Kerala and Beyond


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November 23rd 2018
Published: December 14th 2018
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Today is the day after Thanksgiving. We taught Dennis, our program director, about this US holiday, and he thought it was good to have a special day for offering a general thanks, but to whom? For what, exactly? People from India do not understand what Thanksgiving means for most, or many, Americans, but then we do not understand many of their holidays either. One thoughtless woman toasted, "Happy turkey day!" which demeans this lovely holiday completely. Gratitude should be the main theme, the focus of this day.

This is our second day on the Spice Luxury Cruises houseboats. There are three boats reserved for our group: the Tamarind, the Pepper, and the Fennel. The boats are all built similarly, made of bamboo, and all have thatched roofs. The Tamarind has four rooms, the Pepper has two, and Fennel has three; each room is slightly different from the others but all have private bathrooms with typical Asian showers with no curtains, no enclosing walls, just the shower head slightly positioned away from the toilet and sink; thus the whole bathroom gets wet when one showers. But here the crew cleans them up right away; we don't have to do very much for ourselves at all. These are lovely relaxing days, cruising at first on the Pamba River, and then on into lakes and canals and other waterways that are all connected in this most gorgeous part of Kerala. This is an exceptional journey, my favorite part.

Last night I kept the window shade open and the AC off. No one else was anywhere near our three boats, all moored in a line on one side of a canal. As I woke in the night and looked out at the water and tall palm trees across from the boats I felt so lucky, so full of gratitude for being in this unspoiled place. Around 5AM I was awakened by the setting full moon, shining right through my window. Extraordinary beauty! I have always loved the moon, and used to keep my bedroom shades open at night even as a child, before light pollution became ubiquitous in cities and countrysides and spoiled the exquisite and gentle beauty of our nights. And here was that same full moon waking me again, all these decades later, more than halfway around the world as I looked out over the backcountry waterways of Kerala, south India.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

It is now our last day here in India. Four of us leave late tonight just after midnight to catch the first leg of our flights home, all of us making connections in Dubai. I am the only one travelling to Boston, the second leg of my journey back, but this leg will take 14 1/2 hours, a very long flight even on such a comfortable carrier as Emirates. This time it is hard to leave India, even though the food has not been nearly as good as what I ate in Rajasthan with VegVoyages years ago, but it's not about the food. The backwaters of Kerala are a paradise; I wish I had been born there. Of course we travellers have been pampered, all our needs and even most desires met on this trip, but I saw so many of the people who live there, in the midst of nature, close to family and community, working, eating, praying as I believe we were meant to do, surrounded by all this beauty. It is a far cry from city life anywhere in the world, and the people work hard, but they know their life's purpose, a blessing modern Americans no longer seem to think about.

Postscript:

Our flight from Cochin, India to Dubai was delayed because of thunderstorms in Dubai; they rarely get any rain, so do not know how to handle flying in thunderstorms. I only had one and a quarter hours between flights, something I had discussed with OAT because this was not a comfortable period of time between flights for me, but I had been told that Emirates saw this as an acceptable scheduling, and so it was booked. Our first flight left Cochin thirty minutes late, and then circled the Dubai airport for almost an hour, during which time my flight to Boston left; they did not hold the plane. After waiting in the Emirates' Customer Service line for over another hour, I learned that there was only one flight each day from Dubai to Boston, so I would leave on the next morning's flight. Emirates took care of everything, the hotel for the extra night, the meals, the shuttle to and from the airport, but I had lost a day and really did not want to play in Dubai by myself. My mind was already flying home. Plus I had to get word to Bill since we had planned on his meeting me in Boston on Monday, not on Tuesday as it turned out, and I did not want him driving four hours to Boston to meet a plane I would not be on. I could just imagine what would be going through his mind, as he waited and waited until the last person had exited from that flight, and I wouldn't be there. This part was most worrisome, but somehow it all worked out in the end and he got my messages before he ever left home that morning. On Tuesday he met my plane as planned, only a day later, and we drove slowly home to Maine in a snowstorm, my occasionally falling asleep still feeling ten hours ahead of EST and therefore the middle of the night where I had just been, and feeling the abrupt change of going from 90+F temps to below freezing in less than the space of one day, going from incredible beauty of one kind to another, very different beauty of the north woods in winter. It got dark early with the snowstorm, and so we drove ensconced in the quiet, surrounded by cold whitened pine forests as we made our way back home.

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