What we’ll miss in Kerala…

Ben and I are sitting in the Mumbai airport waiting for our flight to Bangkok (and onto Luang Prubang, Laos) which leaves in about four hours (1:00 am). We are feeling so relaxed and thankful for our many fun experiences in this lovely part of the world. There are many things we’ll miss:

The people: Nibu, our perfect driver for two weeks (and our boat driver behind him) –

  
Ashwin Advani (Nobles ’03) – such a fine young man, doing good things

 (and his Aunt Shirin, who was so welcoming and generous to us in Mumbai).

Biking in Munnar with Ansal  –  

  

Maneesha, who runs a great travel agency and a peaceful property, Kayal, on an island in the Backwaters (we had great meditation, yoga, and kalari instruction from her teachers) –

  
The place: we will miss the beauty and power and uniqueness of Kerala –
  
  
  
   
  
 

  

 
 

  
 (tiny lights on the horizon are fishing boats)

Off to Laos to see the elephant preserve, caves, waterfalls, the Mekong, and all of the other cool stuff that David encouraged us to see and do!! 

  
 

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The God of Small Things pilgrimmage and more…

What initially pulled me to Kerala was definitely the novel The God of Small Things. It’s one of the most heart breaking, lyrical stories I’ve ever read – kind of poetry as prose. Anyway, I convinced Ben to go, and he’s recently read the novel; he’s not quite as obsessed by it as I am…big surprise there. Most of the story is set in Ayemenem, a fictionalized version of Aymanam in Kerala, where Arundhati Roy spent a chumk of her childhood. The story closely resembles her mother’s life.

We stayed in a place near by – another lovely spot in the middle of a rubber tree plantation surrounded by thick jungle. Sitting on our veranda felt quite like being in the novel, especially listening to the rain. I could imagine Estha and Rahel slipping away to Velutha’s hut to work on the boat. Mammachi is talking to no one. Ammu has silently moved to her room to listen to the orange transister radio…yes, I’m obsessed.

When we arrived to Aymanam, we were met by a local guide to show us the Arundhati Roy highlights. I was a skosh skeptical when he said, “This may have been her house…or maybe it was the next one.” Or “There’s the haunted house across the river.”

“Do you mean the History House?” I asked.

“Yes, yes…it’s been renovated though.”

Regardless, it was so fun to make a pilgrimmage to see the place where Roy found inspiration for her writing. I am so grateful to Ben for humoring me. Also, Kerala has far exceeded our expectations. Here are some photographs of the day: the church where Sophie Mol’s service was, the river, the pickle factory…

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Enough about my silly obsessions, here are some photographs of what we have seen in the last few days: a jungle walk:

No tigers or elephants, but there was this guy:

And our place in the rubber tree plantation:

And where we are for the next three days – Marari Beach:

That’s Ben (his head anyway) in the Arabian Sea..

We’re having fun learning about everything aryuvedic – cool  stuff!!

Mumbai with Ashwin and onto Kerala

We arrived in Mumbai on Sunday at 4:30 am to be met at the airport by our past student, now friend, Ashwin Advani (Nobles ’03). What an amazing forty-eight hours we had with Ashwin and his generous, engaging aunt. On Tuesday we flew to Kochi where we’ll be for two weeks in Kerala to experience some of the beauty and power I have felt while reading The God of Small Things, a book that I have taught and loved for many years. Maneesha, who runs Silk Route Silk Route Escapes, has arranged our journey through Kerala. Here is some what we saw in Mumbai with our wonderful tour guide/Clinton fellow/friend, Ashwin (click here for a link about Ashwin’s important work in Mumbai).
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Best ice cream ever:
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Mumbai at evening, looking out at the Arabian Sea:
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And from inside our auto ride:
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Onto to Kerala…
From our time in old Kochi, seeing temples, churches, museums, fisherman using Chinese nets, erected in the 14th century. We stayed two nights in a perfect place called Secret Garden – great food, yoga class, and kind people.
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A group of Indian tourists wanted Ben & me in their photo…
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Maneesha included a fun chocolate making class and an evening Indian cooking class with Nimmy Paul in our Kochi experience – so fun and delicious:
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And now our skilled, gentle driver for the two weeks in Kerala, Nibu, has taken us to Munnar, a rugged, mountainous place patchworked with tea, coffee, and spice plantations. We’re staying at Windermere Resort with this incredible view:
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Bike ride among these hills tomorrow. How fortunate we continue to feel.

