The Spicy South

I’m in the South now. And by the South, I mean I’m closer to the equator. In fact, I went almost to the very southern-most tip of India, so I would hope it doesn’t get any hotter than that. Seriously, nowhere in the world should be any hotter than this. This is insane. It’s very humid and I’m spoiled with the dryness of Colorado. I don’t usually sweat back home, I’m some kind of robot like that, but here in South India, the rules (even for my body, apparently) are different. I was told ahead of time that the south is spicier.

I’m staying with a friend’s family here. It has been nice to have a home, even if it isn’t really mine, and someone that I have to lie to about how sick I am to keep them from worrying. The family is Catholic and my friend’s aunt, who is a nun, is also here for a visit. The family all speaks English really well, except for amama (the grandma), but I think her and I communicate well enough. (Hi, Mom, Dad, Julian, Grandma and bye work well enough that she has invited me to stay for a few more months).

And the nun: honestly, I was a little unsure about staying with a nun when I heard she would be here, but she has been a great sidekick. She over explains things “In this church, they speak Malayalam, which is the local language and you will not understand it because you speak English.” I knew all of that long ago, but it’s so nice to have everything broken down. For three weeks I’ve been guessing what’s going on. Why people are standing in line at the back of that truck, what to do in different situations and what, in general is going on. I miss out on things because I can’t begin to guess what’s happening around me. With the nun, there is never any question because she explains absolutely everything to me three times. “The Jack fruit up there is ripe. It is so high up, but we must get it down. I don’t know how we will get it down. It would be the most delicious Jack fruit, but we cannot reach it. The high up jack fruit will go to waste because we cannot get it down.”

Across the globe, it is the tradition of hosts to make sure their guests are eating far more than is necessary. When I arrived here it was after 3 weeks of minimum food consumption for various reasons that my fellow travelers will understand. The food here is all very clean, they sanitize everything because they are used to having to do that for their children who visit from the US and UK. The parents have been to the states and noticed that Americans don’t ever drink water, so they went and bought sprite especially for me. They were happy to hear that this American prefers water.

They are NOT happy to see my eating capacity. I try my hardest to eat as much as I can, but I’m never going to live up to their standards. They think I don’t like the food (So wrong! Everything is amazing!) so they are experimenting with things that Americans will like, such as sandwiches, pasta and cereal, to no avail because no matter how hard I try; I can’t eat any more. It’s not possible. The nun makes excuses for my poor appetite “She is not eating because the cucumber will make her dehydrated.” They think that I only eat water since I’ve been so thirsty from the heat. It’s pretty important to me when in different cultures to not stand out too much as different. Want me to dress like an Indian girl? Got it. Eat with my hands? Done. But when it comes to my eating capacity and how I’m handling the heat, forget it. I stand out. If this is the dirtbag version of Eat. Pray. Love. Then this chapter was for sure eat. It’s a lot less romantic in my version. It’s more danger v. food right now. I may not be living up to their standards, but I went from “making them sad”, to simply not making them happy with how much I eat in one week’s time! I’ll call that a win.

The best part of my day, comes twice a day. It is the shower and it is glorious. For the first few weeks I was getting non-gratifying showers from shower heads with very low water pressure, while tripping over the two buckets, one big and one small, that were in my way. Now, I have figured out the system. It seems we fill the large bucket with water and use the small one to splash water on ourselves. There aren’t shower curtains here, which felt a bit exposed at first, but now adds to the intensity of the shower. I turn on the shower head AND splash the water from the bucket on myself, splashing water around the entire room and feel like the cold water might just drown me. They offer to turn on the water heater for my shower, but in this heat cold water is the greatest thing I’ve ever encountered. So, the shower and the splashing and such is incredibly refreshing, but THEN there’s a finale. I fill the big bucket up with water, as much as I can and still be able to lift it and douse myself with what I call “the monsoon”. I love showering. It is so amazing to start over and get all the sweat and layers of sunscreen off and it’s totally expected that we will shower twice a day. Even better.

My time in Kerala was a slower pace, which was welcomed after three weeks of hopping from city to city. It was nice to have a family, albeit someone else’s family. The comedic value of a white girl and Indian nun walking around, climbing mountains together is lost on neither myself nor the Indians. We are quite the spectacle, some people laugh, others take pictures and I just enjoy the surreality of the situation while I can.

I’m going to Nepal in two days. I’m already struck with a sad nostalgia for my time in India. I’m going to miss Idlly, Thali, the sites, the clothes, the cows, the traffic (I can’t believe I’m saying that), the children that glare, the dickhead vendors and so much more. I only saw a very small fraction of the country. It’s tempting to change my trip and spend more time in India; see more sites and learn some Hindi and ride the rails. I’m sure that Nepal will be amazing, beyond amazing, But I’m still sad to leave India behind.

Picture time? Picture time. My friend back in Colorado loaned me not only his family, but his friend as well. I took a two day, downright dirty, overnight-in-buses-and-such trip to Thravanderum and Fort Cochin. It was so awesome having someone who knew the language along. The pictures with the sea are from that trip and then there are some faves from the adventures with my new BFF the nun and my parents for the week. And of course, The Monsoon Maker. It’s clear from the pictures the heat is a small price to pay for Kerala’s striking landscape.

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