Theresa "Terry" Nichols

Traveling Terry

Theresa "Terry" Nichols

I thrive on travel. I love to put myself in situations that knock me in the head, shake me up, force me to bless the moment of misunderstanding or of revelation. These times come easily when I travel. I've wandered India, Central America, and Southeast Asia, and I am thankful to the hundreds of people along the way who have eased my passage, delighted my senses, touched my heart. I love to share these journeys, because these special moments are not just for me, but for my friends, family, and vicarious travelers alike. I shall do my best to embrace and convey the experiences that on some level speak to us all.

Asia » India » Tamil Nadu February 6th 2019

“You’re very young.” That’s the first thing I said to Vinod when I met him in the Fortune Pandyan Hotel in Madurai. Then I noticed his eyes with the long eyelashes. He did smile, I believe, when I said he was very young. I needed an experienced driver for my three-day trip. This 29 year-old has been driving since he was 16. Good enough for me. Plus, those eyes. After I explained my plan to go to non-tourist destinations like Dindigul, Salem, Mallur, and Mohanur to see the small and unusual temples, and searching on the Google map on my IPhone screen for locations, and trying to plot a route, he and I got tired of planning. “We can plan the first day, then after that we’ll plan the next,” he wisely said. Great idea. I’m ... read more
Pachaiamman Temple at Keelapuliyur
Terry and the Guardians
Villaiyandavar Temple at Anaikarai

Asia » India » Tamil Nadu » Madurai February 2nd 2019

There’s India. And then there’s India. I went on a quest. To find the real India. Whatever that is. In Madurai I met an auto rickshaw driver, Anand, who enjoys taking foreigners around. So we were off—early mornings and evenings. “I’m done with the big temples. I want to see the temples and shrines of folk deities, Ayannar and Karuppana Swami, the small places, the common places. Villages.” He seemed to know them all. The surprises came in their simplicity, their locations, their power. Over gravely roads, through fields of waving sugarcane, dense plots of banana trees, coconut palms gracing the skyline, pools of water settling in the rice paddies. Villagers went about their daily business—men hung out at the local tea shop, reading the newspaper, chatting, chatting. Women carried water pots on their heads—water sometimes ... read more
Rocky landscape at Arittapatti
pots and man

Asia » India » Tamil Nadu » Kanadukathan January 20th 2019

Saddened to leave the Chettinad area, where the pace is slow, Chettiar mansion doorways give passage to a more opulent time, and the ordinary becomes extraordinary. Visited the Ayyanar temple outside Kanadukathan, where the guardians are huge. Inside, the priest motioned to me, asking if I wanted a puja. Yes, I nod. So he chants with the lit camphor, brings forth the ash, demonstrates what to do with it—place on my forehead. Picks up the red kum kum and offers, says, “Kum kum.” I accept, try to get it right on my forehead. He says something like, “kannadi”—pointing to the mirror. I dab it just right, above my nose, between my eyebrows, and when leaving I talk with a man who tells me I had fixed it very well on my forehead. The priest returns from ... read more
Painted Terracotta Horses
coconut shell and Kum kum offering
Entrance with guardians

Asia » India » Tamil Nadu January 17th 2019

“Excuse me Madam, but that’s not a safe place.” Those were the last words I heard. Rumbles. Pounding. Thunder. Bullocks reared, limbs flailed, people scattered. Wild wildness. He pulled me into the railed barrier, and for 15 seconds, no thoughts, just mouth-open horror as I stared at the powerful animals resisting their drivers and galloping past me. Relief. Breathe. A few seconds before, I was happily snapping photos of the bullock chariots lined up on the road, one behind the other. Trying to capture the energy darting about. I was the naive tourist, basking in my happy glow. Feeling fortunate because I was witnessing an event held once a year at Pongal time in just a few villages. I had wandered on to the road from behind the barrier. For some reason I thought they were ... read more
Home bound
Important sticks
We’ve got no choice

Asia » India » Tamil Nadu » Kothamangalam January 15th 2019

The Pongal pots were bubbling away today. On this second day of the annual four-day harvest festival important in Tamil Nadu, women lined up near the water tank in Kothamangalam to prepare the special mixture known as pongal. The word “pongal” refers to boiling or “overflowing”—abundance, prosperity, fertility, the harvest. The women tossed soaked rice and moong lentils into the pot bubbling with milk and water, then stirred and stirred as it thickened. Each woman had a basket of all the ingredients she would use, including the rice and lentils, milk, jaggery, cardamom, raisins, and cashews. No matter that the mixture spilled over the side of the pot. That was the goal—to overflow as the sun Suriya was brightening the day. This was their thanks to Suriya for the harvest, for their food, for their lives. ... read more
Detail on 17th century gopuram on Vishnu temple
Waiting for Pongal
17th century gopuram; fort behind .