In Datca

So today at our first breakfast (hard boiled eggs, olives, tomatoes, cheeses, olive oil, herbs, butter, jams, honey, fresh bread, and tea) at Fora (our apart/otel) in Datca (I have wasted a lot of time trying to put a cedilla under the “c” in Datca to no avail), we met the mayor of Datca, who also happens to own this hotel. He welcomed us warmly, found us a good map, and gave us an excursion for the day. “Tomorrow morning we’ll make a new plan,”  he said as he left when we told him we’d be here a week. So we’re heading to the end of this peninsula to Knidos, an ancient city, a bit like Ephesus, Mayor Sener Tockan told us. At this tip of the land, the Aegean Sea meets the Mediterranean Sea. Cool.

I haven’t mentioned this weird truth before, but it’s definitely an interesting fact about Turkey: stray cats and dogs fill this country. All are well-fed and content to roam and sleep wherever they want, usually in the middle of a sunny, cement sidewalk. The cats look more mangy and sound more scary in a night cat fight than their canine counterparts who appear quite hearty and aloof.  I know this looks a little creepy – like a crime scene, but these two are right below our balcony:

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We’re finishing our second full day in Datca (the call to prayer is happening at the local mosque as I type at 4:54 pm; this happens six times a day, times dependent on the movement of the sun). Yesterday was filled with walking – all over this town and along the lovely coastline. We found a good market for supplies for our apart (think self-catering unit) at Fora, which overlooks the Mediterranean Sea, a primary school, a swath of white, red tile roofed buildings perched in the surrounding hills, and several outdoor cafes. Very perfect. We’ve begun to delve back into books, writing, 7 minute workout sessions, and have the time to savor the fun and challenge of our Aegean biking tour with David. We feel so lucky (how many times I think and write that…) to have landed at the Biking in Turkey website in our search for cool things to do in Turkey in our initial planning of this adventure. Our biking guide, Sinan, was extraordinary in his patience, humor, gentle direction, bike knowledge, and people knowledge. Our driver, Mustafa, transported us safely and kindly – a warm, sweet man. Our group of eight was diverse, interesting, and fun: Omar, a mid-thirties IT guy from Saudi Arabia was so willing to teach us about his world and share delicious dates and candy. Daisy and Pete, an early thirties couple from the UK were smart math peeps, who were always kind and quite hilarious. Heather and Meghan were a mother/daughter duo from South Africa, Meg, 26, now doing pharmaceutical research in London and Heather working in Namibia. And there were the three of us – David, Ben, and I. David thrives in a group of new people; he loves to hear and tell stories; the boy was born to laugh (and make me laugh). A lot. It was such fun to be with all of these people for seven days, chugging up mountainous terrain, flying down hills, and razzing (Daisy’s word) along beyond beautiful coastal roads. Around meals, beers, van rides, card games, and walking in villages in the evening (and some in Turkish baths) we got to know each other. We leave this experience with new friends and hope our lives intersect soon.

Today around Datca included the dramatic drive (steep inclines and declines & hairpin curves with nary a guard rail) out to Knidos. On the bike trip I didn’t have my camera for our stop at Ephesus; so I was happy to see another ancient city (over 2000 years old) with a camera in hand. On the way back, the mayor recommended a detour through three beach towns: Palamutbükü, Ova Bükü and Hayit Bükü. See some photographs of all of these places below:

First – recess bell at the primary school:

The drive to Knidos:

At Knidos:

 

And the beaches:

Thank you so much for reading, looking, and following our journey! We miss our friends and family!

David has just left in a taxi, bike ride is over, and Ben & I are sad but moving on…

It’s surprisingly poignant when David or Abby leaves these days. I’m never quite certain when we’ll see them next, and I just love having them in hugging distance. Turkey has been so fun with David – the exotic  beauty of Istanbul and the ineffable majesty of the Aegean mountainous coast on a bike. Sad (to be without David) and leg-tired, Ben and I will head to Datca for a week of recovery and relaxation. It’s a village on the Aegean coast that several people have recommended.

Here are some images from the last six days of riding on a bike:

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The view from the most amazing hotel:

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Our leaders, Mustafa (driver extraordinaire) and Sinan (our unflappable guide):

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A little more of what we see:

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Lucky, lucky us…