Varkala-Snapshots of Our 3 Weeks Here

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January 10th 2017
Published: July 8th 2017
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Geo: 8.73, 76.72

I feel like a humpback whale, feeding on huge amounts of plankton and krill (in the form of information), filtering it through my baleen...receiving all, trying to keep that which works for me, filtering out that which doesn't, and inevitably other stuff gets in. India is, well, overwhelmingly full of information - sights, smells, sounds, that enliven, shock, scare and bring joy. We have travelled to many countries and India is the country that offers the most...if you can handle it. Here in the south, the people are friendly and laid back, well sort of. I realize why this population is so spiritual; they need to find peace somewhere as, most certainly, it is not found in the environment around them.

1) Colour - I love colour and this is a place where colour is celebrated. The women wear saris, the salwar kameez (pants, tunic and scarf) and other clothing of the most vivid turquoises, pinks, blues, reds that you can imagine. Storefronts are encased in snacks, purses, shoes, spices - you name it - items all made of or packaged in colourful materials. I look out from our balcony and see a house with a French blue roof and
turquoise walls. It never ends.

2) Garbage - is everywhere! On the train, I watch people take the wrappings from their lunch which constitutes an aluminum tray, some cardboard and napkins, They walk from their seat to the window or door and toss the pile out. "What?!" I can't believe it. Vendors take a bag of garbage at the end of the day and they toss it over the cliff where it rests clinging to the rocks or it makes its way into the ocean. What do they think happens to it? And I, who have always tried not to drink bottled water, am aghast at the deluge of plastic water bottles laying around everywhere - and much to my chagrin I am contributing to the purchase of these bottles. Don't be mistaken, I do not toss the bottles wherever I want! What I don't understand is how Indians can tolerate looking at all this mess they create.

3) Food - we are enjoying the delicious curries and other dishes here. One of my favourites is the traditional Kerala breakfast which is a starch of some kind that soaks up the eggplant/tomato/onion/pumpkin sambar, accompanied by a coconut chutney.
The variations on the starch are udli - a soft, steamed hockey puck-like bundle of fermented batter made of rice and lentils; the dosa - a round crepe-like flatbread made of fermented batter of rice and black lentils; the puttu - a round cylinder of rice and wheat flour with coconut and is commonly mixed in with mashed bananas or curry. We do not tire of the variations of curries and LOVE the garlic naan made in the tandoori oven.

A new discovery for us was the Tibetan momo - very much like a Ukranian pierogi or Japanese gyoza, the dumpling is stuffed with vegetables and potatoes and cheese, or chicken, or spinach and cheese. It is steamed, boiled, or fried then dipped in a hot and spicy sauce. Seafood is the signature dish in Varkala and is fished off the local shores. You wouldn't think it but its freshness is a concern. Each restaurant displays their catches on a stainless steel table with the fish on ice. The display entices tourists to come into the restaurant. However, one is not sure how many nights the fish has sat out making us hesitant to buy. When we did, oh, man, was that fish good! One night we indulged in deep fried calamari. Mmmmmmm....

4) Religion - It is an integral part of Indian life. It seems most Indians follow a religion whether it is Hindu, Muslim, Christian or some other. It is embedded in every part of their day and a topic they are happy to discuss. Modi, the prime minister, introduced yoga as a daily activity for central students (grades 6-10) and there was a backlash because, apparently, he is Hindu and yoga is seen as originating thousands of years ago as a Hindu practice. He clarified that it would not be mandatory.

5) Weather - it is hot, hot, hot! We rarely do anything out and about from noon to 3:00 pm and when we do, we get overheated. I have prickly heat, a bumpy rash that is itchy as all get out, all over my back. What a place to get it where it's hard to scratch it! I made an aromatherapy mix before I left home and it is helping to relieve the insanity of this. Swimming off our nearby beach is a delight, playing in the big surf and easing the heat and the itch.

6) Travellers' Interaction
- I don't know if it is because we are older and we have changed or perhaps travelling in a different 'snack bracket' than the backpackers, or if devices (phones & internet connection) have replaced interaction, but we notice travellers don't connect, chat, share advice and stories the way they used to. I was feeling isolated. After a month of travel with each other, this can become a wee bit tiresome staring into each others' eyes, searching for conversational topics, meal after meal. We were delighted to meet Adrien and Martin from London, travelling over Christmas with their three adult children and partners and friends. We struck up an immediate friendship and really enjoyed the short time we spent together. And who knows when we might see them again - on the road or hosting each other in our homes. That is how I like to travel.

One last story...Sajeev, the very kind man at Woodhouse Beach Resort who was up every morning making our breakfast and there until late at night cooking delicious food and serving the few people who made their way to the end of the trail to his restaurant. Chatting with us one evening, he told us
of his Christmas 2004, when he worked for a hotel in the Maldives. He had been on night duty. Exhausted, he was laying on his upper bunk unable to sleep so got up to go to the toilet and noticed these huge waves (the tsunami) coming towards him. He ran to his bunk and woke up his roommates but by then the waves were upon them. He climbed onto his top bunk with the water rising at a frightening rate, fearing for his life when the window broke, spilling the water out and through their small cabin. He lost two of his three bunk-mates and everything he had there. His family were sure he was dead as it took days to reach them to inform them that he was safe. Sajeev spoke of his great gratitude to God for saving his life and never returned to work there.

The mystery of life is all over India. Enjoy the montage of faces and lives in Jim's photos.

To see more of Jim's photos and in higher resolution, visit his Flickr site.

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10th January 2017

Thanks for the update. It sounds like you are experiencing so many different situations. Keep Smiling and have Fun. Great pics. xo
10th January 2017

Wow. Your blogs are impactful. Thank you for helping me see the world. Keep writing, please. And spread your beautiful smile across India!
10th January 2017

Loved your description of the foods! I still can't believe you are doing this, though I shouldn't be surprised. And I love Jim's photos, as always.
12th January 2017

Your postings are a highlight. So interesting , insightful and the photos are a great accompaniment to your writing.Thanks for taking the time to share your experience.Cheers,Denise
17th January 2017

Love momos! A flavour "must" at our annual Tibetan Bazaar. They even ask for volunteers to help make them. Seems every culture has a variation on this dough stuffed delight.

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