Asia » India » Tamil Nadu » Kothamangalam January 13th 2019

The magic just kept happening. Some travel days are like that. My driver took me from Munnar, high in the Western Ghats, to Kothamangalam, a small village in the dusty flatlands of the Chettinadu area in Tamil Nadu. I wanted to visit a specific temple recommended by the Tamil Nadu tourism website, a bit out of the way but near my destination. Thousands of temples dot the countryside in Tamil Nadu. I’ve seen many of the large ones, but this year I’m attracted to the smaller temples—the ones that house the “folk” deities—village gods—deities who pre-date the entry of Hinduism to south India. These are the deities that originated in Dravidian times, but they often assumed characteristics of deities of mainstream Hinduism. The Sonnaiyan temple, according to the website, houses a deity who was supposedly a ... read more
Sculpture on Ayyanar horse statue
Demon Protector on Ayannar statue
Ayyanar Horse statue

Asia » India » Kerala » Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary January 9th 2019

Three guys staring at me from across the road. Nothing that unusual, but there was a certain intensity about it. I had just arrived at the Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary and strolled around a small lake to the main road. The place was blissfully lacking people, except for the three staring at me. I dealt with it the usual way. “Hello!” That’s always an invitation for further interaction. They immediately crossed the street. One said, “Selfie?” Oh gawd, how can I refuse. Such a clever request, and so thoughtfully presented! Something was different about this selfie, though. One man held a small box in his hand as they took several photos. “What’s that?” “Ayurvedic face cream.” So I was going to be in their advertising for the face cream and soap they were selling? I could see ... read more
Malabar grey hornbill
Sanctuary trail

Asia » India » Kerala January 7th 2019

They looked like dirty tee shirts, wiggling on a clothesline. I had to touch one, so I pinched the edge between my fingers. Squishy, like the rubber ball I used as a kid when I played Jacks. Yep, rubber. Latex that comes from a tree. Still looked kind of dirty, though. Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary has not only an astounding number of bird species, it is also where families earn additional income by planting rubber trees and selling the latex sap. I took a wrong turn on my way to my homestay room, and wound up gazing at the dirty laundry instead, bouncing over a long metal line. Each piece seemed identically rectangular and undulating, with a yellow cast on one side and dirty grey on the other. It was Sunday and a non-school day, so young ... read more
Between the Rollers
Latex running into cup
Sobhana turns the crank

Asia » India » Kerala January 5th 2019

Fort Cochin in Kerala is an anomaly, a relief with its relative tranquility and yawning pace. Shady streets, Ayurvedic treatment centers everywhere, homestays, and hole-in-the-wall restaurants abound. Huge Chinese fishing nets are anchored along the shore. At least four men work the heavy stone ballast and raise the net, sometimes wiggling with a big fish. When the men aren’t moving the net, they call to passers-by, hoping to lure them near the contraption to try their hand at raising the load. For a small fee, of course. Caw-caws talk to everyone, they don’t discriminate, and puppies and mama dogs knock on my legs, looking for a friendly handout. A caw-caw is a crow, of course. At 6:30 am, dozens of people are trying out their walking shoes, playing badminton, stretching, lifting weights in a makeshift gym ... read more
Warehouse barren of drying ginger
String of Rock Ballast for Chinese Fishing Net
Exercise on Hands

Asia » India » Kerala December 27th 2018

I caught myself staring at a man/woman with a suspicious looking beard. It had been painted on his/her face—a face that looked decidedly feminine. Yeah, it’s a woman, I concluded. And so were about half of the dozen or so costumed Josephs I saw milling about in Saint Sebastian’s Church outside of Chalakudy, Kerala. Joseph—as in Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus. The family next door had told me we would go Christmas caroling after visiting the church. Oh joy—it had been ages since I had gone to church and gone Christmas caroling. I dressed in my fancy silk tunic a tailor had stitched for me last year in Madurai. That was a mistake. Silk is an insulating material—I keep forgetting that—and so all the heat I was trying to cast off on this rainy tropical ... read more
Saint Sebastian’s Church
Bearded Joseph Woman
Santas face the front of church .

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