Thursday, December 20, 2012

Weekend Trip: Kerala!

During November 7-10, the ISP group headed out on the train to Kerala, the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu. Kerala is nicknamed "God's Own Country" and is known for being predominantly Christian, which they credit to the fact that the Apostle Thomas traveled to India for the Great Commission and stepped off the boat right in Kerala. The state is also unique because its government is  democratically elected communism.

After leaving at midnight to catch an eight hour long night train, we arrived at our accommodations. They were really nice, other than the fact that the beds were like rocks and Johanna and I found a spider in our toilet that was the biggest I'd ever seen in my life. Seriously, it was like the size of my hand. Pictures didn't do it justice, so I'm not even going to bother posting any of them here. But take my word for it, the beast was huge.

Most of our time in Kerala was spent taking classes about economics, but we did get to do some really cool things, like go for a boat ride on the Backwaters, which is all these canal-type rivers. It's actually called the "Venice of India." We saw the sun set over the water, and it was the first time in India that I got to see what I pictured as a classic "Indian sunset" before I got here.

We also got to wade in the Arabian Sea! It was warm and lovely! Other than the fact that in India, women go to the beach fully clothed. It was pretty icky to pull off all our wet, sandy clothes in the dark. Not to mention the cafe bathroom we were going to change in was locked, so we girls just held up a towel and changed in the back corner of the complex in the dark. It was really crazy and felt daring. Kirk stood guard for us though! What a guy.

We visited Amma's Ashram, a holy place where people visit to be devotees of Amma (meaning "Mother"), this woman who is the "hugging saint." Amma's whole shpeal is that she hugs people and alleviates some of their suffering or whatever. Amma herself wasn't there while we were visiting because she spends the majority of her time traveling the world and hugging people everywhere. But her mission also donates tons of money to relief after disasters and helping people and all sorts of stuff. It was a pretty interesting thing to learn about and her group does good work throughout the world. Unfortunately, she is doing all of these good things in the world, but people are worshiping her. It was kinda hard for us as a group of Christians to get behind her work. It seemed rather false prophet-ish to us.

During our last day, we visited several small churches and sites around Cochin. We got to see that site where the Apostle Thomas supposedly stepped off his boat (although, like everything in Jerusalem, it's rumored to be the site and who knows what is really the case...). And then we headed back again, on another train to Coimbatore.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Packing Up and Shipping Out.

At this point (as I sit on my bed in a hostel in Kathmandu, Nepal) this post is pretty late. But during my two and a half week trip through north India I didn't have internet access at all, so I never got a chance to post it. Better late than never, right?

With my friend Kairos on my last day in Coimbatore.
For the past week or two, I have been organizing, purging, and packing all of my possessions from the past three months of my life. Three months isn't that long, but since I didn't bring many possessions to India with me, I have accumulated quite a few things to fill up my room, my closet, the apartment in general. So I started early; cleaning out all of the folders from my classes, ditching the loose papers that I didn't think I'd ever look at again. It was a process. Not to mention, I had only one suitcase, limited to 50lbs, a backpack and a tote bag in which to fit all of my possessions, gifts, and souvenirs. The task seemed daunting.

Our little balcony, where we hang laundry.

What has really struck me though, is the perspective I've had packing. Now, if I were packing up from my apartment in Raheja Enclave and immediately boarding a plane back to New England, I think I would be totally geared up for going home. But in my case, for this trip, I am leaving Coimbatore, my home for the past three months, for two and a half weeks of traveling within India to places I've never been and one week to Nepal. Instead of feeling like I was leaving India for home, I packed up feeling as though I was leaving home to be a tourist, a nomad.

Isn't it interesting how one's perspective on home changes, just based on the next destination?

The gate of Raheja.

That being said, I am pumped for going to real home, a place where I have a culture in common with the people around me, where I don't automatically stick out because of the color of my skin and my knowledge of only one language instead of the average Indian's proficiency in two to five languages, where I can cook the food I like and know how and where to shop (usually, everything is available in one convenient location--how novel!) and can DRIVE myself there! It will be great. Aside from the fact that I'll be so cold that I'll probably never leave my bed.