Friday, September 12, 2008

Happy Onam!

So, I've now been in India for over a week and what a journey it has been. I still don't feel like I'm at a place to adequately process the events of the last week, but for the sake of those following my journey, I will try!

I'll begin with the logistics: After we were picked up from the airport, we moved into our rooms at Thomas John Achen and Betty Kochamma's house in Aluva, a suburb of Cochin. Their beautiful, green-ish house is situated at the end of a tiny little street with plenty of plant life all around (pretty typical for lush Kerala). Upon arrival we dumped out luggage in our rooms and explore the house a little before taking a power nap. Needless to say, power naps don't really help those with jet lag all that much. The good news: I think I've gotten over the jet lag at this point.

So, since September 4, the date of our invasion into India, we have been spending a lot of time at Achen's house getting oriented mostly. A large part of that orientation is food, a wild assortment of curries and crazy things made out of rice that actually taste pretty amazing when you're open to it. 

We wake up each morning to a huge breakfast (which is difficult for someone who has never been fond of that particular meal), which leads into Bible study with Achen. But wait, there's more! Before Bible study, we are "blessed" with the opportunity to sing hymns as a small, yet endearing, a cappela group. Now I must admit, I've actually become quite fond of this moment in our day and found myself excited about it this morning. 

Bible study itself has been simply amazing. Achen's insights into how Jesus' humanity requires us to take action in the world and actually strive to make changes to systems that only make peoples lives more difficult are eye opening to say the least.

After Bible study we usually have some kind of discussion on a variety of topics pertaining to the new culture we're living in. We have a little free time and then off to lunch we go. Nap time follows lunch, although most of the volunteers don't actually utilize this time as well as we could. Then we usually have another session in the afternoon on Malayalam or something else. Tea time, one of my favorite parts of the day, blesses us around 4:00 and then supper at 8:00, but not before some free time that we use to explore a little around town.

One of the spectacular activities we got to do one afternoon, was to go ride elephants at a training training center about an hour away. Let me tell you, elephants are tall! But fortunately, we took it a little slowly. I was under the impression that I would majestically climb up its leg and slide down its trunk. But alas, they were fully equipped with a platform atop a ladder. Not as impressive as I imagine, but safer nonetheless. But not only are elephants tall, they are also a little rough. I'll never take for granted the ease of riding horses after that experience. 

Baby Elephant... not the one we rode.

Me, Sudie, and Ariel atop the 30 year old elephant whose name I've forgotten.

Another exciting activity is Onam, originally a Hindu festival, has become the "Christmas" of Kerala (in the sense that everyone celebrates with a vegetarian feast and other festivities. The most thrilling aspect of today's holiday is the pookalam, or flower carpets, outside of people's homes and businesses. They are meticulously arranged, ornate designs made almost entirely of flower pedals. 

A pookalam done at a retirement home (Sudie's site).

Until next time (which shouldn't be long)! And don't forget to visit my web album, where more pictures are being published.

The ladies hanging a little laundry on the balcony.

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