stop–the Malleswaram shopping district. Recommended in my ex-pat guidebook, the shopping area had nice sidewalks and both permanent shops plus street vendors.

  

I found an Indian top for the equivalent of $4. Kaden and I used the camera as a mirror since we couldn’t see how we looked. Me-yes on the top for wandering about India. Kaden–no on the stripes.

  

Carson found a cricket bat.

Todd found ground coffee. Love this picture below. The kids are comparing who has the bigger “Litzinger chin dimple” while Todd buys some local Coorg coffee in the background.

  

Anyone know what this fruit is? I’m not sure.

Then we headed to Sankey Tank. It’s an awful name for one of the most beautiful place in Bangalore–a lovely body of water surrounded by a walking path. Like many parks, it is not open all the time and not even mid day. It is saved for the serious walks who arrive early in the morning and later in the evening. The rest of the day the park is closed–even on Saturdays! Thus our first attempts to visit were thwarted by the restricted hours. Today we brought the kids’ scooters and set off for a stroll.

    

   

On the way back, we stopped for McDonalds fries and nuggets and some Baskin and Robbins ice cream. Todd said he wanted peanut butter cup ice cream and I had to explain that peanut butter is a flavor that one only finds in the United States. It is a weird, acquired taste that most of the rest of the world thinks is quite gross! You can buy peanut butter here in ex-pat friendly stores, but you won’t find it in restaurants.